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

8 Comments

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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
Leave a comment

Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.