Kenseth wins last Nationwide race, Elliott crowned youngest champ in NASCAR history, Penske takes owners title

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Matt Kenseth rallied for a green-white-checker flag victory in the final race of both the 2014 season and in the seven-year history of the Nationwide Series on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The series will be rebranded as the Xfinity Series for 2015.

With two laps to go, shortly after Kyle Larson passed Kenseth for the lead, Josh Berry got loose and collected Brendan Gaughan in the process, just before the leaders reached the start/finish line for what would have been the white flag lap.

As a result, the scheduled 200-lap was extended six additional laps. After cleanup of debris from the wreck, Kenseth got a great restart on Larson and sailed on to his first NNS win since last season.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve won a race in anything,” Kenseth, who has not won a race in the Sprint Cup Series either this season (after winning seven last season), told ESPN afterward.

“Kyle (Larson) got around me on the second-to-last restart,” Kenseth said, “and when he chose the bottom there and I had Kyle (Busch) behind me, I knew we had a shot again, I just had to do a better job than I did the time before. Luckily, we got that last chance to redeem ourselves.”

Busch also rallied to pass Larson on the final lap of overtime to finish second, while Larson finished third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher.

Regan Smith was sixth, followed by Ty Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott.

Even with his eighth-place finish, Keselowski – filling in for teammate Joey Logano, who will battle for the Sprint Cup championship on Sunday – still ended up high enough in the finishing order to earn the NNS owner’s championship for Roger Penske.

Lastly, even though he finished 17th in the race, Chase Elliott officially accepted the last NNS championship trophy, as well, making last weekend’s clinching of the title at Phoenix International Raceway official.

It was 10 years ago that JR Motorsports opened its doors, and now it has reached the pinnacle of the NNS, with the 18-year-old Elliott becoming the youngest major series champion in NASCAR history.

“We’re very proud of Chase and the whole team,” JR Motorsports co-owner and Sprint Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “They did a great job. Everybody that has ever worked at JR Motorsports ought to be real proud to have helped us get to where we are today.”

Elliott, who had a series-high three wins and 16 top-five finishes this season, will return to JRM for next season for what will be the first year of the Xfinity Series.

“It means the world to me, not just to myself, but this is a huge accomplishment for our whole team,” Elliott said. “The last week allowed me to sit back and think of not only all the great people that made it possible this year, but there’s a lot of names, smart people and great racers that have helped me get to this point that have allowed me to stand here tonight.

“A huge thanks to all of them, they know who they are. This is a dream come true. I’d have never thought it at the beginning of the season. We’re looking forward to enjoying it as much as we can.”

Crew chief Greg Ives, who will replace Steve Letarte as Earnhardt’s crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series next season, would have liked to have seen a better finish, but there’s no denying the incredible accomplishments the entire team has done in 2014.

“The car was fast, and you can’t doubt the talent that Chase has in the car,” Ives said. “It’s kind of bittersweet, the last race of the season for Chase and we definitely wanted to run better than this.

“We tried something a little different, you can’t change it, can’t go back on it and go fight the adversity, and Chase was doing that. I’m very proud of that young man. He’s got a lot of years in front of him.”

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III