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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)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, crosses the finishline to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Back Row L-R) Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kelloggs/Frosted Flakes Ford, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Catepillar Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Gwaltney Ford, (Front Row L- R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Bush`s Beans Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, pose with the Sprint Cup Trophy after qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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