Sunday, November 21, 2004


Today NASCAR wrapped up its season with the Ford 400 from Homestead, FL. This was the inaugural season for the Chase for the Championship. As the racing world gathered in Florida this weekend, it was clear that the system worked as planned. When the green flag dropped on Sunday, 5 drivers had a mathematical chance to win the championship, and 3 drivers had a very real shot at the title. Kurt Busch started the day in first place, but he held only a narrow lead over Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson started in a career-worst 38th position, but he quickly climbed into contention. Kurt Busch encountered troubles early on that left him outside the top 20 for most of the afternoon. Jeff Gordon steadily ran in the top 5.

The Ford 400 was a caution-plagued race despite the fact that there were very few cars gathered up in wrecks. However, the final caution of the day was brought out when race-leader Ryan Newman ran into the wall. This late caution set up a green-white-checkers situation. It was a dramatic finish.

When all was said and done, Kurt Busch's teammate, Greg Biffle held off the charging Jimmie Johnson to take the victory. Jeff Gordon finished 3rd. Kurt Busch miraculously salvaged a 5th place finish, and that was good enough to give him the Nextel Cup Championship by a margin of 8 points.

As in the race, Johnson finished the season in 2nd place and Gordon in 3rd. Mark Martin, in his final full season, finished in 4th place. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a poor showing in the finale and dropped to 5th place.