Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired after Sunday’s NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Darryl Graham AP
Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired after Sunday’s NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Darryl Graham AP

NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR Cup Series | 3 takeaways from Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway

By Brendan Marks

bmarks@charlotteobserver.com

November 19, 2017 08:01 PM

HOMESTEAD, FLA.

Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which gave him his first title, but there are other implications from the race as well. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 race:

1. What does the title do for Truex’s legacy?

This is the boost Truex always needed on his resume. Think about it: he already had two championships in the Xfinity Series, plus numerous wins and poles and just about everything you could accomplish on a race track. After coming up short in 2015, Truex said earlier this week he’s been working to get back to the championship ever since then, and that showed on Sunday. He finished the year with eight victories, more than any other driver, and he should be in contention for more titles in the years to come. Truex’s legacy now has the piece it was always missing; the only place for him to go from here is up. That means more wins, more championship berths, and if this year’s dominance was any indication, more titles for Truex.

2. As for the legacies of the losing three...

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No, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick didn’t win their second championships, but they also put up a heck of a battle against Truex on Sunday. Busch especially was the closest to stealing the title away from Truex, but ultimately he ran out of time. All three are still terrific drivers, and they should have more opportunities to challenge for championships in the future. Still, them not coming out on top means Jimmie Johnson is still the only active multi-time champion in the Cup Series, and that’ll remain the case potentially until this time next year. If any of them want to truly lock down a Hall of Fame bid, a second championship is probably the clearest and easiest way to do so – unfortunately for Harvick, Keselowski, and Busch, that dream will have to wait at least until 2018.

3. Talent (and star power) drain will hurt the sport

You could argue Sunday’s race was primarily about naming a season champion, but you could just as easily say it was about celebrating Dale Earnhardt Jr. one final time. Ever since Earnhardt’s April announcement that he would retire at season’s end, we’ve been waiting for this moment to finally come. Now he’s gone, and the legions of fans who showed up each and every weekend just for Earnhardt will have to find a new driver to support – or else the sport is going to suffer some. It doesn’t help that former champion Matt Kenseth or Danica Patrick, who has remained popular despite her poor performances this season, are also done. Essentially, that’s a lot of star power and talent scurrying out of the sport at once. If younger drivers don’t step up and stake their claims for those fans, those fans might leave the sport, and that’s the last thing NASCAR needs right now.

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup

Ford EcoBoost 400

Sunday

At Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead, Fla.

Lap length: 1.50 miles

TableStyle: SP-nascarresultsfullCCI Template: SP-nascarresultsfull

St

Driver

Car

Laps

*

Rating

1

2

Martin Truex Jr

Toyota

267

40

2

3

Kyle Busch

Toyota

267

35.

3

7

Kyle Larson

Chevrolet

267

54.

4

9

Kevin Harvick

Ford

267

33.

5

18

Chase Elliott

Chevrolet

267

39.

6

19

Joey Logano

Ford

267

36.

7

5

Brad Keselowski

Ford

267

30.

8

4

Matt Kenseth

Toyota

267

33.

9

1

Denny Hamlin

Toyota

267

32.

10

21

Ryan Newman

Chevrolet

267

27.

11

17

Austin Dillon

Chevrolet

267

26.

12

16

Clint Bowyer

Ford

267

26.

13

13

Jamie McMurray

Chevrolet

266

24.

14

26

AJ Allmendinger

Chevrolet

266

23.

15

6

Ricky Stenhouse Jr

Ford

266

22.

16

15

Paul Menard

Chevrolet

265

21.

17

30

David Ragan

Ford

265

20.

18

20

Aric Almirola

Ford

265

19.

19

12

Trevor Bayne

Ford

265

18.

20

29

Chris Buescher

Chevrolet

265

17.

21

14

Erik Jones

Toyota

265

16.

22

8

Kurt Busch

Ford

265

24.

23

28

Landon Cassill

Ford

265

14.

24

23

Michael McDowell

Chevrolet

265

13.

25

24

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Chevrolet

264

12.

26

32

Ty Dillon

Chevrolet

264

11.

27

22

Jimmie Johnson

Chevrolet

264

10.

28

33

Cole Whitt

Chevrolet

264

9.

29

11

Ryan Blaney

Ford

264

8.

30

31

Matt DiBenedetto

Ford

263

7.

31

34

Corey Lajoie

Toyota

261

0.

32

36

Jeffrey Earnhardt

Chevrolet

259

5.

33

27

Kasey Kahne

Chevrolet

234

1

4.

34

10

Daniel Suarez

Toyota

225

2

3.

35

37

Reed Sorenson

Chevrolet

212

3

2.

36

38

David Starr

Chevrolet

175

2

0.

37

25

Danica Patrick

Ford

139

1

1.

38

39

Ray Black Jr

Chevrolet

49

4

0.

39

35

Joey Gase

Toyota

4

1

0.

*Reason out: 1-accident, 2-brakes, 3-engine, 4-garage.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.893 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 2 minutes, 11 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.681 seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 26 laps.

Lead Changes: 13 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D.Hamlin 0; M.Truex 1-12; K.Larson 13-82; B.Keselowski 83; K.Larson 84-121; Ky.Busch 122-123; K.Larson 124-145; Ky.Busch 146; K.Larson 147-161; M.Truex 162-175; Ky.Busch 176; M.Truex 177; Ky.Busch 178-216; M.Truex 217-267

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Larson, 4 times for 141 laps; M.Truex, 4 times for 74 laps; Ky.Busch, 4 times for 39 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 0 laps; B.Keselowski, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: M.Truex, 8; Ky.Busch, 5; K.Larson, 4; J.Johnson, 3; B.Keselowski, 3; D.Hamlin, 2; K.Harvick, 2; R.Stenhouse, 2; R.Blaney, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; A.Dillon, 1; K.Kahne, 1; M.Kenseth, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Newman, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 5040; 2. Ky.Busch, 5035; 3. K.Harvick, 5033; 4. B.Keselowski, 5030; 5. C.Elliott, 2377; 6. D.Hamlin, 2353; 7. M.Kenseth, 2344; 8. K.Larson, 2320; 9. R.Blaney, 2305; 10. J.Johnson, 2260; 11. A.Dillon, 2224; 12. J.McMurray, 2224; 13. R.Stenhouse, 2222; 14. Ku.Busch, 2217; 15. K.Kahne, 2198; 16. R.Newman, 2196.

After winning 26 times on the NASCAR circuit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring. Here are the highlights of his career as a driver. Eric GarlandMcClatchy