RELATED: Full race results " Final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- To go fast, all Kyle Busch had to do was mash the gas pedal. To go faster, all he had to do was slow down. Had to slow down. No choice there. Busch "got in a fight" with an unprotected, concrete wall at Daytona before the season's first Sprint Cup Series race. He lost. Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway , he won. The road to the Sprint Cup title is a curious one. They say the 30-year-old Busch is a "changed" man -- actually, the word often used is "matured" -- and I hope that's only partly true. It's the competitive fire in Busch that pushes him to dance with a race car on the very edge. Occasionally, the results are disastrous; often, though, they are a thing of beauty. Busch didn't compete in all 36 points races this season, but for reasons out of his control. A broken right leg and a left foot that gave new meaning to the word "fractured" took care of that. For nearly 12 weeks, Busch idled. Idle is not a speed to which the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is accustomed. One doesn't win 154 races across three series by idling. A bed-ridden Busch had to sit and watch as three other drivers climbed into his No. 18 Toyota. It's been said that nothing hurts a racer more than seeing someone else in his car. Rehab was painful; sitting on the sidelines was agonizing. Potential wins were slipping by him on the television screen. When he finally did make it back to the track, no one knew what to expect, least of all Busch. Sure, he was confident. His crew chief, Adam Stevens, and car owner, Joe Gibbs, were confident. But no one was certain. No one knew if a broken leg and fractured foot were the only real injuries Busch suffered in Daytona several months earlier. Maybe the "want to" was still there, but the question was, could he? Could he still feel every nuance of the car as it rocketed around a race track? Could he push it to the very edge, find the sliver of an opening that existed only briefly, and charge his way through the field? Not only could Busch still do those things, but in some ways he did them better. Only six weeks after his return, Busch was back in the winner's circle, victorious at, of all places, Sonoma Raceway. In little more than a month's time, he won three consecutive races and four of five. Nearly as telling was his performance in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The format, tweaked from time to time, has always dealt hefty penalties for miscues with little or no time to recover, and Busch has had his share. This time, he navigated the minefield that stretched from Chicago to Homestead with minimal damage. If Busch has changed, so has his approach, something he called a "just let everything be" tactic. It's a short phrase that speaks volumes about his confidence in himself and his team. Changed? Maybe. Maybe hitting a concrete wall and starting a family and sitting on the sidelines had an effect on him after all. Slowing down wasn't a part of the plan. But in the end, that's what it took. And Busch, the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is just fine with that.
RELATED: Full race results " Race recap SHOP: Champion gear In a season that would make a pretty good movie script, Kyle Busch completed his comeback and captured his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Busch took home the 2015 championship by being the top finisher in the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway among the Championship 4-eligible drivers of Kevin Harvick , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr . The 2015 season started off in a frightening fashion for Busch. A crash in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway left him with a broken right leg and a broken left foot. Busch missed the first 11 points races of the season before returning in the middle of May for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Matt Crafton , David Ragan and Erik Jones each took turns behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing . NASCAR granted Busch a waiver to make the Chase provided he was able to win a race and crack the top 30 in points before the end of the 26-race regular season at Richmond International Raceway . It took Busch just over a month to find Victory Lane and he did so at Sonoma Raceway, holding off his brother Kurt. That sparked a stretch of four wins in five races for the 30-year-old, including three straight wins at Kentucky Speedway , New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway . He nearly pulled off a fourth straight win at Pocono Raceway but ran out of gas on the final lap. For the second half of the waiver requirement, Busch cracked the top 30 in points after the race at Watkins Glen International in August and secured his spot in the Chase after the Darlington race, which was the second-to-last race of the regular season. The Chase provided an early test for Busch as a wreck at New Hampshire and a 37th-place finish left him on the outside looking in of advancing to the Contender Round heading to Dover International Speedway . However, he was able to rally to advance with a runner-up finish at the "Monster Mile." Contact with Kyle Larson near the entrance of pit road at Charlotte in the Contender Round opener derailed a promising day for Busch and left him needing strong performances at Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway to make the Eliminator Round. Busch delivered at both, gaining the spots he needed late at Talladega, which was where he was involved in a wreck the previous year that took him out of the Chase. Busch was a model of consistency in the Eliminator Round with three top-five finishes to advance on points to the Championship 4. The title season was also a big one off the track for Busch as he and wife Samantha welcomed son Brexton in May, just days after Busch's return to competition. The Sprint Cup championship is the first for crew chief Adam Stevens, who was in his first year as a pit boss in the Sprint Cup Series and the fourth (and first since 2005) for team owner Joe Gibbs. It was also the first Sprint Cup championship for manufacturer Toyota.
