The winds of change will be blowing at Homestead-Miami Speedway this week.
The season-ending Ford 400 at the 1.5-mile track marks the end of the road for more than a handful of relationships in the Cup garage. Here's a look of some of the important “lasts” that will take place Sunday.
Pat Tryson's last race with Kurt Busch. Tryson is leaving Penske Racing for Michael Waltrip Racing to serve as crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. Knowing the die was cast before the Chase started, Busch and Tryson have performed remarkably well in the past nine races. They won Nov. 8 at Texas and will bring that same chassis to Homestead.
“We're bringing back 'Patriot', the car we won with at Texas,” Busch said. “It's a great car. Our team has an upbeat feel. We've had a long year. We've had a successful year. There's no better way than put together a 100 per cent effort this next week and go out with a bang — and, hopefully, a win.”
Jamie McMurray's last ride for Roush Fenway Racing. Owner Jack Roush must jettison one of his five teams to comply with the NASCAR-mandated reduction from five to four. McMurray's stock rose when he won Nov. 1 at Talladega, his first victory in more than two years. McMurray is expected to replace Truex, who will drive the #01 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet for the last time at Homestead before moving to MWR. An announcement of McMurray's signing with EGR should come this week.
Michael Waltrip's last race as a full-time driver. Waltrip's final full season in Cup racing deserves more fanfare than it has received to this point. Waltrip began his Cup career 758 races ago (on May 26, 1985), 24 days after Kyle Busch was born. In 2010, Waltrip will run a few selected races, concentrating on the restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega) he particularly likes.
“I figured out that only Mark Martin can drive forever — and I can't,” Waltrip said.
A wealth of “lasts” at Richard Petty Motorsports. Homestead will be Reed Sorenson's last race for RPM. It will be AJ Allmendinger's last race in the #44; he'll take Sorenson's place in the vaunted #43 next year. It will be RPM's last race in Dodge equipment. It will be the swan song of the RPM engine shop, as the organisation transitions to Ford and Roush-Yates engines next season. And who knows? If the RPM/Yates Racing merger — announced Sept. 10 — actually happens, it may be the last event for Yates Racing.
The last chance for Mark Martin. Can the 50-year-old driver overcome Jimmie Johnson's 108-point lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup? Optimistic Martin fans will point to the nine times Martin has beaten Johnson by more than 108 points in head-to-head competition, including once at Homestead (2005, when Martin finished second and Johnson 40th). Pessimists will point to the other 257 races where that hasn't happened.
“Heck, I'm not mathematically eliminated yet,” Martin said after finishing fourth to Johnson's first in Sunday's Cup race at Phoenix. “We'll go to Homestead, and we've got to race for second yet. We've got a race on our hands with Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch. We're still racing like there's no tomorrow.”
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News