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Roush rules at Homestead finale.

By Andrew Charman

Kurt Busch held onto the points lead he had nurtured through the last few weeks to win his first NASCAR Nextel Cup, but the series finale at Miami's Homestead finale proved a nail-biter with Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both coming close to snatching the title. It was a great day for Busch's Roush Racing squad as almost un-noticed his team-mate Greg Biffle won the race.

The drama started early – barely had Kurt Busch earned his five point bonus by leading the first of 267 laps in his #97 Sharpie/Irwin Ford than the yellow was flying, as at the back of the field Mike Bliss and Hermie Sadler clashed. The green flew on lap six and Greg Biffle moved the #16 National Guard/Subway Ford past his Roush Racing team-mate, Ryan Newman's #12 ALLTEL Dodge in third with the next chase contender, Jeff Gordon's #24 Dupont Chevrolet, behind. But again the caution flew, as Robby Gordon, Jeff Burton, Bobby Hamilton Jr, Boris Said and Casey Mears all bounced off each other. All this aided Jimmie Johnson, second in the points at the start of the day but starting the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet from 39th.

On the lap 10 restart Gordon passed Busch for second. Jeff needed the five-point lead bonus but Biffle had been fast all weekend, and steadily drew away from the Dupont Chevy, 2.5 seconds clear by lap 25. Of the other title contenders, Dale Earnhardt Jr lay 11th, Mark Martin 16th, while Johnson was up to 22nd.

The caution was out again on lap 49 for debris, just in time for pit stops. Biffle was quickest out, while Busch leap-frogged Gordon, and a slowish stop for Johnson dropped him from 11th to 18th. The green flew on lap 53, with Biffle again drawing away from Busch and Gordon. Martin was also on the move, the #6 Viagra Ford up to eighth while Earnhardt's increasingly sliding #8 Budweiser Chevrolet slipped to 12th, Johnson rapidly moving past to hit the top 10 by lap 66.

Drama hit on lap 93 as Busch suffered a flat. As he reached pit road the wheel parted company, the Ford just avoiding the end of the pit wall, bringing out the yellow and thus staying on the lead lap. All the field pitted, Biffle leading Newman, Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot Chevrolet and Gordon back to green on lap 98, Johnson seventh, Martin eighth, Earnhardt 10th and Busch restarting 28th.

Martin was quickly past Johnson as up front Stewart went by Newman and set off after Biffle. But no-one seemed able to live with the #16 Ford, the car continuing to pull away until his progress was arrested on lap 114 as Jeremy Mayfield's #19 UAW/Dodge Dealers Dodge punctured and found the wall. Everyone headed back to pit road, Newman and Elliott Sadler's #38 M&M's Ford quickest out ahead of Gordon, Johnson and Biffle while Busch's stop was a confused disaster, dropping the #97 back down to 25th. And to add a further twist, light rain now started to fall.

Gordon now feared he had a tyre going down and hit pit road, rejoining back with Busch as the green finally flew on lap 132. Biffle immediately went past Johnson to ensure the Chevy man couldn't earn his five bonus points, the #16 car soon also passing second-placed Sadler and retaking the lead on lap 147, just as the caution flew again, Mike Bliss backing the #0 Netzero Highspeed Chevrolet into the wall. This time several cars took fuel only, Stewart leading out Kevin Harvick's #29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, Bobby Labonte's #18 Interstate Batteries version and Biffle, while Busch and Gordon resumed 18th and 19th.

At the lap 152 restart Stewart got away while Harvick got nudged out of the way by the lap-down Kenseth, Biffle going by, as further back Earnhardt was held up by traffic and slipped back into a seriously tense battle which Gordon and Busch were in the middle of. Luckily the inevitable crash happened behind them, Elliot Sadler sliding into an impact with the pit wall.

Everyone stayed out this time and at the green on lap 161 Stewart led Biffle while Gordon passed Busch and two others, only for chaos to break out again, Kasey Kahne ending an excellent rookie season with a hard hit against the concrete while further back Earnhardt tapped Travis Kvapil into an even harder impact with both inside and outside walls. Cue caution number eight.



Related Pictures

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Busch thought his title chance had gone when he lost a wheel early in the race (Photo Autostock/Ford Motor Co)
Biffle was always the dominant factor at Homestead (Photo Autostock/Ford Motor Co)
Biffle helped team-mate Busch to the title, and himself to the race (Photo Autostock/Ford Motor Co)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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