With rain interfering one last time and delaying the race start for over an hour, here is what else was surprising and not surprising from the season finale, the 17th annual Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Surprising: The last race of the year at Homestead was surprisingly filled with a series of firsts and lasts. Kyle Busch, of course, scored a host of firsts with his trip to Victory Lane, winning his own first championship as well as winning the first championship in the Cup Series for his manufacturer Toyota.
There were, however, an even greater number of lasts in the race, including the last race for Jeff Gordon, the final run for Sam Hornish Jr. under the auspices of Richard Petty Motorsports, the final race for Michael Waltrip Racing as a company, the finale for Go Daddy as sponsor or Danica Patrick’s car, and the final race for Justin Allgaier with HScott Motorsports.
And while Jeff Gordon basked in the accolades of his last trip around the track behind the wheel, others such as Clint Bowyer bemoaned his last run after crashing and finishing dead last.
“I don’t know what the hell happened to our car,” Bowyer said. “My car got loose. I couldn’t catch it. I hate to have it end this way.”
“Unfortunately, it’s over.”
Not Surprising: It may have been his first Sprint Cup championship, but Kyle Busch was already a champion coming into his final race, having secured the Truck championship as owner, with Erik Jones behind the wheel.
“I don’t know how you top this, but I’d sure like to see,” Busch said. “I wouldn’t do it without everyone that surrounds me, my wife, my family, my friends, my employees at KBM, Joe (Gibbs), J.D. (Gibbs), the team at JGR, Adam (Stevens, crew chief).”
“You surround yourself with good people in business and in sports and it sometimes will more than likely pay it back.”
“You know, this is pretty special.”
Surprising: There were no baby steps involved this season for Martin Truex Jr., who finished 12th in the race but fourth in the championship standings, his highest finish to date.
“Super proud of our season and really proud to come this far to come from 24th in points last year to fourth this year is a pretty big step,” Truex said. “I don’t think most people realize just how big of a deal it is and how hard it was for us to get that far.”
“You never know what the future holds, but excited already about next year, and I think we’ll be back here in mid-December testing already for next year. Not a whole lot of rest, and looking forward to spending a week or so down here relaxing and having a few beers, catching a few fish, and really just let it all soak in what we’ve been able to accomplish, and really proud of everybody on our team.”
Not Surprising: While he did not win the race, Kevin Harvick scored his own record of sorts, finishing in the second place for the 13th time for the season. Harvick became the 10th Cup driver to score double-digit runner-up finishes in a single season and his was the first since Bobby Allison in 1972.
“The 18 car, he just had the speed all night, for the most part,” Harvick said. “You know, as the night went, I just couldn’t find anywhere that would make the car run better. The higher I would run, the looser it would get. I’d get on the seams and then it would push the front and slide the back. Just never could find anything.”
“I know we’re disappointed about finishing second tonight, but it’s kind of the theme of the year, finishing second. Unfortunately it’s just one short, but all in all, it’s been a great couple years, and couldn’t be prouder of our bunch of guys.”
Surprising: While one Kyle was in Victory Lane, another Kyle, Larson that is, was bemoaning a bit the chance that he had to get his first Cup victory. The driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet was stung by the final caution after riding the wall to a fifth place finish.
“I think I was 1 water bottle away from my first cup win,” Larson tweeted after the race. “Congratulations to Kyle Busch, such an amazing comeback story you had this year!”
Not Surprising: Team Penske finished the season strong, with a third and fourth place finish for Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano respectively.
“I was really proud of my team tonight, really happy with what they were able to give me and we were able to take a run at it, we just didn’t quite have enough at the end on that final restart to hold those guys off.” Keselowski said after the race. “We were really strong and we just didn’t have enough to close it at the end.”
“Unfortunately, we didn’t win and that’s what we wanted to do,” teammate Logano said. “We had a fast Shell/Pennzoil Ford that led a lot of laps, so I’m proud of the laps we led. We had a few good runs and made an adjustment that just took it out of the track and by the time we got it back we lost too much track position. We had a bad pit stop under green and lost more there, so it was too little, too late. We couldn’t redeem ourselves after a couple mistakes tonight.”
Surprising: While Brett Moffitt reveled in winning the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year title, he also revealed that his 2016 future driving plans are a bit up in the air at present.
“Throughout the season, Front Row has given me a great home, and it’s a great place to be, and thankful for this opportunity and being able to bring home the Rookie of the Year title,” Moffitt said. “Right now my slate is empty.”
“I mean, we’re working hard, but it’s hard to secure the funding to be able to run in any of the top three series. If anything would come forward, I’d be more than willing to work with any series, whether it was truck, XFINITY or another Cup ride.”
Not Surprising: One young up and coming driver no doubt summed it all up as he raced with one of his idols for the last time.
“I was a big fan of Jeff Gordon growing up,” Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, said. “You’re obviously honored to be in his last race with him. I got to race around him a little bit at the beginning of the race. I was having trouble passing him. I was trying to be as nice as I could and let him race his own deal.”
“But that was fun racing hard with him there.”
Surprisingly, that concludes the 2015 race season, which seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye. Enjoy the off-season, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays and here’s to a great 2016!