As the NASCAR season draws to a close, today's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks some important lasts: The last time the current Sprint Cup Series car will race, the last time a Dodge might appear in NASCAR and the last time for some longtime driver/team/sponsor pairings.
Here's a closer look at some of the goodbyes we'll see today:
The Car of Tomorrow
Goodbye, COT. The clunky, homogenous vehicle introduced in 2007 will run its last race today – and few fans will be sad to see it go.
While the car achieved its primary purpose – safety – the racing in the last five years has been less than stellar. The COT seemed even more aero-dependent than its predecessor and passing became more difficult. With bumpers that lined up, the COT also created two-car drafts at Daytona and Talladega.
With NASCAR's stylish new Gen Six cars set to debut in 2013 – vehicles that are manufacturer-specific – the COT will soon be a distant memory.
Goodbye, Dodge. The potential championship-winning manufacturer may never run another NASCAR race after today.
Penske Racing wanted a long-term deal and Dodge wasn't willing to commit at the time, so Penske decided to leave for Ford. It was a huge blow to Dodge and, unable to find another quality team to support for 2013, the manufacturer will depart from NASCAR.
While officials left the door open for a return, it would be difficult to find a team to build both Dodge bodies and motors (Penske did both) in the future. But at least Dodge might be celebrating with Brad Keselowski on the way out.
Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing driver
Goodbye to Matt Kenseth's association with Roush Fenway Racing. After today, Kenseth will be a Joe Gibbs Racing driver and Roush's No. 17 car will be driven by rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Since 1999, NASCAR fans have associated the 17 with Kenseth. He won 24 races in that Roush Ford and became the 2003 NASCAR champion. But when Roush didn't make much of an effort to re-sign Kenseth and Gibbs showed its interest, Kenseth decided it was the right time to move on.
Next season, he'll drive JGR's No. 20 Toyota. It'll take some getting used to, both for fans and for Kenseth.
Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing driver
Goodbye to Joey Logano as a JGR driver. After the only team he's ever known made Kenseth its priority, Logano looked around and found a ride at Penske Racing – where he'll be teammates with potential champion Keselowski.
The No. 20 car was never a perfect fit for Logano. Without the experience to fill Tony Stewart's shoes, Logano struggled under the weight of expectations and spent much of his JGR tenure in the shadow of teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Penske will mark a fresh start for a driver who won nine Nationwide Series races and a Cup race this season, and whose confidence is higher than ever.
Office Depot, U.S. Army
Goodbye to more NASCAR sponsors. Stewart-Haas Racing will bid farewell to two of its key supporters today in Office Depot and the U.S. Army, both of which have decided not to spend money sponsoring a NASCAR team anymore.
In particular, Office Depot was the first sponsor to jump on board with Stewart after he decided to become a driver/owner. The company was the primary sponsor for nine of his Cup wins and the 2011 championship.
Thanks to the economic downturn, many companies have concluded throwing big bucks at NASCAR is no longer feasible. Major names like UPS, Red Bull, Pepsi (Amp/Diet Mountain Dew), Aflac, Home Depot and General Mills have all reduced their involvement in recent years (or pulled out entirely in some cases).