RELATED: Buy tickets to the race MIAMI -- A championship race calls for championship-caliber dignitaries, and that's exactly what the 2015 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series championship race will have. World Cup Champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Carli Lloyd will serve as the Grand Marshal for the race, which will take place Nov. 21 at 2:45 p.m. at Homestead-Miami Speedway . As Grand Marshal, Lloyd will give the command for drivers to "start their engines." In addition, as a guest of XFINITY , Lloyd will participate in various activities around the track and with the fans, including a visit to the XFINITY Zone to host a Championship Rally before the race. Andy Miyares, a Special Olympics swimmer from Miami, will be the Honorary Starter for the race, while actress/singer Elizabeth Elias, also a native Miamian, has been tabbed to perform the national anthem. "Thanks to XFINITY , having someone with Carli Lloyd's accolades is a perfect fit for what Ford Championship Weekend is all about," said Homestead-Miami Speedway president Matthew Becherer. "We are also honored to have Andy and Elizabeth as integral parts of our pre-race festivities. The things they have been able to accomplish are tremendous, and they are outstanding ambassadors in their respective fields and also for the Miami area." Lloyd, who currently plays for the Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League, won the coveted Golden Ball Trophy as the best player of the 2015 Women's World Cup tournament when she notched six goals and one assist in leading the U.S. to the World Cup title. A member of the U.S. Women's national team since 2005, Lloyd scored three goals in the team's 5-2 win over Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final. She was also part of the U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning teams in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London), where she scored the deciding goal in the Gold Medal games on both occasions. Overall, she has played in more than 200 matches for the U.S. national team and has scored more than 70 goals. Miyares, 32, who grew up in Kendall, was born with Down syndrome. He has competed in two Special Olympics World Games and is the holder of numerous world records. He won both silver and bronze medals in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. He is a registered United States Swimming Coach, teaching younger special needs children how to swim. Elizabeth Elias, called Liz by her many fans, is an actress and recording artist best known for her role of Mia Black in the Nickelodeon’s hit series, "Every Witch Way." Currently working on her music with Atlantic Records, Elizabeth is set to launch her first single at the beginning of the New Year. Her musical style is an integration of today’s pop and Latin pop music genres. You can follow Liz on all her Social Media. Tickets are still available for the Ford EcoBoost 300 , as well as the Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series race on Friday. For tickets, call 305-230-5255 or visit www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com .
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."
RELATED: See photos of Gordon's final race The Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway was certainly full of tense, high-drama moments for drivers Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . That's especially true for Gordon, who was competing for his fifth premier series championship in his final full-time season. But while the pressure was ramped up, there were still instances of light-hearted moments -- perhaps none as beautifully and expertly captured as the one with Ella Sofia Gordon. Ella, Gordon's 8-year-old daughter, accompanied her dad during driver introductions. When it was time for the group photo of championship contenders, she obviously had to get out of the frame. But how? This is the perfect solution -- just look at the grin on her face! -- and also a beautiful picture. What a weekend, great memories! Can't thank everyone enough for all the love & support! Amazing! Just like this pic pic.twitter.com/6lursxZEt2 — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) November 24, 2015
Miss Sprint Cup Madison Martin wants you to vote for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide.
