AVONDALE, AZ – With Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory at the rain drenched race in the desert of Arizona, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex will compete at Homestead next weekend for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Car Title. The race was delayed by seven hours due to the rain, then cut short to 219 laps with Earnhardt Jr. at the lead. There were many sad faces when the race was called, including Carl Edwards and Joey Logano, whose chances at the championship were dashed with the call.
Earnhardt’s win was serendipitously won when on lap 195 his crew brought him in for a fuel stop. Then Ricky Stenhouse and Joey Gas wrecked in Turn 3 bringing out the second caution of the race. Earnhardt, while still on pit row, crossed the scoring line just ahead of Kevin Harvick. When the rest of the lead cars pitted under the caution, Earnhardt was able to claim the lead position. The race proceeded under yellow for the remaining laps leaving Earnhardt uncontested for the remainder of the race.
When asked about his victory, ““We had an idea that the rain was in the area, but all the circumstances that played out at the end of the race are just kind of luck, I think,” said Earnhardt. He added, “I want to give (crew chief) Greg (Ives) a lot of credit, and the guys. They gave us a good enough car to come here and qualify well (third). I think the reason why we won this race is because of the way we qualified to give ourselves a position to be up front all night. When something like this quirky happens we were able to capitalize. It’s a rain-shortened win, but my guys are very proud of it because of how the car ran all weekend and we put ourselves in this position.”
Kevin Harvick, who had dominated the race leading 143 laps, just was not there when it most counted. His second place finish kept him in line for the championship to be determined at Homestead, but another win would have been nice. “Yeah, it's kind of bittersweet,” Harvick acknowledged. “The car just really performed well today, and we were able to lead a lot of laps, and just really proud of the guys for the decisions that they made overnight to get that last little bit out of the car today, and how it performed was really good.”
Though Joey Logano finished on the podium, he needed a win to stay in the Chase for the championship. “It’s hard to play the race with rain in the area,” Logano said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you just hope there’s another shot. You hope that there’s a restart and if two of them slip up and you’re able to put it three-wide on the bottom, or do something like that -- but just didn’t ever have the opportunity there at the end.
One of the most exciting stories at the end of the 2015 season is of course Jeff Gordon who has a chance to retire from NASCAR with a Championship title. “It is going to take everything to go win that Championship next week,” Gordon said. “ This team has it. We definitely have it in us. I don’t know if we are going to show all the speed that we have this weekend, but next week we are ready to get it done.” Tune in next week and find out if Gordon can do it!