RELATED: Watkins Glen results " Watch the dramatic end unfold WATKINS GLEN , N.Y. – Defending series champion Kevin Harvick said he thought he'd "done a pretty good job of saving fuel" under one of the five caution flags that slowed Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen . According to crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick was correct. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver ran out of fuel with the checkered flag almost in sight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Watkins Glen International. He was unable to hold off the fast-closing race winner Joey Logano , and Kyle Busch motored past under power as well before Harvick coasted across the finish line to claim third place in the series' 22nd of 36 events. "I was just running as fast as I needed to, to protect the lead there as I was in front of the 20 (of Matt Kenseth )," Harvick said after his 15th top-five finish of the season and his 19th top-10. Once the Team Penske Ford of Logano began closing, however, "I had to pick up the pace just a little bit," he said. "But all in all, our ... team did a great job today and we were in position to have a win; two corners away. But that's just kind of how the middle of this season has gone. We've had really fast cars but the circumstances have just gotten the best of us. "So, hopefully we're saving that up for the last 10 weeks." Harvick, who started fourth, was able to move past Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) on the 61st circuit of the 90-lap event, shortly after the day's fifth caution flag appeared. He remained on point for the next 29 laps. But with no additional cautions appearing, and his last trip to pit road having come several laps earlier, Harvick's crew knew their driver's chances were questionable. According to the team's calculations, Harvick's fuel cell was expected to hit empty with approximately one-half of a lap left on the 2.45-mile road course located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. "We were fortunate we were able to keep it running at least and get it all the way back around," Childers said. "...I'm still surprised we made it that far, though. We pitted with 40 to go and before the race we thought we could go 32 laps so we went eight more than we thought we could. Caution laps helped." Harvick already has secured one of the 16 positions in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup field. He's a two-time winner this season (Las Vegas and Phoenix) and has been the series' points leader for 20 consecutive weeks. "You hate to give up any points," said Childers, "But on the other hand, it just got to the point halfway through the race where we were like 'Are we going to win it doing what we're doing?' No. 'Do we have a good enough car to win?' Yes. "So we need to try to do something different. So we did ... and it almost worked out. It just wasn't enough." WATCH: Weekend Top Five moments from Watkins Glen There may be disappointment at coming so close, but Sunday's effort confirms the strength of No. 4 team heading toward the Chase, which gets underway in September. "It tells me I have the best team on pit road," Harvick said. "Our cars are faster than pretty much everybody else's every week. " The circumstances have definitely bit us quite a few times. But all in all, if you have the fastest car and you keep running in the top five and leading laps, eventually you're going to wear them down." Childers agreed with that assessment. "I feel real good about everything," he said. "Every week when we show up at the race track I still feel like we've got the best team every week and the fastest car every week. The guys on pit road have just done a tremendous job all year, very consistent. I feel like we're going to be where we need to be. "We learned a lot last year. If everybody thinks we were strong last year, they're going to be in for it (this year)."
Recall all the twists and turns that accompanied a thrilling finish at Watkins Glen .
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- One night after Kyle Busch took a bow as a first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, he helped to toast the youngster who brought him his first driver's title as a team owner. With milk. On a night for honoring new champions, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher took center stage at the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series Awards at the Diplomat Resort and Spa. For Buescher, it marked the 23-year-old's first national series championship in just his second full year in the series. For Jones, the title march coincided with a Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign. Busch was missing from Monday night's awards, occupied with the media duties and obligations that came with winning his first premier series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway . His wife, Samantha, attended on behalf of Kyle Busch Motorsports, which claimed the team owners' title for the third straight year. With Busch making the rounds with the Sprint Cup trophy, Ed Laukes, Toyota's vice president of marketing communications and motorsports, provided an assist in toasting Jones' stellar season. But the raised glass for the 19-year-old was full of milk, a half-joking homage to Dale Earnhardt's toast of first-time champion Jeff Gordon in 1995. "I wish Kyle would've been there to see his creation come to life, I guess you'd say," said Jones, who won three races and five pole positions in his first full season. "I think he had a good excuse to miss it, but that was funny. That's definitely a Kyle thing he would do, especially to me." Buescher's coronation on the XFINITY tour came after a two-win season with hallmark consistency -- 20 top-10s in 33 races. Monday night, he took his place with his Roush Fenway Racing team at the head table, saying that he showed a slight case of nerves in the Great Hall's gala setting. Jitters notwithstanding, the experience capped a stellar 48-hour period full of well-wishes from his peers. " The coolest thing is just having so many different people come up and say congratulations and we've seen what you've done to work for this and it's awesome to see you here," Buescher said. "Stuff like that means that all those years working up to this point were well worth it. It's been countless hours, many all-nighters to make sure we could get to the next ARCA race at night. We've done so many things to try and get to this point, and to finally be here, it's special. It's very humbling." Chase Elliott , the driver who preceded Buescher as series champion, took Most Popular Driver honors with him as he transitions to the Sprint Cup Series next year, replacing Jeff Gordon in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. NASCAR Next driver John Hunter Nemechek was voted Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series. Daniel Suarez , another product of the NASCAR Next program, was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the XFINITY Series.
