Austin Dillon claims NASCAR Nationwide Series title with 12th place finish

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With a 12th-place finish in tonight’s Ford Ecoboost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Austin Dillon has won the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver’s championship – becoming the first driver to claim a NASCAR national series title without winning a race.

Dillon won the crown by a margin of three points over Sam Hornish Jr., who finished eighth in tonight’s race but came up just short of his first stock car title.

After struggling for much of the night with handling problems, Dillon was able to move into the Top 10 late. With 17 laps to go, the caution came out for a multi-car incident off of Turn 4 that involved Regan Smith, Jeremy Clements and Mike Wallace.

But instead of a red flag being thrown to provide a longer run of green-flag racing at the end, the clean-up under the yellow extended long enough for NASCAR to have to wave off the restart three times. Finally, with five laps to go and Hornish and Dillon running third and fifth respectively, the race resumed.

Hornish and Dillon both fell back but Dillon was able to hang on to enough positions in the last handful of laps to bring the famous No. 3 back to a championship stage and make his team owner and grandfather, Richard Childress, shed tears of joy.

“We didn’t have the car tonight at all to run up there,” Dillon said to ESPN before hoisting the NNS championship trophy. “That was probably the worst car we’ve had all year. But we fought. My guys just kept me positive in the car, and I knew that I had to go on that last restart.

“I’ve been criticized for restarts for a long time, and that was a pretty good one. I just hung up there against the wall and tried to ride it out. I just have to thank God, [sponsor] Advocare, Chevrolet, everybody that helped us, my grandfather and my whole family. They’re so supportive, and this is amazing.”

As for Childress, he tried his level best to express himself even as he was clearly overcome with emotion.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Austin,” he said. “He drives with his heart, every lap. What can you say? He’s just a great competitor and a great grandson.”

Consistency was the hallmark this season for Dillon, who didn’t score a win but racked up 13 Top-5s and 22 Top-10s. In the end, it was enough to make him a champion.

More to come tonight…

INDYCAR: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

Chris Jones / IndyCar
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While the top story coming out of Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas is undoubtedly 18-year-old Colton Herta’s victory in only his third IndyCar start, another teenager made quite some noise during the first IndyCar race at the facility.

19-year-old Patricio O’Ward made an impressive start to his 2019 IndyCar campaign by starting and finishing in eighth position. It was the first of his 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day” O’Ward said. “I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champ, made his series debut for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where he made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ninth. O’Ward was scheduled to race for the team full-time in 2019, but left in early February to pursue other options due to a lack of sponsorship.

Pato found a new home with Carlin, and despite missing preseason testing, he proved to be competitive from the get go and pressured some of IndyCar’s more tenured drivers, including Graham Rahal.

In what was undoubtedly the most daring move of the race, O’Ward ended a great battle with Rahal by hitting a superb outside pass on Lap 15.

O’Ward may have likely earned a better result on Sunday, if he didn’t have to save fuel in order to make the finish.

But with only two IndyCar starts to his credit, he is already racing like a seasoned veteran. Sunday’s IndyCar Classic may be the first of many successful outings for him this year.

After the race, he tweeted to his team: “Well done gentlemen … This is only the beginning.”

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