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article imageNASCAR: Harvick ends 'dream season' with win and championship

By John Duarte     Nov 17, 2014 in Sports
Homestead - Kevin Harvick capped off a season when he was consistently one of the better cars on most race weekends by winning the last two events and capturing the Sprint Cup Series title for the first time in his career.
“These are the moments you live for.” Harvick said he had told his team during the week, they were the reason why won the title. “The strength of what we've done all year has been the decisions that we've made. And these guys have done a great job in making race-day decisions.”
Harvick showed his excitement on being champion that winning the Ford Ecoboost 400 momentarily slipped his mind.
“I forgot we won the race,” he joked.
The critical moment in the race for Harvick came when his crew chief elected to change all four tires during a pit stop on Lap 249. As Harvick joined traffic on the track, he was in 12th position. He quickly made up positions and, when another yellow flag came out six laps later, Harvick was sitting sixth. As the field lined up for the final restart of the afternoon, with two laps remaining in the race, Harvick was leading the pack as the green flag waved overhead for the final restart.
“I have no idea how I got the lead,” Harvick said. “I felt like we had an advantage, from a tire standpoint, and that our strong point all night were the restarts. So, I felt, we just needed to go for it, and it all worked out.”
Harvick said he didn't come into the final race of the season thinking he had to win the Ford Ecoboost 400 to win the Sprint Cup title. He said he thought the win-at-cost strategy would not be a wise one when “you has so many good cars that were just kind of going for broke.” But added he wasn't surprised as “you had to go for broke just to be competitive” every week during the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“That's really what this format has turned every week into over the past 10 weeks. If you want to win the championship, you're going to have to figure out how to win races,” Harvick said. “That's what it came down to was winning the race, and obviously a gutsy call and four tires on the pit box.”
Harvick, though liking the championship format implemented this season, said NASCAR could be cutting some drivers' careers.
“I think this Chase is about the best thing that has happened to this sport over the last decade,” he said. “This is probably going to shorten the drivers' careers because it's been so stressful.”
The Harvick had finished third overall in the Chase three of the last four years. This season, he was consistently a dominant for in races. He won five times and was out front in races for over 2,100 laps.
After winning the penultimate race of the season, the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Harvick said he had one thing on his mind — to close out 2014 as strongly as possible.”
“I'm pretty lucky to be able to do what I used to pay to do for a hobby,” he said. “I have no idea how much money I make or what I do. I love showing up for work. I love coming to the racetrack and love what I do.”
The championship was also special for Tony Stewart. He has won the Sprint Cup as a diver and a driver-owner and can now add a championship won by one of his drivers. He added that it was a bit bittersweet after the events of the past season, which included the tragic death of a fellow driver during a race in upstate New York in August.
“There's a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my live. Tonight is not one of them,” Stewart said. “I'm going to enjoy this moment.”
There were four drivers with a chance to win the 2014 Sprint Cup. Joey Logano headed to Homestead-Miami Speedway knowing he had to drive one of the best races of his life. He summed up his season as “a mistake on pit road” with 15 laps to go in the race leading his to finish well back in the field in the race and fourth in the final Sprint Cup standings.
“Unfortunately, a great season like that makes this overall finish fourth because of one mistake.” said an obviously disappointed Logano. “(We) Just didn't execute perfectly tonight, and for that reason we'll finish fourth. But we still feel like we did a lot better than fourth this season.”
Denny Hamlin said that the Ford Ecoboost 400 summed up the kind of year it was for him. He finished seventh on Sunday. He said that he “struggled with speed” especially on restarts all year and the final race was no exception.
“Kind of the theme of the year. We don't have the all-out speed those guys have and, with that, it put me in some tough spots on restarts,” Hamlin said. “We had a car that was capable of winning today. The cautions didn't go our way. Our effort was 100 per cent. It's just that the breaks didn't quite work out for us.”
Hamlin wound up third overall in the championship run.
Finishing second in the race and placing second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup was Ryan Newman, who said he could take some solace in the fact he had “our best finish our last finish” and which bodes well for 2015.
“I'm just so proud of our team. It's disappointing, don't get me wrong, but there's no point being a sore loser,” Newman said. “It's motivation, some momentum for the off season and just look forward to the opportunity for next year.”
The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 22 with the Great American Race, the Daytona 500.
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