Joe Gibbs won the first race, the last race and more than a dozen in between. His most dominating season in 28 years as a NASCAR team owner culminated with his fifth Cup Series championship.
This one had to be more special than the others.
Gibbs dedicated the season to his late son, J.D., who died in January after a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. Joe Gibbs Racing responded with 19 victories in 36 races — a record for NASCAR's modern era — and another title for the three-time Super Bowl-winning champion who still goes by Coach.
Kyle Busch put Coach atop the racing world Sunday by winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was the second Cup championship in five years for Busch and Gibbs, who also won titles in 2000 (Dale Jarrett), 2002 (Tony Stewart) and 2005 (Stewart).
Gibbs felt like J.D. had a hand in making the latest one happen.
“I think he's definitely a part of this," Gibbs said. “I miss him so much. ... It’s kind of hard to put in words. But it’s been special and different, and it was great to finish it up the way we did tonight.”
J.D. Gibbs was a part-time driver and over-the-wall crew member when he first started working for his famous father. He made 13 NASCAR national series starts between 1998 and 2002. He stepped away from JGR in 2015 after he was diagnosed with "conditions related to brain function."
The final race he was able to travel to was Busch's first Cup Series championship. Gibbs was 49 and co-chairman at JGR when he died.
Joe Gibbs had three chances to win the title, with Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. locking up three of the four spots in the championship field. His former NFL team, the Washington Redskins, wished Gibbs and his three drivers luck with a message on the video boards before their game against the New York Jets on Sunday.
Hamlin and Truex were widely considered the most likely title contenders to win it all for Gibbs. Hamlin won last week at Phoenix and had all the momentum, and Truex had a series-high seven victories in 2019.
But both of them had pit-road issues that proved costly.
Truex's crew mixed up the right- and left-side front tires on lap 120, causing steering issues and forcing the 2017 series champion back to pit road. Hamlin’s crew put too large a piece of tape on the air opening to his engine, causing it to overheat and forcing him to make an unscheduled stop.
Both of them fell a lap back.
Truex recovered and finished second for the second straight year.
"To get here is so difficult," Truex said. "To win seven races is so difficult. Successful, but at the same time disappointing."
Hamlin's error came later in the race. He dropped from third to 19th because of the stop with 46 laps remaining. He battled back, but didn't have enough time to make up for the error and finished 10th.
"Certainly we got a little aggressive there and it cost us," Hamlin said. "It just didn't work out."
It did for Gibbs, though.
The organization broke the modern-era record (since 1972) for wins by the same team in a single season. Hendrick Motorsports, with a lineup that featured Cup champions Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears and Busch, won 18 races and the championship (Johnson) in 2007.
"It's just a great year," Hamlin said. "We won 19 races as an organization. That's the most in this era. That's a good thing. In the world where we just keep getting more common with everything — common pit guns, common this, common that — JGR continues to set itself apart, and that's the people and the effort that they're putting in. I think that it really says a lot about the organization, no doubt."
JGR won the big one — the season-opening Daytona 500 with Hamlin — and the more-important finale with Busch.
"It's a thrill for us," Gibbs said. "J.D. spent his entire professional life building our race team. This whole year I think is just a tribute to him. I think everybody saw the Daytona 500, everything that's happened this year. I know the Lord had his hand in what has taken place. I believe J.D. had a great view of it."
Denny Hamlin's championship run was foiled by the tale of the tape.
Hamlin's air of confidence came across the team radio when he boasted the race "ain't (bleepin') over" as he made a late push to the lead.
Except it was, his Toyota stuck on pit road steaming like a kettle because a foot-long slab of black tape slapped over the grille had caused the No. 11 Toyota to overheat and forced an unscheduled pit stop. Hamlin dropped from third to 19th because of the stop with 46 laps remaining and fell a lap down.
His first NASCAR Cup title has to wait.
"I really just wanted a chance to go after them after that pit stop," Hamlin said. "But with the overheating, I couldn't. I was going to blow up. I had to make the right call and try and unlap ourselves. Try for a caution. Try for a miracle."
Hamlin's season was sensational from the start, opening with an emotional Daytona 500 victory that he dedicated to the late son of team owner Joe Gibbs. He rebounded from a winless 2018 to six wins this season, a career renaissance orchestrated by rookie Cup crew chief Chris Gabehart.
Gabehart took the blame for the aggressive aerodynamic call for the tape that crushed Hamlin's race Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With Michael Jordan rooting him on from the track, Hamlin finished 10th and had the worst finish of the four championship drivers. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch won the race and his second career Cup title. JGR driver Martin Truex Jr., who had his own pit-road mishap, was second, and Stewart-Haas Racing contender Kevin Harvick was fourth.
Hamlin stared into the sky with his back against the car door when Gabehart walked over for a big hug and private chat. Hamlin smiled a bit and nodded as he listened to Gabehart's words. But nothing could console either man over a season that collapsed in the pits over a small mistake.
"We beat ourselves right here, just trying to get too much because that's what you do in a championship race," Gabehart said. "We were just trying to pull off a really difficult play and didn't get it done. Unfortunately, as good as our car was at the end, I don't know if it needed it anyway."
Hamlin had been the sentimental favorite to win the championship. The other three contenders are former champions and Hamlin had dedicated the season to team co-chairman J.D. Gibbs. Gibbs had discovered Hamlin in the early 2000s and the (hashtag)DoItForJD slogan was emblazoned across the back of his Toyota. He was 49 when he died in January from complications of a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease.
