Bobby Labonte

Unfulfilled rage: When Terry Labonte sought revenge vs. Dale Earnhardt

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“Didn’t mean to really turn him around, meant to rattle his cage, though.”

It’s been almost 20 years since Dale Earnhardt, with a towel wrapped around his neck and a grin on his face, uttered this iconic phrase in Victory Lane after the 1999 Wintson Cup night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Not grinning was NASCAR’s “Iceman” – Terry Labonte after Earnhardt knocked him out of the lead on the final lap, sending Labonte’s No. 5 Chevrolet spinning and into the inside wall while Earnhardt headed for his ninth win at that track.

Four years after a similar ending in the 1995 race, the accident sent fans into an angry uproar directed at Earnhardt. If Labonte, known for his calm demeanor, had gotten his way after the checkered flag, it would have resulted in a real-life version of a scene from Days of Thunder.

“He might be going to Victory Lane, but that No. 5 is going to be stuck in that side of that thing,’ ” Labonte said he thought.

But his Kellogg’s Chevrolet betrayed him at the last moment.

Labonte recounted his side of the infamous race Sunday night when he was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame.

The build up to Labonte’s boiling point began with about 10 laps to go. While leading the race, the two-time Cup champion was spun for the first time that night.

Here’s what Labonte had to say.

“I look up and my brother (Bobby Labonte) is running around on the apron, leaking oil on the apron. I thought, ‘What is he doing? Get off the track.’ Sure enough, here comes the caution flag. … I remember it like it was yesterday. I was coming through (Turns) 3 and 4, the caution is out. I was fixing to lap Brett Bodine. I went, ‘I don’t want to lap him again.’ So I slowed up here so I don’t put him another lap down. All of sudden, somebody, my buddy Darrell Waltrip, runs in the back of me and spins me out. Nobody remembers that part. That started a chain of events right there.

“So I’m sitting here backwards, right? And I thought, ‘What in the world happened? He just spun me out.’ So here comes Dale by, here comes everybody else by. … Well, Dale was pitting on the back straightaway so everybody thought he stayed out, but he really didn’t stay out because he had to wait until he could go around to the back straightaway.

“So a bunch of guys didn’t pit. I got my car cranked and took off. So we’re the last car on the lead lap. It’s only seven cars or so. I came down pit road, put on four tires. When you have four tires at Bristol and everybody else doesn’t have tires, you look like a hero, you know?”

(The race restarted with five laps to go.)

“I was coming through there, I was passing everybody and got to Dale on the last lap. We bumped a little bit coming off (Turn) 4 and went down into (Turn) 1. I kind of had a bad angle. My car bottomed out and Dale hit me. Spun me out.

“I said, ‘Sh….shoot.'” *laughter* I was spinning down the back straightaway. The car’s nosed into the wall there. I thought, ‘Man, I cannot believe this.’ I can hear the crowd yelling. I mean the crowd was yelling. … I looked up and I see that No. 3 coming off Turn 2 after he got the checkered. This is the part, people after that race said, ‘Man, you were so cool. How’d you did do that? You were so cool. You just got wrecked and you were just so calm and everything.’

“Well, the story was…I had my car, I cranked it back up. When I see the 3 coming, I thought, ‘You know what? He might be going to Victory Lane, but that No. 5 is going to be stuck in that side of that thing.'”

*laughter*

“I had that timed perfect. It was perfect. I had it in reverse and here he comes. Man, I revved it up and popped the clutch on that thing and it tore the reverse gear out of it after it went about three inches. I just got out and I said, ‘Oh, shoot,’ again. Walked to my trailer and changed clothes and went home.”

The race, along with the 1995 version, are now honored with banners in the Bristol grandstands commemorating the track’s history.

Watch the ending of the 1999 race in the video above as Labonte recounts his tale below.

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Reliving some of NASCAR’s most dramatic finishes

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR
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The Minnesota Vikings’ win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday marked the first time in NFL history that a playoff game ended with a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.

