THE STARTING GRID:
Driving the car he drove in his memorable Kansas finish the month before, #99-Carl Edwards did absolutely everything he possibly could to catch point leader #48-Johnson, leading the most laps and winning his series-leading ninth win of the season, but came up just 69 points short. After qualifying 4th, he first took the lead from teammate #17-Kenseth on lap 12, let the #17 by, then retook the lead on lap 19. From there, he sliced through lapped traffic, nearly running over #47-Ambrose on lap 118. He also had to hang on as he was bumped loose by #11-Hamlin with 68 to go and again by #18-Ky. Busch with 56 to go. Under the fourth caution on lap 168, he lost the lead when other drivers used pit strategy, then inched his way toward the front during the final long green flag run following the seventh and final caution with 61 to go. Knowing #48-Johnson was still running strong, Edwards decided to repeat his fuel gamble from Texas. This time, by ten laps to go, he was again in a battle with #17-Kenseth, a race which slowed down as both drivers tried to conserve. When the #17 ran out with just 4 laps remaining, Edwards took the lead and crawled to the finish, running out of fuel as he crossed the finish line. Edwards also won the Nationwide Series finale the night before, but, again, fell short of Nationwide Series champion #07-Bowyer. Led a race-high 157 laps.
1) #99-Carl Edwards** THE WINNER!
2) #29-Kevin Harvick** After fighting tooth-and-nail to help teammate Ron Hornaday try and win the Craftsman Truck Series title, he moved into contention from the 5th spot to close in on leaders #17-Kenseth and #99-Edwards during their early battle. Late in the race, still running in the top 10, he pitted for fuel along with #26-McMurray, #24-J. Gordon, and others under the seventh and final caution with 61 to go, knowing it was unlikely anyone could make it the rest of the way. As it turned out, #99-Edwards did make it, and he was just barely able to hold of #26-McMurray for 2nd. Led 1 lap.
3) #26-Jamie McMurray Picked up his third-straight 3rd place finish, rounding out an impressive late-season charge. He qualified 7th and was still 6th on lap 91. He pitted along with #29-Harvick and #24-J. Gordon under the seventh and final caution of the race, putting him in position to go the rest of the way. Debuted a new paint scheme for his Crown Royal-sponsored car as he had the last two seasons. Ran his last race with crew chief Larry Carter, who will be working with Paul Menard in 2009. He will be reuinted with former Ganassi crew chief Donnie Wingo in 2009.
4) #24-Jeff Gordon** After struggling early in the race, he took the lead for the first time by staying out under the fourth caution on lap 168 and managed to hold it for several laps before #17-Kenseth re-assumed the lead with 82 to go. After losing the spot, he held firm to the runner-up position by waging a great side-by-side battle with #11-Hamlin for several laps. Under the seventh and final caution with 61 to go, he pitted along with #29-Harvick and #26-McMurray to try and make it to the finish. Though his winning streak would end at 14 seasons, the gamble otherwise paid off with a top 5 finish. Led 16 laps.
5) #07-Clint Bowyer** On Saturday, he finished fifth and clinched his first-ever NASCAR title by 21 points over #99-Edwards as the newest champion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. On Sunday, he started back in 27th, then under the first caution on lap 70, moved up to 3rd with a two-tire stop. He held fast to a top 5 run by stretching his fuel and finished 5th in his final run in the #07 car. Will drive the new Cheerios-backed #33 for RCR in 2009.
6) #9-Kasey Kahne Lost a lap, then got it back when #2-Ku. Busch hit the wall to bring out the third caution of the race on lap 151.
7) #28-Travis Kvapil Was one of the fastest cars in Friday's practice session. On Sunday, he lost a lap, then got it back when #41-Sorenson’s brush with the wall brought out the sixth caution of the race with 68 laps to go. He and #9-Kahne likely pitted under that caution and were able to make it the rest of the way.
8) #5-Casey Mears Solid top 10 run in his final start for Rick Hendrick; will take over #07-Bowyer’s RCR #07 in 2009.
9) #20-Tony Stewart** Emotional in his final start for Joe Gibbs Racing, he was determined to round out his time in the #20 with a win. After qualifying 13th, he was up to 9th on lap 36, then 5th on lap 91. After hanging around the top 10 for much of the night, he vaulted into the top 5 in the final 40 laps, moving into 2nd and closing fast on leader #17-Kenseth with 29 to go. With 24 to go, he was back to his old tricks, saying “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,” as he had in his 2007 Indianapolis victory as he got to the bumper of #17-Kenseth. He took the lead one lap later under cheers from the crowd and held it until he pitted with 12 to go. Moved up into 9th in points. Led 11 laps.
10) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. A refreshing change-of-pace from his frustrating early DNF at Phoenix the week before, rounding out the season on a high note.
11) #10-A.J. Allmendinger Lost a lap early, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when #8-Almirola’s spin brought out the first caution of th race on lap 70. In the end, he picked up yet another top-15 finish, moving the #10 team from 331 points behind 35th when he took over the ride at Martinsville to just 80 points after this Homestead finale, a mere five races.
12) #21-Bill Elliott Turned in his best finish of the year with a 15th place starting spot that he successfully defended through much of the race, still running 15th on lap 49. However, the long green flag runs put him a lap down, but the car was still fast enough to allow him to get the Lucky Dog when the second caution fell for debris on lap 140. In the end, he picked up his best finish of the season, besting his 16th place finish at Martinsville the previous month.
13) #11-Denny Hamlin** Looking to pick up his third-straight top-five finish at Homestead, he was the fastest car in Happy Hour. The car showed it on Sunday as well when, despite qualifying 25th, he flew up to 14th by lap 37. In the final 100 laps, his car really came to life and, for several laps starting with 76 to go, he engaged in a great side-by-side battle with #24-J. Gordon for 2nd. After the sixth caution with 68 to go, he restarted 3rd and fought #99-Edwards so hard for 3rd that he bumped th #99 loose through the turns. He pitted for the final time with 11 to go.
14) #66-Scott Riggs Lost a lap, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when #31-J. Burton’s spin brought out the fifth caution of the race with 90 to go. Picked up his best finish sine Talladega in October in his final ride with the team. The #66, solidly in the top 35, will become Ryan Newman’s #39 car in 2009.
15) #48-Jimmie Johnson** Successfully-defended his point lead and picked up his third-consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, becoming the first driver since Cale Yarborough in 1976-1978 to do so. The road was by no means easy. He struggled mightily in qualifying, forcing him to start back in 30th while runner-up point man #99-Edwards started 4th. Through the first part of the race, he carefully moved up through the pack, moving to 21st by lap 11, 18th on lap 24, and 11th on lap 100. He hovered at that point, however, and on lap 150 was stuck in a tight race with lapped and lead lap cars. This was not helped under the fourth caution on lap 168 when several cars took two tires, trapping him back in 14th for the restart. Still struggling, his crew took a gamble by taking 2 tires under the sixth caution with 68 to go, giving him the lead for the first time. #17-Kenseth got by him just before the seventh caution of the race with 61 to go and he pitted for the final time with 14 to go. Despite running mid-pack, he finished under power and won the title by 69 points. Led 6 laps.
16) #83-Scott Speed (R) After switching rides with teammate #84-Vickers in a successful bid to get the #84 into the top 35 in owner’s points, he surprised everyone in qualifying when he qualified on the outside pole in only his fifth Sprint Cup start. After a few cars slipped by in the early laps, he still managed to hang on to the 7th spot on lap 30. Will start the Daytona 500 in February as his #84 team sits 35th in owner’s points.
17) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Was the fastest car in Friday’s first practice session. He led some laps during early pit stops and was running 6th when he pitted for the final time with 16 to go. Led 2 laps.
18) #16-Greg Biffle** Despite his Homestead prowess, he qualified 23rd and struggled early in the race. During the first round of green flag stops on lap 54, he served a pass-through penalty that put him a lap down. On the lap 70 restart following the first caution of the race, he shot past #99-Edwards to get his lap back the hard way. He lost the lap again when he served a penalty for an uncontrolled tire, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when #47-Ambrose brought out the fourth caution of the race on lap 168. This done, he was firmly on the comeback trail, marching up to 16th with 79 laps to go. With 53 to go, he was up to 9th, having been as far back as 41st earlier in the race. He lost some of these spots when he was forced to pit for the final time with 18 to go, but still got a top 20 and secured his 3rd place ranking in points.
19) #18-Kyle Busch** On Saturday, he came just one position short of beating #99-Edwards for the win in the Nationwide Series, keeping his 2008 season tied with racing legend Sam Ard for most wins. His attention then turned to Sunday, where he looked to finish his best career season on a high note. He dodged a bullet during the second round of green-flag pit stops when, on lap 126, his crew changed his tires and found one of them had a slow leak, the leak accounting for his car’s poor handling. After the third caution of the race on lap 151, he was back to racing in the top 5, moving by #6-Ragan for fourth. He also bumped #99-Edwards in a battle for 4th with 56 to go. In the final laps, he moved up to 2nd, then ran out of gas on the last lap along with #6-Ragan. Moved up into 10th in points.