The classic NASCAR film "Days of Thunder" was loosely based on the career of 13-time premier series victor Tim Richmond, who had earned the nickname "Hollywood." Given his comfort in the spotlight over the course of the past two decades, perhaps the nickname would also suit Jeff Gordon , who retired from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after falling just short in his bid for a historic fifth title on Sunday. Born a California boy, it was clear from the start of his career that Gordon was cut from a different cloth than the good ol' boys who had ruled NASCAR throughout its storied history. He was polished. He was refined. He was -- eventually, once mustache met razor -- well-groomed. And people took notice. Before long there were endorsements, seemingly more Gordon memorabilia lining the shelves than shelves themselves and, oh yeah, four titles in his first nine seasons, solidifying a Hall of Fame resume before he even hit age 30. And Gordon's influence on the actual racing part of the sport will be everlasting. Take a look at the final Sprint Cup standings . There are only two drivers in the top 25 who originally hail from North Carolina ( Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Austin Dillon ), NASCAR's original talent pool hot bed. Many factors led to this, but Gordon's All-American appeal, charm and charisma helped pave the way -- even while playing the foil to Dale Earnhardt -- opening up NASCAR to a mainstream audience, flooding stands and couches in front of non-flat-screened TV sets with an audience that stretched from coast to coast, border to border. An audience that tuned in to see Gordon become the first -- and to date, only -- race car driver host one of America's most notable television programs, NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Jeff Gordon 's monologue from a 2003 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." "I asked (Gordon) recently, a while back, about what made you go on 'Saturday Night Live,' what made you want to do that," NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Number 1, he said, 'Well, they asked me.' And I said, 'Well, OK.' But he said, 'Look, I felt comfortable doing a lot of things that were not mainstream for a NASCAR driver.' "And he was smart about it. He knew that that could separate him from other drivers and he was good at it." Gordon's SNL appearance on Jan. 11, 2003, was a tipping point of bringing NASCAR to the masses, an unquestionable testament to the Hendrick Motorsports driver's popularity and wide-ranging allure. Gordon got to "beat up" a fake Gary Busey while hosting "SNL." It's the crowning achievement in Gordon's on-screen roles, a list that includes 27 appearances on "Live!" (with Regis/Kathie Lee/Kelly/Michael), including 11 guest hosting gigs. He's also appeared in "Spin City", "Arli$$", "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", " The Drew Carey Show", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", "Taxi", "Herbie Fully Loaded", "Sesame Street", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", "Top Gear", " The Simpsons", "Jeopardy" and even "Cars 2" -- as the appropriately named character "Jeff Gorvette." That curriculum vitae alone -- which is pared down; check out his entire IMDb page -- shows Gordon's star power across generations of fans and television watchers. Gordon also got to play a fighter pilot. Ultimately, with Gordon walking away on such a high note from the sport he's gotten so much out of, NASCAR has reaped the benefits of his contributions. Millions of NASCAR fans can thank Jeff Gordon for opening their eyes to the sport. "He's one of those guys, I always look back at drivers that take out a lot less than they put in," France said. "He's one of those guys that has put in a lot to grow the sport. And other drivers should think about that a little bit. Because he's really a model in that respect. "I have a lot of respect for Jeff Gordon ."
Ride along with Kyle Busch as he passes Brad Keselowski on the final restart and cruises to victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win his first Sprint Cup Series Championship.
Miss Sprint Cup Madison Martin wants you to vote for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide.
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.
A gritty performance is turned in by the Showdown gang as they make fantasy picks for the Finger Lakes 355 .