Harvick wins finale, Sprint Cup
November 22, 2014
Call him "Happy Harvick" or call him "Freaky Fast," after last Sunday you can call Kevin Harvick a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. With just four drivers remaining in the hunt for the championship, the race came down to the wire, with Harvick needing the win to prevail over Ryan Newman. Newman gave it everything he had at the end but couldn't get by the flying No. 4 car. It was a fitting end to NASCAR's experiment with eliminations in the Chase. It would have been embarrassing to have a winless champion, but either way it worked out. Had Newman won at Homestead, he would no longer be winless, and NASCAR's pride would have been salvaged.
This new Chase format was so dramatic, so successful in garnering fan and press interest, I don't see NASCAR fooling with it for the 2015 season. There might be a few minor tweaks down the road, but even NASCAR rule makers are too smart to mess with a proven winner. It remains to be seen whether the renewed interest the format fostered is going to translate into improved ticket sales and TV ratings next season. An aircraft carrier can't turn on a dime, and neither do trends in attendance at sporting events.
Congratulations are also in order for Matt Crafton. The veteran driver won his second consecutive Camping World Truck championship, edging young Ryan Blaney by 21 points. The title ties Crafton with Todd Bodine as the third-most winningest champion in the series. Young Kyle Larson is also due for some praise for winning the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors. Larson showed all season he can run with the big boys. Although he didn't score a Cup win this season, look for him in victory circle and the Chase in 2015.
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We congratulated Chase Elliott last week on clinching the NASCAR Nationwide championship, the last time that title will be awarded. Nationwide sponsorship dollars will be going to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevy in 2015, replacing the National Guard, which is pulling out of motorsports entirely. Comcast's XFINITY brand will be the series sponsor for the next 10 years.
And we also say goodbye to ESPN, whose last NASCAR race broadcast was Sunday's season finale. NBC Sports will add NASCAR to their Formula 1 and IndyCar coverage next season. ESPN will continue to cover NASCAR with shows providing racing news and analysis.
More congratulations, this time to the NHRA Mello Yello series 2014 champions. Tony Schumacher scored his eighth Top Fuel title, besting J.R. Todd by 131 points at season's end. Matt Hagan became a two-time Funny Car Champion with 43 points in hand over John Force. Erica Enders made history by becoming the first woman to take a Pro Stock title, finishing the season with a 39-point advantage. And Andrew Hines won his first Pro Stock Motorcycle championship with a comfortable 69 points over three-time champ Eddie Krawiec. Both Hagan and Enders sealed their championships with a win in the season finale at Pomona.
There's just one major racing title still on the line, and that's the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship. That one will be settled on Sunday at the F1 season finale in Dubai. It will either be Lewis Hamilton scoring his second title or Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg notching his first at the double points event. Dubai may well be the one and only double points race ever in F1, as series impresario Bernie Ecclestone has expressed his disapproval of the scheme. It has been a dominant season for the Mercedes team, with one or the other of their drivers winning all but three of the season's races. Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo accounted for those three, and sits third in points but out of reach of the title.
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