NASCAR Ford EcoBoost 400: A title for Kyle Busch and a frustrating last race for Gordon

After missing the first eleven races of the season and miraculously returning to the competition, Kyle Busch finished the season as the 2015 Sprint Cup champion after winning Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami in front of 2014 champion Kevin Harvick. This is the first title for the Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver. Jeff Gordon finished the season third after finishing the race sixth, while Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth after ending the race 12th.

The highlight of the season’s finale was undoubtedly the pre-race buzz around Jeff Gordon’s last Sprint Cup race. The NASCAR legend was surrounded by his family as well as many friends, crew members, rivals and other legendary racers, including Mario Andretti and again-crowned F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. A series of touching tributes could be seen on Homestead Miami as Jeff was preparing to enter his car and rolling on the track for the last time in his career.

Denny Hamlin started from pole, followed by Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, the best ranked Chase driver. Ryan Newman started fourth with Jeff Gordon starting his last Sprint Cup race in fifth. Ryan Blaney was sixth, followed by Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Dale Jr. and Austin Dillon in top ten. Other two Chase drivers were Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick and they started from 11th and 13th respectively. The 267-lap-long rain delayed race started 4:51PM local time with Joey Logano immediately going on top, dropping Hamlin to second. Gordon went up to fourth, just behind Kyle Busch on third. Truex Jr. dropped to thirteenth and Harvick went up to eleventh. Reigning Sprint Cup champion continued progressing rapidly and was on eighth just as the first caution went up on lap 13 for fluid on the track and Hamlin’s car that was smoking. All four Chase drivers pitted under yellow. After the cycle completed, Harvick was 9th, Truex 6th, Gordon 7th and Busch 5th.

The race restarted on lap 19. On the restart, Kyle Busch pushed hard for the lead, getting it on lap 20. Gordon, Harvick and Truex Jr. were third, fourth and fifth respectively, while Carl Edwards was second. On lap 25, Harvick passed Gordon for third whereas Kyle Busch had a stable lead over Edwards. The competition caution went out on lap 31. On lap 32, the leaders went to the pits and race leader exited without losing his position. Gordon went out on third, while Harvick and Truex Jr. were 20th and 23rd, but went up to fourth and sixth as the pit cycle completed. On lap 36, the race went green again and Jeff Gordon made a great move which pushed him to the lead. Jimmie Johnson was following him with Kevin Harvick looming behind him any Kyle Busch on fourth. Third caution came out on lap 40 after Kasey Kahne suffered a flat tire. On lap 45, the race restarted with Harvick as the new leader, but on lap 47, the race went yellow again, this time for a collision between Dale Jr, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Casey Mears and Aric Almirola.

On lap 54, the race restarted with Harvick first, Busch second and Truex on fourth and Gordon gradually dropping to tenth, which increased his frustration, especially with Jamie McMurray. During the green period, Truex Jr. also lost pace, dropping to ninth while Jeff Gordon was eleventh by lap 80. Around lap 90, a series of green flag pit stops began with Truex Jr, Busch and Harvick going into the pits. Jeff Gordon was the last to pit. Joey Logano was the new leader, followed by Kyle Busch and Harvick. Truex Jr. returned to ninth, and Gordon dropped to 14th. By lap 120, Gordon improved to 12th in what was still a frustrating result. Around lap 130, Harvick dropped to fourth as a result of miscalculated tire pressure. On lap 138, Harvick pitted, and on lap 140, Gordon was in the pits too. In the meantime, Kyle Busch assumed the lead, but soon pitted himself, leaving the leading position to Carl Edwards. Martin Truex Jr. had a scary moment when his car almost caught fire in the pits.

On lap 149, debris on track caused a yellow flag, which brought Gordon to the pits for adjustments and repairs. On lap 155, the race went green again with Kyle Busch in the lead, Harvick on third, Gordon 9th and Truex Jr. 11th. Sixth caution of the race went out for Josh Wise on lap 166. On the restart, Truex Jr. was the new leader, with Kevin Harvick on third and fourth and Gordon eleventh. Brad Keselowski soon took the lead from Truex Jr. dropping him to third, while Kyle Busch went up to second. On lap 190, Dale Jr. hit the wall, but didn’t cause caution and the race was resumed under green. On lap 214, Truex Jr. gambled and pitted early, and was followed by Harvick, Gordon and Busch who pitted on lap 217.

With 20 laps to go, Brad Keselowski was still leading the race with Kyle Busch on second and Kyle Larson behind him and Kevin Harvick on fourth. Jeff Gordon was tenth and Truex Jr. was fourteenth. With 14 laps to go, Kyle Larson overtook Kyle Busch and started hunting Keselowski. With 11 laps to go, caution went out for debris on track, and upon exiting the pits, Kyle Busch reclaimed the second. With 8 laps to go, the race went green. With 7 laps to go, Kyle Busch went to the lead and was followed by Kevin Harvick, while Jeff Gordon jumped to sixth. Busch managed to keep Harvick off and win his first title after missing the start of the season due to a severe leg and foot injury. Keselowski was third, followed by Logano and Kyle Larson. Jeff Gordon finished his last Sprint Cup race sixth after a great start and a frustrating remainder of the race. Matt Kenseth was seventh, followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin completing the top 10. Carl Edwards was eleventh and Martin Truex Jr. finished the race 12th. Thanks to Kyle Busch, Toyota had the winning car. However, Chevrolet won the manufacturer’s title with 69 points over Toyota and 87 over Ford.

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