HOMESTEAD RECORD: His 11th-place finish last year was his best finish in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt said, "Homestead has turned into a really good race track. We are able to move all over the track and look for speed in different places. The cars seem to respond to that. The track is very unique even though it looks quite simple. It is really a challenge. Both corners are very different from each other and require the cars to handle differently in each corner. It is a fun place to race."
LOOKING BACK: It was a long, long day for Earnhardt as he battled an ill-handling race car all afternoon. "We just never could find the handle today," said Earnhardt, who finished 21st, a lap down. "We tried a lot of different things, but nothing seemed to really help. It was just one of those days that you have some time."
ETC.: Crew chief Steve Letarte feels the car the team is bringing to Homestead is a "winning one." Earnhardt drove the car to a fourth-place finish at Michigan in August. "It is just a good car, and one that Dale Junior really likes," said Letarte. "We really want to finish the season with a win."
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch admits Homestead-Miami Speedway has not "been great to me. We've had a few races where our runs have been much better than the results have shown. We were running top-10 in 2011 before we got wrecked. I'm hoping we can have another strong car (like at Phoenix) and finish off the season strong. That would give us some momentum for the offseason and for next season."
LOOKING BACK: Busch dominated the race as he led four times for 237 laps. But he struggled on the two final restarts and ended the day in third place. Busch, naturally, wasn't too pleased with the final results. "Guys gave me an awesome car," said Busch. "Just gave it away at the end. Just didn't pick the right lane (on the next-to-last restart). It's my fault. Obviously, having a car that's the class of the field – you expect to win and you're supposed to win. We just basically handed the race on a silver platter to the 29 (Kevin Harvick)"
ETC: The team is optimistic that it will sign Busch to a contract extension during the off-season "I feel good that we'll get it all together," said J. D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. "I'm not going to say anything official, but we feel good about it." Busch will be entering the final year of his contract in 2013. If he does not sign an extension this winter, several teams are expected to talk to Busch about 2014 and beyond.
39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 82 points out of 13th place.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in 10 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman said he had mixed feelings about Homestead being the last race of the season. "People ask me – family, friends, whoever – if I'm looking forward to the off season and I answer yes and no," said Newman. "Yes because my ultimate goal of winning the championship is not within grasp by any means. No because I am running out of races to try and get a pole and win another race. But I really enjoy the off season; I enjoy the 90-plus days or whatever it is of being able to spend time with family and the outdoors and hunting and a little bit of fishing."
LOOKING BACK: As Newman headed for the finish line his car was hit by another and sent spinning into the inside retaining wall. Newman was hit by several more cars as he crossed the finish line backwards. "Well, my car is junk," said Newman. "But that was a good run for our Quicken Loans/U.S Army Chevrolet. Matt (Borland, crew chief) made some good calls today, and the crew did a good job. I'm just really disappointed in the way NASCAR handled that last lap (by not throwing the caution flag). That was not fair to the drivers at all. I took a hard hit. So did several others, and I'm just glad everyone's OK."
ETC.: Newman has won at least one pole position in 11 straight years. "It's an important part of my career to keep that streak alive," said Newman. "We are not in the Shootout as of right now. We don't want to have to sit that race out (matching all the pole winners of 2012) when we get to Daytona in February. So our goal this week is pretty simple – win the pole and the race."
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 93 points out of 13th place
HOMESTEAD RECORD: Edwards finished second last year after leading 119 laps. He won the event in 2008 and 2009. Has not finished worse than eighth in the last seven races.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards said, "It seems like every time we go there (Homestead-Miami Speedway) we have a car that could win. We need to finish this season out with a win for our Fastenal team, and go into 2013 the way we went into 2011 and go for the championship. There would be no better way to kick off the 2013 season than with a win at Homestead."
LOOKING BACK: Edwards summed up his day best when he said, "we were very fortunate to finish 11th because we just struggled all day. We hung on really hard to stay on the lead lap and that kind of saved our day. There at the end, I've never seen a finish like that – ever. It was just chaos."
ETC.: Edwards can't wait for the 2013 season to begin. "We're very excited about everything happening right now at Roush Fenway," said Edwards. "We've got a lot of things happening right now, and we're building the best team we can for next year. We believe we're going to be championship contenders again in 2013, just like we were in 2011."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 118 points out of 13th place.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: His 16th-place finish a year ago is his best finish in six starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "It's always bittersweet when the season ends. I feel like we have a lot left to accomplish, but it will be nice to have a restart for next year, too. Ultimately, you want to end the year on a high note to carry into the off season."
LOOKING BACK: Menard ran as high as second in the first 166 laps before running into handling problems during the middle portions of the race. But he rallied in the final 75 laps to finish ninth despite being involved in the last-lap accident. "We had a pretty solid Rheem/Menards Chevrolet throughout the first half of the race, but made the wrong decision on a couple of adjustments and lost track position," said Menard. "We were able to make it back into the top 10 before the checkered flag. It was a crazy end to the race. Want to thank the 27 team for a great car this weekend."
ETC.: Gil Martin, the crew chief on the winning car driven by Kevin Harvick, gave a lot of credit for Harvick's victory to Menard and crew chief Slugger Labbe. "I just want to say one thing – this victory is a big team deal thanks to Paul Menard and Slugger (Labbe, the crew chief on the 27 car)," said Martin in the post-race press conference. "We have started working together so hard here in the last month, and I want to put out a big thanks to those guys because they've done a great job as far as working teammates." Added Harvick, "halfway through practice we decided to put in everything on the 27 car, and that's really the way it's supposed to work. We put it in, and adjusted to my driving style."
20 JOEY LOGANO, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 156 points out of 13th place.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: His best finish in three starts is 19th.
LOOKING AHEAD: Logano said, "Man, this is the end of an era this weekend at Homestead. It will be crazy to climb into that 20 car one last time on Sunday morning and know that it's the last time I will be behind the wheel of that car. It will be sad to leave them, but I will have lasting friendships with a lot of them. The best thing we can do this weekend is go out there and try to go out with a bang and give them a win in my last race in the Home Depot Toyota." Logano is moving to Penske Racing in 2013.
LOOKING BACK: Logano was running sixth with just over a lap to go when Jeff Gordon deliberated wrecked Clint Bowyer. Logano had nowhere to go as he slammed into the two spinning cars. As a result, Logano ended the day in 27th place. "There really isn't anything to say about that," said an angry Logano. "We had a top-five finish just taken away from us because another driver wanted to settle a score and didn't think about the other people that would get caught up in it. We had a good car. By the end of the day, we had it as good as it had been all day long. I just feel bad for my guys and Dollar General. They deserved a lot better."
ETC.: Logano was still livid after changing clothes. He went on his twitter account to express his displeasure with Gordon. "When I was young I thought Jeff Gordon was the best driver," tweeted Logano. "Now I've lost a lot of respect for him. Very dumb." A few hours later Logano tweeted "To all the 24 fans, I am not disrespecting a 4-time champ. A 4-time champ disrespected me today."
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford