Sunday 21st November 2004
A new era in NASCAR commenced as the first Chase for the NEXTEL Cup came to its exciting conclusion. The new 10-race “playoff” system saw five drivers mathematically eligible for the championship in the final race, the Ford 400 at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson had won four of the past five races, and four-time champion Jeff Gordon was also in the hunt. Through consistency, Kurt Busch held an 18-point lead over Johnson in the championship standings, and Gordon was 3 points behind in third. A caution-filled event went down the final lap before the championship was decided. On lap 93, points leader Kurt Busch had a tire problem with the right rear, and was forced to the pits. Just as he was about to enter the pit area, the entire wheel flung off of the car, and rolled on the track. Busch sweved and just barely missed crashing into the pit divider wall. A caution flag came out, and it allowed Busch to stay on the lead lap. In the waning laps, Busch worked his way back up to 5th place, while his closest championship contenders, Johnson and Gordon were running 2nd–3rd. A green-white-checker finish saw Greg Biffle win the race. Kurt Busch held on to finish 5th, and clinched the championship by 8 points, the second closest margin in NASCAR history.