Sunday, Oct 01
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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The year that Matt Kenseth described as "unbelievable" ended one position short of the ultimate goal -- the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

But that didn't stop Kenseth from enjoying what he called the best year of his racing career. At the age of 41, he showed that his somewhat controversial move from a long stay at Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing was not only smart but very close to brilliant.

The 2003 champion fell 19 points short of winning a second championship, leading the circuit in victories with seven and riding in the top 10 in points for the last 30 races of the season.

After a nearly disastrous race last week at Phoenix, Kenseth knew the odds were stacked very high against him as NASCAR made its final seasonal stop at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Eventual champion Jimmie Johnson needed only a 23rd-place finish to lock up his sixth title and Kenseth needed something of a miracle to supplant him atop the standings.

That miracle didn't come (Johnson finished ninth), but it wasn't for the No. 20 team's lack of trying.

Kenseth won the pole, led the first 11 laps of the race, led the most laps (144) and thrilled the grandstand crowd by battling Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second place over the closing laps. Kenseth won that battle while losing the war.

"You never concede it to them (the 48 team) until it's done," Kenseth said. "They just seem to be able to raise the bar. If they don't have any kind of problem, they're capable of winning every week. If they don't win, they're going to finish in the top five."

Kenseth again called this his best season, despite the fact that he won the series championship in 2003. "We didn't come up with the championship -- the championship is the ultimate goal," he said. "You always want that, but from a competitive standpoint, it's been by far the best season of my career. We led the most laps, qualified the best, most wins, all that stuff."

The closeness of the Johnson-Kenseth battle was illustrated late in the race on a green-flag restart when their cars clanged together as much of the field scattered in the first turn. Both cars had minor damage.

"I didn't even know we had contact on the restart," Kenseth said. "It was the weirdest thing. I got off the gas not to wreck. I got hit in the right rear. If it was Jimmie, I had no idea until you just told me. I didn't know where he was.

"Jimmie and that team are obviously unbelievable. Never seen anything like this in the sport and probably will never see anything like it again. It's amazing with as tight as the rules are, multi-car teams, information sharing and all that stuff. It's amazing they can figure out how to do that year after year."

Denny Hamlin found redemption for a lost season, as Jimmie Johnson advanced to the threshold of legend.

Sidelined for four races with a broken back earlier in the season, Hamlin took the checkered flag in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Johnson claimed his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with a ninth-place finish.

Johnson finished the season 19 points ahead of polesitter and race runner-up Matt Kenseth, who held off a furious charge by third-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps. With six NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, Johnson is one behind all-time leaders Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

The title was a record 11th for team owner Rick Hendrick.

"I don't even know where to start," Johnson said after the race. "I'm at a loss for words, but I'm so proud and so thankful for this opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports. I'm thankful that Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick gave me this opportunity back in 2002.

"This sport is about people, and our people at Hendrick Motorsports -- especially on this 48 car -- rose up and got the job done. I'm so thankful to be able to drive for this race team and so honored and so excited to have a 'six-pack.'"

Hamlin won for the first time this season, the second time at Homestead and the 23rd time in his career. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has won at least one race in each of his eight full seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

As elated as he was with the victory, Hamlin took time to acknowledge the excellence of Johnson and his No. 48 team. Johnson's average finish in the 10 Chase races was 5.1.

"I think they do a great job of being consistent," Hamlin said. "Really, I'd say with everyone else in the Chase, you can almost count on them having one bad race. The 48, they just never have that one bad race. I don't know how to explain it, but they just don't make any mistakes. You have to beat him on performance. To do that, that's really hard.

"Unfortunately, we're racing during the Jimmie Johnson Era. We're just unlucky in that sense. I think being out there and racing with him, I can say that I think he's the best that there ever was."

Martin Truex Jr. completed his tenure at Michael Waltrip Racing with a fourth-place run, one spot ahead of teammate Clint Bowyer. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Johnson and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.

Johnson's path to the title was far from easy. Moments after a restart on Lap 194, Paul Menard rammed the back of Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet as the outside line checked up. The impact jerked Johnson's car sideways, but the five-time champion was able to regain control and keep the car off the outside wall.

