The No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch had been good all day, but with 10 laps to go in Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway a caution came out and the hopes for a championship rested in the arms of the pit crew. It was written in our earlier assessment of the final four pit crews that the No. 18 team had been the best in the clutch in the last five years -- and they proved it again. The No. 18 came in the pits in third place and left in second. Why is that such a big deal? Because it put him on the front row racing Brad Keselowski for the lead and in clean air as opposed to being in the second row with fellow Championship 4 driver Kevin Harvick right behind him. When you get in traffic, anything can happen and Harvick could have used that traffic to try and maneuver past Busch. But by gaining the one spot on the last stop it helped Busch get on the front row and win his first championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For the record, we timed that stop at 11.21 seconds. Congrats to all the No. 18 car personnel and especially the pit crew: Pit Coaches: Mike Lepp and Paul Alepa Front Changer: Josh Lesley Front Carrier: Brad Donaghy Jack Man: Jeff Fender Rear Changer: Jake Seminara Rear Carrier: Kenny Barber Gas Man: Tom Lampe For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Ty Dillon expresses his frustration with Chase Elliott on their last-lap wreck and Max Papis recalls his rough racing with Mike Skeen at the end of the Chevrolet Silverado 250.
Max Papis holds his composure after being slapped by Mike Skeen's girlfriend after the Chevrolet Silverado 250.
NASCAR has partnered with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a recently formed alliance of major sports leagues, associations, media networks and educators created to promote diversity and equality through sports. NASCAR Chairman Brian France will help steer the new initiative, established by Miami Dolphins majority owner Stephen Ross, as a founding member of the RISE Board of Directors, serving alongside the commissioners of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, and other top sports executives. The board will convene for its first meeting today. "I applaud Stephen Ross for launching RISE and am honored to serve on the Board of Directors. Diversity is one of our top priorities at NASCAR and we have made tremendous strides in recent years," said France. The partnership reinforces NASCAR's overall commitment to diversity and inclusion during what's been a strong year for the sport. The national series now feature three driver graduates of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity development program including NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and pair of NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers -- Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr . -- who are in competition for 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. In addition, more than 25 NASCAR Drive for Diversity crew member alums have pitted for national series race teams this season. On Saturday, Mike Russell, jackman for the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing team, could become the first African-American graduate to win a national series title as Chris Buescher tries to clinch the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship. "The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program has produced some of our sport’s top drivers and crew members, and the RISE partnership will have a tremendous impact on our continued expansion in the long-term," said France. "Perhaps most importantly, we look forward to working with all of the other major sports leagues and television networks to lead on this important social issue." Ross' vision for RISE focuses on leveraging the power of sport -- and prominent voices across the sports landscape -- to build a "nation of understanding, respect and equality." The non-profit organization seeks to create meaningful dialogue around racial relations and timely issues, as well as educational programming that will help athletes, coaches and executives promote racial sensitivity. LeBron James and Tom Brady are among the top tier athletes pledging support for RISE, and multiple stars appear in a national public service announcement campaign on RISEtoWin.org . "We are pleased to have NASCAR join the unprecedented alliance of professional sports leagues and organizations, media networks, educators and athletes that have joined RISE. Together we will work to harness the unifying power of sport to advance race relations and we are grateful for their partnership and support," said Ross.
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
