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Race Rewind: Looking back at the Ford 400

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Monday, Nov. 18, 2013
Next race 2014 Daytona 500 Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla. When: 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 TV: Fox Radio: Motor Racing Network Last year’s winner: Jimmie Johnson
5 key moments 1 . Matt Kenseth took control early, leading 82 of the first 91 laps. 2 . Jimmie Johnson and Kenseth both lost ground on a restart on Lap 194 when Jeff Gordon spun his tires, sending the cars behind him scattering all over the track. 3 . The rear-end housing and right-rear tire of Paul Menard’s car exploded on pit road. After the caution and pit stops, Denny Hamlin took over the race lead. 4 . Dale Earnhardt Jr. used a three-wide move to grab the lead from Hamlin on Lap 240. 5 . Hamlin retook the lead on Lap 244 from Earnhardt and quickly ran out to a sizable advantage as he earned his first Cup win of the season. Johnson finished ninth to clinch his sixth Cup championship.

Hendrick remains on top of its game

• Jimmie Johnson is good, really good. But equally as stout as the title run Johnson has been on – six titles in eight seasons – has been the performance by the organization for which he drives, Hendrick Motorsports. HMS drivers have won 11 of the past 19 Cup series championships – a 57.9 winning percentage during that span (1995-2013).

• Homestead-Miami Speedway provided an excellent venue this weekend for the season finales of NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Nationwide and Truck. The races all featured good racing, wild restarts and all of the races were competitive. The only blemish was NASCAR’s unwillingness to throw a red flag during the final 20 laps of Saturday’s Nationwide finale for a long track cleanup and instead made fans and competitors waste 12 laps under caution.

• Sunday’s championship celebration was the first Johnson’s 3-year-old daughter, Evie, has been able to take part in. Rather than spend the entire time on stage, she elected to carefully pick up the many, many pieces of confetti in Victory Lane.

How the Chase contenders fared

1 Jimmie Johnson (2,419): Johnson ended the season with the second-most wins (six), tied for the most top-fives (16) and with the most top-10 finishes (24) in 36 races. He remains the all-time leader for Chase victories with 24, including two this season.

2 Matt Kenseth (-19) : Kenseth was a newcomer to Joe Gibbs Racing but not to success, although 2013 was his most productive season. He ended the year short of a championship but with the most wins (seven).

3 Kevin Harvick (-34) : Harvick gained no ground in his title chase, but he still equaled his career-best points finish in his final year with Richard Childress Racing. He will join Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

4 Kyle Busch (-55) : All the JGR cars were strong, and Busch spent a good deal of time up front with teammates Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. He ended up seventh. His fourth-place finish in the standings is a career best.

5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-56) : Long runs were good for Earnhardt, and he continued what has been a strong Chase with another solid performance. He led 28 laps – third-most in the race – and spent the final laps in a hard battle with Kenseth for second place. He ended the season without a victory.

6 Jeff Gordon (-82): For a driver who wasn’t going to make the Chase, Gordon made a strong accounting for himself, winning a race and finishing sixth in the standings.

7 Clint Bowyer (-83): Bowyer was a nonfactor virtually the entire race but found speed at the end and powered to a fifth-place finish. He ends the season without a victory.

8 Joey Logano (-96): In his first season with Penske Racing, Logano qualifies for the Chase for the first time and finishes eighth in the standings. “I had a lot of fun this year and this was my best season personally,” he said.

9 Greg Biffle (-98): Biffle and Johnson raced each other very hard at one point Sunday. Could that have been a flashback to Martinsville, Va., when Biffle angrily confronted Johnson after the race?

10 Kurt Busch (-110) : Busch was all over the map Sunday. He actually led four laps early but struggled many times with the handling of his car and finished 21st.

11 Ryan Newman (-133): Newman completed his final season with Stewart-Haas. He will move to RCR’s No.31 Chevrolet next season.

12 Kasey Kahne (-136): Kahne struggled throughout the race and at one point fell a lap down when he was forced to pit under green for a loose wheel. He rebounded to finish 13th.

13 Carl Edwards (-137) : At one point late in the race, Edwards was forced to pit twice under caution for a vibration. He rebounded to finish 12th.

Notebook

High interest in NASCAR’s Nationwide series sponsorship

NASCAR is receiving high interest in the title sponsorship of its Nationwide Series, including several familiar companies already involved in the sport.

Nationwide Insurance Co., which is in its sixth season sponsoring NASCAR’s No.2 series, announced in September that next season will be its last in that role. The company will sponsor a car in the Sprint Cup Series.

Subway, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts all were companies involved the last time the series sponsorship became open, several sources confirmed.

Other companies involved include existing NASCAR sponsorship “partners;” as well new brands in specific categories that cater to NASCAR’s target demographics, such as an auto parts chains, quality service restaurants and technology and innovation companies, sources said.

“We expect there to be very strong interest in this entitlement position and are highly confident a great replacement will be found,” said Jim O’Connell, NASCAR’s chief sales officer.

A decision is expected next year.

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