RELATED: Keep updated on the 2016 changes for drivers, crew chiefs Stewart-Haas Racing announced Monday its crew chief lineup for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, including high-profile changes for two of its four teams. Michael Bugarewicz will become the new crew chief for team co-owner/driver Tony Stewart as he embarks on his final full season in the No. 14 Chevrolet. Billy Scott will take over as crew chief for Danica Patrick in the No. 10 Chevy. Bugarewicz, a 33-year-old native of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, makes the transition from his previous role with SHR as race engineer on the No. 4 Chevrolet team for 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick . He previously spent time with Roush Fenway Racing in an engineering role for the No. 17 Ford and drivers Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . from 2011-13. Bugarewicz replaces Chad Johnston, who left to become the crew chief for Kyle Larson and the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet team. The 2016 season will mark Stewart's last campaign in the sport's top series. RELATED: Stewart to retire from Cup after 2016 " Johnston heads to CGR "We have great people at Stewart-Haas Racing and these changes prove that," Stewart said in a release provided by the team. "We were able to promote from within while also adding new talent. Change isn’t easy, and that’s particularly true when it comes to my relationship with Chad Johnston. He served as my crew chief during two very difficult seasons. He was always supportive and he's become like a brother to me. I think very highly of Chad and wish him nothing but the best in his new opportunity." Scott joins Stewart-Haas after an eight-year tenure as an engineer and later a crew chief with Michael Waltrip Racing , which shut its doors at season's end. The transition reunites Scott with Rodney Childers, who joined SHR in 2014 after five years with the Waltrip-owned team. The 38-year-old from Land O' Lakes, Florida, replaces Daniel Knost, who has been promoted to the senior leadership role of manager of vehicle dynamics within the Stewart-Haas organization. The driver/crew chief lineups remain intact for the two SHR teams that qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs this season. Childers will return atop the pit box for Harvick's No. 4 entry, and Tony Gibson will again be paired with Kurt Busch in 2016. "We made these changes after thoroughly evaluating our program to ensure that all four of our teams are consistently strong and competitive," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing 's vice president of competition. "In this business, you can't rest and you can never be satisfied. You have to constantly improve. We feel these personnel changes enhance our strengths and shore up areas where we needed to be better."
Going into the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , members of the NASCAR .com editorial team make predictions for who will win the 2015 Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway ( Ford EcoBoost 400 3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). Zack Albert Jeff Gordon : One last dose of No. 24 magic? With Hendrick Motorsports devoting all possible resources to sending the legendary driver off in championship style, Gordon is not only a sentimental pick, but a well-reasoned one for a fifth title in his career finale. Holly Cain Jeff Gordon : While Gordon would be the overwhelming sentimental pick, this is one of the toughest championship battles to decide. All four drivers have hugely emotional backstories. These four make this one of toughest title picks ever so I'll take the sentimental option and go Gordon. Kenny Bruce Jeff Gordon : Sure it would be a great story, but Gordon's shown the speed here this weekend to make contending for the championship more than just a fantasy. Pat DeCola Kevin Harvick : Miami is Harvick' s race (and title) to lose. With seven straight top-10 finishes at the track we know he's going to be at the front of the pack -- and, more importantly, in front of Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr . RJ Kraft Martin Truex Jr .: The clock will not strike midnight on this Cinderella story. The 78 team has been strong at intermediate tracks all year and Homestead is statistically Truex's best track. The single-car Furniture Row Racing team and Truex will have a crowning moment on Sunday. George Winkler Jeff Gordon : This is one of those times when you don't look at the stats and you pick with your gut. After all, who wants to be the guy who goes against Gordon and watches sadly as the legend walks off into the sunset with his fifth career Sprint Cup Series championship? Don't be that guy. Taylor Starer Kevin Harvick : My heart is telling me to choose Jeff Gordon as the 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, but my head is telling me Harvick. The reigning champ is comfortable heading into the final race of the season and has proven to be as cool as a cucumber under Chase pressure. Brad Norman Martin