On a late race restart with five laps to go, Brad Keselowski would make his way by Kyle Larson and held on to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It marks his seventh Nationwide Series win this season.
“We had four goals – win the manufacture championship for Ford, help win the driver’s title with Sam, help win the owner’s title with the 22 and win the race,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “Sam didn’t get it done but came real close to doing it. We accomplished the other three goals, though.”
Meanwhile, Austin Dillon fell back early with an ill-handling car and knocked it off the wall, to come back to finish 12th and win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship, three points ahead of Sam Hornish Jr.
“We didn’t have the car to run up there – probably the worst car all year,” Dillon commented. “We fought hard, the guys kept me positive and I had to go on the restart and did well. This is amazing. My team – Danny Stockman – he kept me in this thing for sure, 100%. It’s all heart and you never give up cause you never know.”
It marks Dillon’s second championship after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship two years ago. He also becomes the first driver to win the championship without a win on the season.
“He was a great competitor, Sam,” Dillon added. “He brought his stuff tonight. We were able to capitalize at the end. These guys are awesome – they were consistent and we became the first team to win the championship without a win. They said that it couldn’t be done and we did it. ”
The race wasn’t without frustration by the part of fans as the final caution waved with 18 laps to go for a wreck involving Regan Smith, Jeremy Clements and Mike Wallace. Instead of throwing a red flag, NASCAR continued to make the field run laps under caution while they cleaned up the oil on the track.
“It didn’t look like it was going to be that long,” NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton commented after the race. “No need to throw a red. We felt like we could get it in a normal segment of that. Unfortunately, there was a lot of oil. That happens sometimes. We probably went one to go four or five times because we thought it was clean. You’re not going to red flag it.
“First race of the year, the last race of the year – we try to operate the same no matter what it is. You can use hindsight, but in this particular time, we did the best we could.”
The restart came with five to go and Larson ran side-by-side with Keselowski till three to go when Keselowski surged ahead.
Kyle Larson finished second on the way to winning the 2013 Rookie of the Year Award. Kyle Busch finished third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne and Joey Logano. Logano’s sixth-place finish handed the No. 22 Penske Racing team the owner’s championship, one point ahead of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“Just to win any championship in NASCAR is special,” Roger Penske said. “Thanks to all of these guys for their hard work all year and our partners for sticking behind us.”
Parker Kligerman finished seventh in his last start for Kyle Busch Motorsports as KBM is closing their Nationwide Series operation.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished eighth after running inside the top five most of the race to finish second in points.
“We missed it having that late race caution,” Hornish Jr. said. “I was right where I need to be. Got to free earlier in the race and had to use a set of tires there. On the restart, 54 spun the tires and I had nowhere to go. Couldn’t get away there.
“That’s just how it goes. We win as a team, we lose as a team. We’ve all made mistakes this year – driver mistakes, team mistakes. We each make each other stronger to be perfect across the whole year and I’m proud of the effort of everyone at Penske. We just needed to be a little better.”
Hornish was asked about his thoughts on a lack of red flag and commented, “What can I say? Any other time there probably would have been a caution.”
Penske was more upset than Hornish about it, stating, “I have to say I’ve never seen a race that was so important give away 15 or 16 laps before you have five laps to go.”
Cole Whitt and Nelson Piquet Jr. rounded out the top 10.