NASCAR has had its share of dramatic finishes through the years. While it’s easy to debate which dramatic finishes rank among the all-time best, here’s a look at some of the most dramatic (and surprising) wins in NASCAR.

The first selection comes from what is now the Xfinity Series. It was the 2012 season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. Kurt Busch led with Kyle Busch pushing him as they entered Turn 3. Behind them were Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Elliott SadlerRicky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Cole Whitt and Brad Keselowski.

None of them won the race. 

James Buescher, who was 11th in Turn 4 won for his only Xfinity victory in 91 career starts. 

 

Carl Edwards had won the Xfinity race the day at Atlanta but had yet to win in 16 previous Cup starts before he cranked the engine at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2005. Edwards came from behind to beat Jimmie Johnson at the line in among the closest finishes in NASCAR.

 

Dale Earnhardt’s incredible ride from 18th to first in the final five laps in 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway is memorable for that alone but it also was his 76th and final Cup victory. When the video clip below starts, you don’t even see Earnhardt but he’s there lurking and works his way up the field. With two laps left, announcer Jerry Punch exclaims: “The Intimidator is scraped and beaten on the right side, but he will not be denied! “Mr. Restrictor Plate knows there are two laps to go! Earnhardt drives to the high side of Bobby Labonte. Wow.”

 

As they took the white flag at Watkins Glen International in 2012, Kyle Busch led, Brad Keselowski was second and Marcos Ambrose was third.

What followed was a chaotic final lap that ended with Ambrose winning. It led broadcaster Dale Jarrett to say about the beating, banging and battling: “A year’s worth of excitement in 2.45 miles. Incredible.”

 

Ricky Craven tried to make his move by Kurt Busch with two laps to go at Darlington Raceway in 2003 but slid up and made contact with Busch and lost his momentum. That allowed Busch to dive underneath and take the lead back. Craven persisted. As they came off the final corner, Craven went underneath Busch for a door-slamming drag race to the checkered flag, nipping Busch by 0.002 seconds to win.

Of course, one can’t include such a list without one of the sport’s most famous finishes. Donnie Allison led Cale Yarborough on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. Yarborough dived low on the backstretch to pass Allison, who blocked. They hit, bounced off each other and hit again before crashing in Turn 3. Richard Petty drove by several seconds later to take the lead and go on to win the event. As Petty celebrated, Allison, Yarborough and Bobby Allison, who had stopped to check on his brother, fought.

 

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Inaugural 2017 NBC Pit Crew All-Stars team is announced

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After nearly four months of selecting weekly nominees, the first NBC Pit Crew All-Stars Team was announced Wednesday.

Here are the winners:

FRONT TIRE CARRIER:
 Graham Stoddard – No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevy, Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Grew up in Charlotte but moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 8th grade … Went on to play football at Nebraska (linebacker, special teams) and earn a finance degree
  • Following end of career, he took a job in financing but wanting something different, he looked into NASCAR … After finding a pit crew combine tryout in May 2014, Stoddard did enough to land a job with Michael Waltrip Racing and moved back to Charlotte that August
  • Has also worked with Chip Ganassi Racing & Team Penske … Has contributed to two Xfinity Series wins & a Snowball Derby win

FRONT TIRE CHANGER: 
Mike Lingerfelt – No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Hometown: Travelers Rest, South Carolina

  • Competed as a driver in local dirt racing as a youngster
  • Opened a garage at age 16 with his brother. “We started out working under a tree with a shed, and that evolved into a building. We started from the ground up and turned it into something that is pretty cool … My grandfather had his own shop, my uncle had his own shop, and it was just a great opportunity for me to get in there and carry on what my family had always done. My junior and senior years of high school, I went home and worked there as part of a co-op program with the vocational school.”
  • Entered the Monster Energy Series in 1997 and has contributed to multiple championships with Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002) & Jimmie Johnson (2008-2010)
  • Suffered fractured left femur when he was hit by Tony Stewart during 2000 Daytona 500; Lingerfelt was trying to retrieve an errant tire. Following surgery in Daytona (which included insertion of a 14-inch rod for support), Lingerfelt returned to Charlotte and immediately began physical therapy.  After seven months and 14 days away from the #20 team, Lingerfelt returned to action later that season in the fall race at Charlotte

