Mayfield 10th, Kahne 16th in season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 20, 2021) – The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway didn’t paint a complete picture, but it did yield a glimpse of the potential the changes announced earlier this week at Evernham Motorsports and partially instituted for Sunday’s race could create during the 2006 season.
A full assessment won’t come until next year, but there were several positive signals that the teams can build on during the winter in preparation for the season-opener at Daytona in February. For example, both Evernham Motorsports teams were running in or near the top 10 throughout the 267-lap race. Both Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne appeared on course to post top-10 finishes for the first time since they had top 10s at Richmond in September.
“They look very promising,” said Ray Evernham of the changes. “The teams worked well together this weekend. We had both cars running in the top 10 with a chance to finish in the top 10. One car did. I think it’s certainly something to look forward to next year.”
“I felt good about the changes when Ray told me what we were going to do,” Mayfield said. “I didn’t know how this week was going to go, but I felt good about the concept and the change from the beginning. Now, I’m even more pumped up about it.”
The two teams opted for different strategies during a late-race caution. One proved to be a bit better decision than the other. Kahne was running sixth at the time, Mayfield 12th. Team Director Chris Andrews elected to go with a two-tire stop for Mayfield. Kenny Francis, Kahne’s team director, opted for a four-tire stop with minor adjustments. As it turned out, most of the leaders opted for two tires. The strategy earned Mayfield a 10th-place finish. Kahne restarted 13th, but could not reclaim the track position and settled for 16th at the checkered flag.
Kahne started third in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, touring the 1.5-mile track in 30.700 seconds at 176.039 mph. The No. 9 Dodge stayed in the top 10 through the first 216 laps of the event. He ran as high as third and was running sixth when the only green-flag cycle of pit stops were made between laps 220-228. When the cycle was complete, Kahne was eighth and worked his way up to sixth when the eighth and final caution appeared on lap 252.
Francis elected to go with a four-tire stop for the 10-lap shootout to the checkered flag. Track position and lap traffic thwarted any charge Kahne tried to make.
“The finish doesn’t totally reflect the good things that happened in the race,” said Kahne. “We were competitive. We didn’t have to make a lot of adjustments trying to catch up with the track. We had some great pit stops. The car could run high or low on the track. We still have a lot of work to do, but we got an early jump on things this weekend. I’m ready for a little vacation, but I’m looking forward to Daytona.”
Kahne finished 23rd in the final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, 142 points out of 20th.
Mayfield started 13th in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger with a time of 30.939 seconds at 174.537 mph. He moved into the top 10 on lap 171 with his Dew Crew aiding the cause with quick pit work. Mayfield was sixth as the team prepared for a green-flag pit stop on lap 230.
Andrews elected not to gamble on two tires, at least at that time. He would get the opportunity to play that hand a few laps later. This time, it was a four-tire stop with slight adjustments. Mayfield was running 12th when the green-flag cycle ended.
The eighth caution on lap 252 opened the door for Andrews to play the two-tire hand. Mayfield was back on the track in the top 10, which opened the door for his best finish since Dover in September.
Mayfield finished ninth in the final Chase for the Championship standings and will make his second consecutive appearance on stage at the annual Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in two weeks.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Mayfield said. “The first time together, we came up with a top 10 finish. That’s great. They worked great together, and I’m excited about next year. My car was good the whole race, and that’s all you can ask for. I can’t wait for next year. This is the first time we’ve been together, but I think we’re going to be real good next year.”