After Race 36 of the 2015 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Attempts 1 Joe Gibbs 18 5,043 0 0 3 2 36 2 Tony Stewart 4 5,042 -1 -1 1 -1 36 3 Rick Hendrick 24 5,038 -5 -4 2 -1 36 4 Barney Visser 78 5,032 -11 -6 4 0 36 5 J D Gibbs 19 2,368 -2,675 -2,664 5 0 36 6 Walter Czarnecki 22 2,360 -2,683 -8 6 0 36 7 Roger Penske 2 2,347 -2,696 -13 8 1 36 8 Gene Haas 41 2,333 -2,710 -14 9 1 36 9 J D Gibbs 11 2,327 -2,716 -6 10 1 36 10 Jeff Gordon 48 2,315 -2,728 -12 12 2 36 11 Richard Childress 31 2,314 -2,729 -1 11 0 36 12 Rick Hendrick 88 2,310 -2,733 -4 7 -5 36 13 Felix Sabates 1 2,295 -2,748 -15 13 0 36 14 Joe Gibbs 20 2,291 -2,752 -4 14 0 36 15 Richard Childress 27 2,262 -2,781 -29 15 0 36 16 Rob Kauffman 15 2,175 -2,868 -87 16 0 36 17 Richard Petty 43 940 -4,103 -1,235 17 0 36 18 Linda Hendrick 5 939 -4,104 -1 18 0 36 19 Chip Ganassi 42 900 -4,143 -39 19 0 36 20 Jack Roush 16 869 -4,174 -31 20 0 36 21 Richard Childress 3 832 -4,211 -37 21 0 36 22 Tad Geschickter 47 758 -4,285 -74 23 1 36 23 Bob Germain 13 754 -4,289 -4 22 -1 36 24 Tony Stewart 10 741 -4,302 -13 24 0 36 25 John Henry 17 712 -4,331 -29 25 0 36 26 Richard Petty 9 709 -4,334 -3 26 0 36 27 Margaret Haas 14 695 -4,348 -14 27 0 36 28 Michael Waltrip 55 667 -4,376 -28 28 0 36 29 John Henry 6 655 -4,388 -12 29 0 36 30 Harry Scott Jr. 51 588 -4,455 -67 30 0 36 31 Bob Jenkins 35 553 -4,490 -35 31 0 36 32 Brad Jenkins 38 533 -4,510 -20 32 0 36 33 Michael Hillman 40 481 -4,562 -52 33 0 36 34 Jerry Freeze 34 472 -4,571 -9 34 0 36 35 Joe Falk 33 458 -4,585 -14 35 0 36 36 Tommy Baldwin 7 437 -4,606 -21 36 0 36 37 Ron Devine 83 424 -4,619 -13 37 0 36 38 Harry Scott Jr. 46 383 -4,660 -41 38 0 36 39 Mike Curb 98 309 -4,734 -74 39 0 36 40 Ron Devine 23 302 -4,741 -7 40 0 36 41 Glen Wood 21 300 -4,743 -2 41 0 19 42 Archie St Hilaire 32 268 -4,775 -32 42 0 36 43 Anthony Marlowe 26 252 -4,791 -16 43 0 36 44 Bob Leavine 95 213 -4,830 -39 44 0 20 45 Jay Robinson 62 111 -4,932 -102 45 0 36 46 Rick Hendrick 25 89 -4,954 -22 46 0 5 47 John Cohen 44 12 -5,031 -77 47 0 4 48 Jay Robinson 66 8 -5,035 -4 48 0 4 49 Curtis Key Sr. 30 6 -5,037 -2 49 0 13 50 Robby Benton 129 0 -5,043 -6 51 1 4 51 Sandy Hillman 139 0 -5,043 0 50 -1 2
RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final start HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, officials and dignitaries toasted retiring four-time champion Jeff Gordon with a standing ovation in the drivers' and crew chiefs' meeting before Sunday's season finale. But they also received a stern warning from NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton to let 2015's last race play out naturally. Gordon, just hours before making his 797th start in NASCAR's premier series, was singled out by Helton and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France during his final drivers' meeting as a full-time competitor at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Attendees were also treated to a commemorative video that captured moments from his nearly lifelong career in motorsports. "Jeff, congratulations on an outstanding career," Helton said after the video presentation. "Thank you for all you've done for NASCAR, and will do, but certainly what all you've done throughout that career. You're a true champion and cross over in a lot of venues as a top-shelf guy, so thank you." Several drivers paid tribute by wearing Jeff Gordon hats to the meeting, including Kyle Larson , Danica Patrick and all of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . , Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne . RELATED: Danica pays tribute to Gordon " Larson sports retro Gordon hat Gordon will compete for a Sprint Cup championship in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), battling Kyle Busch , defending champ Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs draw to a close. Helton urged all participants to let the title contest unfold without any underhanded tactics over the course of the 400 miles. "So this is our last race and this'll be the last time you hear this from anybody at the podium up here, but drivers and crew chiefs, crewmembers, spotters, everybody let the race play out in its natural course," Helton said. "No one needs to interfere with the natural unfolding of this event. This is our last opportunity, it's a great opportunity for four drivers. There's 39 others that are participating in this race, but crew chiefs -- and pass this on to your spotters -- and drivers, be sure that this day concludes on a high note with no interference of a naturally progressed race." Helton also gave priority recognition to country music entertainer Tim McGraw, excusing him early so that he could perform a pre-race concert on the 1.5-mile track's frontstretch.
Relive some of the best moments from the final weekend of the 2015 NASCAR season in this edition of Weekend Top Five.
The No. 11 pit crew of Denny Hamlin will be without rear tire changer Mike Hicks for the remaining two races in 2015. Earlier this week Hicks broke a bone in his right foot -- it doesn't seem like it will pose any problems for next year, though. "It was a weird deal," Hicks told PitTalks. "It happened Wednesday at practice and I was just walking backwards. My ankle kind of gave out and my foot rolled over and popped a bone. Thankfully it's not bad and I should be walking in two weeks and good to go in about four." JGR had previously hired longtime tire changer David Mayo from Hendrick Motorsports as the team's backup. Mayo will now change rear tires for the No. 11 team at Phoenix and Homestead. Mayo practiced with the No. 11 crew for a few days this week, so he has reps. Mayo had previously pitted with the No. 88 crew of Dale Earnhardt Jr . this year. 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.