Austin Dillon claimed the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion's trophy at Homestead-Miami on Saturday after finishing 12th from behind the wheel of his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the Ford EcoBoost 300. His closest competitor, Sam Hornish finished eighth in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge.
Despite heading into the race with an eight-point lead on Hornish, Dillon looked somewhat destined to lose the championship to Hornish throughout much of the race. Hornish started on the pole and led several laps early, holding down the top spot until he was passed by the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Kyle Larson on lap 44.
Through most of the first half of the 200-lap race, Hornish ran at or near the front with his two Penske teammates, eventual race winner Brad Keselowski in the No. 48 Ford and Joey Logano in the No. 22; Larson and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch. Meanwhile, Dillon struggled outside the top-10.
"We didn't have the car to run all night up there (up front)," Dillon said. "Probably the worst car we've had all year. We fought hard."
The two championship contenders found each other on the race track when they came off pit road close together during a lap 122 caution to restart ninth and 10th. Hornish was able to quickly get back toward the front, but Dillon was not.
The two found themselves in close quarters again, when pit strategy sent several drivers occupying positions between them down pit road during a caution with 17 laps remaining. Hornish restarted the race in the third position with Dillon in fifth.
"We missed it having that late-race caution," Hornish said.
Prior to Larson taking the lead on a restart in the final 50 laps to lead additional laps, Hornish was tied with Logano for most laps led to, potentially, give Hornish a bonus point. Larson, though, surpassed them both for most laps led. With Dillon not far behind, Hornish's only hope for the championship was a race win, but he lost that to teammate, Keselowski.
"I was glad to see the 12's back bumper," Dillon said.
In addition to the Keselowski race win, Penske Racing also celebrated an owners' championship, won by the No. 22 team. The No. 22 team beat out the No. 54 for the title, despite finishing three positions behind on the race track. Busch drove the No. 54 to a third-place finish, while Logano finished sixth in the No. 22.