BUSCH: Homestead: 2004 final round preview, highlights

Truex's title one of many 2004 series highlights DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2004) -- Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) clinched the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series championship last week at Darlington after a season-long battle with...

Truex's title one of many 2004 series highlights

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2004) -- Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) clinched the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series championship last week at Darlington after a season-long battle with Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet).

But that doesn't mean there is a lack of drama connected to the finale. There is still a race to be won Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, along with final places in the Top 10 to be secured.

And here are some of the great moments from the 2004 season:

Truex's title ... The former NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series driver from Mayetta, N.J., was hand-picked by two-time series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. to run for Chance 2 Motorsports following a test session. Truex made an immediate impact this year by grabbing the Busch Pole in the season-opener at Daytona, and although his boss won that event, Truex went on to secure a first full-time season of highlights similar to Earnhardt's in 1998 -- a series title, six wins to Earnhardt's seven, seven Busch Poles to Earnhardt's three, 17 top fives to 16 and 25 top 10s to 22. Truex is the 18th driver to win a NASCAR Busch Series championship.

Really a rookie? ... Kyle Busch arguably has had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NASCAR history. Busch, who will finish second in the standings --his rivalry with Truex reminded some of the NASCAR Busch Series competition between Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth -- comes into Homestead with five wins, tying the series Raybestos Rookie mark. His 17 top fives established a new record while his 21 top-10 finishes are tied for first among rookies all-time. He's collected five poles, another record, and his second-place finish set another standard; so have his overall points, laps led and races led. When the season ends, he will have collected the most prize money by a rookie driver.

Bliss' "move of the season" results in first series win ... Mike Bliss (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) not only brought the crowd at Lowe's Motor Speedway to its feet on Oct. 15 with his daring middle slot, three-wide frontstretch pass of Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson on Lap 182, but held on for his first NASCAR Busch Series victory. Bliss has since secured a Busch Pole and two more top-five finishes en route to a strong finish and his second consecutive Top 10 ranking. Bliss also posted a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Richmond in September, the race that set the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" lineup. It was the best finish by a NASCAR Busch Series regular in a premier-series event in 22 years.

Biffle's double-double ... Greg Biffle (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford) can become the first driver in NASCAR history to run a full schedule in both the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series if he competes in both events at Homestead. Biffle, the only driver to win a title in the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will finish third in the standings, and can tie for the most wins this season (six) with a victory Saturday.

15 different winners, six first-time winners ... Nearly half of this season's races produced different winners as 15 drivers won events. Martin Truex (six), Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle (five each), Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray (three apiece) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two) were multiple winners.

Six drivers visited Victory Lane for the first time in the NASCAR Busch Series -- Truex, Busch, Mike Bliss, Jason Leffler, Robby Gordon (No. 55 Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet) and Mike Wallace (No. 4 GEICO Chevrolet).

Influx of new drivers refreshes series ... While drivers such as Kyle Busch and Jason Leffler move on to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series next season, a group of young, talented drivers are ready to enter the NASCAR Busch Series. Some have already made their mark, such as Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Dodge) with two top-10 finishes in his first four series appearances; Paul Menard (No. 11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet), who won the Busch Pole at Kansas and has seven top-20 finishes in succession; the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of J.J. Yeley (four top 10s in 17 races) and Denny Hamlin (eighth in his first series start last week at Darlington). Other newcomers this season include Aaron Fike (No. 43 Ollie's Bargain Outlet/Curb Dodge), Blake Mallory (No. 28 Matrix System Automotive Ford), Blake Feese, Boston Reid, and Brandon Miller.

And ... Legendary NASCAR names such as Mark Martin, the all-time leader in NASCAR Busch Series wins (45), Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and Sterling Marlin made their returns to the series during this season. ... Joe Balash was named NASCAR Busch Series Director in July. ... Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) set a new series mark for races where he was running at the finish, 72 and counting. He will be making his final run in the No. 2 before moving to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next season. ... Jason Keller (No. 22 Miller High Life Ford) and David Green (No. 37 Timber Wolf Chevrolet) were the only two drivers to have appeared in the NASCAR Busch Series Top 10 the entire season. ... Tubby Smith, coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team -- NCAA champions in 1998 -- announced he will venture into NASCAR Busch Series ownership as a partner with NEMCO Motorsports next season. Jamie Mosely will be the driver.


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