REAR TIRE CARRIER:
 Ethan Marquette – No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, Hometown: Merrill, Wisconsin

  • 12-year career in sport has seen him work at every pit crew position and also as a pit crew coach
  • Resume includes stints at Roush Fenway Racing & Richard Childress Racing
  • Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 3
  • Volunteers with American Diabetes Association office in Charlotte, North Carolina, helping young children with diabetes learn how to live with the disease 
… Will take 8-week program at Duke University this fall in the Integrated Health Program for Diabetic Education
  • Hobbies include sport shooting, playing guitar, and cheering for the Green Bay Packers

REAR TIRE CHANGER:
 Raphael Diaz – No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford (Xfinity), No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford (Cup), Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Joined No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports pit crew in Cup at Martinsville … 3-year veteran of Roush’s No. 16 Xfinity team … Works as a carbon fiber fabricator at Roush during the week
  • Holds special place in history of NASCAR Drive For Diversity program as the first D4D grad to be part of a winning pit crew at the Cup Series level (Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing, Sonoma 2014)
  • Additionally, Diaz and Mike Russell are the first D4D crew members to win a national series championship (Chris Buescher, Roush Fenway Racing, 2015 Xfinity Series)
  • Discussing D4D program in 2017: “I never thought I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life, but it puts you in a spot where anybody can do this if you have the determination. The program works if you want it bad enough, and it helps with all those fundamentals you need to have.”
  • Contributed to Chris Buescher’s first career Cup win at Pocono in 2016 … Also contributed to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first two career Cup wins this season at Talladega (May) & Daytona (July)
  • Initially aspired to be a professional soccer player before suffering a knee injury
  • Grandfather immigrated to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico

SPOTTER: 
TJ Majors – No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Cup) Hometown: New Castle, Pennsylvania

  • Majors first met Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1997 as a rival on iRacing (Majors was based in Buffalo, Earnhardt in Charlotte) … After becoming friends, Earnhardt advised Majors to come to North Carolina in order to enter the industry … Earnhardt helped him make the trip shortly after Christmas 2001, arriving in Majors’ driveway with a pickup truck to tow his box trailer filled with his belongings
  • Majors suited up and raced for JR Motorsports in street stocks and late models, earning a win in a 200-lap race at Motor Mile Speedway (Radford, VA) in 2004 … Got the call to spot for JRM’s first Xfinity Series start in the 2005 season finale at Homestead – the following day, Earnhardt asked Majors to start spotting for him
  • With Dale Jr.’s retirement as a full-time driver, Majors will make a move to Team Penske and become Joey Logano’s spotter in 2018
  • Believes the hardest part of spotting is depth perception; as cars come toward a spotter’s view and then drive away, it gets tough to perceive distance between each car on the track

GAS MAN:
 Caleb Hurd – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Hometown: Pulaski, Virginia

  • Former Virginia Tech Football special teams player (1996-99); has a degree in mechanical engineering
  • Has been involved in NASCAR for over 16 years, double-dipping as an engineer and pit crew member
  • Says Richmond holds “a higher significance than some of the other places we go” because that’s the 
track, back when he was an intern with Hendrick, that he became inspired to become a crew member
  • Was hired by Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 – because of his athleticism and also, “we were in the process of 
trying to make the fuel cans faster. And he was an engineer. Now that’s a double win,” said Mike Lepp, 
JGR’s senior athletic adviser.
  • He and his wife Courtney gave birth to daughter, Kate, last fall, nearly 9 weeks early. A few weeks later, 
Hurd was at Phoenix when Courtney called to tell him Kate needed surgery. Seemingly the entire NASCAR community rallied around them. “I could barely make it past the pit box without someone coming up to me and saying they were thinking about us and everything,” Caleb said. Kate is “doing just fine” now.
  • Caleb and Courtney are actively involved in charity, which has ranged from working with the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Duke Medical Center, to the Hendrick Marrow Program, and Habitat for Humanity.