Driver leads 97 laps on way to third victory of season MORE: Full Martinsville results MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Driving a No. 34 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota painted and numbered as a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Wendell Scott -- and with Scott's family in attendance at Martinsville Speedway -- polesitter Darrell Wallace Jr . held off Timothy Peters to win Saturday's Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Last year at Martinsville, driving the No. 54 KBM Tundra, Wallace became the first African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's top three touring series since Scott accomplished the feat in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Though his number was changed to 34 on Saturday, in honor of Scott’s traditional car number, the result was the same for Wallace, who grabbed the lead from Johnny Sauter in heavy traffic on Lap 188 of 200 , moments before the 11th caution slowed the race. Wallace pulled away after a restart with six laps left, beating Peters to the finish line by .495 seconds. Peters had bumped Sauter out of the way in the closing laps, also opening the door for reigning series champion Matt Crafton , who came home third and extended his series lead to 18 points over fifth-place finisher Ryan Blaney . "I wasn't worried about anybody, honestly," Wallace said. "They kept telling me where everybody was, and I said I didn't care. It's our weekend and we're going to come out and take this (grandfather) clock (trophy) home with us and we just did that. "That was so fun. Martinsville is my favorite place to come to. Without the support of NASCAR and Toyota… the whole Wendell Scott family is here and this is a special moment, just a perfect weekend for us. It's a true honor to have Wendell Scott on our Toyota Tundra and to be able to put it in Victory Lane. I know he (Scott) just said up there, 'Hell yeah.' This is cool." Wallace said Saturday's win surpassed his first victory in the series at Martinsville a year ago. "It means a lot -- I know I had a guardian angel looking over me this weekend," said Wallace, who took over third place in the series standings, 22 points behind Crafton. "To be able to put it in Victory Lane, you couldn't ask for a better weekend. You thought last year was special, but this definitely beats it." Upset with what he deemed roughhouse tactics from Peters, Sauter attempt to confront the runner-up on pit road after the race, but NASCAR officials and crew members kept the drivers apart. "It's Martinsville," Peters said. "If you're going to dish it out, you're going to need to be able to take it. Did I mean to run into him? Yeah. I'm not going to deny that -- maybe not as hard. "But it is what it is. I don't want to waste too much of my breath on that. We'll just focus on how well we ran today…" Wallace led 97 of the 200 laps. Second was the pace car, which was out front for a record 71 laps during a race that featured more rookies than veterans and six drivers competing in the series for the first time. Erik Jones ran fourth, followed by Blaney, Tyler Reddick , Sauter, Matt Tifft (a UNC-Charlotte freshman making his first start) Alex Guenette and German Quiroga, whose ill-fated attempt to take the lead in heavy traffic on Lap 188 caused his No. 77 Toyota to spin and brought out the 11th caution, solidifying Wallace in the lead. The series now heads to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend for Friday's Winstar World Casino and Resort 350 (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1). MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Who has the best pit crew heading into the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway ? Pit stops are going to be huge this weekend at Homestead and we're here to evaluate the four remaining crews. Below is a list of all the guys on the teams as well as an overview of how their seasons have gone so far. Stewart-Haas Racing ( Kevin Harvick ) Pit Coach: Joe Piette Front Changer: Ira Joe Hussey Front Carrier: Todd Drakulich Jack Man: Mike Casto Rear Changer: Daniel Smith Rear Carrier: Mike Morneau Gas Man: Justin White Summary: This crew is the best pit crew in the finals. It has been good all year and has tons of veteran talent. As a group, they understand pressure, and this time last year they were preparing for their eventual first championship. They have all the tools to be successful again this year if given the opportunity to pit for a win. Joe Gibbs Racing ( Kyle Busch ) Pit Coach: Mike Lepp Front Changer: Josh Leslie Front Carrier: Brad Donaghy Jack Man: Jeff Fender Rear Changer: Jake Seminara Rear Carrier: Kenny Barber Gas Man: Tom Lampe Summary: This crew is good and has been getting better each week. It has the ability to gain spots every caution if it is given the right opportunities. Near the beginning of the Chase the crew lost longtime front