In a year where everything seemed to go the way of NASCAR’s Big 3, the opposite occurred in the most important race of the year.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway in both the race and the championship. Kevin Harvick wound up third. Kyle Busch was fourth. Out front by 1.7 seconds was Joey Logano, who drove to the victory and the championship after taking the lead with 11 laps to go.
“It’s a tough night,” Truex said after the last race for Furniture Row Racing, which is shutting down. “It’s a tough way to lose. You know, kind of reversed the tale from last year. Last year we did the same thing they (Team Penske and Logano) did tonight. That’s the way it goes. Just didn’t play out the way we needed it to. We were terrible for 10, 15 laps on new tires and was able to get a good restart there at the end luckily and get out front; just I had nothing for him at the end. I needed 15, 20 more laps, and that’s just the way it goes. I’m not sure what else to say.
“Really proud of everybody on our team, you know, for fighting hard this year to get to where we were, and without that last caution it was in the bag maybe, I think. But, hurts a little and going to miss all the guys, and had a hell of a five years with this team. So proud of them, and we’re going to celebrate no matter what tonight.”
Truex took the lead on the race’s final restart with 15 laps to go, driving past Busch. Busch had come off pit road first under the caution that set up the final round of pit stops. Logano came off third and Harvick fourth.
It didn’t take long for Truex to dispose of Busch. The No. 18 had needed the caution by extending the previous fuel and tire run, but even with the track position, Busch didn’t have much fight in him.
“I figured I could at least maybe lead three or four laps, but Martin got a good restart,” said Busch. “Every time I went to the gas it just spun the tires, so I had to keep coming back out of it and he’s going forward on me. Just didn’t have the best of restarts for one, but then for two, once it got down there to the corner it just didn’t turn anyways, and the 22 (Logano) went by, the 4 (Harvick) went by, everybody went by. Y’all saw that. Just slow.”
Busch said it was a frustrating night, but credited crew chief Adam Stevens for calling a great race and putting the team in position. However, Busch said he was “half a second off” and wasn’t going to be able to hold the competition at bay.
Harvick restarted fourth and finished there, never mounting a challenge after the final restart.
“We had a daytime race car,” said Harvick. “As soon as it got dark we never could get our car tightened up there at the end. They made a great call to put us in position to win the race, and then the caution came out when the 2 car (Brad Keselowski) spun the 19 (Daniel Suarez) out and came off pit road fourth, Just our strong point was not the restarts tonight, and we wound up on the wrong side of it.”
Logano led a race-high 80 laps. Harvick led 58 laps and won the first stage. Busch led 21 laps, and Truex led 20.