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The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) wrapped up the 2013 season Saturday at Homestead-Miami (Fl.) Speedway and the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 54 Monster Energy team finished strong with a sixth-place qualifying position, 29 laps led and a third-place finish. While JGR and Busch executed a dominant season with 12 wins, 11 poles, 22 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes overall, the Homestead finish left them just short of a season Owner’s Championship, awarded to the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, a close competitor of the No. 54 team all season.
Upon taking the green flag Saturday night, in row three, the 28-year old NASCAR veteran quickly advanced to third place by lap 15 of the 200-lap race. Busch immediately reported a “tight-handling” car in the middle of the turns and asked his crew for help so the car could turn more in the front. Busch battled on track with other strong teams including the No. 32 of Kyle Larson and the No. 22 of Joey Logano, the Penske Racing Ford that the JGR team kept an eye on, considering the targeted NASCAR Owner’s Championship on the line.
The first caution waved at lap 46 and Busch relayed again the level of his car’s tight-handling condition. “I’m really tight, can’t hold the bottom and tight up at the wall.” Crew chief Adam Stevens called Busch down pit road from second place, on lap 48, and the team replenished Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel with a fast pit stop that put Busch in the top spot to restart the race at lap 61. Through two more yellow-flag caution periods and subsequent restarts, JGR teammates Busch and Matt Kenseth battled strong at the head of the field then found themselves surrounded by Penske competitors all within the top-five.
Another event caution at lap 97 gave the Monster Energy team a chance to make adjustments to Busch’s Camry, now fourth and still too tight to turn the car in the front. Past halfway and back to green the No. 54 gained two positions to second and then to first at lap 102, but not easily. While the pit stop adjustments helped, Busch battled hard for position with the No. 22 and No. 32, and then retained his lead at lap 117 as the field entered another caution period.
The JGR team called the No. 54 race leader down pit road for further adjustments that would now address a loose-handling condition reported by Busch. Pit stop strategies played out by other teams placed Busch in seventh for the restart and heavy traffic offered difficulty for the No. 54 to maneuver back to the front. “I’m loose, then I get there and I’m tight,” reported Busch who continued to battle his car’s handling. A subsequent pit-road visit offered one more opportunity for Stevens to make adjustments to the black machine and the No. 54 would restart tenth at lap153. “We threw all our chips in right here so take care of it,” Stevens relayed to Busch over the radio.
Busch quickly took advantage of the car’s improved handling and drove to eighth on the restart lap, to fifth in the next circuit, then to second by lap 161. Busch had regained the lead at lap 166 and started honing in on the race finish, however, two subsequent caution periods -- one that included a long track-cleanup from a hard crash on the frontstretch, caused remaining race laps to expire quickly. During that time some competitors had the opportunity to visit pit road for tires and adjustments that offered them stronger cars at the finish of the race. Busch battled hard to retain position but ultimately scored a final third-place finish.
Busch commented afterwards, “We were back and forth pretty much the whole race with the Penske cars and the 32 (Kyle Larson), so there were some pretty good cars all night. We never had a dominant car and weren’t poised for a win, we were going to have to earn it and we didn’t do that. It was going to be a race for track position there for a while but then at the end of the race, obviously tires paid off, and we didn’t have any and a couple of the other guys did. I hate it for this team, they’ve worked really hard this year and deserve to have a championship. It’s frustrating but it wasn’t just this race that cost us, we had a lot of mistakes this year, a lot of my mistakes too so we’ll have to figure out how to make it better and make it to where we can come back and try again next year.
The Monster Energy athlete continued, “We probably could have won the race but it certainly wasn’t the best car out there tonight. It was a lot tougher for us than what we hoped it to be, but we came home with a solid third, unfortunately today a solid-third wasn’t good enough. A lot of mistakes were made throughout the year, my mistakes too that cost us points. I hate it for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and I hate it for Monster Energy, those guys deserve a championship this year and with 12 races won. But I’m proud of the team and the way everyone worked together this year.”
Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing picked up his seventh win of 2013 and 27th career victory in 205 Nationwide Series races. Rookie Kyle Larson finished 1.126 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot. Busch finished third in his Monster Energy Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
There were 10 caution periods for 49 laps of the race along with 13 lead changes across 10 drivers. Busch led the field five times over 29 of the 200-lap event.
