After an intense battle for the NASCAR Nationwide Series season, Austin Dillon has come out on top. Dillon, 23, has won the Nationwide Series championship, becoming just the second driver to win the Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series titles. After the race, Dillon celebrated with his pit crew, running into his younger brother’s arms as well as his legendary grandfather, Richard Childress.
Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. had one of the tightest battles in NASCAR Nationwide Series history. If Hornish could have made up three positions at any given point in the season, he could have at least tied Dillon for the championship lead. As Dillon makes the move up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Dillon loses crew chief Danny Stockman, as stated while celebrating the championship.
The team was the first ever Nationwide Series organization to win the title without winning a race during the season. However, Dillon showed what consistency can do for a driver. Dillon’s championship brings his family’s organization, Richard Childress Racing, yet another championship in the No. 3 car. It was the third Nationwide Series championship for the No. 3 Chevrolet, and the 10th championship for the car number that Dale Earnhardt Sr. made special.
However, the championship battle didn’t come easy. They had to fight against Hornish until the last lap. Hornish had a stronger car than Dillon did throughout the race, but due to an extensive caution by NASCAR to cleanup debris, the circumstances changed. There were several cars with new tires at the end of the Ford EcoBoost 300, but weren’t able to capitalize with it due to the lengthy caution, something which many drivers and fans were becoming angry about. Either way, Hornish was barely able to outrun Dillon at the end of the race.
Dillon’s worst race happened to be the final one of the year. He was able to show that he can fight back with an ill handling race car as he prepares for the next step of his career.
On the other hand, Hornish’s disappointing end to the season still showed that he’s capable of racing for wins. Even though Hornish ended the season slightly behind Dillon, he led 20 or more laps in 10 races this year (including Saturday’s event). Now, Hornish looks to lock up a job for the 2014 season after an extremely impressive 2013 where he was able to run upfront. More importantly, Hornish was able to win some fans, something he lacked when he was in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series a few years ago.
The owners championship was locked up by Roger Penske‘s No. 22 team after Brad Keselowski won the race in a third car for the team. Keselowski passed Kyle Larson late in the going for the victory, solidifying the owners title for the team. They won the championship over Joe Gibbs Racing‘s No. 54 car which won 12 of 26 races with Kyle Busch behind the wheel this year. That battle also went until the final checkered flag of the year, but still can’t compare to the emotions for winning the drivers championship.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.