Several “lasts” at NASCAR finale at Homestead this weekend

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There are several drivers, teams and/or situations set to come to an end this weekend for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale.

A quick rundown:

Ambrose’s last start in Cup

With the news he’s going back to Australia to race V8 Supercars for Roger Penske and Dick Johnson Racing, this Sunday will mark Marcos Ambrose’s last start in the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, and last scheduled start in the series overall. Additionally, it’s the last race for sponsors DeWalt and Stanley with RPM before they head to Joe Gibbs Racing. Ambrose finished an overlooked 10th at Phoenix last week and looks to end on a high note. Of course, seeing as Penske has occasionally run a third car part-time in the past, could we see Ambrose in a third Penske car at Sonoma or Watkins Glen in the future? It’s not expected, but it wouldn’t surprise too much if it happened.

Edwards ends his Roush Fenway run

Eliminated from title contention at Phoenix, Carl Edwards now has his swan song with Roush Fenway Racing this Sunday after 11 seasons and 373 races, the team with which he has spent his entire NASCAR career. He’s won 23 races, including two at Homestead (2008 and 2010), and famously came second to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker for the 2011 title. He also won the 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series title driving for Roush. He heads to JGR next season.

3M with Biffle, Nationwide with Stenhouse Jr.

More from the Roush Fenway departing department; 3M leaves Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford and Nationwide Insurance leaves Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s No. 17 Ford, both going to Hendrick Motorsports. 3M will be with Jeff Gordon and Nationwide with Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season.

Bayne’s last start with Wood Brothers, and as a part-timer

In five seasons since 2010, Trevor Bayne has only made 57 starts at the Cup level – this Sunday will be his 58th and last both as a part-timer and as a member of the Wood Brothers. Bayne was announced earlier this year as moving into Roush Fenway Racing full-time, and bringing back the famed No. 6. While Bayne famously won the 2011 Daytona 500, he has only two other top-10s in his Cup career.

The Stewart-Haas pit crew rendezvous

At Stewart-Haas Racing Kevin Harvick adopted Tony Stewart’s crew for the Chase, but the crew chiefs didn’t swap. Meanwhile Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick swapped crew chiefs and road crews for the final three races. It’s been dizzying to keep track of but the arrangements as they are have their last scheduled races this weekend, as they are now. At the end of a turbulent year for the organization, SHR can still emerge as champions – and Harvick is the presumptive favorite.

The first-timers lose their stripes

For Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and the remainder of the 2014 Sprint Cup rookie class (Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt, Justin Allgaier), this is the last race with the yellow rookie stripes on the back. Race wisely as it’s the last time you can get away with saying “Hey, I’m a rookie.” While Larson and Dillon have impressed throughout, the others have had momentary flashes of brilliance.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.