changer Nick Odell to the No. 24 team. Replacement Josh Leslie was thrown into action and has done a good job. Don't forget, this group has been with Kyle since he came to JGR, so winning would mean a lot to this group. This is probably one of the best high-pressure pit crews of the last five years. This weekend will be the time to prove it. Hendrick Motorsports ( Jeff Gordon ) Pit Coach: Chris Burkey Front Changer: Nick Odell Front Carrier: Dion Williams Jack Man: John Giannotto Rear Changer: Chad Avritt Rear Carrier: Jared Erspamer Gas Man: Travis Gordon Summary: This team has been up-and-down all year. There has been lots of change since the beginning of the year and it's not clear it has helped. When the season started, the crew replaced longtime rear carrier Gene Cornwell with Erspamer. After that, more changes came at the jack man position as well as the front changer position. They also tooled around with a new front tire carrier before settling with veteran Williams. All in all, this team has talent but hasn't shown it can pit with the top teams. This weekend it could put all that to rest and help send a champion out in a storybook ending. Furniture Row Racing ( Martin Truex Jr .) Pit Coach: Walt Smith Front Changer: Dave Collins Front Carrier: Craig Curione Jack Man: Carey Wimbish Rear Changer: Kyle Turner Rear Carrier: Adam Mosher Gas Man: Brian Dheel Summary: This team had one of the fastest averages of the race two weeks ago in Texas. It has the ability to go fast, but just like in Texas, when a wheel was coming loose on the last run, it always seems to find a way to hurt itself. Truex is going to need help this weekend at Homestead. If this group pits like it did in Texas -- minus the wheel coming loose -- they have a chance to help win a championship. This is a great group of guys who have many years on pit road. Finding the right chemistry and rhythm is key to a good crew, and this team might have found theirs. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com
RELATED: Gordon to join FOX's NASCAR coverage in 2016 With just one race remaining until the season's end, FOX Sports has announced its broadcaster lineup for 2016, which is highlighted by the previous addition of Jeff Gordon as an analyst for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Gordon, who is competing for his fifth Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend before ending his career as a full-time driver, will join play-by-play announcer Mike Joy and analyst Darrell Waltrip. Joy and Waltrip have been in the booth together for 15 years. Former crew chief Larry McReynolds will remain part of the network's coverage providing in-race analysis. Reporters Jamie Little, Chris Neville, Vince Welch and Matt Yocum will handle pit road duty for the FOX Sports' 16 Sprint Cup telecasts. FOX will televise 10 races, while FS1 will televise six. Welch will also serve as the new full-time play-by-play announcer for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after being a part of a rotation for this role in 2015. Welch has been a FOX pit reporter for the Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series races in 2015, and has served in a similar capacity for ABC Sports and ESPN. Analysts Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons will flank Welch in the booth. Hermie Sadler , Kaitlyn Vincie and Yocum will handle pit road reporting in that series. FS1 is broadcasting 22 of the 23 Truck races and FOX has the October race at Talladega. The network also announced Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip will continue to team together for the FOX Sports' portion of the XFINITY Series schedule, along with a rotation of drivers from the Sprint Cup Series. Neville, Sadler, Little, Welch and Yocum will alternate to cover pit road for this series. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1's prerace show for Sprint Cup races, will return with Chris Myers, Danielle Trotta and John Roberts sharing the hosting duties. Analysts Kenny Wallace , Jeff Hammond and Wally Dallenbach as well as reporters Alan Cavanna, Andrew Doud and Vincie. Trotta will host NASCAR RaceDay- XFINITY with McReynolds and Wallace as analysts while Roberts will host NCWTS SetUp with two-time series champion Todd Bodine providing insight and features reports from Ray Dunlap. NASCAR Race Hub will air live at 6 p.m. ET every Monday through Thursday on FS1 with Alexander, Trotta and Roberts co-hosting the hour-long program. McReynolds, Hammond and Dallenbach will serve as analysts as will a rotation of active drivers and crew chiefs. Cavanna, Doud and Vincie will have daily reports from around the circuit, while Dunlap will have Truck Series feature reports and analysis. There will be a weekend edition of the program on Friday and Saturday with at-track updates as well as NASCAR Victory Lane to recap each Sprint Cup Series race.
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.
