Austin Dillon takes Nationwide Series title; Brad Keselowski wins season finale

jutter@charlotteobserver.comNovember 16, 2013 

— The NASCAR Nationwide Series got a familiar race winner Saturday but a new champion.

Brad Keselowski, driving a third entry in the race for Penske Racing, went from 10th to first in the final five laps to win the Ford 300 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Keselowski’s victory seemed unlikely when it took NASCAR 12 laps of caution to clean the track of debris for a three-car wreck on Lap 184 of 200.

Although Keselowski had fresher tires, five laps left after the caution wasn’t much time. He got around then-leader Kyle Larson with three laps remaining.

“It was just late-race restarts. We came in and put tires on with 20 to go and then that yellow for 14, 15 laps or however many it was,” said Keselowski, who earned his seventh win of the season and 27th of his career. “I didn’t think we were going to have a shot at it.”

Penske Racing’s No. 22 Ford won the owners’ championship, with four different drivers earning wins in the car this season.

Austin Dillon, who entered the race with an eight-point lead in the series standings over Sam Hornish Jr., finished 12th and Hornish ended up eighth.

Dillon won the title by three points and becomes the first driver to win a championship in a NASCAR national series without earning at least one race victory during the season.

That has never been a point of concern for Dillon, who also won a Truck series championship in 2011.

“I just can’t believe it. He drives with heart, just so much heart,” said Dillon’s grandfather and team owner, Richard Childress.

“I knew it was going to be tough. (Sam and Austin) were on the same tire strategy and it all just worked out in our favor.”

Dillon struggled much of the race but found himself back in the top-five near Hornish on the final restart.

“It’s probably the worst car we’ve had all year; we fought,” Dillon said. “I’ve been criticized for restarts for a long time and that (the last one) was a pretty good one.”

Hornish, who spent most of the race running in the top-five, took the outcome in stride.

“Everybody on the radio was getting flustered that there wasn’t a red flag (for the last caution). It seems like most of the time we would have stopped,” Hornish said.

“We weren’t good enough tonight to go out there and win the race even though we thought we were a top-four car. That last restart, the inside row didn’t go very good and I couldn’t hold on.”

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