20) #44-David Reutimann On Friday, the hometown hero picked up his first-ever Sprint Cup Series pole in his 63rd career start, allowing him to lead the opening lap on Sunday before #17-Kenseth took the top spot. Impressively, despite a broken spring on his throttle lever, he was still running 3rd on lap 120. He fell back a little bit, then moved back up to 2nd by taking two tires under the fourth caution on lap 168. Made his last pit stop with 19 to go. Unfortunately, while picking up a solid finish, it was the first time the polesitter for the Homestead finale failed to finish in the top 9. Will go back to car #00 in 2009. Led 1 lap.
21) #12-Ryan Newman Lost a lap, then got it back when teammate #2-Ku. Busch’s second accident brought out the seventh and final caution of the race with 61 to go. A quiet run in his last start for Roger Penske.
22) #22-Dave Blaney Despite a quiet run in the Cup race, Bill Davis Racing was still beaming after the Homestead weekend as the team’s Craftsman Truck Series driver Johnny Benson, Jr. finally picked up his first title in that series.
23) #25-Brad Keselowski (R) Scraped up his car a little during practice, but not bad enough to have to go to a backup car. Though off the leader’s blistering pace, he got another top-25 finish.
24) #6-David Ragan Qualified 6th and ran in the top 5 for pretty much the entire night, running as high as 2nd on lap 120. He was running 3rd as the rest of the field pitted, but his fuel gamble did not quite turn out as he was forced to pit on the final lap along with #18-Ky. Busch. Will be sponsored by UPS in 2009.
25) #17-Matt Kenseth** Took the lead on lap 2 and, after letting teammate #99-Edwards take the lead for the first time on lap 12, got it back, then was angry when #99-Edwards got back by. He lost a handful of spots during the first round of green-flag stops when, on lap 53, he locked his rear brakes and was forced to back up into his stall. He retook the lead with 82 to go by passing #24-J. Gordon, who had stayed out during the fourth caution on lap 168 as the rest of the field pitted for two or four tires. He took the lead with 82 to go only to lose it under the sixth caution with 68 to go when #48-Johnson took two tires to take the top spot. He took the lead back again just before the seventh caution fell for #2-Ku. Busch’s second accident with 61 to go. He held it until 23 to go when #20-Stewart’s rallying car got by, then retook it with 12 to go when the #20 pitted. From there, he and teammate #99-Edwards waged a low-speed battle for the lead almost a half-lap ahead of the field. His race ended when he ran out of gas with 4 to go while going down the frontstretch. Unfortunately, that late misfortune knocked him out of the top 10 in points to 11th and ended his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one win at six. Led 73 laps.
26) #7-Robby Gordon When #77-Hornish, Jr. failed to make the race after bouncing his car off the wall in qualifying, he benefitted with the #77 crew helping him stay in the top 35. He not only remained 34th in owner’s points, but slightly expanded his lead over 35th place #84-Speed.
27) #38-David Gilliland Ran as high as 5th after he took a two-tire stop under the fourth caution on lap 168.
28) #19-Elliott Sadler NO NOTES
29) #09-Sterling Marlin Turned in a solid finish just one lap down in team owner James Finch’s 100th start.
30) #15-Paul Menard On lap 158, he cut down on #41-Sorenson as the two raced off turn two. Though his left-rear made contact with the #41's right-front, the two kept going. Otherwise, he cruised to the finish in his last race for DEI; will drive Doug Yates’ #98 in 2009.
31) #41-Reed Sorenson After sustaining some damage to the right-front of his car on lap 158 when #15-Menard cut across his nose off turn two, he was involved in the fourth caution of the race ten laps later when #47-Ambrose crossed his nose off turn four, grinding his car against the outside wall. The right side of his car was further scratched up when he scraped the outside wall in turn two for two consecutive laps, the second with 68 to go bringing out the sixth caution of the race. His damaged car drove through the grass after it finally got off the wall. Will drive Gillet-Evernham’s #10 in 2009.
32) #84-Brian Vickers When rumors that Mark Martin would drive the car were quashed earlier in the week, he was tabbed to drive in place of Scott Speed to get the car into the top 35, putting Speed in his #83. Around lap 146, he sustained a little damage to his car when #2-Ku. Busch made contact with him, ultimately cutting down the left-front tire on the #2, but still finished well enough to beat #47-Ambrose for the 35th spot in owner’s points by just 13 points.
