It featured an epic battle that ended with tension filled final laps that saw Martin Truex Jr. win his first race at Homestead and his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
From his second pole of the season and his second at Homestead-Miami, Denny Hamlin led the field to the green; championship contender Martin Truex Jr. started second, fellow title contender Kyle Busch third, with Matt Kenseth fourth and contender Brad Keselowski fifth.
Truex had the lead on the inside by turn 1 Hamlin fell in behind. Kyle Busch was third, Kenseth fourth, Kyle Larson fifth. Larson was fourth to start lap 2.
Kyle Busch moved to second and was looking for the lead by lap 3.
Hamlin took second back on the outside.
The first caution came out when Joey Gase lost a tire and hit the turn 2 wall hard on lap 4.
Larson pitted as did Keselowski and many others pitted. Truex, Hamlin and Busch were among the few who stayed out. Harvick in fifth also stayed out.
Green came back out to start lap 9. Keselowski restarted 13th.
Truex again on the outside again had the lead by turn 1. Harvick and Larson got past Kyle Busch sending him to sixth.
Larson was looking for second by lap 10 and had the sport on lap 11 has Hamlin began slipping back; Keselowski with his fresh tires rocketed to third by lap 12. Larson had the lead by the end of the lap. Keselowski followed. Kurt Busch took third on lap 13; Turex was fourth, Hamlin fifth.
Joey Logano took fifth on lap 15; he was looking for fourth from Truex on lap 17.
Larson had caught the back of the field by lap 21.
Logano finally took fourth on lap 30 in heavy lapped traffic.
The lead for Larson was 5 seconds by lap 34.
Johnson scrapped the wall and pitted on lap 37 with a right rear flat tire.
Kenseth, Truex, Harvick were among those that pitted on lap 39.
Keselowski, Kyle Busch pitted on the same lap.
Larson pitted on lap 41.
When the green flag stops cycled through it was Larson, Keselowski, Truex, Kurt Busch and Logano.
Kyle Busch in ninth was reporting a possible vibration.
Harvick took fifth on lap 48.
Truex was reporting a possible brake issue on lap 51.
The lead for Larson was 5 seconds by lap 55.
Harvick took fourth on lap 56. He took third a lap later.
Johnson pitted on lap 66 after again getting into the wall.
Kyle Busch was fifth by lap 68. He was looking for fourth by lap 70; he had the spot from Truex on lap 72.
With five laps to go in stage 1, the lead for Truex was nearing ten seconds.
Kyle Busch took third from Harvick on lap 42.
Top 10 Stage 1: Larson, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Truex, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Logano, Clint Bowyer
The lead for Larson was 9.77 seconds.
Caution two came out to end the stage.
The leaders pitted; Larson was our first followed by Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Harvickc and Truex.
The green came out to start lap 86.
Keselowski had the lead by turn 1, but Larson had it back by the end of the lap. Harvick was third, Kyle Busch fourth, Truex fifth.
Harvick and Keselowski were side by side for second by lap 90. Harvick had the spot on lap 92.
Kyle Busch was looking for third from Keselowski by lap 93; Harvick was looking for the lead. Kyle Busch took third on lap 99.
Truex took fourth on lap 105.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. scrapped the wall and was reporting a tire rub by lap 106. He was 23rd after starting in the rear of the field.
Larson defended his lead and the lead was up to 4 seconds by lap 114; Kyle Busch took second behind.
Green flag stops started on lap 121 with Keselowski among a group who pitted.
Larson pitted on lap 122, along with Harvick.
Kyle Busch made a last second dive to pit; Truex pitted on the same lap, but had a long stop.\ when a lugnut hung up in the rear air gun.
After the stops cycled through, Larson was again in the lead by four seconds; Harvick, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Kenseth were the top five; Truex was sixth.
Busch and Harvick were soon side by side for second. Busch had the spot by lap 131.
Truex was in fifth by lap 133.
The lead for Larson was 3.2 seconds by lap 136.
Truex took fourth on lap 138.
Danica Patrick hit the wall on lap 141 after sliding up into the wall with Kasey Kahne hitting her car from behind; she made a long slow run with heavy damage and came to rest at the entrance to pit road with the car on fire; she stopped and exited the car. Kahne was also done. The third caution of the day waved.
The leaders all pitted after several laps with the pits closed for cleanup. Larson was out first followed by, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Truex and Kenseth.
Green came out to start lap 150.
Larson on the outside had the lead by turn 1; Truex followed to take second Harvick was fighting back to start the next lap. Keselowski was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth.
Truex was able to defend and the gap soon stabilized.
Kyle Busch took fifth on lap 154; he took fourth on lap 155.
Kurt Busch took fifth on lap 158.
The top 10 Stage 2: Larson, Truex, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Logano, Elliott, and Hamlin.
The fourth of the caution of the day came out to end the stage.
The leaders pitted. Truex was out first followed by Kyle Busch, Larson, Harvick and Kenseth.
Green came out to start lap 164.
Truex had the lead by turn 1, Kyle Busch slid into second, Harvick, Logano and Larson were behind.
Larson on took fourth on lap 174.
Busch and Truex were side by side for the lead a lap later.
Kyle Busch was finally able to take the lead on lap 177. He was soon stretching out his lead.
Larson took third on lap 181.
Kenseth had fifth by lap 186. The lead was 2.4 seconds. Keselowski had faded to 11th.
Larson took second on lap 195.
Kyle Busch led Keselowski onto pit road for green flag stops on lap 197.
Truex and Harvick pitted two laps later.
Kyle Busch stayed out and held the lead. Larson, Kenseth, Hamlin and Daniel Suarez were the top five.
Truex on much fresher tires unlapped himself on lap 204.
Larson pitted on lap 214.
Kyle Busch pitted on lap 216.
Truex inherited the lead. It was 4 seconds over Harvick. Logano, Larson and Keselowski followed in the top five.
Kurt Busch spun in turn 3 on lap 227 and caution five came out. It destroyed the pit strategy of Kyle Busch who was trying to run to the end without stopping.
The leaders pitted. Truex was out first followed by Harvick, Kyle Busch and Larson.
The restart came to start lap 233. Truex took the lead; Logano and Harvick were side by side behind. Harvick had second by lap 234. Kyle Busch followed Logano; Larson was fifth.
Kyle Busch finally got by Logano for this on lap 242. The lead for Truex up front was hovering around a half a second.
Kyle Busch was soon the fastest car on the track and catching the front two. Keselowski was seventh.
Truex caught lapped traffic on lap 246.
Busch caught Harvick and passed him from second on lap 249. Busch was soon chipping away at the leaders. Larson was coming into play by lap 253.
With 12 laps to go the top 3 were nose to tail.
The gap was .4 of a second with 10 laps to go.
With five to go the gap was .3 of a second. There was no drama in the closing laps beyond the tension that had carried through the final 1. Truex would go on to win the race and the 2017 NASCAR title.
Behind Busch, Larson was third, Harvick fourth, and Chase Elliott fifth. Logano was sixth, Keselowski seventh, Kenseth eighth, Hamlin ninth and Ryan Newman 10th.
NASCAR now takes a break with the first race of the 2018 NASCAR Cup season coming at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18, 2017.