Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Round 2014: Who made it

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After Sunday’s great penultimate run at Phoenix International Raceway, one thing emerged a certainty: A first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will be crowned after next week’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman will battle it out for the championship. That means all three major manufacturers will also be represented: two cars for Chevrolet and one each for Ford and Toyota.

Unfortunately for them and their fans, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards all fell short and have been eliminated from the one-race, winner-take-all battle at Homestead.

We present the four drivers who will race for the championship next Sunday in south Florida:


Harvick won Sunday’s race to assure he would be in the championship race. The way the final standings broke down, Harvick was essentially in a win-or-else scenario.

If he had not won, Harvick likely would have been eliminated and Gordon would have advanced. Mathematically, Harvick and Gordon tied in points, but Harvick gets the advancement nod by virtue of the win.

It was Harvick’s sixth career win at PIR and his third Cup victory in a row on the mile-long track.

“Wow, I guess that’s what it feels like to hit a walk off (home run) in the extra innings there,” Harvick told ESPN in Victory Lane. “Everyone’s done a great job and we’re going to Homestead.

“I could tell we were probably going to have to win because everyone was running up in the front of the pack that we were racing against.

“This place has been phenomenal for me personally and for this team this year. And to do that in front of all your almost hometown fans and all the people that have been rooting for me since the mid-90’s is unbelievable.

“I think this says a lot about our team, we’ve been through a lot this year, put our backs against the wall, we put it in victory lane and we get to on.”


Newman made a move that likely would have made the late Dale Earnhardt proud.

Needing to finish one position higher than where he was heading into the final lap of the race, Newman punted Kyle Larson into the wall between Turns 3 and 4, thus earning the one position that was the difference between him making and not making the Chase.

Newman ultimately finished 11th in the race, and becomes the only driver of the four finalists to still have not won a race this season He couldn’t have cut it any closer Sunday.

“I just gave it my all,” Newman said. “They paved it down there, I guess, for a reason. They didn’t make any rules to say we couldn’t use it (the bump and run on Larson).

“It was a great team effort today. We didn’t have the race car, had horrible restarts and didn’t have track position when we needed it. But in the end, we fought back hard and did what we had to as clean as I possibly could.

“I wasn’t proud of (punting Larson), but I’ll do what I’ve got to and I could do this next week. … I think if he was in my position, he probably would have done the same thing.”


Although you probably wouldn’t know it by his sixth-place finish in Sunday’s race, Logano had numerous issues to contend with.

He fell off the lead lap twice, was penalized when the fuel can failed to disengage in time and wound up in an opposing driver’s pit stall, missed at least one attempt at a lucky dog – and yet still managed to advance to the championship round.

“When those situations happen, you have to try and stay calm, which is hard to do because there’s so much on the line,” Logano said. “I wasn’t mad at anybody, I was just frustrated trying to get up through the field.

“This team deserved to be in the final four and proved it throughout this whole Chase and this whole year. I’m glad to be sitting here, going for it and we’re going to have some fun next week.”


Much like Logano, Hamlin had his share of problems as well in the race, but somehow he and his No. 11 team found a way to overcome them.

Hamlin was the pole-sitter and led the first 24 laps before things started going south. He also fell off the lead lap twice, but still was able to rally back and finish fifth, punching his ticket to the championship round.

“What a crazy day,” Hamlin said. “You just think about what all went to be and that it wasn’t meant to be. We just had to keep fighting. This team just continued to battle and now we’re in it.

“This is a good week for us to go relax and get ready for a championship weekend at Homestead-Miami.”

Hamlin is an immediate favorite going to Homestead, as he has two wins there, including last year’s season finale.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Hamlin said. “Our (recent) test went real, real well down there.”

At the same time, there will be no gimme’s, and Hamlin is the first to know that.

“It’s going to be hard against the 31 (Newman), 4 (Harvick) and 22 (Logano),” he said. “I can tell you there’s no give-up. We just kept battling and battling back. I’m proud of our team and this is redemption and hopefully we’re able to capitalize next week.”

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Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.