The four drivers competing for NASCAR’s championship are lined up and ready to go for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kyle Busch (third), Jeff Gordon (fifth), Martin Truex Jr. (11th) and Kevin Harvick (13th) will start behind pole-winner and non-Chase driver Denny Hamlin, who had a final-round time of 176.655 mph.
“It’s good to have our teammate on the pole,” said Busch of Hamlin, who also races for Joe Gibbs Racing. “We’ll learn from that when we got back and talk to Denny.”
Gordon struggled during the first round, when he was 18th fastest. He improved on that in the second round (sixth).
Harvick said he wasn’t concerned about his relatively slow run.
“We haven’t qualified this year as well as last year,” said Harvick, the 2014 champion. “We’re not too far outside of the box.”
Hamlin jokingly said he would welcome being the winner of Gordon’s final race (he is retiring after this season).
“No disrespect to him, but how awesome would it be to do that?” Hamlin said. “He could finish third – behind (me) and Kyle.”
▪ Hamlin has been racing since September with a torn ACL in his right knee. He said Friday he would have surgery on the knee in early December.
▪ Wood Brothers Racing announced it will run a full Cup schedule in 2016 with Ryan Blaney continuing to drive the No. 21 Ford.
The Wood Brothers team has run a limited schedule in recent seasons. The Woods are the oldest existing team in NASCAR and have 98 victories since 1950.
▪ Chris Buescher carries an 18-point lead into Saturday’s final Xfinity Series race at Homestead (2:45 p.m., NBC). Buescher’s lead over 2014 champion Chase Elliott appears to be secure, but he’s not feeling that way.
“If I told you there was no pressure, I’d be lying to you,” Buescher said. “We’re handling it as best as we know how. I think I’m a pretty laid-back and calm person. I can handle that part of it. We can handle the pressure at this point. We want to be here. It’s not by accident.”
Qualifying for the Xfinity race is at 11:15 a.m. Saturday.
▪ Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Black Friday Blowout sale is set for Nov. 27 from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. Qualifying buyers of race tickets, pit passes or souvenirs will be able to take drives around the track from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.