Truex Jr .: The spotlight (rightfully) is on Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick , but Truex loves Miami and he’s been sneaky fast on intermediates all year. I predict he gets a break -- broken part for a competitor? slow late pit stop? -- and stealthily assumes the lead, then powers his way to a victory … and a championship. Jessica Ruffin Jeff Gordon : While his cars may not have possessed the speed of Kevin Harvick 's or reached Victory Lane as many times as Kyle Busch this season, Gordon has one major component on his side; momentum. The four-time champion will close out his career with a bang on Sunday with a fifth and final championship. Kathy Sheldon Kyle Busch : Pressure and equipment will be the two biggest factors on Sunday, but sheer will is right up there. Kyle Busch has seen his career flash before his eyes this year; race pressure pales in comparison. He fought hard to get back in the car, in Victory Lane and now in the Chase Championship 4. And Joe Gibbs Racing cars still have plenty of power. Maggie MacKenzie Kevin Harvick : Harvick is thirsty to defend his championship title and with an impressive 12 top 10s in 14 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the wheelman for the No. 4 races hard here. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is also coming off a run with back-to-back top-three results at Texas and Phoenix so despite having the worst qualifying seed out of the Championship 4, "Happy" will find a way to get out front -- and stay there.
RELATED: Full race results " Race recap SHOP: Champion gear In a season fit for the silver screen, Kyle Busch completed his emotional comeback from a devastating season-opening injury to capture his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Busch took home the 2015 championship by being the top finisher among the Championship 4 drivers, which also included Kevin Harvick , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr ., in the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch led 41 laps on the day and the last seven of the 267-lap event for his first career postseason win as a member of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. "Rowdy" spent much of the race running in the top two and took the lead from Brad Keselowski for good shortly after the Lap 261 restart. Busch then distanced himself from Harvick, the series' 2014 champion, who finished as the runner-up in the race and final standings. Gordon finished sixth in his final race, while Truex finished 12th. "This is just so unbelievable, so amazing and means so much right here, right now and probably will for a long, long time to come," Busch said on the championship stage at Homestead-Miami Speedway . " The opportunity that the amount of people that have poured their life and soul into everything that Kyle Busch does and is about -- from M&M's to Toyota to Snickers and Twix and Skittles, Joe Gibbs (team owner) and his family and all of Joe Gibbs Racing , everyone that gave me such a fast race car here tonight to drive. It was so much fun. "This is just a dream come true and my family, my wife, my son -- to have him this year and to have everything we've gone through this year to be in this moment -- I don't know what else to say, but this is so special." The title makes the Busch brothers -- Kurt won the 2004 championship -- the second pair of brothers in NASCAR to win premier series championships. The Labonte brothers also have accomplished that with Terry winning titles in 1984 and 1996 and Bobby winning in 2000. RELATED: See all the premier series champions 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. 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. RELATED: See all the 2015 winners 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. During Championship 4 Media Day, Busch and Joe Gibbs revealed that Busch had inked a contract extension days after the news of Mars extension as sponsor on the No. 18 Toyota was announced. 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 Gibbs. It was also the first Sprint Cup championship for manufacturer Toyota. "We are extremely proud of Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing on winning the Sprint Cup Series driver's championship," said Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. "It's an incredible accomplishment for Kyle, to overcome the adversity he faced this year and come back with the focus and determination he has had to win races, qualify for the Chase and then earn the ultimate prize, his first Sprint Cup Series championship. "Winning this NASCAR championship has been a huge aspiration for Toyota since joining NASCAR in 2004. We are honored to finally be on this stage and join Kyle and Joe Gibbs for our first Sprint Cup Series title." Championship weekend was a banner one for the 30-year-old Busch. In addition to his Sprint Cup championship, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Erik Jones won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship on Friday night and KBM won the owner's championship in that series.
RELATED: Standings going into final race HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Sunday's NASCAR finale has four drivers vying for the championship in what NASCAR officials like to refer to as a Game 7 moment. There have already been plenty of pivotal points during this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, but what if Sunday's showdown is shortened into a Game 5 1/2 moment? The threat of a damp forecast at Homestead-Miami Speedway has raised plenty of questions about how a potentially rain-altered Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) could play out, especially with so much on the line in the season-ending race. The National Weather Service rates the chances of precipitation on Sunday at 60 percent, with thunderstorms especially likely in the morning. The possibilities come on the heels of the championship field being settled in a rain-abbreviated race the previous weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . The stakes will be even higher Sunday, but the procedures for declaring a race official will remain the same. "It's not a new rule. It's not something different," said three-time series champion Tony Stewart . "Is it ideal, no. Is it OK, yes. I mean, we don't have a choice. We can't control the weather. It's not ideal by any means. I don't think anybody wants to have that scenario and have to race in that scenario, but as well, at the same time, we've all raced under those circumstances, and if it has to end that way, that's the way it'll end." NASCAR has maintained long-standing procedures that a race becomes officials once it passes the halfway point, but the sanctioning body has also historically made every effort to run its races on the scheduled date. Advancements in technology have helped competition officials make more informed decisions about the weather, but the considerations -- for fans, teams and broadcast partners -- make those decisions even more critical, especially when the outcome of the race or the season-long championship weighs in the balance. To help combat the effects of rain this weekend, NASCAR can employ 17 Air Titan track dryers, 12 conventional jet dryers, and four vacuum trucks -- an armada that NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France touted as a record number of resources. But France also mentioned in his State of the Sport address on Friday that watching the skies and planning for inclement weather was a necessary angle for teams to work around. "We're looking at everything," France said. "Our view now is that like a lot of things that aren't necessarily perfect, so to speak, that's part of the game. That's part of racing that it's part of the strategy. You saw that last week in Phoenix. That you have to anticipate weather as being a factor in deciding things, as unfortunate as that is. Hopefully it won't be a factor on Sunday." Carl Edwards was among the unfortunate ones last weekend, missing out on his Championship 4 bid by just five points when rain escalated with 93 laps remaining. Edwards told his crew "they can't let it end like this" over the team radio as the race went to red-flag conditions, but NASCAR officials did, leaving Kyle Busch , Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . to join Jeff Gordon among the final quartet. Busch was among those on the plus side of the rain at Phoenix, a situation he wouldn't mind being in Sunday if circumstances cut things short. "I think it would be very unfortunate, you know, but it is what it is," Busch said. "I mean, the rules have been the way the rules are for a long, long time and everybody ridicules NASCAR for changing the rules whenever they want, and this time they're sticking to it. Like Jeff said earlier, I hope I'm the guy leading when it's raining, and if it's raining we're going to be doing a heck of a rain dance."
