A new winner and a familiar champion end the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Denny Hamlin won the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday night, but was overshadowed by Jimmie Johnson claiming his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Hamlin has had one of the worst seasons of his career, following a crash at the AutoClub Speedway earlier this season was able to capture his first win of the season by holding off Matt Kenseth. The win for Hamlin was able to extend his streak of at least one win in each of his eight full-time seasons.
Kenseth did almost all he could to try to beat Johnson for the title, including leading the most laps, but with Johnsons’s ninth place finish, the title would be his by 19 points. A late race restart nearly spelled disaster for the six time champ, but as he has done on more than one occasion he was able to come back from 20th.
On Lap 166, Hamlin moved out front to take the lead.
On a restart on Lap 194 following a caution for debris, Jeff Gordon spun his tires, which sent the cars behind him scattering everywhere. Both Johnson and Kenseth lost considerable ground, with Johnson picking up some left-front fender damage in the process.
During the race, a fire began under the rear-end of Paul Menard’s car and he brought the Chevrolet to pit road. Just as his crew was attempting to extinguish the fire, the rear-end housing and right-rear tire exploded in violent fashion.
No one appeared to be injured and the race was placed under caution on Lap 232.
Johnson won his sixth championship in eight years Sunday and staked his claim as one of the most dominant competitors in sports history.
“I have six, and we’ll see if I can get seven,” said Johnson, who has been asked repeatedly of late where he thinks he stands in NASCAR history.
“Time will tell. I think we need to save the argument until I hang up the helmet, then it’s worth the argument. Let’s wait until I hang up the helmet until we really start thinking about this.”
Kenseth’s effort just wasn’t enough against a Hendrick Motorsports team that wouldn’t be denied for a third consecutive year.
“If Jimmie would have got a flat or something, that would have been all right,” Kenseth lamented. “Never seen anything like this in the sport and probably never will again. … Maybe he’ll retire.”