The No. 54 Monster Energy team closed out the season second in the Owner’s Point standings, one point behind the season-winning No. 22 Penske Ford team.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series goes into the off-season now and prepares for a 2014 race schedule that begins on February 22 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Busch will make his season debut once again in the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.
- Richard Childress Racing teammates finished 12th (Austin Dillon), 14th (Ty Dillon) and 32nd (Brian Scott).
- A. Dillon earned the Nationwide Series driver championship while Scott finished seventh in the standings, 127 points behind the leader.
- The No. 3 Chevrolet team finished third in the Nationwide Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 33 team sixth in the standings and the No. 2 team 11th.
- Brad Keselowski earned his seventh Nationwide Series victory of 2013 and was followed to the finish line by Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne.
Mid-Race Incident Relegates Brian Scott to a 32nd-Place Finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Brian Scott and Richard Childress Racing's No. 2 Shore Lodge team finished 32nd in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series season finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway after a mid-race incident sent the competitor to the garage for repairs. The Boise, Idaho-native started from the 10th spot and battled a loose condition for a majority of the 200-lap event. Throughout the race, crew chief Phil Gould and the RCR crew made major chassis adjustments to alleviate the condition. While battling for position on lap 129, another competitor made contact with Scott, causing his car to hit the outside retaining wall. The crew assessed the damage and brought the No. 2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet to the garage for repairs. Scott returned to racing action with less than 50 laps remaining to salvage every spot he could, ultimately finishing 32nd and ending the 2013 Nationwide Series season seventh in the driver championship point standings. The points finish marks the highest season-ending ranking of Scott's career to date, which is his first season with RCR.
BRIAN SCOTT QUOTE:
"We battled such a loose Camaro for most of the race and continued to take big swings at tightening it up on each stop. Coming off turn two, I got pinched then hit the outside wall. It's not how I envisioned ending our 2013 season, but I'm proud of the job Phil and the No. 2 Shore Lodge team did this season."
Austin Dillon Claims NASCAR Nationwide Series Title at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Austin Dillon clinched the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver's championship for Richard Childress Racing on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, marking the Welcome, N.C. driver's second NASCAR National Series title. He entered the season-finale race with an eight-marker advantage over Sam Hornish Jr. in the standings and kept the point spread tight throughout the 200-lap event. Dillon struggled with a loose-handling No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet that transitioned to tight handling in the later stages of the event. A late-race caution positioned Dillon in the fifth spot with five laps of green flag racing remaining. Although he continued to struggle with handling issues in the final laps, he finished 12th and clinched the title by three points over Hornish.
Start - 11 Finish - 12 Laps Led - 0 Points - 1st
Ty Dillon Closes out 2013 Season with 14th-place Finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Ty Dillon and Richard Childress Racing's No. 33 WESCO team earned a 14th-place result on Saturday evening in the season-finale NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Starting from the 17th spot, Dillon reported to the Nick Harrison-led team his blue and white machine was too loose. Harrison called the young driver to pit road under caution on laps 46 and 98 for four tires, fuel and a round of chassis adjustments to combat the handling issues. The Richard Childress Racing team used pit strategy during the lap 146 caution period to capitalize on track position. Dillon was instructed to stay out on the racing surface while other teams pitted. The pit strategy allotted the Welcome, N.C., native the top spot for the ensuing restart. Dillon paced the field for nine circuits before fresher tires behind him caused him to fall in the running order. With minimal laps remaining in the race, Dillon took the checkered flag in the 14th position.
Start - 17 Finish - 14 Laps Led - 9 Owner's Points - 6th
TY DILLON QUOTE:
"We battled the handling on the No. 33 WESCO Chevrolet for a lot of the race. We were very aero-loose and every time another car got around us, we just got so loose. This made it difficult to pass. Overall, I've had a lot of fun this year racing with the No. 33 team and have built a good notebook for next year. I'm looking forward to racing in the (NASCAR) Nationwide Series full time next season. I also want to thank WESCO for their support this year. It's been great."
