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."
Carl Edwards went from interviewee to interviewer during FS1's "Race Day" pre-race show, turning the tables on a photobombing Tony Stewart . 'Smoke' approached Edwards in his golf cart during a live shot, startling the Joe Gibbs Racing driver … before granting him an interview. Looks like another classic Stewart move. Classic @TonyStewart ! Smoke #VideoBombs #CarlEdwards during his live interview with #NASCAR #RaceDay . https://t.co/QebiKKspMh — AtTheBuzzer (@TheBuzzerOnFOX) November 15, 2015
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Not everyone can say they have a legit pig in a blanket #Porkchop pic.twitter.com/9ZmYv6im0v — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) November 12, 2015 2. Go kart stuck in high + whiskey throttle = mommy her pants!!!!!!!! — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) November 10, 2015 3. Restoration of original Metrolina Speedway sign completed. @LostSpeedways pic.twitter.com/jguNuiPMTu — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 12, 2015 4. Drake is soft like tissue. https://t.co/ZKP5elXEXZ — Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 9, 2015 5. I got it bad... 2 secs from literally leaving this house w/ everything in it. The sun was playing tricks on me pic.twitter.com/2pKclDXIrM — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) November 12, 2015 6. Pure beauty happy race day! pic.twitter.com/k08UQEYlvU — Paige (@epaigewhite) November 8, 2015 7. Can anyone tell me how to get to @DISupdates My Dad keeps saying practice, practice, practice @CateEvernham pic.twitter.com/wBY9cJMcAU — ray evernham (@RayEvernham) November 10, 2015 8. I don't know what a #BAE is but they seem to be gaining momentum. They now have a system and planes. Look out. pic.twitter.com/gKkOGsHzw8 — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 8, 2015 FAN TWEET OF THE WEEK: He's so happy https://t.co/dBg5dLnNXN — Matt Harrington (@Matt2Harrington) November 11, 2015
NASCAR.com's Costner Merrifield and Taylor Starer catch you up on some of the best tweets from around the NASCAR community including Tony Stewart and his pig.
'Smoke' dresses as Carmen Miranda, all in the name of Halloween Tony Stewart may have topped Tony Gibson for the best Halloween costume, but let's be honest -- there are no winners here. Gibson, crew chief of Kurt Busch , and Stewart traded playful tweets in advance of Wednesday's Halloween party about who would have the better costume. Even Gibson dressing as literally a middle finger couldn't top Stewart's cross-dressing. It seems ol' 'Smoke' is bringing new meaning to the term "high-drag package." Yep!!! I lost... @TonyStewart wins pic.twitter.com/HqmkGpukRH — Tony Gibson (@TonyOldman41) October 28, 2015 Cannot. Unsee.
Tony Stewart spins but doesn't make contact with the wall early in the Hollywood Casino 400.
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.
