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Roush rules at Homestead finale.

The lap 171 restart proved crucial for leader Stewart, who was still weaving as they came off turn four, which was against the rules and earned him a black flag. But before he could come in, the yellow flew yet again, for debris. Several cars pitted but notably not Gordon, and when they reformed the Dupont Chevy sat in fourth place and the championship lead, while Busch was back to 24th after another long stop as he continued to complain of right front tyre problems.

Labonte led Newman away with 90 to go but was soon passed by the Dodge as Gordon moved into third, while the forgotten title contenders Earnhardt and Martin had recovered to sixth and seventh with Johnson just behind them, Busch only up to 16th. Now the cautions hit double figures, as Jeff Burton's #30 AOL Chevrolet was tapped by the punctured #41 Target Dodge of Casey Mears and shed its tyre over the track. This time Gordon came in, as did most others, though Martin stayed out and earned his five points. The green flew with 72 to go with Johnson in 11th and the points lead, Gordon and Earnhardt just behind and Busch 19th. Gordon quickly passed his team-mate as Busch also moved up a place, only for the caution to fly yet again as a cover fell off one of the lights on the start gantry, Earnhardt hitting it.

Everyone waited for as long as possible to pit so as to have nough fuel to go to the end. Rusty Wallace led back to the lap 207 restart in the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, while the top four title contenders were together in 20th place back. Gordon quickly got away from Johnson as Busch again slipped back, barely holding onto his title lead.

Lap 225 saw yet another yellow, this time for the detonated engine in Jeff Green's #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge. Wallace pitted, leaving Newman in the lead from Stewart, Gordon fifth and in the title chase a single point down on 11th-placed Busch. On pit road, fingers were now being bitten to the bone…

The green flew on lap 232 and Gordon moved quickly into fourth, Busch into ninth behind Johnson, as up front Newman and Stewart fought each other for the lead, third-placed Dale Jarrett's #88 UPS Ford soon joining in. But Busch was now on the move, taking seventh and stretching his title advantage to 12 points. But we weren't finished with cautions, Martin Truex Jr blowing a tyre and setting up a final sprint with all three title contenders together.

The green flew with 10 to go and Gordon, knowing he needed to win to take the title, went to the bottom, tapping Joe Nemechek's lapped car out of the way while Busch sat pretty in seventh, waiting for the chequer – only to see leader Newman puncture and hit the wall. This set up a green-white chequer finale, along with the end of second-placed Jarrett's day as the Ford ran out of fuel.

At the restart Biffle snatched the lead and the win while Johnson went round Gordon for second, but none could do anything about Busch, Kurt coming home fifth to win the title by a whole eight points over Johnson. Suddenly his bad mood, which had got worse during the day, evaporated as he celebrated with doughnuts for the crowd. But those with reason to be happiest were NASCAR's rule makers – the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup had provided the closest finish to a series in the Cup's history, not settled until the last lap of the last race. Now we look forward to the 2005 championship – less than three months away…





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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