HOMESTEAD, Fla. ? The results were varied, but each had one thing in common ? it was their final start with their respective teams.
Martin Truex Jr. wrapped up his final effort at Michael Waltrip Racing with a fourth-place finish in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kevin Harvick finished 10th in the No. 29 for Richard Childress Racing; Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas Racing) was 17th; Juan Pablo Montoya (Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) was 18th and Mark Martin (SHR) 19th.
Kurt Busch, exiting Furniture Row and headed to SHR, was 21st; Jeff Burton (RCR) 23rd; Ken Schrader (FAS Lane) 34th; and Dave Blaney (Tommy Baldwin Racing) 38th.
Truex Jr., headed to Furniture Row, scored his best finish since a third at Atlanta earlier this season. Finishing 16th in the standings in his final season as driver of the No. 56 NAPA-sponsored Toyota, Truex Jr. saw his season turned upside down when MWR was penalized for actions in this year's race at Richmond, which was the final race before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup began.
One of the 12 Chase drivers when the Richmond race ended, penalties meted out eventually resulted in the Mayetta, N.J., native missing what was eventually a 13-driver Chase field.
Sunday's result was a pleasant ending to a trying Chase.
"Obviously we didn't have the speed most of the race and really worked hard on the car to get the balance right, get the handling right," Truex Jr. said.
"I wish we could have gotten it figured out a little bit earlier, but proud of my guys and kind of the end of great year run for us. I just can't thank all these guys enough ... everybody that made it possible the last four years."
While Truex, Harvick, Newman and Busch will continue to compete full time, the others will either scale back (as in the case of Burton), or stop competing in Cup. Montoya is moving to IndyCar while Martin and Schrader have ended memorable Cup careers. Blaney's future is uncertain, the announcement coming earlier in the weekend that he won't be back with Tommy Baldwin Racing next year.
Burton, who has yet to announce his '14 plans, was one of a handful of drivers that fell off the lead lap early when pitting only to see the caution come out shortly afterward.
"We were running 14th there, we put a set of tires on and got so freaking loose that we literally ate all the rubber of the right rear tire," Burton said of his team's early struggles.
"When we pitted, we put a big adjustment in it and then it plowed. So that set of tires had something about it. We adjusted for that and that got us behind. Then we had to try to get a (free pass) ... ended up getting back on the lead lap in good shape."
But as the race wore on, he said, "we were just stupid tight."
Busch, in his first, and only, full season with Furniture Row Racing, had a major impact, putting the Colorado-based single-car team in the Chase against tall odds. But the team managed only three top-five finishes in the Chase, finishing 10th in the final standings.
"This was not the way we wanted to end the season," the 2004 Cup champion said. "We gave it our best effort, but we just didn't have the handling to run up front.
"I really wanted to give these ... guys a strong finish. I am disappointed right now, but tomorrow I am going to look back ... and be very proud of what we were able to accomplish."
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