With sparks flying as the two trucks raced to the finish line, Cale Gale beat Kyle Busch by .014 seconds to win Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Behind the dramatic race to the checkers, James Buescher rolled to his first series championship, securing the title with a 13th-place run.
In a championship battle that generated little drama until the closing laps — when rookie Ty Dillon made a last-ditch move — Buescher drove a methodical race en route to the title. After Dillon wrecked with two laps left in regulation distance, Buescher finished six points ahead of series runner-up Timothy Peters, who ran eighth Friday.
Joey Coulter finished third in the season finale, followed by Nelson Piquet Jr. and Miguel Paludo.
Gale claimed the first victory of his career in a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the race six laps beyond its scheduled distance of 134 laps. As he and Busch exited the final turn, Gale pinched Busch’s No. 18 Toyota against the outside wall, taking the checkered flag by a nose in a shower of sparks.
“I got drove into the fence,” Busch said. “That’s it. You saw it.”
Gale didn’t disagree.
“It’s not my style, but I knew that, if I could pinch him a little bit, I could get the advantage, and pretty much, that’s what I was thinking at that point,” Gale said. “A guy like me, it’s my first opportunity to come down for the checkered flag in a NASCAR race.
“Kyle’s a racer. He’s been in the same position I’ve been in. We’ve all seen hungry racers get an opportunity and take it. That’s what you have to do in this sport. He owes me, but I saw the checkers in the final race. That’s all I can say…
“When it comes down to the final straightaway to win at Homestead in the last race, and your first NASCAR win, I believe anybody would do it.”
Buescher started 17th, 14 spots behind Dillon (who entered the race 12 points behind the leader), but the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet moved briskly toward the front, working his way up to eighth by the time debris from Bryan Silas’ contact with the outside wall in Turn 4 caused the second caution on Lap 43.
Buescher had dropped to 12th, the last car on the lead lap, when NASCAR called the third caution on Lap 104, again for debris. He held that spot after pit stops under the yellow and gained one spot to 11th before Max Gresham’s spin with 10 laps left brought out caution No. 4.
After a restart on Lap 130, Dillon charged into second place, 11 positions ahead of Buescher, but contact between the trucks of Kyle Larson and Dillon wrecked both as they fought for second and also collected the Dodge of Ryan Blaney.
Buescher pitted for tires after a 10-minute, 40-second stoppage and came home 13th after the two-lap sprint to the finish.
“Everybody on this team has done a fantastic job,” said Buescher, who won four times on the way to the title. “We had a shot at it last year, but we came into this year swinging and did a lot of work over the offseason. It definitely paid off. This is definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever done in racing.”
Despite the wreck that took him out of contention and dropped him to fourth in the standings behind Coulter, Dillon was philosophical when he talked about the final race.
“We just had to go out there and win the race and make something happen,” said Dillon, the series rookie of the year. “I just tried to make something happen there at the end, I got to second, and the points were looking good.
“We just missed that championship by a little bit, but I’m all right with everything that played out. We were going for it. We almost had it. We were trying to hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth and almost did it. But it’s all right. We’ll be back next year, fighting harder than ever.”