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Harvick Wins Homestead, 2014 Cup Championship

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 16 2014

Kevin Harvick is the 2014 Sprint Cup champion. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

When Kevin Harvick took the seat of the deceased Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001, a lot of people figured that Harvick would most certainly become a Sprint Cup champion. It’s taken 13 years but on Sunday, Harvick proved those people correct.

Harvick won Sunday’s season-ending race and with it, the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

The victory was the fifth of the season for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver and 28th of a career that started the weekend after Earnhardt died during a crash on the final turn of the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500 in 2001.

“I just don’t know what to say,” Harvick said in Victory Lane.

Harvick’s championship comes in the first year of the Chase’s first year of the elimination format. Harvick said that made his championship even more special.

“I think this Chase is about the best thing that has happened to this sport over the last decade,” he said. “This is probably going to shorten the drivers careers because it’s been so stressful but I want to thank every single fan for sticking with this sport, and to the industry for working to get it right. You guys are what makes us go around, and we love racing hard for us.

Ryan Newman finished second at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday and, hence, second in the final point standings. He finished a half second behind Harvick, who led 54 laps and the final seven after passing fellow Chaser Denny Hamlin for the lead.

“We were in a good spot and just didn’t have the best tires,” Newman said. “We did that on purpose. That was our strategy. Luke did an excellent job calling that shot. Kevin was a little bit faster than us, especially on the shorter runs.

Hamlin finished seventh while the final member of the four-driver finale field, Joey Logano, was 16th after having poor pit stops late in the race.

Hamlin said a decision to not pit for tires during a caution late in the race cost him the championship.

“Championship effort,” Hamlin, who finished second in the 2010 Chase, said. “It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I thought we had a better car than those guys, just I had a bad restart and lost position to the 4 (Harvick) and Darian (Grubb, crew chief) made the decision to leave us out there on tires trying to do something to get that track position back that I lost on the restart and it just didn’t work out for us. With all of those cautions it just allowed all of those guys to close back up and it was kind of all she wrote for us. It’s just one of those things. Sometimes the cautions fall your way and sometimes they don’t.

“We had a great car on the long run. Really improved on the short run all day. But, can’t thank FedEx enough for their support this year and Toyota, Sprint, The Greenbrier, Jordan Brand and the fans for a great year. We definitely gave ourselves a shot and things were looking really good for us, those cautions just really, really hurt us.”

Jeff Gordon started the race from the pole and led the first 12 laps. He lost the lead to Kurt Busch during yellow flag pit stops.

On the restart on Lap 15, Harvick blew to the front of the field and stayed there until Gordon moved passed him for the lead on Lap 25. Back out front, Gordon began to pull away. By Lap 31, his lead was 2 seconds.

Harvick, meanwhile, began to drop back. On Lap 38, he was passed by Logano for second place and by Lap 46, was more than 6 seconds behind leader Gordon. Behind him on his bumper and challenging for third place was Hamlin. On Lap 57, Hamlin moved past Harvick and into third place.

Further back in the pack, Newman, who started 19th, spent the first 50 laps moving forward. By that lap, he had moved to 12th place.

During pit stops after the yellow waved on Lap 58, Hamlin moved past Logano and into second place. On the Lap 64 restart, Hamlin blew out to the lead and Logano also moved past Gordon to claim second place.

On the next lap, however, back came Gordon as he passed both Chasers and reclaimed the lead. Hamlin, after losing the lead sank back to fifth on Lap 68 where he was just three spots ahead of Newman, who continued to move forward. On Lap 75, Newman took fifth place away from Logano.

Gordon kept the lead until a restart on Lap 121 when he was passed by Harvick. On the next lap, Gordon came back and passed Harvick to take the lead back. A lap later, Harvick moved past Gordon for the lead and from there, moved out to a multi-second lead.

Harvick lost the lead in pits after A.J. Allmendinger hit the wall to bring out a caution on Lap 155. Taking the lead was Gordon, who had the pit stall closest to pit out. Hamlin restarted second, Harvick third and Logano fourth.

On the restart, Hamlin moved past Gordon and into the lead.

On Lap 181 of the 267-lapper, Logano became the first Chaser to run into trouble. It came while he was running second to Hamlin and it saw him run to close to the wall and then scrape it. Harick shot past and into second while Logano kept going but began to fall back. By Lap 187, Logano had sunk to fifth place.

Hamlin lost his lead in the pits during a caution that occurred on Lap 194.

The yellow flag waved for the ninth time in the race with 61 laps to go. On the restart with 55 laps to go, Hamlin moved past Gordon on the high side to reclaim the lead.

Gordon again moved to the lead in the pits when the caution flag waved again with 46 laps to go.

With 32 laps to go, Allmendinger wrecked hard and out came the yellow. The leaders pitted. Gordon came out P1, Hamlin second, Harvick third. Newman restarted sixth and Logano eighth.

Hamlin stumbled a bit on the restart and Keselowski and Harvick moved to second and third. The gap between Harvick and Hamlin had stretched to well over a second when, with 20 laps to go, another caution flag wave.

Gordon and Hamlin stayed out. Chasers Harvick, Logano and Newman pitted. Logano’s hopes for a championship faded when his car fell off the jack during the pit stop. Newman took just two tires and restarted fourth. Harvick took four tires and restarted 12th.

With 12 laps to go, a wreck involving back markers brought out another caution. Leader Gordon pitted and handed the lead to Hamlin. Restarting second and to the inside of Hamlin with  nine laps to go was Newman.

Harvick who restarted sixth, quickly moved to second on his four fresh tires.

With seven laps to go, Harvick passed Hamlin for the lead and began to sprint toward the victory.

But with six laps to go, out came the caution for debris.

The race restarted for the final time with three laps to go and with Harvick the leader, Newman second and Hamlin third.

Harvick beat Newman out of Turn 2 and with two laps to go had a three-car lead. Newman could get no closer from there.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 16 2014
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