Check out some of the best radio chatter from Homestead-Miami Speedway as Jeff Gordon starts his final race and Kyle Busch takes home the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Clint Bowyer 's loose No. 15 Toyota started a multi-car wreck during the season finale on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway shortly after a restart on Lap 45, forcing the fourth caution of the day. The other cars invovled were the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the No. 33 of Ty Dillon , the No. 55 of David Ragan and the No. 43 of Aric Almirola , who took his Ford to the garage. (Almirola returned to the race 55 laps down.) "We wrecked pretty good," Dale Jr. told his crew after getting clipped by Ragan's Toyota. Before the race's start, the Hendrick Motorsports wheelman was upfront saying he would assist in any way with helping Jeff Gordon attain his fifth title. After a trip down pit road, Earnhardt returned to the race several laps down. The Ford EcoBoost 400 is the final race for Michael Waltrip Racing which fields teams for both Bowyer and Ragan. Bowyer's day ended early and he told NBC from the garage, "I don't know what the hell happened. I was kind of optimistic about the race. We made a pit stop there and the car was just a way big handful there. I don't know, I was coming off of (Turn) 2 there and Ty (Dillon) kind of got squirrely and I tried to stay off of him and my car got loose and I just couldn't catch it. "I don't know, we just lost the handling on our car big -time there. Unfortunately ended -- you hate to end this way. I wanted to end on a strong note for everybody at MWR. Appreciate all of their hard work and efforts all these years but unfortunately it's over.” Here's how those involved ranked on the leaderboard at the race's end: Dillon (23rd), Ragan (27th), Earnhardt Jr. (40th), Almirola (41st) and Bowyer (43rd).
MORE: Sunday's full lineup RELATED: Gordon's top 24 NASCAR moments " Full Gordon coverage HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Busy week, surrounded by a lot of friends and family, a legendary figure making the final start of his career with a shot at going out as a five-time champion. Racer. Philanthropist. Father. What's there to say about Jeff Gordon that hasn't been said? What's there to write that hasn't been written? Do a Google search for " Jeff Gordon " and the search engine generates approximately 79 million results. Tom Brady? 83.1 million. Kobe Bryant? 34.6 million. Derek Jeter? 14 million. Gordon, 44, is one of those rare athletes who have transcended their individual sport. A champion on the track? Without question. Off the track? Certainly. Television and tabloids flock to him. He purchased a second residence in New York City in part to escape the spotlight and to navigate life in between races unimpeded by the fame that followed him elsewhere. Maybe he would not carry the same clout or create the same buzz had he chosen another profession. Then again, perhaps his impact would have been even greater elsewhere. A precocious, driven youngster whose family packed up moved east from California in order to continue his development as a racer. A NASCAR premier series champion at 24. And 26. And 27. And 30. Now, at 44, is there one more title in the tank? What's there to say that hasn't been said, write that hasn't been written? WATCH: Gordon's first Homestead win The Alpha and Omega NASCAR didn't begin with Gordon, and it certainly won't end when the Hendrick Motorsports driver climbs from his No. 24 Chevrolet for the final time on Sunday evening. "Everybody's career comes to an end," Richard Petty said. "He's going out strong. I admire him for that part of it. "I wouldn't mind seeing him win the championship because he's meant so much to NASCAR over the years. They're going to miss him a whole lot from that standpoint." There is no one in the sport more qualified to speak on such matters than the man known simply as "The King." Now 78, Petty set the standard for champions on the track as well as how to conduct oneself outside the car. Icon, inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame member, winner of 200 races and seven championships, Petty is NASCAR. The Petty family is NASCAR. Petty's father, Lee, won three titles, 54 races and was in the very first sanctioned race. He, too, is a member of the Hall of Fame. The careers of Richard Petty and Gordon are inextricably linked by a single date – Nov. 15, 1992. Petty made his 1,184th and final start in NASCAR's premier series. Gordon made his very first in the same event. Petty met privately with Gordon this weekend at Homestead to present him with one of his signature Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hats. It was a gesture of appreciation and acknowledgement of everything Gordon has accomplished. But Petty understands better than most that the sport will move forward, just as it did when he stepped out of the car that sunny day in Atlanta. "No matter who you are, you're not strong enough to carry the whole load," Petty said. "He's been a strong leader all these years, but over a period of time, the next crowd comes along and kind of fades them all out. Over a period of time, you go away whether you want to or not." RELATED: Best No. 24 paint schemes Auspicious beginning Gordon won the series' Rookie of the Year title in 1993, competing for the honor against Bobby Labonte , Kenny Wallace and P.J. Jones. Two years later, he won his first championship. It was the era of Dale Earnhardt, the six-time champion chasing Petty's mark of seven titles while blazing new trails. He was "The Intimidator." He was NASCAR. Petty, Earnhardt and then