RELATED: Chase Grid " Full Chase rules The final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is all about order of finish. No bonus points are awarded for laps led, most laps led or for winning the race. So the best finisher from the Championship 4 group of Kevin Harvick , Jeff Gordon , Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr . will be crowned the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. The Championship 4: 1. Kevin Harvick , 5,000 points 2. Jeff Gordon , 5,000 points 3. Kyle Busch , 5,000 points 4. Martin Truex Jr ., 5,000 points Drivers who didn't advance to the Championship 4 had their point total reset to 2,000 (with any regular-season wins bonus points added), plus the additional points they've earned during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . How the rest of the top 10 looks headed into Homestead: 5. Carl Edwards , 2,334 points 6. Joey Logano , 2,319 points 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 2306 points 8. Brad Keselowski , 2,304 points 9. Kurt Busch , 2,297 points 10. Denny Hamlin , 2,293 points RELATED: How a driver can finish fifth " Driver standings
LEARN MORE: About Bing PLAY NOW: Play The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing Four Chase drivers will fight for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Bing returns for the season-ending event with Championship 4 predictions, determining who has the best chance at Victory Lane of Chase contenders Kevin Harvick , Jeff Gordon , Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr . Harvick remains Bing Predicts' favorite to win the title, having been their predicted winner since the beginning of the Chase . The Stewart-Haas Racing driver's 2015 consistency and recent finishes at Homestead -- he won at the Florida track last season to clinch the title -- bode well for the reigning series champion. Joe Gibbs Racing 's Busch retains his spot as Bing Predicts' No. 2 pick. While Busch's average finish of 23.1 at Homestead hurts his chances, his winning record at similar tracks (13 wins at tracks 1-to-2 miles in length) and improved performances since the opening round of the Chase keep him at Bing's No. 2. Bing acknowledges Gordon's strong final season and Truex's impressive performance as the dark horse, but calculates that Harvick's and Busch's recent finishes ultimately play in their favor for the title. The finale will take place on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead-Miami Speedway . In addition to helping you win the NASCAR Chase Grid Battle game, Bing also wants to send you on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup champion. Now you can enter a sweepstakes through Bing Rewards for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week.
RELATED: Race results " Final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It wasn't the sort of record that Kevin Harvick wanted to break, another runner-up finish in a season full of them with a repeat NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on the line. Harvick entered Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 as a pre-race favorite and the defending race winner. He was left with his 13th second-place effort of the year, his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet a scant 1.552 seconds behind eventual winner and first-time champion Kyle Busch . The baker's dozen of runner-up performances surpassed the modern-era record formerly held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1972 season. Those oh-so-close finishes -- balanced against three wins in 2015 -- helped him forge into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with rock-solid consistency, but it wasn't quite enough on Busch's night. "It's been a great couple years, and I know we're disappointed about finishing second tonight, but it's kind of the theme of the year, finishing second," Harvick said. "Unfortunately it's just one short, but all in all, it's been a great couple years, and couldn't be prouder of our bunch of guys." Harvick led once in the race's early stages for 46 of the 267 laps, but struggled to find the handling balance on the 1.5-mile track. "No rear grip. Won't turn," he called out to crew chief Rodney Childers during the sixth of seven caution periods, hoping adjustments could help him regain his previous edge. Childers said he wasn't able to tell if alterations the team made overnight helped the No. 4 car or not, since track conditions were so much different from Saturday practices to Sunday's main event. But he said he's historically fought the same issue -- "tight getting in and too loose off" -- in past visits to the South Florida speedway. "We haven't been able to get a hold of it," Childers said. "It's probably one of our worst race tracks really, but we won last year and finished second this year at a place we feel like we just can't get a hold of. We need to make some changes with our cars and try to do a better job coming down here next year. "All in all, we had a great car and a great season. You look at the wins and the top-fives and the top-twos, and it's pretty incredible what we've been able to do and just really proud of Kevin and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing ." The race's final caution flag with 11 laps left seemed to give Harvick new hope, and he jumped from fourth to second place shortly after the restart. But by then, Busch had swept around late-race leader Brad Keselowski to take command. Post-race, after thanking his team and accepting congratulations from Stewart-Haas teammate Kurt Busch , a trademark smile formed on Harvick's face as he watched the 30-year-old Busch celebrate on the main stage -- seeing a little bit of his 2014 self in the No. 18 team's jubilation. It's a scenario that played out for Harvick last season, but was just one elusive position away. "I think when you race your whole life and you accomplish what you've raced for your whole life, it's exciting," Harvick said of Busch's first Sprint Cup championship. "I've been fortunate to experience that last year and know that feeling and know how gratifying that is. You know, it's fun to see that excitement. "He broke his leg at Daytona, and to come back from everything that he came back from, it's like I told you guys three or four days ago, I mean, there's four phenomenal stories that were sitting up on the stage, probably three that were much more exciting than mine, but that's a great comeback story from where he was after Daytona." WATCH: 'Dream come true' for Ky. Busch