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: Updated series standings " Chase Grid KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Seven spots in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup remain up for grabs heading into Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). While there is plenty of excitement over the action that will take place and wondering who will make it through to the next round, Stewart -Haas Racing driver and co-owner Tony Stewart is not a fan of having the 2.66-mile track in the Chase. "I have never thought it was good to have it in the Chase, especially with this format," Stewart said following Kurt Busch 's press conference on Wednesday at SHR to announce a co-primary sponsorship with Monster Energy. "You've got teams that have worked too hard all year, and two guys in front that aren't a factor in it (the Chase) could totally dictate somebody's season this weekend. "I think Talladega and Daytona races are great, but I don't know that when it comes time to individual performances, a race like this is the right race." The Talladega fall race is the sixth race of the Chase and the third and final race of the Contender Round. Upon the completion of the race, four drivers will be eliminated from the playoff field and eight drivers will move on to the Eliminator Round. Entering Talladega, both of SHR's Chase teams, Kurt Busch and defending series champion Kevin Harvick , are above the cutline to advance to the next round. But at Talladega, that can all change in one fell swoop with "The Big One," not to mention the differing strategies that will be in play at the Alabama superspeedway. "From a driver's side, it's like we've always said, it's a chess match," Stewart explained. "You are trying to figure out where to be at the right times. There's guys that from the drop of the green to the checkered, race their guts out. And there's guys that don't race until 20 to go. Both systems work and don't work at different times. The hard part is just trying ... I think everybody has to sit there and go with the attitude of driving to run your race and analyze what you think is the best strategy. "From an owner's side, you sit there and there's nothing you can do about it anyway. It's all out of your control because there's so many -- everybody else dictates everybody else's outcome." Last month, the three-time champion announced the 2016 season would be his final season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Since he did not qualify for the 2015 postseason, Stewart has turned his attention toward getting a head start on the recently announced 2016 rules package that will be similar in many ways to the low downforce setups run in July at Kentucky Speedway and in September at Darlington Raceway . "Probably the most excited I've been about a rules package in a long time," Stewart said. "It's been going the other direction and finally, I think through a lot of people's effort and NASCAR. ... This is probably one of the coolest times to be a part of this sport as far as working with NASCAR and how much they've leaned on the manufacturers, Goodyear, the drivers, the team owners to make this as good as it can be. I don't know that we'll get all the way there in one year, but I think it's a great, great start." RELATED: Learn more about the 2016 rules package
Race day info What: 17th annual Ford EcoBoost 400 . When: Sunday, Nov. 22 Where: Homestead-Miami Speedway , 1.5-mile oval in Homestead, Florida " Learn more about the track Green flag time: 3:15 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Forecast: Cloudy, high of 82 degrees, 80 percent chance of rain and possible thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service National anthem: Zachary Levi, actor ("Chuck," "Heroes Reborn") Grand marshal: Hoda Kotb, co-host of NBC's "Today." Distance: 400.5 miles, 267 laps. Pit road speed: 45 mph. Caution car speed: 55 mph. Competition caution: At or around Lap 25 On the front row 1. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (176.655 mph) 2. Joey Logano , No. 22 Team Penske Ford (176.263 mph) RELATED: See the full lineup " See all 43 cars Fastest in practice First practice: Carl Edwards , No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (175.143 mph). " Results Second practice: Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (176.010 mph). " Results Final practice: Joey Logano , No. 22 Team Penske Ford (175.404 mph). " Results Key story lines 1. Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex already winners " Read more 2. Homestead could be 'fairy-tale' ending for Gordon " Read more 3. Harvick focused on title -- not verbal jabs " Read more 4. Kyle Busch signs contract extension with JGR " Read more Former winners in the field Greg Biffle (3), Tony Stewart (3), Carl Edwards (2), Denny Hamlin (2), Kurt Busch (1), Jeff Gordon (1), Kevin Harvick (1), Matt Kenseth (1). RELATED: How NASCAR crowns its champion " Title-clinching scenarios They said it: Championship 4 final practice edition Kyle Busch : "Really pleased with it -- it's definitely one of the best race cars I've had here for sure. It does the things that I think that it needs to do so hopefully I’m right and hopefully we’ve got a good race car for tomorrow." Jeff Gordon : "The very first run that final practice was great. I felt really good about it. We've got a few things on the longer run that I felt like we can work on. The second run was so-so. The track definitely lost some grip. I think we have a good indication what the track conditions are going to be like in the race, so that is all really valuable information that we can put into our database and make adjustments and hopefully good decisions for (Sunday)." Rodney Childers , crew chief for Kevin Harvick : "The car seems to have had pretty good speed. Definitely a lot better than what we were here last year. The guys did a good job. Kevin learned a lot running the top up against the wall. I feel like we got a lot of good information with those long runs. We will make a few adjustments for the race to try to keep the car tightened up and hopefully be good." Martin Truex Jr .: "We haven't made any gains on it. It's been a frustrating day. We have been struggling with the car and we really haven't hit on anything that helped it. So we are going to go in there and work on it right now and hopefully come up with something for (Sunday)."