LOOKING BACK: After getting knocked into the wall as he and Clint Bowyer battled for fifth place with only seven laps to go, Gordon limped around the track until he had a chance to deliberate wreck Bowyer – which he did with just over a lap remaining. Moments after Gordon climbed out of his car he was attacked by a member of Bowyer's crew to trigger a fight that involved both teams. It took NASCAR several minutes to break up the fight. Gordon escaped unhurt. He ended the day in 30th place. "Things have gotten escalated over the year and I have just had it," said Gordon after meeting with NASCAR officials. "Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me and he got into me on the back straightaway, pretty much ruined out day. I have had it, was fed up with it and got him back."
ETC.: NASCAR announced Monday it was fining Gordon $100,000 and docking him 25 points which dropped him to 11th in the standings and put him on probation for the remainder of the season. "I take responsibility for my actions on the race track," said Gordon in a statement released by Hendrick Motorsports after the penalty was revealed. "I accept NASCAR's decision and look forward to ending the season on a high note at Homestead." NASCAR could have parked Gordon, but decided against this action. "Following a thorough analysis of the actions that took place during Sunday's race at Phoenix, we have issued penalties based upon our review," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "We consider the penalties appropriate and those involved understand our decision and we expect them to abide by them."
88 DALE EARNHARDT, JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 160 points out of first place.
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