He guided Kyle Busch to a fifth-place finish in NASCAR's championship battle in 2007, and Mark Martin to a runner-up result just two years later. But nothing can compare to this season, this Chase and, especially, this race. The No. 24 team's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, will be in the spotlight this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway , every bit as much as Jeff Gordon , his successful driver. Gordon, winner of more races than any active driver -- 93 total wins -- and No. 3 on NASCAR's career wins list, will wrap up a 23-year career when he hits the track for Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Miami. A four-time winner of the series' title, Gordon, 44, seeks to go out on top, champion of a sport that he helped transform. And Gustafson, overseer of Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet since 2005, will be there by his side. Standing between the pair and possibly one of the biggest moments the sport has ever seen? Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , Busch and Martin Truex Jr ., an underdog who has continued to keep his title hopes alive with as much grit and determination as speed on the race track. The group makes up this year's Championship 4, and the highest finishing driver of the quartet on Sunday will earn the coveted 2015 Sprint Cup title. Gustafson has yet to be distracted by the spotlight as Gordon's racing career nears the end, and he expects that will be the case this weekend, although he knows it won't be easy. "I've tried not to focus on that all season even though it's difficult to do at times," Gustafson said last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . "You just look at the race and you execute it and you do what you have to do to put ourselves in the best position to win. "Obviously, it's a huge deal. It's an amazing opportunity, but to me it's about the opportunity to win Homestead and the championship. How big that is or isn't in anybody else's eyes really doesn't influence me. It's different, but it really isn't different in my eyes from something I've worked for my whole life. You prepare your whole life for this and you have to embrace that and do the best you can." Gordon is the fourth driver Gustafson has worked for since moving into the crew chief role at Hendrick Motorsports in 2005. The Ormond Beach, Florida, native worked his way up from the chassis shop to shock specialist to lead engineer to crew chief in a span of seven years. Paired with Busch from '05-07, the team won four times; in '08 he called the shots for Casey Mears , and in '09 the veteran Mark Martin came on board and won five times. Gustafson also served briefly as an interim crew chief for driver Terry Labonte . Working with each driver brought new opportunities and a wealth of information. It would have been impossible not to learn as he worked with such a diverse group of talented drivers. "Absolutely. I'm fortunate to have those opportunities," Gustafson said. "You learn a lot from those guys. The vast experience that Terry had and what he's been through. And Kyle, you go right to the polar opposite -- has all the talent in the world, (at the time had) very little experience and he has to kind of navigate this sport. "He had to start tough for whatever reason. To work through those things with him and work with him as he matured and see the mistakes he made and go through the mistakes with him and make a lot of mistakes myself, that was very interesting and very fun and great experience. Had Casey Mears for a year, which was tough and humbling. Didn't seem to be able to do much right. That was a very trying time. I learned a lot about myself and how to work through difficult times. "And the success we had with Mark and the way he approached racing. That's it. He is so racing, racing, racing, racing, racing. Maybe lift weights in there somewhere. But Mark was a huge supporter of mine, which I've always appreciated. He wanted to see me be the best I could be. He was good about pointing out things and saying, 'Hey, look at this, look at that.' Even after he no longer drove, he's that kind of person. He likes to help other people. That was fun. He knows a ton and how he handles himself, absolutely learned a ton from that." Gustafson, who will continue as the No. 24 crew chief next year when Chase Elliott takes the ride, honed his talents and grew as a crew chief long before he and Gordon were united; Gordon's status as a sure-fire future Hall of Fame member, already in place, won three of his four championships with Ray Evernham as crew chief while the fourth came with Robbie Loomis atop the pit box. Some crew chiefs are great motivators while the strength of others might be more engineering based. Gustafson has worked hard to mesh the two. His car knowledge and understanding of aerodynamics allows him to converse easily with team engineers as well as fabricators and others who have their hands on the cars that roll off the line and wind up carrying the familiar No. 24 paint scheme. "He is just on their level and connects with them," Gordon said. "I think it earns a lot of respect, certainly, from my standpoint it is why I wanted to work with him so bad and why I've enjoyed working with him so much. It's because he is just so good with the cars. "He has definitely had to work and hone his skills on how to be that confident, powerful leader. He has become extremely good at it, but I do think that's probably something that was not as natural to him as the engineering. "He has got a tremendous work ethics and drive. That to me is what makes a great crew chief. When I think back to me and Ray (Evernham) or I look at other crew chiefs at Hendrick and in the garage, the ones that are just willing to sacrifice everything and put that kind of effort into it are the ones that are successful. That is what Alan does." When Gordon won at Martinsville to secure a spot in this weekend's final, the focus turned to the 1.5-mile Miami track. Efforts at Texas and Phoenix, where he finished ninth and sixth, respectively, may have suffered slightly, Gustafson admitted. "You are in a little bit of this, awkward is not the right word, you're kind of in this limbo kind of space," Gustafson said. "You don't want to run bad, you don't want to struggle, you don't want any bad momentum, you want to keep positive momentum and you're focused on Homestead. Other guys aren't, they're focused on Texas and (Phoenix). "It's a little different, first time I've been in this position. … It's a little bit of an unknown. I'm very curious to have gone through this, then go to Homestead and look back and say 'Eh, this (worked), maybe that (didn't), maybe this, you know, critique how we handle things because it is unprecedented now."