After spinning while running 10th with just over 50 laps remaining in the NASCAR Nationwide Series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, Parker Kligerman rallied back to score a seventh-place finish. With his 13th top-10 finish of the season, the Connecticut native moved up one spot to ninth in the final Nationwide Series championship standings in his first full-time campaign.
"We were hoping to be able to get by the 32 (Kyle Larson) for eighth in points -- we had a Camry that was capable of that, I just got into the wall a couple times and weren't able to get up there," Kligerman said. "Have to thank everyone involved this season - Toyota, Bandit Chippers, North American Power, Bolle, Bell Helmets, Nationwide Insurance, Kyle, Samantha and everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports for this huge opportunity. We put in a hard-fought year - everyone on this No. 77 team did the best they could all year long. It definitely wasn't for a lack of effort that we weren't able get up to eighth in points."
Kligerman started from the 16th position and despite battling a Camry that was "a little loose," maneuvered his way up to the eighth spot during the first green-flag run that lasted 48 laps. After a debris caution slowed the field for the first time, the No. 77 Camry visited pit road for four fresh tires, a full tank of fuel and a minor wedge adjustment.
The talented 23-year-old took the ensuing restart from the 10th spot and remained inside the top 10 over the course of three more cautions. He was summoned to pit road under caution on lap 99, where the over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment and returned their driver to the track scored in the ninth spot for the lap-102 restart. Kligerman remained ninth when the fifth caution of the night slowed the field on lap 121.
Knowing that the 1.5-mile track was tough on tires, crew chief Eric Phillips elected to keep his driver on the track in an effort to save his two remaining tires for later in the race. Kligerman took the lap-125 restart from the second position, but fell back to fourth when another caution occurred four laps later. On the ensuing restart, the No. 77 Camry subsided to the 10th spot.
On lap 150, a tire went down on KBM's black machine and Kligerman was collected into the wall before spinning back down the track. The field was slowed for the incident; fortunately, the Toyota Camry was able to collect itself and remained on the lead lap. After two visits to pit road for fresh tires and repairs to the chassis, the team was forced to start at the tail end of the field in the 26th position for the restart on lap 153.
Two cautions and 22 laps later, Kligerman had advanced back into the top 10. With a set of sticker tires remaining, Phillips elected to pit under caution for four tires and fuel with a trackbar adjustment and the No. 77 Camry returned to the track scored in the 16th position for the restart on lap 182. One lap later after a four-car accident, the talented wheelman had maneuvered his way up to the 10th spot.
The timing of the caution seemed to be perfect for Kligerman and his team, who had fresher tires than many teams inside the top 10. But after a lengthy cleanup process, the field went back green with only five laps remaining. Over the closing laps, he picked up three more spots and brought home a seventh-place finish in the season finale.
Brad Keselowski picked up his seventh Nationwide Series victory of his career and the 27th of his career. Rookie Kyle Larson finished 1.126 seconds behind Keselwoski in the runner-up spot. KBM owner Kyle Busch finished third in his Monster Energy Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
There were 10 caution periods totaling 49 laps. Seven drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 19 times. Six drivers failed to finish the 200-lap event.
Kligerman finished ninth in the final Nationwide Series championship standings. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 team ranked 13th in the final owner's championship standings.
The Toyota Racing team ended the season with three top-five and 13 top-10 finishes, including four of the final six races. Kligerman led 45 laps on the season and completed 97.4% (5856 of 6012) of the total laps.
Hometown hero, Joey Coulter entered the last race on the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway (HMS) optimistic to close out his junior year campaign on a high note for all of his family, friends and team at his home track in Florida. Unfortunately, a series of events would plague the No. 18 GunBroker.com team and ultimately lead to a 27th-place finish in the Truck Series season finale.
Starting on the inside of row 13, in the 25th position, Coulter battled a loose GunBroker.com Toyota Tundra in the opening laps of the 136-lap event. In an effort to aid in the handling, Coulter chose to give up track position when the first of eight caution flags was thrown for debris on the backstretch to come to pit road for fuel and a chassis adjustment. When racing resumed on lap eight, the No. 18 machine was scored 27th.
