Charging away from a pack of pursuers on the final restart, Matt Kenseth scored his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win since October of last year in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Chase Elliott, who had clinched the driver’s championship last Saturday in Phoenix, finished 17th after scraping the outside wall late in the race. Brad Keselowski delivered the Nationwide Series owner’s championship to Roger Penske with an eighth-place result in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
In a mere formality, Elliott also received Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, making the him the first driver to win both a rookie title and a series championship in the same year in any of NASCAR’s top three national series.
At age 18, Elliott also is the youngest national touring series champion in NASCAR history.
After losing the lead to Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 199 of a scheduled 200, Kenseth got a second chance when NASCAR threw the 11th caution of the race for a multicar wreck behind the leader moments before Larson was to take the white flag signaling the final lap, which would have made him a winner under the caution.
Instead, Kenseth pulled ahead from the outside lane after a restart on Lap 205 and took the checkered flag on the sixth lap of overtime. Kyle Busch won a drag race to the finish line to take the runner-up spot from Larson, who held third.
Ryan Blaney and rookie Chris Buescher completed the top five.
Kenseth won for Joe Gibbs Racing in the final outing with the company for crew chief Kevin Kidd, who moves to Roush Fenway Racing next year as director of competition in the Sprint Cup Series.
“It’s been a long time since I won a race in anything, so just happy for Kevin,” Kenseth said. “Happy to send him off with a win here. That was pretty cool. Kyle got around me on that second-to-last restart, but when he chose the bottom there, and I had Kyle (Busch) behind me, I knew we had a shot.
“I just had to do a better job than I did the time before, so luckily, we got that one last chance to redeem ourselves.”
Larson, who led 111 laps, spun his tires slightly on the final restart, allowing Kenseth to take the advantage.
“I had good restarts up there until the last 50 laps or so,” Larson said. “Then I finally got a good one underneath Matt (on Lap 199) and was able to get to the lead… I was about 15 feet short of the win. Then we got the yellow, and I thought the 12 (Blaney) had been getting really good restarts, so I wanted to start in front of him (in the bottom lane).
“Spun my tires a little bit, and the 20 (Kenseth) was hanging there. I was side-drafting down the frontstretch, and he was able to swerve at me and get me shaken off him. That spun my tires into (Turn) 1, and got me sideways. I was three-wide there, and that was all the 20 needed to win.”
Penske won the owner’s championship with five different drivers taking turns in the No. 22 Ford: Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Alex Tagliani. The championship was the fourth for Penske in the last five years (2010 Nationwide driver’s title with Keselowski, 2012 Sprint Cup title with Keselowski and back-to-back NNS owner’s championships).
“Everyone did so much to make this happen, and obviously it didn’t come down until the last lap there until we knew we had it,” Penske said. “Two years in a row, I think we had four championships here over the last few years, and that’s really important to us as we go forward.”