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Though the gravity of the end of his stellar NASCAR career is becoming more and more real, Jeff Gordon has maintained that the full impact won't be felt until the checkered flag falls on Sunday's finale. The same could be said for his longtime team owner, Rick Hendrick, who claims at least partial responsibility for keeping Gordon's career going to this point. Hendrick, who helped bring Gordon to NASCAR's big leagues in 1993, has coaxed a handful of extra seasons out of the 44-year-old driver in the twilight of his career, so much so that he's actually turned "one more year" into a verb. On the plane ride back from last Sunday's race at Phoenix, which left one more weekend ahead of them as driver and owner, Hendrick couldn't resist one more playful request for a 2016 return to the No. 24 Chevrolet. Gordon declined, especially at peace with his decision with one more championship to pursue. "It's hard to believe," Hendrick said Thursday, days ahead of Gordon's 797th start in NASCAR's top division. "It just seems like yesterday that he got started. … He just doesn't look like he's ready to retire. When I look at him and how young he looks, how good he is, it's like, man, but I've one-more-yeared him a couple of times, so I think I ran out of rope." The rope might end Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), but Gordon won't be completely forgoing a career in motorsports. He'll be staying with Hendrick Motorsports to groom successor Chase Elliott in his transition to the No. 24 ride and will remain a fixture in the TV booth with NASCAR broadcast partner FOX Sports. But Gordon also left open the possibility for potential driving detail on the horizon, in a part-time role. "That's the beautiful thing about racing. It doesn't mean that I won't ever drive a race car again," Gordon said. "There's a lot of different types of series and cars out there that I maybe have never driven before and may have an interest in doing that. But currently, you know, I'm very content with the decision. I don't plan on doing any Cup races in the future. I know what a disruption that is to Hendrick Motorsports and the team that I'm still going to be involved with, and I've got enough things on my plate that are going to keep me very, very busy." Plenty of those busy activities -- watching his kids' soccer games, spending more time at home and being there with his family -- won't take place inside the microcosm of the race track. Admittedly, it was a decision Gordon had lobbied for earlier, but one where the timing never quite sorted itself out. When Gordon made his final announcement Jan. 22, Gordon sat poised to improve upon 2014, a season where he racked up four wins but fell short of the championship round by a single point. As the farewell gifts stacked up this season, the wins didn't, but Gordon & Co. still relied on their remarkable consistency and scrappy spirit. When the No. 24 finally broke through, clinching a title berth with a rousing victory at Martinsville Speedway , Gordon received further confidence that his career-altering decision was the right one. "That win in Martinsville, solidifying our chance to come here as a championship contender, that just sealed it for me," Gordon said. "I was more disappointed of how earlier in the season we weren't getting the results. We weren't putting the performances together. We weren't running as good as we wanted to. I was making some mistakes. I was thinking to myself, man, I don't want to go out like this, I want to go out being competitive, battling for wins. That's what would make me happy. "And we did -- all through the Chase we've been able to step up and perform the way I was hoping that we would, and then of course the Martinsville win, and now here we are with that same opportunity. That's how you want to go out, and that's how I hope I can." Gordon's demonstrative celebration at Martinsville might have warranted a penalty in the NFL, but the jubilation was nowhere near excessive considering the impact on one of the sport's greatest drivers with a chance for a fifth series championship. Should that crowning achievement come true Sunday, Hendrick said the moment would mark a celebration -- much like this season -- worth sticking around for . "You know, that's going to be an emotion that'll happen -- I think we'll all go bananas," Hendrick said. "It'll be just like what you saw at Martinsville on steroids, because everybody will be so proud and happy for him and the fact that he can -- and some of you guys are the ones that said it to me early; it's a walk-off home run, and I don't know how it could get any sweeter than to see a guy, especially for me, that meant so much to me personally, to our organization, could end his career that way. It would just be a fairy-tale story. I think it would be probably the biggest championship won in the last I don't know how many years."