Well, that’s it. Last weekend of the racing season. Saddest day of the year for many of us. It seems like forever until the 24 Hours of Daytona, which has thankfully been moved up to late January, but we’re going to have to wait. In the meantime, we’ll have to content ourselves with the Race of Championship in Paris in December, and the Paris-Dakar Rally in January. Slim pickings. We’ll be suspending this weekly offering until the 24 Hours, and you’ll have to make do with a weekly news and notes piece. Thanks to all of you for reading, and to everyone at thecarconnection.com for letting us be a part of the show, and we’ll be looking forward to the new year. In the meantime, we’ll be drinking heavily and marking days off the calenda
NASCAR: Biffle Leads 1-4 Roush Sweep in Finale; Stewart Clinches Second Title
Tony Stewart drove a smart and steady race in the NASCAR Nextel Cup season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway on Sunday to claim his second series title, making him one of only 14 drivers to claim multiple series titles since 1949. His 15th-place finish gave him the championship by 35 points over Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, who tied for second place (with the nod going to Biffle on the races-won tiebreaker) after Jimmie Johnson’s title quest ended with a blown tire and subsequent crash on Lap 126.
At the front of the field, Biffle put on a very strong late-race charge to take the win by a fraction of a second over Mark Martin, with Matt Kenseth and Edwards making it a 1-4 Roush Racing sweep. Casey Mears finished fifth after an impressive run, with Dave Blaney, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jeremy Mayfield completing the top 10.
The race had shaped up as a battle among Edwards (who led the most laps), Newman, Gordon and Mears, who was leading by three seconds with 15 laps remaining when the caution flew for a spring rubber that fell onto the track. Blaney stayed out under the ensuing caution and led on the restart, but was swallowed up by oncoming rush of faster, better-handling and new-tired cars, with Martin sweeping by to take the lead, but then Biffle seemingly came out of nowhere to make a three-wide pass for the lead with 11 laps to go that sealed the deal. Martin gave it everything he had (as he always does) to get the win, but came up a few inches short.
Kenseth also had a late-race charge to get third after a middling performance throughout the race, and Edwards came up to fourth from ninth in the closing laps, helped by the backwards-heading cars of Blaney and Gordon.
The closing-laps drama centered on Biffle and Edwards, with both battling for second in the championship (which is worth about $300,000 more than third). Both were charging as hard as they could as the race wound down, but Biffle had gotten as far in front as possible (the lead), and Edwards was chasing but only made it to fourth. They wound up tied for second, but Biffle took second based on having won six races to Edwards’ four.
Johnson could only shake his head in wonderment after crashing out, and his 32nd-place finish dropped him from second to fifth in the final standings, behind Stewart, Biffle, Edwards and Martin. Other notables included two retirees, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd, who finished 13th and 37th, respectively. Both will be missed.
It was a great way to end the season, with a nail-biter of a race, an interesting title fight, and a couple of favorites racing for the last time. Next year will see a lot of new faces in new places, and we’ll wipe the slate clean now and get ready for Daytona.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 267 laps
2) Mark Martin, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 267 laps