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Nov 15, 2014 7:54 PM

Elliott celebrates Nationwide title at Homestead

The Associated Press

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Chase Elliott finally got to celebrate his Nationwide Series championship after he finished 17th in the season finale Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott became the youngest champion in NASCAR history last week when he wrapped up the title at Phoenix International Raceway.

All that was missing was the trophy presentation in Victory Lane that he got at Homestead.

The 18-year-old rookie is the youngest driver to win a title in any of NASCAR's three national series. He broke the mark set by Brian Vickers, who was 20 when he won the Nationwide title in 2003.

Matt Kenseth got the jump on the final restart in overtime to earn his first win of the season in any NASCAR series.

It was the final race for NASCAR's second-tier series under the Nationwide banner. It will be renamed the Xfinity Series next season.

Kyle Busch was second, Kyle Larson third, Ryan Blaney fourth and Chris Buescher fifth.

Roger Penske made it 2 for 2 in championships this season, clinching the Nationwide owner's title. Team Penske won the IndyCar championship with Will Power in September, and a victory by Joey Logano in Sunday's season finale would make Penske the only team owner to complete the sweep of major American racing titles.

Elliott made his biggest mistake of the season when he smacked the wall late in the race making a hard push for a top-10 finish. He couldn't take the checkered flag but he came away with a pretty nice consolation prize on the night.

He grabbed the championship flag and kicked up a cloud of yellow smoke off a burnout on the painted grass.

The first-time champ needs to work on his celebrations he smacked the wall during the burnout, bringing a smile from team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Victory Lane bash capped a whirlwind year for the 18-year-old rookie, who didn't even have a ride last November. He turns 19 on Nov. 28.

Elliott had three wins this season and 16 top-five finishes in 33 races. The son of Hall of Fame inductee and 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott beat JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith for the title.

It was the first Nationwide title for the team owned by Earnhardt, his sister Kelley, and Rick Hendrick.

The Elliotts are the fifth father/son duo to win NASCAR national series championships. The others are Lee Petty and Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett, David Pearson and Larry Pearson, and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

He proved he's a champion driver, leaving open the question if Elliott will stick in Nationwide or move up to the elite Sprint Cup series. Kyle Larson spent just one season in Nationwide last year before he was promoted to Cup, and Elliott could be on that same fast track.

Hendrick has indicated they'll keep him in Nationwide for now. Hendrick Motorsports does not have an open seat next year, and many believe Elliott could be Jeff Gordon's successor whenever he chooses to retire.

Xfinity now becomes just the third title sponsor in series history. Anheuser-Busch spent 26 years as title sponsor and Nationwide has been sponsor the last 11 but is moving into team sponsorship next season.

"We have truly enjoyed our time as the series sponsor and are grateful for the relationships we've made with the drivers, teams, owners, and fans," said Jim McCoy, director of sports marketing for Nationwide Insurance.


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