JACKMAN: 
Ray Gallahan – No. 22 Team Penske Ford Hometown: Lake Helen, Florida

  • Before entering NASCAR, Gallahan worked at a car wash in high school and his first year of college. “I was like their MVP guy in that I knew how to do anything there. Inside cleanup and 
vacuuming were my specialties.”
  • Has been with Team Penske for more than a decade.
  • In the 2014 championship finale at Miami, Joey Logano’s car fell off Gallahan’s jack during the final pit 
stop, costing Logano a chance at the title … Gallahan’s colleagues at Team Penske encouraged him throughout that offseason, and in the 2015 Daytona 500, he and the #22 team delivered a flawless performance to help Logano win “The Great American Race.”
  • Gallahan after the Daytona 500 win: “For me, it’s pretty breathtaking to go from, like, the lowest of lows to probably one of the highest of highs you can have in all of motorsports … [Miami] definitely is a life-changing thing. You try to take positives from that, and you try to go on and learn from it and get better.”

TIRE SPECIALIST: 
Jeff “Jet” Zarrella – No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Ford Hometown: Southington, Connecticut.

  • Involved in the sport for over 30 years, starting at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium. He finally realized his dream, winning the Daytona 500 back in February.
  • Joined SHR in 2009, prior to that he had worked for Yates Racing, DEI, Roush Fenway Xfinity Series program and several others.
  • From 1984 to 1993, worked as a tire specialist with 44 Racing and the No. 44 Modified driven by Reggie Ruggiero, Rick Fuller and Greg Sacks.
  • Enjoys cooking, gardening, shooting guns and golf when not at the racetrack.

ENGINE TUNER:
 Frank Mathalia – No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Hometown: Oneida, New York

  • Retired auto mechanic & tow truck driver for Mathalia Motors Corporation
  • Served in United States Marine Corps
  • Family is from upstate NY – his dad, also Frank Mathalia, raced at Utica-Rome Speedway – the home 
track for NASCAR Hall of Famers and modified racing legends Richie Evans and Jerry Cook

ENGINEER:
 Andrea Mueller – No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, Hometown: Fresno, California

  • Joined Team Penske in 2007
  • Graduate of Cal Poly
  • Previously worked for Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, and also worked on engine projects for NASA’s 
space program
  • According to Andrea, her dad was very involved in racing at the local level, taking on a variety of roles 
such as engine tuner and mechanic for sprint cars
  • Andrea also talked her dad into letting her race in quarter & micro midgets, but stopped after her mom 
started to get nervous
  • Ryan Blaney on Mueller: “She’s done a great job. I’m really excited to have her. Knowing race cars, knowing what parts and pieces do and coming up with ideas to improve everything – that is what she does so well.”

 

Homestead-Miami primer: Everything you need to know about race, track

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Here’s the final Cup primer of the season, covering all that’s on tap for this weekend, season highlights and information about Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Miami Highlights

