Harvick wins at Homestead; Newman finishes second in thrilling Chase finale
Chevrolet driver Kevin Harvick won Sunday afternoon’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and with it the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. It was the fifth victory this year for the newcomer to Stewart-Haas Racing and the 28th of his career. The championship was Harvick’s first and the second for team owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, coming after Stewart’s championship in 2011.
Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman started the 267-lap race as the only drivers still eligible for the Cup. This year, after 10 years of determining its champion by points scored in a 10-race playoff among 10 to 12 drivers, NASCAR went to a four-round, tournament-style, elimination-based championship playoff for 16 drivers.
Harvick, Logano, Hamlin and Newman survived and advanced through the first three rounds, bringing them to Homestead’s “highest finisher is the champion” showdown. They stayed fairly close to each other the entire race, often being within hailing distance in the top 10. At one point they were 1-3-4-5, with Jeff Gordon in second. Later, with just 30 laps remaining, they were 2-3-5-7, Hamlin, Harvick, Logano and Newman. On one late-race restart they were 1-2-3, Hamlin, Newman, Harvick.
Harvick won the Cup by winning the race. Newman was scored a career-best second in final points, Hamlin third and Logano, plagued by a late-race pit error that cost him any shot at winning the race or the title, was scored fourth in final points.
Harvick’s race victory came ahead of Newman, Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Gordon. The winning move came shortly after a late-race restart, when Harvick shot past Hamlin on the back stretch. He survived another late-race restart and then rode away from Newman and won fairly comfortably.
The race featured 18 lead changes among only five drivers. Gordon led the most laps (161), followed by Harvick (54), Hamlin (50) and Kurt Busch and Blake Koch (one each). There were 13 cautions for 52 laps, four of the cautions in the final 30 laps.