As Coulter began to work his way up the leaderboard, the Miami Springs, Fla. native radioed into his crew that he was, "wicked loose and had a vibration." Less than 10 laps later, the second caution flag was displayed on lap 42 when the No. 18 went for a spin in Turn 4. Keeping it off the wall, Coulter was able to bring his Tundra to pit road multiple times under the yellow flag for tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. When racing resumed on lap 30, the KBM entry was scored 30th, one lap down to the race leader.
Improvements to the handling of his GunBroker.com Toyota Tundra allowed Coulter to maintain the "Lucky Dog" position for the next 20 circuits, until the third caution flag was displayed for debris on the backstretch. Crew chief Harold Holly called his driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. When racing resumed on lap 69, the No. 18 machine was scored 26th.
Still complaining of a Toyota Tundra that was, "loose off, but better on entry," Coulter was able to muscle his way through the field over the next 26 laps, picking off trucks one by one. When the fourth caution flag was displayed on lap 95 for an accident in Turn 4, the No. 18 Tundra made its way down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Fast work by the over-the-wall crew allowed Coulter to gain three positions for the lap-99 restart.
Coulter worked his way up to the 15th position before his Tundra got, "tight in the center of the corner," and the No. 18 machine began to lose positions on the race track. A welcoming opportunity for relief was displayed on lap 132 when the No. 4 of Jeb Burton hit the wall in Turn 4. Holly called his junior year driver to pit road for right side tires and fuel. Coulter would take the lap 135-restart, the field's first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, from the 12th position.
Unfortunately, the No. 18 was involved in the seventh caution of the night at lap 137 with the 88 and 24 trucks. Coulter would be forced down pit road twice under caution to repair the damaged GunBroker.com machine, losing valuable track position and ultimately losing six laps to the race leader and crossing the stripe in the 27th position.
"Well, the highs were good and the lows were lows," Coulter said. "I can't thank the guys enough for fighting hard all year. We've had a lot of bad luck that they've pushed through. Like tonight, we got turned around on a green-white-checkered and even with a couple laps to go, they got it back rolling and we finished the race. My guys fought so hard all night, it just wasn't our year. I can't thank Kyle Busch Motorsports, Toyota, Darrell Gwynn Foundation, Tempest, GunBroker.com and FOX Sports 1 enough, we had a lot of fun and we couldn't have done it without their support."
Kyle Busch won the 18th Annual Truck Series finale at HMS, his fifth victory of 2013 and his 35th win in 115 NCWTS races. His efforts earned the owner-driver his second Truck Series Owner's Championship title in four seasons. Ryan Blaney (second) finished 0.081 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. Jeb Burton, Brendan Gaughan and Ron Hornaday, Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
KBM's rookie of the year contender, Darrell Wallace, Jr. finished 15th.
There were eight caution periods for 37 laps and 13 different drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead eight times.
Coulter caps off the season 15th in the 2013 NCWTS driver point standings with 605 points; 78 points behind 10th-place Timothy Peters, 126 markers behind fifth-place Jeb Burton and 199 points behind the 2013 Truck Series Champion, Matt Crafton.
The No. 18 Toyota Tundra ends the season with 18 laps led en route to three top-five and five top-10 finishes.
Austin Dillon drove Sharp-Gallaher Racing's No. 6 Tube Welders Wanted/National Boiler Service Chevrolet to a 20th-pleace finish in Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Starting from the seventh position in his third Camping World Truck Series race of the season, Dillon battled an extremely tight-handling truck when the green flag waved. The Gere Kennon-led team made a number of air pressure and chassis adjustments during routine pit stops to free up the No. 6 machine.
The Chevrolet Silverado came to life in the final 25 laps as Dillon engaged in an exciting battle for the lead with eventual winner and 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner's championship team owner Kyle Busch. Dillon took over the point position on Laps 113 and 116, leading for three laps around the 1.5-mile speedway. He remained in the top five during the closing laps as the scheduled 134-lap event went into overtime, extending to three green-white-checkered finish attempts. When the race returned to green-flag conditions for the final time on Lap 146, Dillon quickly lost ground, slipping from the fourth position while faced with a loose condition in traffic. The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion took the checkered flag in the 20th position.