  • The last seven Miami races were won by seven different drivers
  • The last three Miami races were won by drivers getting their first win at Miami
  • The last six Miami races were won by drivers from three organizations: Hendrick Motorsports, Joe 
Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing
  • Jimmie Johnson won at Miami in 2016; he led only the final three laps
  • Ford has seven Miami wins but has not won there since Carl Edwards won for Roush Fenway Racing in 
2010 (Edwards tied for the championship in 2011, but Tony Stewart and Chevrolet won the title by wins)
  • 13 of the last 14 Miami races had at least seven cautions
  • The last three Miami races had a final green flag stretch of seven laps or less
  • Three Miami races had an overtime finish: 2004, 2006 and 2016
  • Miami is one of two active tracks where Team Penske is winless, the other is Indianapolis
  • There were eight DNFs at Miami in 2016 all eight were for accident, it was the most DNFs for accident 
in one race at Miami
  • The driver who led the most laps failed to win the last six races at Miami
  • There were 18 or more lead changes in the last eight Miami races, 20 in 2016
  • 12 of 18 Miami races were won from a top-10 start position
  • Jimmie Johnson won from a 14th place start position in 2016 the worst start by a Miami winner in the 
last four races (Johnson started in the race in the rear after unapproved impound adjustments)
  • Bobby Labonte passed Bill Elliott on the last lap of the 2003 race in Miami, the only last lap pass ever at 
the track (Labonte led only one lap in the entire race)
  • The final lead change was in the last eight laps in the last three Miami races (every race in the 
elimination format)
  • In the three years of the elimination format (since 2014), the driver who won the Championship also 
won the race
  • Four times the driver who won at Miami also won the Championship: 2011, 2014-2016
  • This will be the first time a Chevrolet has not made the Championship four at Miami
  • 10 of 13 Miami Playoff races were won by playoff drivers
  • Two of the four Championship drivers have won at Miami: Kevin Harvick 2014 and Kyle Busch 2015
  • This will be the first appearance in the Championship four for Brad Keselowski, Keselowski won the 
Championship in 2012 prior to the introduction of the elimination format
  • The pass for the win came in the final eight laps in all three races at Homestead under the elimination 
format
  • Jimmie Johnson was the best running of the four playoff drivers for only seven laps last year
  • All four playoff drivers had a significant issue in the race in 2016, three of the four finishes in the top-six

2017 Season highlights

  • Joe Gibbs Racing (8), Furniture Row (5) and Chip Ganassi Racing (2) won 15 of the last 18 races
  • The pole winner has won six times in 2017: Kyle Larson ACS, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Kyle 
Larson MIS-1, Kyle Busch POC-2, Kyle Busch NH-2, Martin Truex Jr. KS-2
  • The final lead change came in the last 10 laps in 20 of 35 races in 2017, the final three laps in 13 races 
and on the last lap in four races
  • The pass for the win came in the final 10 laps in five of the last seven races of 2017
  • Either Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch won a stage in 23 of 35 races in 2017
  • Martin Truex Jr. has won at least one stage in 14 of 35 races in 2017 but has not won a stage in the last 
seven races which is his longest stretch of races without a stage win in 2017
  • Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver to win both Stage 1 and 2 and go on to win the race (Las Vegas, Kentucky)
  • Five drivers have won a race but have not won a stage in 2017
  • Three drivers have won a stage but have not won a race in 2017
  • Atlanta, Pocono-1, Michigan-2 Chicagoland and Phoenix-2 are the only races without a caution before 
the end of stage 1
  • Atlanta, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races to not have a caution other than stage 
breaks in the first two stages of the race
  • Three Cautions at Watkins Glen the fewest in a race in 2017
  • 15 cautions at Kansas-1 and Dover-1 are the most in a race in 2017
  • Three times a driver has won after going to the rear: Jimmie Johnson Texas-1 (unapproved tire 
change), Joey Logano Richmond-1 (transmission change), Jimmie Johnson Dover-1 (rear gear change)
  • Denny Hamlin won in New Hampshire-1 after going to a backup car prior to qualifying
  • Three times in 2017 a driver has gone on to win after a speeding penalty: Kurt Busch Daytona-1, Brad 
Keselowski Martinsville-1 and Martin Truex Jr. Chicagoland
  • Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas after a restart violation on lap 36, it was the fourth time in 2017 a driver 
has recovered from a in race infraction to win and the second time by Martin Truex Jr.
  • Three drivers got their first career win in 2017: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Austin Dillon Charlotte-1, Ryan Blaney Pocono-1, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the first first-time winner to get his second win in 2017
  • There have been two track records set in 2017: Kyle Busch (Kentucky), Kurt Busch (Texas-2)
  • Eight times driver has swept all three rounds of qualifying: Kevin Harvick- IMS 2014, MIS 6/14 and TX 4/17, DAR 2017; Joey Logano MART 4/16 10/17; Brad Keselowski TX 11/15; Kyle Busch CHI 2017
  • Qualifying was cancelled twice in 2017: Martinsville-1, Bristol-1
  • 11 races had an overtime finish in 2017: PHX-1, ACS, TAL-1, Dover-1, Daytona-2, KY, Indy, MIS-2, 
RICH-2, CLT-2, MART-2
  • Four races were won with a last lap pass: Daytona-1 Kurt Busch passed Kyle Larson, Talladega-1 Ricky 
Stenhouse Jr. passed Kyle Busch, Talladega-2 Brad Keselowski passed Ryan Newman, Martinsville-2 
Kyle Busch passed Denny Hamlin
  • Three races were affected by rain in 2017: Bristol-1 (postponed until Monday), Charlotte-1 (delayed 90 
minutes lap 145), Indianapolis (Delayed on Lap 12 for 2 hours)
  • Three drivers ended the longest winless streaks of their career in 2017: Ryan Newman 127 races, Kasey 
Kahne 102 races and Kyle Busch 36 races
  • Homestead-Miami Speedway is located 287 miles south of Daytona International Speedway
  • At the end of the Miami race, the Cup Series will have raced 10,581 laps and 14,035 miles; even more with an overtime finish
  • Martin Truex Jr. won six of 10 races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017, he finished 8th, 8th, 3rd and 2nd in the other four
  • Three of the four Championship four drivers won a race on a 1.5 mile track in 2017, Kyle Busch’s best finish on a 1.5 mile track in 2017 is second in the Coke 600 at Charlotte
  • Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all 10 races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017, Kevin Harvick is a close second with nine
  • Martin Truex Jr. led 1,054 laps on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017 the most of all drivers, the second most laps led is 707 by Kevin Harvick a difference of 347 laps, 90 more laps than the scheduled race distance at Miami
  • The four playoff drivers combined led 77% of the laps raced on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017 (2354 of 3072): Martin Truex Jr. 1,054, Kevin Harvick 707, Kyle Busch 460 and Brad Keselowski 133
  • Jimmie Johnsons 28 career wins on 1.5 mile tracks are the most all time
  • Toyota has six wins on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017, all by Martin Truex Jr.
  • One 1.5 mile track race was won from the pole in 2017: Kansas 2 by Martin Truex Jr.

