Kurt Busch battles Ryan Newman in August
Jack Roush wins xs 2 Busch and Biffle get overtime wins
Going into the final race of the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series at the Homestead/Miami Speedway for the Ford 400, Kurt Busch was leading Jimmy Johnson by a slim 18 points and Jeff Gordon by 21 points. Not much of a margin in sport that can put you from 1st to last in an instant or vice versa. The new 10 race points format that leaves the top ten drivers just 5 points apart at the start of the last ten races left five drivers with a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season. The old system heavily favored the points leader at this point of the season. And on occasion left only one or two with any chance at the championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr and Mark Martin were farther back in the points but still had a slim chance of pulling off the championship IF something happened to one the three front-runners.
On lap 90 Kurt Busch had the points lead, on lap 91 that lead vanished as the right front wheel broke in the center, almost putting an end to his championship hopes as he narrowly missed hitting the end of pit wall as the wheel and tire went down the front stretch. Busch had dropped to 28th on the restart, and into a precarious position, as he now had to battle his way through traffic to get back into contention in the points battle. Made even harder with all of the softwall testing that was occurring in the race. Biffle was now third behind Jeff Gordon third in the race and points.
Kurt worked his way up, then pitted again under caution due to a vibration. The right front wheel came loose. Kurt dropped back to 26th this time around. Meanwhile Buschs teammate Greg Biffle had been leading the race.
Jimmy Johnson second in race and championship points
Cautions were plenty, starting on lap 1 and continuing all the way to 2 laps from the finish. Ryan Newman brought out two cautions, one on lap 49 when a piece of his car fell on the track. Then again with just 2 laps remaining his right front tire blew sending him into the turn 4 wall while leading the race. Lap 114 Jeremy Mayfield hit the wall when a tire blew.
One of the many strange things to happen during the race was on lap 171 when Tony Stewart was black flagged for continuing to swerve left and right to clean his tires of debris. Any chance Mark Martin had went out the window when, under caution his left rear tire went flat forcing him to pit when he hadnt planned on it and just before the green flag flew.
When the final yellow flag came out for Ryan Newmans flat and trip into the wall Stewart was leading Greg Biffle and Dale Jarrett while the points battle was coming down to the wire with Gordon, Johnson and Busch all close together. About the only way Busch could lose at this point was if Johnson or Gordon won the race. On the restart Stewarts car sputtered due to low fuel pressure and everyone momentarily stacked up behind him. In the ensuing melee that could have caused a huge wreck Biffle went high and took the lead from Stewart while everyone else followed Biffle. Gordon got stuck behind Joe Nemechek, who was a lap behind and literally pushed him out of the way. Johnson got second and Gordon third as Busch followed them.
Stewart fell back to fourth. As long as Biffle kept the lead Busch was in the championship seat, however Biffle was chased by Hendrick /Gordon teammates Johnson and Gordon who needed to win the race to win the championship. As they raced to the checkers it was Biffle, Johnson, Gordon, Stewart and Busch finishing fifth and winning the Nextel Cup Championship, his first. Team owner Jack Roush had won the race with Biffle and the championship with Busch, and his second consecutive series championship. The race was slowed 2 hours due to cautions. Greg Biffle, lost in the championship celebration led 117 of the 271 laps en-route to the victory.
Jeff Gordon third in the race and points.
This was the closest championship in NASCAR history as Busch beat Jimmy Johnson by 8 points and Jeff Gordon third with 16 points. The previous closest championship margin was the late Alan Kulwickis 10-point victory over Bill Elliott in 1992.
Greg Biffle battles Rusty Wallace