Miguel Paludo finished off the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season strong at Homestead-Miami Speedway, closing out 2013 with his 15th top-15 finish of the year. Paludo battled a tight condition early in the race, but the No. 32 team adjusted effectively, allowing him to fight in the final laps and survive three attempts at a green/white/checkered finish before bringing the AccuDoc Solutions Silverado home in 11th place.
After running 11th in the weekend's only practice session, Paludo's 32.357-second qualifying lap earned the Brazilian a 10th-place starting spot for the NCWTS season finale. Taking the green flag in the top 10, Paludo immediately reported that his AccuDoc Solutions Chevy was a little snug. Dropping to 14th on lap 10, Paludo radioed to his crew that his tight condition had caused him to brush the wall, but that it did not seem that there was any major damage. However, the No. 32 continued to tighten and Paludo dropped to the 21st spot by the time the caution flag waved on lap 40. Calling his driver down pit road, crew chief Jeff Hensley made the decision to take four tires, fuel and both wedge and track-bar adjustments. While changing tires, the crew also noticed that the right-front fender was knocked in from the earlier contact with the wall, and a second pit stop was performed to repair the sheet metal. Returning to the track in 24th, the green flag waved on lap 46.
With the fender damage likely contributing to the tight condition, Paludo advanced up to the 17th spot prior to a two-truck incident bringing out the caution on lap 103. With a strong restart on lap 110, Paludo jumped to the 13th spot within one lap around the 1.5-mile track. When the caution flag waved on lap 132 of the scheduled 134-lap race, it set the field up for its first attempt at a green/white/checkered restart on lap 136. With two fresh right-side tires acquired under yellow combined with another strong restart, Paludo navigated up to 11th before another caution prior to the white flag slowed the field. Paludo held onto his spot through two more attempts at a green/white/checkered finish, maintaining the 11th spot until he crossed the finish line.
"I am so proud of my team, I can't thank everyone at Turner Scott Motorsports enough: Steve Turner, Harry Scott, Jeff Hensley and all of my guys." said Paludo after the race. "The progress we have made as a team in the last two seasons is incredible. I wish that we could have brought home a win together before the end of the year, but I'm hoping that we'll have the opportunity get it next year. I really appreciate Duroline, AccuDoc Solutions, BRANDT do Brasil, SEM, Anderson's Maple Syrup and Levine Children's Hospital for being involved in our program this year. And, of course, I have to thank the fans here and at home, in the U.S., Brazil and all over the world, for supporting me and our organization. We wouldn't be here without them and I hope that we gave them a great show this season."
Paludo finishes out the best season of his career ranked ninth in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings with four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, one pole and 72 laps led. The 2014 season will kick off at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 21.
Closing out his first full season of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 60 WinField team had their sights set on a strong run in the Ford EcoBoost 200. As the sun went down at the 1.5-mile facility, handling conditions drastically changed for the Indiana native as he fought to find grip for his Silverado for the first 100 laps of the main event. Receiving fresh tires before the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Armstrong motored forward and had a top-10 finish in his sights before he was collected in a multi-truck incident coming to the white flag. Damage to his machine resulted in a 23rd-place finish.
First transmitting to crew chief Richie Wauters that his WinField Chevy was tight and lacked overall grip on Lap 38, the young driver received his first round of changes under a yellow flag pit stop four laps later. Determining that the scuffed tires the team was using for the No. 60 Silverado were causing the lack of grip just after the halfway point, Armstrong was able to get a fresh set of sticker tires on Lap 95 to make his charge forward. A great pit stop by the WinField crew put Armstrong back inside the top-20 after the ill-handling conditions shuffled him backwards from his 21st starting position in the opening portion of the event.
Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet Camaro, claimed the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) championship with a 12-place finish in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His title, the first for Dillon and fourth for team owner Richard Childress, marks Chevrolet’s 17th Driver’s Championship since the inception of the series in 1982.
"On behalf of Chevrolet, congratulations to Austin Dillon and the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro team on winning the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver’s Championship,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “This is extra special following Austin’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011. Austin and his team demonstrated determination, perseverance and that never-give-up attitude to win their first Nationwide Series championship. Congratulations to Richard Childress and his entire Richard Childress Racing organization on this accomplishment.”
