So that delivered.
The Ford EcoBoost 400 crowned a new Sprint Cup champion, gave Jeff Gordon a legendary farewell and left several teams wondering what could have been. Here’s a breakdown of winners and losers from Homestead in this NASCAR recap.
Win: Kyle Busch
Remember when NASCAR writers debated if Kyle Busch could even make the top 30 for the Chase? Consider for a moment just how dominant Busch was in his 25 Sprint Cup starts.
- Busch had five wins.
- He has 12 finishes of fifth or better.
- Only five drivers led more laps than Busch did all season.
In spite of past Chase challenges, Busch was among the two or three best drivers from the moment he stepped on the track. And at Homestead, one of his worst career tracks, Busch made the most of a final restart and blew away the competition for his first Sprint Cup title. With Joe Gibbs technology, stability at the crew chief and this run under his belt, why can’t this be the start of a special run for Busch? He just turned 30 this year.
So NASCAR just crowns its champion. One of the sport’s most famous names runs his final race. Let’s cut out as quickly as possible and cut to NBCSN, which is tens of millions of fewer homes and virtually impossible to access for cord cutters.
While NBC’s coverage has been refreshing; the ratings and support from the network hasn’t matched NBC’s first foray into the sport. NASCAR deserved more Sunday. Are rain delays frustrating? Of course. Does football matter? Sure. There has to be a better plan for this sport to crown its champion. If that means running the race Monday night, go for it.
Draw: Kevin Harvick
Harvick repeating would have been a great story, but it might have been the least impactful story of the four contending for a Sprint Cup title. Certainly Gordon’s retirement title would have been fodder for a movie. The Busch comeback could be fodder for a movie. Furniture Row Racing coming from Denver to win a title would be fodder for a movie.
Harvick nearly pulled off the win; he didn’t. Over the past six years of writing this column, drivers that get that close have a tough time rebounding. Harvick’s toughness and dominance at Phoenix and Homestead make it likely he can contend again. But to come so close and not take home the Sprint Cup title will be a tough pill for anyone to swallow, even a closer like Kevin Harvick.
All of that said, Harvick had a historic 2015 season. The three wins are nice. To have 23 top-5 finishes is unreal. To only finish outside the top-10 eight times is almost as unreal. Anyone doubting Harvick’s championship pedigree should reevaluate their priorities.
Congratulations to Kyle Busch, who went out and won himself a Sprint Cup title. Congratulations to Jeff Gordon for an amazing career. Congratulations to us all for making it through 36 races. Enjoy the downtime and insert a random catchphrase here.