Martinsville, where eight boys were trying to lock themselves into the final field of four contenders for the championship in Homestead. At the same time, 31 boys and a girl were doing their utmost to spoil the party for someone by winning the thing themselves.
Kyle Larson went back to his home state of California and won at Fontana. A win. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the 24-year old from Elk Grove is not perfect. Sure, he might be leading the standings, but perfection?
So it ends. Another NASCAR season. A Hall of Fame career for Tony Stewart. The reign of a title sponsor. The wait for another seven-time champion, or a repeat champion, or maybe the crowning of the newest member of NASCAR royalty.
It sucks not to matter. Forty cars took to the track at Phoenix, and only six of them mattered. Not Jimmie Johnson or Carl Edwards. Both had already locked in a final four berth at Homestead, so they mattered not. Not Kyle Larson or Trevor Bayne, who spun early.
On Sunday, we will have one of those races, on one of those tracks, that provides must-see action. While we have no announcers covering NASCAR today who you might tune in just to hear their description of the action, to hear them enhance the excitement, even those we got can not detract from the spectacle we shall witness on Sunday.
I hate change. Even good change can take a while to be appreciated. I did not like the Chase when it came out. I do now. I am still perturbed brand names like Firecracker 400 and World 600 were kicked to the curb to make a sponsor happy who obviously had no appreciation for the traditions of the sport. Then again, neither does NASCAR.
Homestead. That is where dreams are made or, more likely, where they die. That is, if they have not already been snuffed for another year before even reaching the season finale. One thing about that track in Miami is that some of the best just do not seem to do their best there.
Once Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead at Phoenix, no one was going to catch him. Not a single driver even challenged him. Yet, there was still one vehicle that even the race winner could not pass. The pace car.
Over the course of the season, Jeff Gordon was the top driver of 2014. However, NASCAR has not determined its champion using the results of the entire campaign for more than a decade. They want excitement, drama, unpredictability. They want what the other big boy sports have, and when they waved the flag to start the season finale, four drivers had an even shot to claim the prize. Unfortunately, 39 we knew who would not, also were out there.