Miami Checkered and Black Flags

M.Truex Jr.

MRN's Pete Pistone says the final racing weekend of the year produced a number of positive and challenging stories. (Photo: Getty Images)

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The final racing weekend of the year produced a number of positive and challenging stories.

Checkered Flags 

Martin Truex Jr.
A slam-dunk after Truex won the Ford EcoBoost 400 and walked off with this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. It was a stellar season that saw the Furniture Row Racing driver accumulate eight wins and rack up a boatload of regular-season, stage and playoff points. A feel-good story capped off by a thrilling drive to Victory Lane for Truex.

Kyle Larson
Whether he let Truex and Kyle Busch fight it out for the lead and title or not, Larson was back to his old self at Homestead. His string of DNFs that ended his playoff and championship hopes were in the rear-view mirror after a solid Miami performance.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He ended his full-time Cup Series career with a whimper, at least on the track. But a 25th-place finish wasn’t the story. His impact on the sport and his ability to be a regular guy while his life skyrocketed into super stardom will always be part of Earnhardt’s legacy. What better way for "Junior" to celebrate his career than with a cooler of beer on pit road with his buddies?

William Byron
His battle with JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler lap after lap for the XFINITY Series championship was classic racing. Sadler ultimately fell short and Byron proved he's ready to take another step up the ladder into the Cup Series in 2018.

Homestead-Miami Speedway
Save me your suggestions for moving the championship weekend and season-ending events away from Homestead. The weather is ideal, something most of the country can’t say in mid-November. But the racing is even better. Homestead isn’t just the track the produces the best 1.5-mile racing, it's close to the top of the list for all tracks.

Black Flags 

Danica Patrick
Her full-time NASCAR career came to an end in a fiery crash after she hit the wall and was then collected by Kasey Kahne. Patrick will start next year’s Daytona 500 and then hang up her NASCAR helmet, taking with her exposure and identity of the sport.

Jimmie Johnson
He was nowhere near the Johnson that won seven championships pretty much all season. His miserable Homestead performance was a microcosm of his struggles when he qualified poorly, hit the wall and limped home to a 27th-place finish.

Ryan Blaney
Many thought the Wood Brothers Racing driver might be a spoiler in Sunday’s race for the checkered flag. Unfortunately, Blaney’s final start for the storied organization before moving on to Team Penske in 2018 ended with an uncompetitive 29th-place finish.

Kurt Busch
His win in the Daytona 500 to start the season feels like a million miles away. Busch qualified eighth but had a problem late that took him out of the race and to a very disappointing 22nd-place finish.

Championship Drivers Complaining
News flash to the four drivers in every Championship 4 event at Homestead: Yes, they are trying to win a title but there are others on the track trying to race for position as well. The idea that drivers should not put up a fight and move over is ridiculous. Sure, respect what’s happening in the bigger picture. But Joey Logano had every right to battle Kyle Busch hard for that spot in the closing laps, as anyone else did trying to get the best finish possible. Busch also should have remembered that the guy he punched on pit road back in the spring was the same guy he wanted to give him a break on Sunday.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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