His momentum sapped, however, Johnson plummeted to 23rd in the running order, the precise finishing position he needed to secure his sixth championship. Over the next nine laps, Johnson recovered to 16th and drove the No. 48 out of the danger zone.

From that point on, he advanced as high as sixth before finishing ninth, and the sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title was his.

"I had contact from behind that pushed me into the 20 (Kenseth), and both of us were out of control and sliding toward the outside fence at that point," Johnson said. "I didn't know what to think. That got us mired back in traffic and made the last 50 laps kind of interesting.

"We still had an awesome race car and got the job done."

The No. 32 team that competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series has been penalized due to rule violations discovered during post-race inspection this past Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The No. 32 team was found to have violated Sections 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (Any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to the NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20-A of the 2013 NASCAR Rule Book or has been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20A-12.8.1(B) (The car failed to meet the minimum front car heights).

As a result, crew chief Trent Owens has been fined $10,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until April 2, 2014. The team also has been docked with the loss of six championship driver (Kyle Larson) points and six championship car owner (Harry Scott) points.


Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and Sport Clips Haircuts announced today they will continue their partnership during the 2014 NASCAR season with Sport Clips serving as the primary sponsor for a total of nine races.

“Sport Clips is proud to announce our partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2014 season,” said Sport Clips CEO and Founder Gordon Logan. “All of us, including our Team Members at our 1,150 stores in 46 states, value the drive and integrity JGR demonstrates both on and off the track. We are proud to have Denny, Elliott and Drew represent our Sport Clips’ Brand, and we look forward to an exciting season!”

During the 2014 season, Sport Clips will serve as the primary sponsor for Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry for two races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), marking the fifth season Hamlin has represented Sport Clips Racing. Hamlin will carry the colors of Sport Clips for the night race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on April 12 and again for the night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31. Hamlin’s best finish for Sport Clips came at Atlanta Motor Speedway where he started seventh and led 105 of 327 laps on his way to securing his fourth of five wins during the 2012 season.

After making his debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 and representing Sport Clips for seven races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), Elliott Sadler will run six races in 2014 in the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota. Sadler’s best finish in the Sport Clips Toyota came at Darlington Raceway where he finished second in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200.

Returning to the driver’s seat for Sport Clips in 2014, Drew Herring will make one start for the long-time JGR partner when the Nationwide Series races at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13. Herring has competed in five races under the Sport Clips banner, earning one pole at Iowa Speedway in 2011 and earning a best finish of fourth at Kentucky Speedway in 2012.                        


Sprint Cup Series

April 12: Darlington Raceway – Denny Hamlin

August 31: Atlanta Motor Speedway – Denny Hamlin

Nationwide Series

March 22: Auto Club Speedway – Elliott Sadler

April 11: Darlington Raceway – Elliott Sadler

July 4: Daytona International Speedway – Elliott Sadler

August 22: Bristol Motor Speedway – Elliott Sadler

September 13: Chicagoland Speedway – Drew Herring

September 27: Dover International Speedway – Elliott Sadler

November 8: Phoenix International Raceway – Elliott Sadler


OneMain Financial announced today it will continue its partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 as the primary sponsor of the No.11 OneMain Financial Toyota driven by Elliott Sadler in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.  OneMain Financial will also continue to have associate sponsorship on two additional Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series entries.

"We are excited to continue our relationship with Elliott Sadler for the fourth straight year,” said Mary McDowell, President and CEO of OneMain Financial. “He truly is a great ambassador for our company and our brand. We are also thrilled to once again partner with Joe Gibbs Racing for another successful season on and off the track as we continue to leverage this platform to grow our brand and our business in 2014."

The 2014 season will mark OneMain Financial’s 11th season as a sponsor in NASCAR and the second season as the primary sponsor for JGR’s No. 11 Toyota. Driver Elliott Sadler finished fourth in the final 2013 standings, with nine top-five and 20 top-ten finishes.