there was Gordon. No one else was as dominant -- between 1995 and '99, Gordon won 47 races. He won Daytona. He won Indy. He won the Winston Million. Had he not come along? "Someone else would have taken that spot," Mike Helton, NASCAR Vice Chairman, said. "I don't know that anybody could have filled it, though. "There's a difference. It's like if the Atlantic Ocean went dry, somebody could figure out how to get water in it, but could they fill that whole ocean? "I think we were very fortunate for Jeff to appear when he did and do what he did along the way to keep our momentum going. It certainly added to the momentum that we had going in that era. We needed a Jeff Gordon and he arose. He came into the sport ... he could have chosen open-wheel racing ... and he would have been massively successful." Why was it Gordon? Why not someone else who stepped up and helped carry the sport forward, who resonated with fans and sponsors? Helton doesn't know. "I know growing up there was a reason I became a big fan of John Wayne. And there were a lot of cowboys on television," he said. "I just think that speaks to Jeff's inclusiveness, and his capabilities extended beyond just being a very successful athlete as a race car driver." There have been issues from time to time, but nothing major, according to Helton, who added, "Of course we've had conversations in which he'd had to write checks afterward." Earnhardt's death in 2001, in the season-opening Daytona 500 , turned the sport upside down. Gordon was one of the few who could help stabilize it in an uncertain time. "I think the whole industry looked at Jeff to take Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s place when we lost Dale," said Helton. "The garage area needed a voice like we've had historically, whether it was Richard Petty or Darrell Waltrip, Dale Sr. ... He got pressure from the industry inside the garage to be that voice. "When that came, along with the championships that preceded that, he understood the need for a league or sanctioning body in order for the athlete to be successful. But he also had a good soapbox to stand on saying 'Look, we need our voice to be heard too.' And I think the respect worked both ways." RELATED: NASCAR Nation honors Gordon with #24ever 'Iron Man' of NASCAR Consecutive starts: 796. It's one more impressive record in Jeff Gordon 's body of work. He's never missed a start, and passed Ricky Rudd for the consecutive starts record earlier this year. Now, only one remains, one final attempt, one final opportunity. Because of the format for NASCAR's championship-determining Chase, Gordon doesn't have to win Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 . He has to finish ahead of only three challengers -- Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) to capture the title. He'll go out a winner regardless of where he finishes. Whether or not he goes out a champion has yet to be determined. Capturing the inaugural Brickyard 400 in '94 has always stood out as his most memorable moment. Until a recent Martinsville victory put him in the Championship 4 here at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The '98 season when he won 13 races, the fourth title in '01 with crew chief Robby Loomis after the departure of mentor Ray Evernham and the '95 crown that was won when he "was going against Earnhardt; that was huge," Gordon said earlier this week. The finality of the moment, though, carries much weight. "My final year, my final race, (wife) Ingrid and the kids," Gordon said. "Kids motivate you in a whole new way, and no matter what we're going to go out and be happy and celebrate. "But to do it as a champion, oh, my gosh, I just can't imagine anything that would be more emotional and more exciting and more gratifying than to look at my wife in the eyes and see that reaction from her when that race is over if we win it." MORE: Drivers offer favorite Gordon memories
RELATED: Gase takes up cause in honor of mother HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Joey Gase was as surprised as he was touched in winning the inaugural Comcast Community Champion Award at Monday night's NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series awards banquet. Gase, 22, was genuinely touched by the big honor -- a tribute to his mother Mary Jo, who died from a brain aneurysm when Gase was only 18 years old. Four people representing NASCAR's three series were among the group nominated for the award -- in addition to Gase it also included Martin Truex Jr . and his girlfriend Sherry Pollex ( Sprint Cup ) and Martha Nemechek (grandmother of Truck series driver John Hunter Nemechek ). Truex and Pollex were nominated for the award for their work with cancer patients and Nemechek was honored for her time helping grieving families -- a nod to the loss of her youngest son John, 27, who died from injuries suffered in a Truck Series race at Homestead, Florida in 1997. Gase was absolutely surprised when his name was announced, but also extremely humbled and grateful to be the selection. "It's amazing," a thankful Gase said. "It's the first time Comcast has done this and not only to honor my mom, but to let people know we're doing everything we can. "I was surprised. I didn't know what to expect for sure." Gase was obviously extremely touched by the award, speaking about what the $60,000 donation from Comcast will mean as he continues his work to increase awareness about organ donation. "It is very sad, but for me and my family. … the one thing that was able to come from it was my mom was able to help 66 people and she would be proud to know that. A lot of people think only of the recipients but it's also the other family members knowing that if it wasn't for my mom their loved one wouldn't be helped." A $30,000 donation was also made to the charitable organizations of Truex and Nemechek. The XFINITY and Truck series banquet will be televised Sunday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