In the first year of NNS competition for the Chevrolet Camaro, Dillon piloted the nameplate to seven pole awards. The 23-year old first-time NNS champion displayed the model of consistency by amassing 13 top-five’s and 22 top-10’s over the 33-race season. Dillon is now the third driver in NASCAR history to win both a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title (2011) and a NNS championship.
“We fought,” said Dillon. “My guys kept me positive in the car. I just knew I had to go on that last restart. I’ve been criticized on restarts for a long time, but that was a pretty good one. I just hung up against the wall there and tried to ride it out. Thank goodness for this AdvoCare Chevrolet and everybody that helped us. My grandfather (Richard Childress) and my whole family are so supportive. My team is the best and this is amazing. We showed tonight that you never give up.”
Dillon joins 13 other Team Chevy drivers to score this achievement. Others include: Clint Bowyer (2008), Martin Truex, Jr. (2004-05), Brian Vickers (2003), Kevin Harvick (2001 & ‘06), Jeff Green (2000), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (1998-99), Randy LaJoie (1996-97), Johnny Benson (1995), David Green (1994), Steve Grissom (1993), Joe Nemechek (1992) and Larry Pearson (1987)
“Austin’s championship was a great way to end the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season for Chevrolet,” Campbell added. “We’d also like to congratulate Kyle Larson for winning the Series’ Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year title. It’s going to be great having both Austin and Kyle as part of Team Chevy in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year.”
The NNS resumes competition at the season opening race at Daytona International Speedway in February 2014.
Team Chevy Racing PR
NASCAR Drive For Diversity Graduate Kyle Larson Wins NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie Of The Year Award
In what has been an already impressive first full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Kyle Larson added another accolade to his resume Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway – the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. In doing so, he becomes the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) graduate and first Asian-American driver to receive the award in a NASCAR national series.
Additionally, Larson was a member of the 2012 “NASCAR Next” class, an initiative designed to identify the sport’s next generation of stars.
“Kyle’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award marks a historic moment for NASCAR and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. “We couldn’t be happier for Kyle and with the progress we have made in increasing minority and female on-track participation in the sport.”
Larson captured the rookie honors by 82 points over runner-up Alex Bowman.
Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., finished second four times (Bristol-1, Michigan, Dover-2 and Homestead) this season and overall compiled nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes.
He made headlines in April, winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway to become the first graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program to win a NASCAR national series race.
Larson will compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014, driving the No. 42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Apparently, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. already has learned the most important lesson for a successful relationship: don't bring up a potentially contentious subject.
Perhaps that's why Stenhouse and girlfriend Danica Patrick seldom mention their battle for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Entering Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Stenhouse held an insurmountable lead over Patrick in the rookie standings, and with good reason. Stenhouse came to full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup racing after back-to-back NASCAR Nationwide Series championships. Patrick is still struggling with the transition from IndyCars to stock cars.
Certainly, there were highlights for the most recognizable female driver on the planet, from the Daytona 500 pole to a strong 12th-place run at Martinsville in April. But there weren't enough highlights to keep her competitive with Stenhouse over the course of the season.
"No, I think there was a certain level of sensitivity to it," Patrick said Saturday when asked if there had been any good-natured ribbing from her boyfriend. "It was for sure a longshot for me. I mean, it was going to need to be a really good rookie season.
"There were some really good things that happened. Daytona was a great way to start. Then it went to Martinsville; that was a great run. We just didn't really get a lot better… He just came off two Nationwide championships. That was going to be tough to compete with, no matter who you are."
What Patrick and Stenhouse did discuss was the business at hand, as both progressed through their rookie seasons, Patrick in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Stenhouse in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
"We talked a lot more about the cars," Patrick said. "We talked a lot more about the team. We talked more about purely what happened that day. He spent a lot of time trying to cheer me up after I was so disappointed after qualifying or after a race sometimes."
That sort of empathy was crucial.
"I get frustrated, and I know what I can do and want to do," Patrick said. "When it doesn't happen, I do get upset. He was good moral support."