Sadler is an experienced NASCAR veteran and will enter his 17th Nationwide Series season in 2014. In 230 career starts in the Nationwide Series, he has accumulated nine wins, 55 top-five and 106 top-10 finishes. Voted the 2011 Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver, Sadler also became only the 21st driver to win a race in each of NASCAR’s national series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Truck Series) in 2010.

"I'm honored for the opportunity to drive for OneMain Financial again in 2014,” said Sadler. “It's such a privilege to be teamed with an organization that cares as much about teamwork as I do. I am looking forward to working with Coach Joe Gibbs and the JGR organization again this upcoming season. We have some unfinished business and will work to bring home a championship in 2014 for this team, our sponsors and JGR." 

”OneMain Financial has been a tremendous partner for us and we are thrilled to have them return with Elliott (Sadler) next season,” said J.D. Gibbs, President of Joe Gibbs Racing. “OneMain Financial has supported our sport for a long time and is a great example of building a successful program to engage both their customers and employees. With a year of experience together, we are expecting a lot of great things from Elliott and our No. 11 team in 2014.


Brad Keselowski passed nine cars with five laps to go at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday night, winning the race for Penske Racing and capturing the Nationwide Manufacturers' Championship for Ford Racing. Teammate Joey Logano’s sixth place finish earned Penske Racing the Nationwide Owner’s Championship.

Following an extended caution period for a multi-car crash with 17 laps remaining, Keselowski went from 10th to first during the final restart to win his seventh race of the 2013 season.

“Sometimes you make it through and sometimes you don’t,” said Keselowski in Victory Lane. “Today we did. A lot of aggressive moves. It almost felt like a video game passing 10 or 12 cars in two or three laps. That’s what you’ve got to be able to do to win at this level.”

Keselowski led the way to Ford’s manufacturer title with seven wins; followed by three from Joey Logano, two from AJ Allmendinger, and one each from Sam Hornish Jr., Ryan Blaney, and Trevor Bayne to give Ford Racing and Roush Yates Engines an impressive 15 wins in 2013.

“That was an amazing performance by Brad and the entire Penske team to make this happen. What an amazingly close battle it was today,” said Jamie Allison, Director, Ford Racing. “To watch Brad come from that far back in the pack to clinch the manufacturers’ championship was just amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone that helped Ford get to this moment.”

Logano’s sixth place finish in the Ford Ecoboost 300 secured the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship for Roger Penske’s No. 22 team by just one point over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team. The owner’s title for the No. 22 was truly a team effort with four drivers earning wins in the car this season.

“First, I want to congratulate Joey and Brad and what Paul did tonight,” said Penske.  “We had a manufacturers’ championship on the line, we had the car owner’s and the driver’s championship, so there was a lot of pressure when you think about it. This is a credit to the entire team. Everyone back at the shop – we talk about the engine builder, Ford, Discount Tire, Hertz, AAA, those that have helped us – are committed to us going forward.”

Roush Yates Engines finished off the 2013 NASCAR season with 6 Sprint Cup Wins, 15 Nationwide Wins, and 1 Camping World Truck Series win. Rookie of the Year winners included Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series and Ryan Blaney in the Camping World Truck Series. For more information about Roush Yates Engines, please visit

Roush Yates PR

Race Highlights: 

  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished 10th (Kevin Harvick), 23rd (Jeff Burton) and 39th (Paul Menard) in the Homestead 400.
  • Following the event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Harvick rounded out the 2013 season third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 34 markers behind the leader, while Menard ended the season 17th and Burton 20th.
  • The No. 29 Chevrolet SS team completed the season third in the Sprint Cup Series owner championship point standings, while the No. 27 team ranked 17th and the No. 31 team 21st.
  • According to NASCAR's Post-Race Loop Data Statistics, Harvick was the ninth-Fastest Driver Late in a Run and ninth-Fastest on Restarts.
  • With 120 passes completed, Harvick ranked third in the Green-Flag Passes category.
  • RCR teammates Harvick and Menard posted 17 of the Fastest Laps Run with 15 and two, respectively.
  • Menard was the Fastest Driver Early in a Run and second-Fastest Driver Late in a Run that didn't finish within five laps of the leader.
  • Burton made 69 green-flag passes, five of which came while competing in the top-15 (Quality Passes).
  • Denny Hamlin earned his first victory of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season and was followed to the finish line by Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. and Clint Bowyer.
  • The Sprint Cup Series banquet is Friday, Dec. 6 at the Wynn Las Vegas and is scheduled to be televised that evening on FOX Sports 2 with coverage beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.