Season Breakdown

  • Different Winners: 15
  • Most Wins: 7 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Poles: 8 – Kyle Busch
  • Most Runner Ups: 8 – Kyle Larson
  • Most Top-fives: 18 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Top-10s: 25 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Laps Led: 2175 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Wins: 19 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-5s: 47 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-10s: 54 – Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr.
  • Playoff Points: 69 – Martin Truex Jr.

Miami Track Facts

  • November 19th will be the 19th race at Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted a race every season since 1999 and was the final race of the 
season since 2002
  • Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the season finale in ever playoff season (14 times total)
  • This will be the 11th and final race on a 1.5 mile track in 2017 and the last of five in the playoffs
  • This will be the third points race held in the state of Florida for the MENCS in 2017

Homestead-Miami Track History

  • Homestead was devastated by Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992. Ralph Sanchez, a long time promoter of street races in Miami, had long dreamed of a first-class track in South Florida. After the hurricane he approached the city of Homestead with a proposal to build a track. Within two weeks he negotiated an agreement whereby the City would own the track on county land and lease the facility to Sanchez.
  • Ground was broken August 23, 1994. The first points race was a Busch Series race held on November 5, 1995 won by Dale Jarrett before a sellout crowd. The first competition was an exhibition race for NASCAR Trucks won by Geoff Bodine.
  • The first Cup race was November 14th, 1999 won by Tony Stewart driving the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac led by crew chief Greg Zipadelli. It was Stewart’s third win of his rookie season. Stewart also won the following year.
  • ISC became the sole owner of the Speedway in 2001 pursuant to an agreement that was made in 1997 when ISC acquired 40% ownership
  • In 2003 the track underwent a major reconfiguration from what was nearly a flat 1.5 mile track to computer designed progressive banking of 18-20 degrees in the turns. The project required over 4 million cubic feet of fill that was hauled in with 10,000 truckloads. The pole speed jumped nearly 25 mph in 2003 to 181.111 (the all-time record) from the previous record of 156.440 mph
  • Homestead has been the NSCS season ending race since 2002.
  • Ford Championship Weekend began in 2003.
  • The 2005 events were held under the lights for the first time.
  • Some features of the 600 acre facility: 1,005 Palm trees, five level 12 story high tower building, 750 TV 
monitor, garage area for 120 cars and 30 suites above the garages
  • In 2009 the track hosted all of North America’s premier motorsports championships: IndyCar, Grand- 
Am, Indy Lights and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Xfinity (then Nationwide) and Camping World Truck Series.
  • At 25 degree longitude, Homestead is the southern most track that NASCAR visits