When it comes to big NASCAR fun, it's hard to beat Talladega Superspeedway , the 2.66-mile-long track that is the longest oval on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit. Making it even larger than life for a select few NASCAR fans was being on hand as a DraftKings VIP for the October CampingWorld.com 500 during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "Thanks to DraftKings for an unforgettable weekend at Talladega," wrote DraftKings VIP Crystalbil. "The VIP experience was just that, VIP. My father and I had infield parking, all access to the pits and garages, we even sat on the pit wall during Sprint Cup qualifiers. We got to talk with pit crews about tires and pit box setup. ... The people were great at DraftKings putting together a weekend my father and I will never forget. They made it easy to feel like the king of the track." Besides behind-the-scenes access to pit road, DraftKings VIPs also got a chance to experience Talladega like never before. "From doing laps at 130 mph-plus on the banks of Talladega, in a pace car, to sitting up front in the drivers' meeting, DraftKings has you covered," wrote VIP lgbowling2. "They will show you how cars go through inspection, a tour of the garage and up close for driver introductions. Keep your eyes out, as you never know who will be in attendance that day." Terry Morris and his wife Cricket were especially impressed by the attention paid to them by DraftKings hosts. "I have been a NASCAR fan for many years and we were treated like VIPs," Morris said. "We were picked up at the parking lot by your team and escorted from each event. We had a hoot. We loved the pace car ride at Talladega. I have a greater respect for all NASCAR drivers. ... Then, we were there for driver introductions with a special opportunity to take pictures with Martin Truex Jr ." You too could share a similar experience at an upcoming NASCAR race by playing DraftKings. Not familiar with DraftKings? It's a daily fantasy sports game that allows players to experience a one-of-kind event experience as DraftKings has access to a direct data feed from NASCAR Digital Media that contains real-time stats. In each game, participants are assigned a fixed salary cap they can use to draft their entire roster, comprised of five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Scoring categories in DraftKings NASCAR daily fantasy sports games include finishing position, fastest laps, laps led and place differential. NASCAR games on DraftKings provides fans the opportunity to win one-of-a-kind NASCAR prizes and VIP experiences. More information on DraftKings NASCAR daily fantasy sports games is available at www.draftkings.com . Editor's note: The views expressed in this story pertaining to the DrafttKings VIP experience are solely those of previous winners.
Kevin Harvick talks about coming up just short of defending his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Title by finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
RELATED: Full race results " Gordon's final race in photos HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jeff Gordon sat in his parked silver No. 24 Chevrolet for an extended time on pit road following Sunday's season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race; his helmet on, his heart still beating fast. After several minutes, he exited his race car for the final time in 23 years of amazing, highest-level effort after a sixth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- good enough for third place in his final Sprint Cup championship run. But instead of getting emotional about the end of his certain Hall-of-Fame career, the four-time champ found himself immediately reassuring others as the sellout crowd cheered loudly. Gordon's only team owner, Rick Hendrick, inserted himself between television interviews for an embrace with Gordon, the two speaking privately at length. "I'm real happy for him," Hendrick said. "I told him I loved him. And he said he loved me. I thanked him for all the years." Hendrick then walked away with Gordon's final race helmet, a gift the driver had planned for some time. Moments later Gordon's wife, Ingrid, arrived at his side on pit road for a kiss and long hug. Then she looked up into the sky, tears in her eyes, as Gordon, 44, bent down and embraced his children, Ella, 8, and Leo, 5. Gordon was as strong and vibrant in his goodbye as he was throughout a 93-win, high-achieving career that started out mustachioed and celebrated, Dale Earnhardt milquetoasted and, finally, fittingly much-appreciated. RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final race All those who booed the kid who won too much, cheered the man who transformed the sport. It was a two-way street this weekend in South Florida. "Well, we all know nothing would have been quite better than the win," Gordon said. "But I've learned a lot in life, and there's no such thing as a perfect day and a perfect life. Just like there's no such thing as a perfect race car. They're really close and good and at times better than the rest, but it doesn't mean that they're ever perfect." Throughout the weekend Gordon was acknowledged and honored by everyone who knew him from family, to sponsors to his fiercest competitors. During the rain-delayed driver introduction session, Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton stood with Gordon and took photos with the four-time NASCAR champ, looking far more fan than racing champion himself. Several IndyCar Series drivers made the trip to South Florida to bid Gordon goodbye, including Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden. "Of course," Mario Andretti said of attending the race to support Gordon. "He's an icon. Not just the personality he brought to the sport as a racer, but as a person himself. He's been a big contributor to NASCAR's personality, no doubt about it. He will be missed, but he won't be going too far away. "He's certainly kept up the time. He's still a young man and he's retiring relatively young, which is wonderful. He's on top of his game and you can't do any better than that. He's living a wonderful life and he's the envy of a lot of people for what he's done. I just wish him well." Gordon conceded he was impressed and endeared by the pair's presence at his celebrated final race. "I do believe he's the greatest driver of all time," Gordon said of Andretti. "And Lewis, I met at the Super Bowl a couple years ago. I'm a big fan of that sport. I was already a fan of his and he won the championship and we stayed in touch. I was trying to get him to come to a race and today was the race he could come to. " … I wouldn't necessarily say I'm in their league, but I have a ton of respect for them and am so happy they were here today." After an emotional driver introduction ceremony, Gordon walked with his daughter Ella down pit road, waving to the sellout crowd that would surprise him at race start with front grandstands fan placards that spelled out, "Thank You Jeff. 24Ever" As Gordon's car rolled off pit road to start the race, pit crew members from all the teams stood along the pit wall to clap and honor him. WATCH: Pit crews honor Gordon Earlier, Gordon's afternoon included a standing ovation at the driver's meeting and a short clip of Gordon, showing him from his earliest open-wheel days to his NASCAR entree and some of his finest multiple winning moments. The support was a theme throughout the weekend. Fans crowded around Gordon's team hauler in the infield, and he had to have security personnel from the South Miami Police guard his No. 24 as it snaked through the garage for final inspection Sunday morning. About 100 fans stood behind temporary barriers at Gordon's team transporter in the garage hoping for a glimpse of the real thing. Carla Piccarreto and her 24-year-old son James traveled to South Florida from upstate New York and had been standing at Gordon's team transporter since the garage opened -- about three hours. They'd still not seen Gordon by race morning but were intent to wait it out for him. "Yesterday we saw the crowd swarm him, chanting his name and we were afraid for him," Carla said, smiling. Standing next to her, Joe Fiorello, 39, of Delray Beach, Florida, was wearing his best -- if faded, and mustard-stained -- original Jeff Gordon T-shirt. Jeffrey Jones was in the group, as well, holding a custom-made guitar shaped in a 24. He gave one to Hendrick earlier in the week and left a rainbow-colored version with the team for Gordon. WATCH: Fans salute Gordon with card trick Timothy and Britney Prior were also standing outside Gordon's team hauler hoping for a photo, autograph or handshake. They drove 14 hours from Danville, Virginia, to attend the event and support their favorite driver. The couple is so committed that Timothy's back is completely tattooed with Gordon's cars and even Gordon's signature, something they got back in 2011. While the couple didn't have a chance to see their favorite driver in the garage, they did after the race -- and Gordon had Timothy tag along to his post-race press conference, where he introduced the longtime supporter. "You want to talk about commitment and a loyal fan and a nice guy, this guy is awesome," Gordon said. "Now that right there, folks, that's commitment. That is commitment. "But I just happened to run into him on the way in here, and I just wanted him to be here and be a part of it because he's a huge fan, and I appreciate him and all of our fans so much, especially what I saw this weekend." RELATED: Gordon says, 'We're still going to celebrate' As Gordon spoke to the media after the race, he seemed truly at peace, extremely happy and, as we know, as accomplished a modern-day driver as one could be. His final race was fitting and he will leave South Florida -- after a big party Sunday night -- feeling fulfilled, respected and loved. "That sendoff at the drivers' meeting, you know, drivers are so competitive, and they don't show ‑‑ they might have it inside them, but to show it publicly, their appreciation for other competitors, just doesn't happen like that very often, and I really, really appreciate it very, very much," Gordon said. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the evening, as well. "Talking more about my career and the moments and what it's all meant to me, this is why me and my mom having this conversation this morning was so important to me. We talked about the television station that filmed my quarter midget race when I was like 6 years old and I never understood why. I found out I was on the cover of a kids magazine with my quarter midget. "To come from that and have this ... it blows my mind. Just being here and part of my day, to wrap up this amazing career it didn't take a championship for me to feel like I'm on top of the world."
Watch a condensed version of the Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway, which concluded the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and was the final race of Jeff Gordon’s historic career.