2011 CC Team Icon 27 NSCS Menards 


Menard Finishes 39th After Explosion at Homestead-Miami Speedway


Starting the Homestead 400 from the 12th position, Paul Menard and the No. 27 Moen/Menards Chevrolet SS team ran in the top 10 for the majority of the day before an exploding tire relegated them to a 39th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the early laps of the 400-mile event, Menard faced a loose-handling condition. That handling issue led the No. 27 team to make a variety of chassis adjustments during the ensuing pit stops. Though he was struggling with a loose-handling car, the Wisconsin native maintained a position inside the top 10 until sustaining right-rear damage on the lap-194 restart. Just 10 laps later, Menard cut a right-rear tire. As a result of the flat tire, the Richard Childress Racing driver visited pit road several times under caution to make repairs. Rubber from the flat right-rear tire became wrapped around the axle and several laps after restarting in 27th on lap 211, a fire erupted near the new right-rear tire causing Menard to pit for repairs. Upon entering pit road, the right-rear tire exploded from the fire, forcing Menard to end his night early because of extensive damage to the car. He ultimately finished the race in 39th, and ended the 2013 season 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with three top-five and nine top-10 finishes.


Start - 12          Finish - 39           Laps Led - 0          Points - 17th



"That was pretty wild. First of all, the Moen/Menards Chevrolet was really good all night. On that restart, everybody kind of checked up and we got some right-rear damage and had a flat tire. I guess a bunch of rubber got wrapped up underneath around the axle. We came in a couple of times trying to fix the damage and tried to get the rubber off. We didn't get it all and I guess it just caught fire. I didn't really know it until there was a little bit of spark coming in the car and landed on the window net. I thought that was kind of weird. About a lap later they said I was on fire. I lost my brakes and then the wheel blew right off of the car. I thought they were going to hit the fire extinguisher. But the tire blew out and knocked the fire extinguisher out of my gasman's hands. Then everything caught on fire. I just tried to get out of the car as fast as I could. When it blew, I was worried about all my guys on the right-rear corner. We've seen tires blow before and they are pretty violent. I'm just glad everyone is okay."

Harvick Closes Out Season with 10th-Place Finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway


Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team closed out the 2013 season with a 10th-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday evening. The Richard Childress Racing driver started the 267-lap affair from the sixth position and battled a tight-handling Chevrolet during the early stages of the race. Crew chief Gil Martin directed Harvick to pit road on laps 13, 25 and 69 for tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to combat the handling issues his driver was fighting. The California native continued to struggle with an ill-handling red and white machine, influencing the team to make an unscheduled four-tire pit stop under green-flag conditions on lap 116. After falling as far back as the 29th in the running order and going one lap down to the leader, Harvick persevered and raced his way back onto the lead lap and into the top 15 just past the halfway mark. The team continued to work on the handling of the Budweiser Chevrolet throughout the remainder of the event, allowing Harvick to cross the finish line 10th in his final race for RCR. Harvick ended the season third in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on the strength of four wins, one pole award, nine top-five and 21 top-10 finishes.


Start - 6          Finish - 10           Laps Led - 8          Points - 3rd



"We just weren't very good today and couldn't get the car to turn like we needed to. We had one set of tires that gave us some real troubles for whatever reason, but just like always these guys on our Budweiser Chevy kept after it. We were able to salvage something out of the night. Obviously, it's not what we wanted, but we came back and were way better at the end than what we were in the beginning. It's what we've done all year and I'm just proud of everybody and thank them for everything that they have done."