Hamlin had reason to feel good on pit road before the race. Hamlin gathered his oldest and closest friends around him for a picture at the 11 car and they shouted out the (hashtag)LFG catchphrase he's been using in his social media posts.
Hamlin was buttoned up in Miami in previous championship attempts but spent this week living his best life as usual and seemed to enjoy the pressure packed race weekend. Hamlin clutched his youngest daughter, Molly, in his arms and leaned down to give his oldest, Taylor, a kiss.
He had an A-lister in the house with his good friend Jordan, who owns the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, back to support Hamlin like he did in the 2014 finale during the JGR driver’s last run at the title.
Air Jordan still has a 6-0 edge in championships over Hamlin.
"We go way back," Jordan said during an interview with NBC Sports. "He's a season-ticket holder at the Hornets. I spend a lot of time playing golf with him, and obviously I'm a big NASCAR fan, so I came out to support him."
Hamlin turns 39 on Monday and organized a big bash for after the race. It's more a birthday party now than a championship celebration.
"I told you at the beginning of the week we're going to celebrate our year," Hamlin said. "Our year was fantastic in every way you can think of, and it just didn't pan out in one race in our favor."
JGR might need some extra pit practice before 2020.
Truex had his bid for a second Cup championship derailed when the No. 19 Toyota was forced to pit after his team mixed up the right- and left-side front tires on a stop earlier in the 400-mile race. Truex had the dominant car early and could never make up the costly, lost ground.
"I've never had that happen," Truex said. "I don't even know what to say. It doesn't drive good with the left front on the right front, though, I can tell you that."
Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens had the flawless run late under the lights that the other JGR drivers failed to grasp.
“When you get here this is a lot of pressure and it's human beings trying to get this done,” Gibbs said. “You can always have something be a mistake.”
All 16 participants of the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments 2020 have been confirmed following the conclusion of the Pre-Qualifying Tournaments in Asia-Oceania, Americas and Africa.
The 16 teams will contend for 12 Olympic spots next February through tournaments held in Belgium (Ostend), China (Foshan), France (Bourges) and Serbia (Belgrade).
China, South Korea, Japan and Australia progressed from Asia-Oceania Pre-Qualifying Tournaments. Mozambique and Nigeria claimed the two spots for Africa, while the Americas tournaments witnessed the United States, Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico advance.
Top six finishers of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 have earned direct qualification for the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
The 16 teams into the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Japan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
The draw ceremony will take place at the FIBA headquarters on Nov. 27, 2019, with top three teams from each tournament, consisting of four teams apiece, qualifying for the Olympics.
FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 champions USA and the Olympic Games hosts Japan will play in the qualification tournaments, but will advance through to the Tokyo Olympics regardless of their results.
Uganda Cranes defeated Malawi 2-0 on Sunday in a Group B match of the on-going 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier.
Emmanuel Okwi scored the first goal on 29 minutes before Fahad Bayo netted the second on 66 minutes.
The visitors who beat South Sudan 1-0 in their opening match last week tried to get some passes together but could not beat Uganda's defenders.
Malawi's Gabadinho Mhango was yellow carded for rough play.
The win sees Uganda pick four points after their goalless away draw away to Burkina Faso on Wednesday.
"I am happy that we have comfortably won the first game at home in this campaign. The defenders have also been very disciplined today," said Uganda coach Jonathan Mckinstry after the match.
Malawi's head coach Meck Mwase told Xinhua that they failed to catch the few scoring opportunities in the first half.
"We shall continue building the team and wait for the other qualifying matches that take place next year," added Mwase.
Uganda are chasing a third straight qualification for the AFCON after featuring at the 2017 and 2019 tournaments in Gabon and Egypt respectively.
A 27-member Bangladesh swimming team including 22 swimmers and five officials left Dhaka for Nepal on Sunday to take part in the 13th South Asian Games (formerly the SAF Games), that will be held from December 1-10 in Kathmandu and Pokhran.
The swimming squad will hold a 15-day high altitude training session there ahead of the main competition, said Bangladesh Swimming Federation in a press release on Sunday.
The swimmers made courtesy callsd with President of Bangladesh Swimming Federation and Chief of Bangladesh Navy Admiral Aurangzeb Chowdhury at the Bangladesh Navy HQ in Dhaka on Sunday morning before their departure.
The 13 male swimmers are: Mahfizur Rahman, Mahmudunnabi Nahid, Asif Reza, Juwel Ahmed, Sukumar Rajbangshi, Mamunur Rashid, Nur Alam, Faysal Ahmed, Polash Chowdhury, Jamrul Mia, Ariful Islam, Shariful Islam and Anik Islam.
The nine female swimmers are: Sonia Akhter Tumpa, Soniya Khatun, Suraiya Akhtar, Nayema Akhtar, Chumma Khatun, Romana Akhtar, Khadija Akhtar, Mukti Khatun and Junaina Ahmed.
Sonia Akhter Tumpa, who bagged two bronze medals in last SA Games in 2016 in India, said, “I will compete in the 50m and 200m butterfly and 100m freestyle and I do hope I will do well in 200m.”
Country’s promising swimmer Junaina Ahmed will fly from the UK to join the team on November 29 and will compete in eight swimming events.
The British-born Bangladeshi swimmer set two new national records in the 200m women’s freestyle and 200m women’s breaststroke in the 29th National Swimming, Diving and Water Polo Competition held in March this year, and is probably Bangladesh’s best chance of a medal in the pool.