The big topic at Homestead-Miami Speedway all week has been “what is NASCAR’s etiquette line?”
Championship contender Kevin Harvick triggered an 11-car wreck on the green-white-checkered restart Oct. 25 at Talladega by bumping Trevor Bayne’s car into the wall. Competitors cried foul, saying he intentionally caused a wreck because his engine was failing and without the caution he would have been eliminated from the Chase. Instead, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who got the boot.
Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth knocked each other out of the Championship 4. The feud began in Kansas City with Logano bumper-tagging Kenneth’s car into a spin in what NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France would call “quintessential NASCAR” racing. It led to quintessential NASCAR retaliation when Kenseth intentionally crashed Logano at Martinsville two races later. Kenseth got a two-race suspension.
France said the drivers all know where the “so-called line” is: “Blocking, contact, the short end of some of those exchanges that happen, are all part of it and do not look to NASCAR to deal with that. They are part of racing.”
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But, he added, “If somebody is just intentionally banzaiing into some situation with the sole, you know, purpose of taking somebody out, we’ll deal with that.”
Tony Stewart, owner of Harvick’s No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevy, begged to differ: “We’re all as confused as you guys.”
Harvick said he does not want to be the one to wreck Jeff Gordon in his last race. But you can bet the contenders will do whatever it takes at the end if it means winning the championship.
THE KING’S GIFT
Gordon got an unexpected guest at his race hauler Saturday. In a private moment, The King, Richard Petty, presented Gordon with one of his trademark cowboy hats. He also gave Gordon 93 $1 bills to represent his 93 Cup wins. Petty told him he has one more dollar in his motor coach. Gordon gets it if he wins.
Kyle Petty said his father wanted to do something special for Gordon, who he sees as a “game-changer” and “another icon in this sport.”
Twenty three years ago in Atlanta, Gordon raced in his first Cup event. It also was Petty’s finale, ending the best career in NASCAR history. Petty’s 200 victories, albeit in another era, are virtually untouchable.
At that race, Petty said his father gave every fellow driver a sterling silver money clip with their names inscribed on it. He said his dad wanted to do something for Gordon that tied the two events and “came up on his own” with the 93 $1 bills that Gordon can now put in that money clip.
In the 50-minute final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice Saturday, Logano topped the board with a lap of 175.404 mph around the 1.5 mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Penske Racing driver likely would have been racing for the championship Sunday if not for the payback delivered by Kenseth at Martinsville in the first race of the Eliminator Round. Kenseth intentionally wrecked Logano in retaliation for Logano causing him to spin at Kansas City. Logano will start on the front row for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.
Among the contenders, Gordon posted the fastest lap in the final practice Saturday at 173.321 mph.
FOLLOW THE RACE
Live coverage of the Ford EcoBoost 400 on NBC begins on Sunday with Countdown to Green at 1:30 p.m. The race starts at 3 p.m. NBC will use 80 cameras, 150 microphones, 13 on-air talent, 28 miles of cable and 230 production personnel on site to deliver the broadcast.
Viewers also can tune in to NBCSN Hot Pass, a simultaneous live feed with up to three different camera angles trained on each of the remaining four drivers.
The NASCAR Mobile app and RaceBuddy (on NASCAR.com) will feature in-car cameras from each of the Championship 4 drivers.
RaceBuddy will offer 10 live HD race views, with backstretch and pit road cameras, while NASCAR Mobile will have six in-car video feeds, a live leaderboard, in-car audio and a track position dashboard to easily follow favorite drivers during the championship race.
Viewers can follow @NASCAR and #TheChase or #Championship4 for real-time updates via social media on the most critical moments throughout the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Gordon fans can also supplement the race broadcast by following along with the four-time champion’s final ride via a live stream of his in-car camera this Sunday on the NASCAR YouTube page.
THIS AND THAT
▪ If Gordon wins the championship, it would end a 14-year drought and be the longest gap between titles, surpassing the 12 seasons between titles of 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Terry Labonte.
▪ Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports team already owns the Sprint Cup Series record with 11 championships.
▪ A Toyota has never won the Cup championship. But that could change if Kyle Busch, the only contender not driving a Chevy, finishes ahead of them all. Ford has no cars in its signature race.
▪ If Busch wins the championship he will join Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski and Harvick as the only drivers to win titles in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity series.
▪ Six drivers outside of the Championship 4 have won at Homestead: Greg Biffle (three wins), Stewart (three), Carl Edwards (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Kurt Busch (one) and Kenseth (one).
▪ NBC News anchor and Today show co-host Hoda Kotb will serve as Grand Marshal.
▪ Zachary Levi, star of NBC’s Heroes Reborn and best known for his role as Chuck, will sing the national anthem.