Reflecting on a Successful NASCAR Season - South Dade News Leader: Sports

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Reflecting on a Successful NASCAR Season

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Posted: Friday, December 1, 2017 10:10 am

   Two weeks ago, we enjoyed one of the most successful weekends in our 22-year history at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend, which included a sellout in the Ford EcoBoost 400 for the fourth consecutive year. It was an amazing opportunity to play host to NASCAR’s championship races in each of its three national series, and it is something that everyone is proud of here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

   The three-day championship tradition not only put our track front and center for the entire sports world to see, but it also gave South Florida the chance to showcase all the great things that it has to offer to the tens of thousands of fans who attended.

   Throughout the course of the weekend there were a plethora of moments that made for a memorable weekend, not only for the Speedway, but for NASCAR and its fans as well.

   In the Ford EcoBoost 400, Martin Truex Jr. celebrated the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title of his 12-year career after capturing the checkered flag in the championship race. For Truex, it was the perfect conclusion to an outstanding season that included a series-leading eight victories.

   In addition, the NASCAR XFINITY Series saw its wins leader William Byron, 19, become a first time champion as he won the series title after finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 300. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 22-year-old Christopher Bell was crowned champion following a second place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 200. Like Truex and Byron, Bell was the series’ wins leader heading into Ford Championship Weekend and was able to use his momentum to secure the coveted Camping World Truck Series trophy.

   These memories of Ford Championship Weekend will be what fans will cherish and hold on to until the 2018 season commences with the Daytona 500 on February 18. But as we continue to transition into the offseason and reminisce on the successes of Ford Championship Weekend, let’s take a look back at a couple of the storylines and narratives that made up the 2017 season and how they helped shape where we are today.

   It feels like just yesterday that Kurt Busch added 2017 Daytona 500 Champion to his already impressive career résumé. Busch, who won the 2004 Monster Energy Series championship, became the first driver to punch his ticket into the playoffs with his win at Daytona.

   And though the Daytona 500 marked the beginning of the racing season, the 2017 NASCAR campaign actually started well before the “Great American Race.” Heading into the 2017 season, there was a substantial modification that impacted the way races were formatted. NASCAR introduced stage racing, which was applied to all three of its national series. The format would split all races into three stages with regular season points and playoff points being awarded at the end of each stage.

   The new stage racing format received rave reviews from fans throughout the season. The format gave industry members and fans more dramatic moments during the course of a race. For drivers, it presented more opportunities to accumulate points and boost their position in the regular season and playoff standings. There were many drivers who took advantage of the revamped racing layout, but the one who benefitted from it the most was 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. who accumulated a series-

leading 19 stage wins, which helped him accrue a total of 74 playoff points by the end of the season.

   The 2017 NASCAR campaign also saw three drivers clinch playoff berths by means of their first-career victory in the Monster Energy Series. The first driver to add their name to the all-time wins list this season was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when he won at Talladega Superspeedway in May. Stenhouse then added to his wins total by collecting a victory at Daytona International Speedway in July. Joining Stenhouse with first career wins was 23-year-old Ryan Blaney, who won at Pocono Raceway in June, and Austin Dillon, who visited Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

   But the biggest news of the 2017 NASCAR season came in April, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement from the Monster Energy Series after the season. At each stop that the 14-time Most Popular Driver Award-winner made on the circuit, his legacy was well celebrated by the track, industry members and by his loyal fan base, “Junior Nation.”

   This season also had two other integral members depart from the sport. Matt Kenseth, who won the 2003 Cup Series championship, will not be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017. In his 18-year career in the Monster Energy Series, Kenseth collected a total of 39 victories, including a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2007. In addition, this year marked the retirement of Danica Patrick as a full-time driver in the Monster Energy Series. Patrick has made a profound impact on the sport by serving as an inspiration and role model for female drivers looking to get into motorsports.

   The 2017 campaign was filled of interesting storylines that set the stage for what was an amazing Ford Championship Weekend. Looking ahead to 2018, there are already numerous narratives that will shape the season, including a number of driver changes in the Monster Energy Series.

   William Byron will make the jump from the XFINITY Series to the Monster Energy Series next year, as he will pilot the No. 24 car for Hendrick Motorsports. In addition, Ryan Blaney will switch seats from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske, Erik Jones will transition from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing and Aric Almirola will move from Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing.

   No matter what other driver changes may come in 2018, what we can still look forward to the most is seeing the same hardnosed racing that we saw in 2017, beginning with the first race of the season at Daytona and culminating with the final race of the year here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Dec. 1  

Fast Lane Friday Presented by The Ticket Clinic

Dec. 2-3 Championship Cup Series Motorcycle Racing

Dec. 8-9 

Formula & Automobile Racing Association

Dec. 10  

Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

Dec. 16  

Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Dec. 17  Performance Driving Group

Dec. 28  

Miami Exotic Auto Racing

2018 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 16  

Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 17  

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 18  

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Champion

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