Keselowski Claims No.6 in Texas
In the closest Championship battle of the season, Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon overcomes early race issues to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship over Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr.
Battling a tough-handling race-car, 23-year old Dillon and his team fought hard to get the No.3 AdvoCare Chevrolet up to race conditions. Slapping the wall early in the race, it seemed like his Championship hopes were slowly fading away. Throwing everything they could at the car, the No.3 found his way up and into the top-10. Throughout the race, it was back and forth between Hornish and Dillon for the points lead.
A series of late race cautions allowed for pit strategy to play out and Dillon found himself four positions behind Hornish on the track, and three points ahead of him in the Championship standings. When the checkered flag flew, the 2011 Truck Series Champion became the new 2013 Nationwide Series Champion.
“It’s probably the worst car we 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.”
With a smile on his face, Hornish climbed out of his car and welcomed a swarm of media. A battle well fought, but still he came up short.
“We missed it having that late-race caution, being where we needed to be,” Hornish Jr. said. “We couldn’t get far enough ahead of those guys who had taken four tires.”
Four tires proved to be the downfall for Hornish’s championship hopes after a late race caution caused a long and extensive clean-up. Taking the cars down pit lane in order for officials to clean up the carnage, fans, teams, drivers and media alike thought NASCAR should have red-flagged the race. Restarting with just a handful of laps to go, the drivers on fresh tires, including Hornish’s teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, quickly overtook the field. When the checkered flag waved, Hornish would see his Championship dreams fade by a mere three points.
In the end, it was Hornish in 8th and Dillon in 12th and Penske driver Brad Keselowski in Victory Lane in the No.48 Discount Tire Toyota.
“That late-race restart was key,” Keselowski said in Victory Lane. “We came in and put tires on with 20 to go, and that yellow (for a four-car crash on Lap 183) was out for [12 laps], and I didn’t think we were going to have a shot at it. But we got the right restart and made our way through. I’m going to have to watch the in-car camera, because that was one hell of a ride. Be glad there wasn’t a passenger with me, because they would have been screaming the whole way. I know I was.”
Rookie of the Year winner Kyle Larson led the most laps in Saturday’s race but was overtaken by Keselowski in the closing laps. He will move up to the Spring Cup Series full time in 2014 driving the No.42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Joey Logano clinched the Owner’s Championship for Penske Racing in the No.22 Toyota by just one point over J.D.Gibbs. Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger also had a hand in the owner’s title with multiple victories between them.
At the end of the race, the champions were crowned, the winner got his trophy, but one thing still sits uncertain. Sam Hornish Jr. is without a ride next season unless sponsorship comes along. A driver of his caliber doesn’t deserved to lose his ride.