33) #43-Bobby Labonte NO NOTES
34) #01-Regan Smith (R) The top-finishing 2008 rookie for the eleventh time this season, one behind #77-Hornish, Jr. with a series-leading twelve (who DNQ’d) and ahead of #10-Carpentier with seven and #00-McDowell with six. This was the first race in which he or any of the other rookie candidates who started early in the 2008 season was the only one in the field. He was then awarded Rookie of the Year honors, becoming the first winner of that award to not DNF in all of his rookie starts (34).
35) #8-Aric Almirola Brought out the first caution of the race on lap 70 when he broke loose off turn four and spun through the infield grass, narrowly avoiding contact with the inside wall.
36) #78-Joe Nemechek His team announced earlier in the week that it would be going part-time in 2009, but the weekend started of good when he qualified a strong 16th. However, with 90 laps to go, he was involved in the fifth caution of the race when #31-J. Burton got loose under him off turn three and clipped his left-rear, causing the #31 to slide through the infield grass.
37) #70-Tony Raines Narrowly averted disaster when on lap 130, during the second round of green-flag stops, he drove through the grass entering pit road and nearly slid back onto the track off turn four. He kept control of the car, however, and his crew was able to clear away the grass on his splitter. The team will switch to the #14 for new owner-driver Tony Stewart in 2009.
38) #55-Michael Waltrip Scraped the right-rear of his car heavily during his qualifying lap, resulting in him turning in the slowest speed on Friday.
39) #45-Chad McCumbee (R) Scraped the wall during qualifying, but did not have to go to a backup car. His team will switch to the #44 next year, availing the #45 for any starts Kyle Petty will make in 2009.
40) #31-Jeff Burton Was involved in the fifth caution of the race with 90 laps to go when he got loose off turn three and slid into the left-rear of #78-Nemechek, causing him to slide through the infield grass. Though he did not hit anything, his car handled terribly after the incident and he was off the pace for the rest of the night. Ran the final race with AT&T as an ironic car sponsor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
41) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr.** Again, he ran the extreme-high line, again, he rallied toward the front of the pack in the early-to-mid stages of the race, and again, his run was undermined by terrible luck late in the race. He qualified 22nd, but was up to 10th by lap 120. Out due to wheel bearing problems. Under the second caution of the race on lap 140, he lost several spots when his car stalled off pit road. Still, he came back, and was running in 12th with 50 to go. A scheduled stop with 22 to go seemed like it was going to help his car’s then-ailing handling, but when he returned to the pits with 19 to go and the crew lifted the hood, a wheel bearing problem was discovered and it took him out of the race. Unfortunately, the low attrition of the race dropped him so far back that he fell out of the top 10 to 12th in points.
42) #47-Marcos Ambrose (R) Looking to defend his hold on the 35th spot in owner’s points, he faced an uphill battle when he qualified in 41st, was lapped early on lap 45, and was nearly run over by #99-Edwards on lap 118 when the #99 was lapping him again. His day got much worse on lap 168 when he crossed the nose of #41-Sorenson coming off turn four, turning him into the outside wall and bringing out the fourth caution of the race. The incident forced him behind the wall until he returned to the track 43 laps down with 56 to go. The accident was costly in owner’s points as he fell out of the top 35, placing him 36th behind #84-Speed by 13 points going into 2009. Will have to qualify or race his way into his first Daytona 500 in February.
43) #2-Kurt Busch Struggled mightily through the weekend, starting with scraping the wall in qualifying, giving him only a 37th place starting spot, and being one of the first cars #99-Edwards lapped on lap 45. He lost more time when he was forced to serve a pass-through penalty on lap 54. During the second caution on lap 140, he made contact with #84-Vickers on pit road, damaging his left-front tire. Three laps after the lap 148 restart, his left-front tire cut down coming down the backstretch. He attempted to get onto pit road, but ground the outside wall in turns three and four, bringing out the third caution of the race. He cut down to the inside of the track to pit, ultimately resulting in three penalties for speeding, pitting too soon, and for a commitment cone violation. Later, with 61 to go, he brought out the seventh and final caution of the race when he cut down a right-rear tire and ground his car against the wall in turn one, shedding a strip of rubber onto the track.
DID NOT QUALIFY:
#13-Max Papis (R)
#77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R)