2011 CC Team Logo NSCS 31 CAT
Jeff Burton Finishes 23rd in Season-Finale Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway


Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team finished off the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a 23rd-place effort in the season-finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Starting 14th, the South Boston, Va., native maintained a top-20 running position early in the 400-mile event while battling a loose-entry and tight-middle handling condition on his Chevrolet. After a routine green-flag pit stop on lap 66, the caution flag was displayed for debris, trapping the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner two laps down to the leader. After taking the "wave around" pass under caution, Burton restarted 32nd and continued to battle with the ill-handling machine as the Luke Lambert-led Caterpillar pit crew made chassis and air pressure adjustments on multiple four-tire pit stops during the middle stages of the event. The Caterpillar team finally caught a break with 60 laps remaining when they were awarded the "Lucky Dog" pass and returned to the lead lap. The fortunate turn of events gave Burton the opportunity to re-enter the top 20, but the tight-handling condition returned after the last restart and Burton brought home a 23rd-place finish in his final race with Richard Childress Racing. Burton finished the season 20th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with two top-five and six top-10 finishes.


Start - 14          Finish - 23          Laps Led - 0          Points - 20th



"I had a lot of fun driving this No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet over the last five seasons. I enjoyed this team. We've had a good time together. We haven't had the performance we wanted, but I strongly believe in this group. I really do. The hardest part for me is that I'm walking away from a group that I feel really good about. I feel like they're going to be a lot better next year than this year. That has been hard, but other than that, I'm at peace with everything. I feel good about what I've got going on. Hopefully in the next several days, I can talk about it. I'm excited about my future and about these guys' future, too. I like this team and feel really close to them.



Matt Crafton claimed his first career NASCAR national series title Friday night by taking the green flag in the Camping World Truck Series' season finale Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota.

Thus, Crafton will be feted Monday night for NCWTS drivers' championship at the Leows Hotel Miami Beach in a black-tie awards ceremony shared with competitors from the NASCAR Nationwide Series. An edited version of the ceremony will be shown at a later date.

Friday, Crafton slugged his way through an up-and-down night that unfortunately ended on a down note that cost his team the Truck Series' owners' championship. Crafton came into the race with a 23-point lead over Kyle Busch Motorsports' owner/driver and only needed to finish 18th or better to win owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson's fourth championship this season.

Crafton pitted late, restarted back in the field and was involved in an accident with Busch's teammate Joey Coulter on the first of three green-white-checker restarts. That relegated Crafton to a 21st-place finish while Busch won the race and led the most laps.

As a result, Crafton's ThorSport Racing team was tied with Busch's No. 51 with 804 points each. KBM triumphed on the first tiebreaker -- six wins to one for Crafton.

In ThorSport's 18th year of existence, the NCWTS owners' title was the one prize Duke Thorson coveted the most in his organization's most successful season to date.

Crafton ended the campaign 40 points ahead of Ty Dillon, with 19 top-10 finishes in 22 starts. He extended his Truck Series record for consecutive starts to 316 -- every race since his debut in the 2000 season finale -- and was the only series driver in 2013 that completed all 3,391 laps contested. 


En route to his 2013 championship, Crafton won one race, at Kansas -- after which he took the series' championship lead and held it until the end of the season. That enabled he and ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter to establish another series record as ThorSport is the first organization in the series' 19-year history to lead the points all season.


Crafton opened his 12th season driving for ThorSport with 16 consecutive top-10 finishes, including ThorSport's third career one-two finish, behind Martinsville race winner Sauter. Crafton's Homestead result was his worst finish of the year.


"It's an honor to be able to drive this Menards Toyota Tundra," said Crafton, 37, a native of Tulare, Calif. "For Menards and all the people that have been behind me, every one of these guys that work on this truck, it's an honor to be able to give them this championship.


"These guys are the ones that work so hard. I'm just the one that gets to celebrate and look like the hero because I got to drive a great truck all year."


"On behalf of all our associates at Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development), I would like to congratulate Matt and the entire ThorSport Racing organization on their first NASCAR championship," said Les Unger, Toyota's national motorsports manager.  "Matt and the team accomplished (the championship) this year and he's the true embodiment of what the Truck Series is all about."


In 12 full seasons competing in the NCWTS with ThorSport, Crafton has earned three victories, 63 top-five finishes, 175 top-10 results and seven pole positions. He finished as the series' runner-up in 2009 and is the 2000 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series champion.