Who will be next Cup driver to win multiple championships?

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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As NASCAR’s driver lineup transitions, Jimmie Johnson is the only active competitor with more than one Cup championship.

Not since 2005 has there been a Cup season where there was only one multi-time champion racing full-time. That year it was Jeff Gordon with his four titles. Six other drivers had one title going into that season and Tony Stewart won the championship for his second crown.

Three of the four championship contenders entering Sunday’s race in Miami own one title each — Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch — while Martin Truex Jr. seeks his first crown.

Before the playoff began, some drivers were asked who they thought would be the sport’s next multi-time champion, excluding themselves.

Johnson’s answer was quick.

“I would probably put Harvick first,’’ Johnson said in September. “Just the consistent nature that he and (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and that No. 4 car has from track to track. If it’s a road course, short track, big track, superspeedway, those guys are just rock solid.

“They have had a challenging year this year switching manufacturers and they are still up there cranking out solid finishes week in and week out. I would start with Kevin and then I would probably put Brad (Keselowski) second.”

Keselowski, not able to select himself, offered a different pick.

“I would say that would be between Joey (Logano) and the two Kyles,’’ he said, referring to Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.  “They’re really talented. They’re very young. They’ve got great rides. You’d be inclined to say that Kyle Busch would probably get there first because he has the best ride of the three, and he already has a championship, but who knows?’’

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who competed in the playoffs for the first time, offered his take:

“If I look really right now I would say Kevin or Kyle (Busch) would be that guy. They’ve already got one championship, and I feel like they’re in position that they could put themselves in that second championship category this year. 

“I think Truex has got the speed to do that over the next few years, if they can stay at that level and, really, I think Larson is capable of that as well if they’re able to stay at the level they’re at right now or push that level up a little higher. I think with Kyle and Kevin already having one, I think you’ve got to put those at the top of your list.”

The reason there is only one multi-time champion is because of the recent retirements of Tony Stewart (2016) and Jeff Gordon (2015). They combined to win seven titles. Johnson, Gordon and Stewart combined to win 14 of the last 22 championships (63.4 percent).

The other eight titles won during that stretch were by Terry Labonte (1996), Dale Jarrett (1999), Bobby Labonte (2000), Matt Kenseth (2003), Kurt Busch (2004), Keselowski (2012), Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015).

So, does having a title make one of those former champs the favorite this weekend?

“The pressure is really on (Truex) and (Kyle Busch),’’ Harvick said after Sunday’s race at Phoenix. “Those guys have dominated the year, and I feel like if they don’t win at this point, they would probably feel like they’ve had a letdown.’’

Truex’s response?

“That sounds like Harvick,’’ he said. “If I’m the favorite, perfect, I like that. I think it’s a better position to be in. I was the underdog before and I finished fourth, so yeah, bring it on.’’

GETTING OLDER

The average age of the four Cup title contenders 35.8 years old — two years older than last year.

Since the elimination format debuted in 2014, the 2015 field has the oldest average of 37.0. That championship race had Harvick, Truex, Kyle Busch and Gordon.

The youngest average age for the title contenders is 32.8 set in 2014 with Harvick, Logano, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin.

NO CHEVROLET CUP TITLE, BUT …

Chevrolet has been shut out of the championship round in Cup with the four drivers split evenly between Toyota and Ford.

But Chevrolet is guaranteed to win the Xfinity title. All four drivers — Elliott Sadler, William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric are with the car manufacturer.

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