In a season of hard knocks, it's only fitting that one of our tire changers got knocked out of Sunday's season finale. Chuck Efaw, the No. 83 rear tire changer, is okay, though.
After getting clipped by Kevin Harvick's car during a pit stop on lap 187, Efaw spent the night in a nearby hospital and is scheduled to be released today and travel back to his home in North Carolina. A CAT scan showed that he has three avulsion fractures of his lumbar spine, which are stable and should require no surgical procedures.
He'll have the off-season to mend, as will we after a 2010 season that saw so many ups, downs - and drivers.
However, the Homestead 400 gave a glimpse of what could - and we expect will - be in 2011. Five races into his stay at Red Bull Racing Team, Kasey Kahne won the pole Friday - our eighth overall and his second at Homestead, fourth of the season and 20th of his career - and was second fastest in final practice.
The speed carried over to the first 102 laps of the race. Kahne led the first four laps and had a top-three car before he restarted third on lap 103. Then, the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota slipped a position, and then another.
"Wow," Kahne reported, "it's so different. The track bar (adjustment) made it so loose." A caution waved 31 laps later with Kahne running 14th.
So the team went to work, and after a round of wholesale changes Kahne restarted 30th with 75 laps to go. Not long after, he pitted consecutive times under caution and stretched his stuff to cycle into the lead when the caution crew chief Jimmy Elledge needed finally waved with 24 laps remaining. Kahne hit pit road, returned in eighth and rode out the distance to finish sixth, which backed up two top 15s at Martinsville and Texas.
"Jimmy Elledge had good pit strategy right there to finish where we finished," he said, "considering we fought a loose condition with not much rear grip for a good portion of the race. We've got work to do in the off-season."
Teammate Scott Speed had an uphill climb after starting 41st. The big break came when the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota got the free pass under the fifth caution, and after the next stop he restarted 25th inside 100 laps remaining. Speed drove to as high as 16th before a slowing No. 56 car held him up and caused him to lose a few positions.
Speed hung onto the top 20 until the final caution flag waved after he made a green-flag stop with 26 laps to go. He took the wave-around with several other cars and finished 23rd.
"We had a good run in Miami," Speed said. "Got unlucky when the caution came out at the end and we had pitted and others didn't, but overall it's a good way to end the 2010 season."
The No. 83 had six drivers this season: Brian Vickers, Casey Mears, Mattias Ekstrom, Reed Sorenson, Boris Said and Kahne - and finished 25th in the car owner standings. The No. 82 finished 31st, and Kahne ended up 20th and Speed 30th in driver points.
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