Earlier this season Thorsport, which opened in 1996 and ran its first full season in 1998, won the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards drivers' and owners' titles with 10-time champion Frank Kimmel driving its No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota.


In addition to Crafton's Kansas victory, Sauter won three times -- the most by a Truck Series regular and Kimmel won four ARCA races.


"It just shows that you don't have to be in North Carolina to (win a championship)," Crafton said. "Duke has always said that, since day one -- since I came there -- that we can win it from Ohio. We built this thing as a group. Each and every year we got it better and better.


"It's just been awesome. I can't thank them enough. Every one of these guys that work on this team, every one of the guys that have been behind the scenes have just worked their butts off. From the guys at the shop to the guys that hang the bodies, the guy that paint them -- every one of them.  I can't thank them enough."

Thorsport PR

“Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson on capturing his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson’s ferocity as a competitor is evident through his and the No. 48 team’s continued success. It demonstrates the great effort put forth throughout the entire season, including the finale and his ninth place finish in the race.”


Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 17th in the Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The race marked Newman’s last as a member of SHR, as he moves to Richard Childress Racing in 2014. Newman scored eight poles and four wins, including the 20th running of the Brickyard 400 in August 2013, during his five-year tenure at SHR.

The Quicken Loans team made adjustments all race long but was unable to dial the handling of its red-and-white machine to Newman’s liking.

After starting 15th, an ill-handling racecar dropped Newman to 20th in the early going of the 267-lap race. Despite making many adjustments throughout the course of the event, crew chief Matt Borland was unable to come up with the combination needed to correct a handling condition that saw Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet tight entering and in the center of the corners but loose on the exit.

Borland seemed to hit on a solid setup after a pit stop on lap 190 as the No. 39 climbed from the 21st position to 13th in just 10 laps. Newman continued to make forward progress, running as high as eighth on lap 219, before the handling characteristics changed once again, resulting in a loss of several positions over the closing laps of the race. Despite his best efforts, Newman was not able to overcome the ill handling that plagued his car for much of the race.

“That certainly wasn’t the way that we wanted to end the 2013 season,” Newman said. “We struggled with our Quicken Loans Chevrolet all weekend. We never could really get it where I needed it to be. I’ve got to thank Matt Borland (crew chief) and everyone on this No. 39 team for their hard work tonight and all season. We won the Brickyard 400, we made the Chase, I think we had top-10 finishes in half the races. We certainly can’t hang our heads about that. But as racers, you always want more. So I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish, but I certainly hoped we would be able to end the year on a higher note than we did.

“I’ve got to thank everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for everything over the last five years. We didn’t reach all of the goals that we set out to, but we did accomplish a lot together. I’ve got to thank Quicken Loans, Outback Steakhouse, WIX Filters, Aspen Dental, Code 3 Associates, Haas Automation, State Water Heaters and all of the partners that supported me over the last five years.”

Newman’s teammate Mark Martin, interim driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subbed for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 19th. The race was Martin’s 882nd career Sprint Cup start and his last scheduled Sprint Cup start in a career dating back to April 5, 1981, when he made his Sprint Cup debut at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. Martin ends his NASCAR career with 1,144 starts across all NASCAR series, with 40 Sprint Cup wins, 49 Nationwide Series wins and seven Camping World Truck Series wins.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 20th. It was Patrick’s 46th career Sprint Cup start and her first at Homestead. Patrick, who competed for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished two spots in the race ahead of Stenhouse, who placed 22nd.

Denny Hamlin won the Ford EcoBoost 400 to score his 23rd career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Homestead.

Matt Kenseth finished .799 of a second behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were eight caution periods for 37 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval.

Newman represented SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and came into the final race of the 10-race Chase in 11th place among the 13 Chase drivers. He ended the season 11th in the standings.

Patrick finished the year 27th in the standings with 646 points. She finished runner-up to Stenhouse in the 2013 Rookie of the Year title.

Stewart, who was sidelined midway through the season with a broken right leg suffered in a sprint car crash Aug. 5, finished 29th with 594 points.



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