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Navigating through negative comments from detractors on social media is often a tough road. For Samantha Busch, criticism has been a much more personal topic of late, one that brings emotional timbres to her voice. Her husband, Kyle Busch , hoisted the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship trophy for the first time Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway , capping a stirring comeback season that opened with multiple severe leg injuries in a harrowing crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway . Busch missed the first 11 races of the year as he recovered, returning to competition in mid-May with an exemption from NASCAR officials that kept him eligible for the title. When that eligibility eventually resulted in his first premier-series championship, online naysayers renewed their scrutiny of a decision and a playoff format that kept Busch's dreams intact. For Samantha Busch, that criticism hit home. " The waiver is very emotional," she said Monday night, moments after accepting accolades for her husband's championship-winning team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' season-ending awards banquet. "First of all, it wasn't just there for Kyle. It's been used for other drivers. It's been used for Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch and I believe Kyle Larson , so it's not like something that was just invented for Kyle and this injury. So that's the first thing that gets me a little emotional. "But secondly, I think people just think, 'Oh, he got to take 11 weeks off and so he's more refreshed than other drivers.' Absolutely wrong. He was sitting there trying to learn how to bend his toes, how to move his foot, how to stand up out of bed. It was not a walk in the park for him, it was not a vacation, and it was probably the hardest thing he's ever done in his life, and not only did he do it with such determination and passion, but he came back so much earlier than anyone expected." Samantha Busch recounted the more difficult moments of her husband's rehabilitation -- the falls, the doubts, and the struggle of merely learning to walk again. "People don't see what we went through," Busch said. "They don't know every hour. They don't understand how hard he works and I think that's why I get a little bit more emotional about it."
Got questions about the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format? This brief video will get you up to speed.
RELATED: Drivers, crew chiefs on the move One day after the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season ended, the first official move of the offseason came down courtesy of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The team announced that Chad Johnston has been named crew chief for Kyle Larson and the No. 42 Target team. Johnston will assume the role effective immediately to begin preparation for the 2016 season, replacing Chris Heroy. Heroy had been Larson's crew chief for his first two years at NASCAR's highest level. "I'm excited to get to work with Chad and to start doing what needs to be done to get the team to Victory Lane next year," Larson said in a team release. "As a team, I think we are very close and the addition of Chad should help move our program forward for many years to come. Lastly, I would also like to thank Chris for all he did to help me grow in my first two seasons in the Cup series." Johnston joins the No. 42 team from Stewart-Haas Racing , where he has been the crew chief for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Chevrolet since the 2014 season. Johnston also served as crew chief for Martin Truex, Jr. and the No. 56 at Michael Waltrip Racing from 2011-2013. Johnston has one career Sprint Cup race win as a crew chief (2013, Sonoma ) and helped guide Truex Jr. into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup during the 2012 season. The announcement from CGR means Stewart will have a new crew chief in his final Sprint Cup Series season in 2016. Johnston has also worked in NASCAR as a race engineer at Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, Evernham Motorsports, and JTG Daugherty Racing before serving as a crew chief. He graduated from Indiana State University with a major in mechanical engineering, and briefly worked in the aerospace industry before his passion for motorsports brought him to NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series in 2004. "I am very excited for the opportunity to be joining Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and the opportunity to work with Kyle Larson ," Johnston said in a team release. " The organization has a great reputation in numerous forms of racing, and I'm looking forward to adding to that reputation in NASCAR . Kyle is certainly a unique talent, and I'm eager to get to work with him and the team as we look to build a foundation of success." Larson will begin his third full-time Sprint Cup season in 2016. The 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year is coming off of a season that featured two top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. In 75 career Cup starts he has accumulated one Coors Light Pole Award, 10 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes.