Ford EcoBoost 400 – Homestead Miami Speedway

After 26 weeks of battling to make it to the playoffs, followed by 9 weeks of playoff drama to make it to Homestead Miami, the final four drivers of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Joey Logano took to the track in southern Florida to crown a champion for the 2018 season. The final race was low on theatrics, high on intensity, and full of lead changes, making it almost impossible to predict the ending.

Joey Logano celebrates during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2018 in Homestead, Florida.

Of the four, Joey Logano was considered the underdog.  Logano, himself, even went so far as to say it felt like “the big three and me“. Yet, despite the pressure, his #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford was the fastest in final practice and looked best-positioned to gain the pole position during qualifying on Friday evening. However, Denny Hamlin in the #11 (who had been eliminated from the playoffs) played spoiler and laid down a quick lap to secure the first-place starting position for Sunday’s race. With pole-position comes first pit stall, a feature Hamlin and crew happily handed to teammate Kyle Busch who was in the hunt for the championship.

When the green flag dropped, Hamlin held on to the lead and began driving away from the field, leaving the championship-eligible drivers to feud behind him. On Lap 20, Brad Keselowski door slammed the #99 of Kyle Weatherman when the #2 car of Keselowski got loose and wiggled up the track. NASCAR never waved the yellow as neither car spun out nor left any debris on the track. Kes had been fighting a loose car since the start of the race, a problem he would encounter later on as well.

As anticipated, Kyle Larson proved to be a challenger for the race win by running inches away from the wall and putting down some of the fastest lap times of the night. By the end of the first stage, Larson had advanced from his 11th starting position and was running P2. Kevin Harvick in the #4 inherited the lead from Hamlin during green-flag pit stops and won the stage.

Kyle Larson got the lead from Harvick on the stage 2 restart and began to pull away. The only caution in stage 2 came on Lap 138 for debris on the backstretch which triggered a restart that Harvick got the jump on. The high-line proved most effective and Larson powered around the outside of Harvick and drag raced the #4 to the finish line where Larson picked up the stage win.

Joey Logano with Crew and Family celebrate Ford Eco Boost 400 and MENCS Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2018 in Homestead, Florida.

On Lap 192, running the wall ended up costing Kyle Larson a shot at the win when he ran too close and badly scraped the right side of his #42 Chevy. The scrape caused a tire rub and eventually a blown tire that brought out the caution. Larson would go onto finish 11th. The championship race heated up fifty laps later when green flag pit stops commenced. By pitting one lap sooner, Harvick came out ahead of Logano and Truex. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch, who had an ill-performing racecar, opted not to pit so he could get the lead and hoped for a caution to make his stop. Busch got his wish with 20 laps to go when Brad Keselowski got loose again and spun the #19 of Daniel Suarez in Turn 2.

The green flag flew for the final time with 15 laps remaining. Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, and Joey Logano made up P1, 2, and 3 respectively. A good restart from Truex and Logano put them P1 and 2. Logano worked his way to the high line and stormed the outside of Truex in Turn 1 to leave the defending champ in the dust. Logano drove away to a 1.725 second lead over Truex and won his first NASCAR Cup Championship. In his post-race interview, Truex was shocked at Logano’s speed on the top, saying “Hell, he passed me so fast I didn’t even have a chance to do anything.”

The 2019 NASCAR Cup Series kicks off at Daytona International Speedway for the Superbowl of motorsports – the Daytona 500. Get your tickets HERE!

 

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