While the NASCAR Cup drivers were trading off the top spots in the Nationwide race, Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. were focused on the title fight.
Homestead, Fla. – Brad Keselowski came out of nowhere in the final laps – from 12th to be exact – of the Ford EcoBoost 300 and slashed his way through the tightly-bunched field to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Austin Dillon came to the Homestead-Miami Speedway with an eight-point advantage for the championship and when the checkered flag fell, the young driver raced his way to the coveted crown, besting Sam Hornish Jr. by a mere three points. In finishing 12th after surviving a frustrating race, the grandson of Richard Childress gave his grandfather a hard-fought drivers' championship.
Driving the Discount Tire Ford fielded by Penske Racing, the Michigan native won for the seventh time in 2013 and for the 27th time in 205 NNS races.
His charge to the front came after a lengthy caution flag slowed the race for 12 laps, setting up a five-lap shootout to the checkered flag. Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch were the frontrunners, but Keselowski wasn’t to be denied as he rocketed through the field and passed them.
“It was checkers or wreckers, but I need to see the replay as I don’t know what happened,” Keselowski said, flashing his winning smile. “I just knew if I was going to win a race, I told (crew chief) Paul Wolfe I was going to bring back the steering wheel. With only five laps to go, that’s the only attitude that can win a race. Had that race restarted earlier, I wouldn’t have had that attitude.
“Sometimes you make it through and sometimes you don’t. There were a lot of aggressive moves and it felt like a video game passing so many cars every lap, but that’s what you have to do at this level.”
“This is pretty special for me,” said Wolfe. “I am pretty proud of this program. I am just a small part of what went on tonight, and it is neat to be back in victory lane.”
In addition to being the winning car owner, Roger Penske achieved another milestone when his No. 22 Ford, driven tonight by Joey Logano and previously by three others, earned the NNS owners’ title. This title was a first for the Penske organization.
Said Penske, “First, I want to congratulate Brad and Paul for winning the race. We had the manufacturers’ championship on the line, the owners’ championship and the driver’s championship up for grabs, so there was a lot of pressure. Tonight’s win is something we didn’t know we were going to win until the last lap. Everyone on this team deserves a lot of credit; this is a very special night, but I feel sorry for Sam (Hornish Jr.). I will have to say I have never seen a race that is so important to have to wait 15 or 16 laps (yellow flag clean-up) for a five-lap finish. That was very disappointing from the standpoint of the fans and the other competitors.”
The extended clean-up took came about after a fiery crash took place on the front-stretch, and it seemed to take an overly lengthy period of time for the clean-up.
NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton said they thought it was just a typical clean-up, but there was more oil on the track than anyone realized. After being passed by the fleet Keselowski, rookie Larson held on for second after leading 54 laps. He was also named the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year and became the first NASCAR Diversity driver to win the honor.
Said Larson, “It means a lot to me to win the rookie honors and to add my name to the list of honorees hopefully means I am doing something good.”
Regarding the race, Larson expressed frustration over coming up short. “We had the best car on the long runs but not so good on the short runs. I got into a wall three or four times, and each time it seemed to make my car better. I had a lot of fun but got beat on tires at the end. To get four second-place finishes in my rookie season is something I can hang my hat on.”
In the post-race inspection, Larson’s Chevrolet was found to be too low on the left front, and more action may be possible.
Busch, who led 29 laps, took third place. “Our car was all right, but it wasn’t the best car out there,” he said. “It was a lot tougher for us than we thought it would be, but we came home third, which wasn’t good enough. I hate that we lost the owners’ championship.”
Behind the three front-runners came Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Logano, Parker Klingerman, Hornish, Cole Whitt and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Blake Koch and Austin Dillon were 11th and 12th.
Ten caution flags slowed the race for 49 of the 200 laps.