The wait to go green went well into the night. Not once, not twice, but twice, teams were told to head to their pit stalls, and uncover the cars. But then twice more, they were told to cover them back up and could go to the motorhome lot to relax.
Rain, rain, and more rain…in the desert.
Finally, thanks to the lights at Phoenix International Raceway, the event that originally was to go down in the afternoon, now had the honor of being run at night. But even that would come to an end before the slated distance.
More rain came, and with 92 laps left, NASCAR had no choice. The race was over.
Who was the one that would make it to victory lane…a driver not in the Chase, but one very familiar with victory lane. But, for the first time all season, it came without a restrictor plate on the car. When it mattered the most, and luck playing a role, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would take home the trophy, playing spoiler, and “reigning” in the rain.
Meanwhile, the field of eight in the Chase got reduced to four. Two teammates were left out, another saw his teammate that was out for the first part of the season move on, and another saw his teammate, and the defending champion move on.
For the writers, they too saw their Eliminator Round come to an end. Two writers saw their Chase hopes end, while the four who won earlier now are moving on. Here’s where we now stand for the Championship Round after the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500:
Rob Tiongson (5000) Denny Hamlin finished 8th – 5 (1)
Misan Akuya (5000) Jamie McMurray finished 15th – 3 (1)
Dustin Parks (5000) Kyle Busch finished 4th – 4 (1)
Mary Jo Buchanan (5000) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd – 2 (1)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2299) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd – 3
Patti Rodisch (2282) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd – 5
Kara Martin (2261) Martin Truex Jr. finished 14th – 2
Klarissa Mitchell (2246) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd – 0
Ashley McCubbin (2240) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd – 1
Rob Blount (2134) NO PICK SENT – 2
Next Race: It has come down to four drivers, and four writers. One last dash to the finish. In the sport, one driver is at the wheel of a single-car operation, but has quietly shown that consistency can make it to this moment. Another, he was out for nearly a third of the season, yet roared back to show that not even injury can hold him back.
A third has felt this emotion before, and he wants it again, since he has one final race to defend the crown.
The fourth, it’s his swan song race. It’s the final time he will strap on the helmet, climb through the window, and crank over the engine. In his eyes, taking home a title in his final event would book-end a career that is first-ballot Hall of Fame worthy.
It is championship weekend, as the Homestead-Miami Speedway is awaiting a sold-out crowd to decide who will be the Sprint Cup champion.
Writers, this is it. Some want a win just for the fun of it, while others know a championship is within their grasp. Pay attention to the deadline, as this week, more time is allowed to contemplate, decide, and weigh out the odds.
But, by Friday, November 20, at 5 p.m. ET, it must be decided. That is when your picks must be locked in for the finale, the race that will decide the pool, and the champion, the Ford EcoBoost 400.