Since 2002 the state of Florida has savored the privilege of serving as the final host for NASCAR’s lengthy season. Previously frustrated by often poor weather elsewhere in the country throughout November, stock car racing selected the plush environment of South Florida to house these exciting culminating events.
Bringing tens of thousands of visitors into the state, and a traveling circus of accompanying media, Florida both opens and closes the annual racing calendar and the industry has proven a major boost for local tourism. This year was no exception, as the dramatic battle for the Sprint Cup title between Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson was recently decided in the Sunshine State.
During the weekend of November 18, 2012, Homestead-Miami Speedway welcomed the NASCAR world for Ford Championship Weekend. This 65,000 seat facility, located south of Miami, has hosted racing since 1995. The 1.5 mile oval track features high banks, which allow for ample passing between cars and thrilling competition for fans.
Ford Championship Weekend concludes all 3 of NASCAR’s top touring series at Homestead. This year’s action began under the lights on Friday, November 16, when 22 year-old James Buescher captured his first Camping World Truck Series Championship. Trucks got things started with a memorable show, as first-time race winner Cale Gale dramatically passed veteran Kyle Busch on the final lap to seize the checkered flag.
With anticipation building for the battle between Keselowski and Johnson, Saturday brought the Nationwide Series to South Florida. While popular driver Danica Patrick earned a respectable 13th place finish, Sprint Cup driver Regan Smith claimed victory in an exciting race. Yet, it was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. who emerged most gloriously, as the 25 year-old merited a second consecutive Nationwide championship.
Finally, the true fireworks were reserved for Sunday, when rising star Keselowski cemented his arrival at NASCAR’s highest level by winning the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship. Though the 28 year-old benefited from Johnson’s mechanical problems, the Miller Lite driver delivered a solid 15th place finish and demanded respect with 5 wins throughout the grueling year.
Though 2012 witnessed a new star’s emergence, this South Florida track was actually mastered by a legendary driver. Overtaking a strong Kyle Busch late in Sunday’s race, 4 time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon garnered his first career victory at Homestead by winning the Ford EcoBoost 400.
NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend is scheduled to return from November 15 through 17, 2013.
Be sure to check out the above Photo Gallery for an inside look at the scenery, drivers, and race action from this year’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
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