Hypervenom Phantom FG finishes for Richard Childress Racing. He’s led just 41 laps all season
15 November, 2014 at 12:49 am in Buy & Sell
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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Jeff Gordon captured the pole position Friday for the Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where three of the four title contenders will start in the top 10.
Kevin Harvick (fifth) was tops among the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers racing for the championship in Sunday's Ford Ecoboost 400, followed by Denny Hamlin (eighth) and Joey Logano (ninth).
The only title contender who didn't reach the final round was Ryan Newman, who will start 21st after a 178.241 mph lap in his No. 31 Chevrolet. It's the worst starting position of the Chase for the Richard Childress Racing driver, who started 20th at Dover International Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway (where he slammed Kyle Larson aside on the last lap for an 11th that advanced him to the championship round).
"A buddy of mine once said it's not where you start it's where you stop," Newman said. "We got half of them beat to start."
The top finisher of the quartet will win the title in the debut of NASCAR's reformatted playoff.
After Gordon's 180.747-mph lap, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top two rows on the starting grid.HOMESTEAD, Fla. — After a wild playoff round filled with brawls and go-for-the-throat racing that left NASCAR's biggest stars out of title contention, chairman Brian France said Friday the series would Mercurial Vapor X FG ''be delighted'' if winless Ryan Newman defied the odds and claims the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
France announced the revamped Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in January and promised it would place a greater importance on winning. It worked during the regular season, when a victory earned a driver an automatic berth in the 16-driver Chase field.
It's also been a critical part of the three elimination rounds, as both Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski pulled off must-win victories to avoid elimination. Harvick's victory last week in Phoenix put him into Sunday's championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But Newman has debunked the theory that winning is the most important element by making NASCAR's final four without a win. His most recent victory was last year's Brickyard 400, and he enters the championship round on a 51-race losing streak.
Newman made it into the finale with consistent, unspectacular Hypervenom Phantom FG finishes for Richard Childress Racing. He's led just 41 laps all season with just four top-five finishes. Two of those did come during the second and third segments of the Chase.
''What we're all finding out is the strategies that are associated with competing in this new format are different, and they're unknown and untested,'' France said Friday. ''Phoenix was a great example of that, where one person in Harvick won the race. But another in Ryan Newman got there in more of a consistent model, but Magista Obra FG Black got there nonetheless. We'll be delighted if Ryan Newman Nike Mercurial shoes and Richard Childress are able to pull it off. I think he's the underdog at this point, but they kind of like that, so we'll see how it plays.''
Newman will race for the title against Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, a trio that has combined for 10 victories this season. The first of the four drivers to cross the finish line wins the championship, but France feels confident the champion will also win the race.
He often references the 2011 finale when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards waged a lap-by-lap battle for 400 miles for the championship.
Stewart won the race, finished tied in the standings with Edwards and won the title on the tiebreaker. That epic race was one of many instances that illustrate how championship contenders seem to hit a higher gear over the final month of the season.
''What we've seen, if you go through past years, is how those teams will be elevating their game against everybody else,'' France said.
With four drivers now in the championship field, France believes the finale to be remembered for a very long time.
''I think depending on what happens on Sunday, it has a chance to be one of the most successful seasons in NASCAR history,'' he said.