Homestead, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Kenseth won Saturday's season-ending race and the final one for Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor of NASCAR's second-tier series after passing Kyle Larson for the lead with two laps to go at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead featured a green-white-checkered finish due to a multi-car crash in the closing laps. Larson took the lead from Kenseth just before the 11th and final caution.
After the last restart, Kenseth quickly pulled ahead of Larson to reclaim the top spot. Kenseth then held off Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, at the finish by 0.7 seconds. It was his 29th career Nationwide victory but his first since October 2013 at Kansas, snapping his 22-race winless streak in this series.
Kenseth remains winless in the Sprint Cup Series this season after leading that series with seven victories last year.
"It's been a long time since I won a race in anything," said Kenseth, who drove the No. 20 Toyota for JGR in this race. "Kyle (Larson) got around me on that second-to-last restart, but when he chose the bottom there and I had Kyle (Busch) behind me, I knew that we had a shot. I just had to do a better job than I did the time before. So luckily we got that one last chance to redeem ourselves."
Larson, who dominated most of this race by leading 111 laps, ended up finishing third. Ryan Blaney was fourth and Chris Buescher fifth.
Chase Elliott finished 17th and was officially crowned the 2014 Nationwide Series champion. The 18-year-old Elliott had already clinched the title with a fifth-place run in last weekend's race at Phoenix. He concluded the season with a 42-point margin over second place and JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who finished sixth at Homestead.
Elliott suffered a flat right-rear tire, which forced a caution with 13 laps to go. He pitted for new tires but remained on the lead lap.
"I know that was ugly, and we didn't have that good of a run, but we'll take it," Elliott said.
Elliott became the youngest driver to win a championship in any one of NASCAR's three national touring series. He also became the first rookie to claim a series title. Elliott, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for JRM, had three wins, 16 top-five finishes, 26 top-10s and three poles in 33 Nationwide races this season. JRM is co-owned by Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and Sprint Cup team owner Rick Hendrick.
Elliott's crew chief, Greg Ives, is moving over to Sprint Cup next year to serve as Earnhardt's crew chief at Hendrick's No. 88 team. Ives is replacing Steve Letarte, who is leaving the competition to serve as a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports.
"It's just been a very, very fun road," Elliott said. "I feel very fortunate to have not just this year with Greg and with Dale and Kelley and Mr. Hendrick, and just honestly, the best group of people that you could possibly have surrounding you in racing in the past five years that I've been short track racing and whatnot."
Brad Keselowski's eighth-place run allowed Team Penske's No. 22 team to clinch the owners' championship in the series for the second year in a row. Keselowski started on the pole but dealt with an electrical issue in the early going and was not a factor from there.
The No. 22 team scored six wins this season and ended the season 23 points ahead of JGR's No. 54 team. Keselowski scored five victories, including last week at Phoenix, and Blaney had one win for the 22. Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and Alex Tagliani also drove the car for Penske this year.
Logano had originally been scheduled to drive the car at Homestead, but earlier this week, Penske replaced him with Keselowski, allowing Logano to focus on his Sprint Cup efforts. He is one of the four drivers battling for the championship in Sunday's 400-mile race here.
"Brad ran a great race," team owner Roger Penske said. "When you think about five different drivers, it's really a credit to Jeremy Bullins (crew chief for No. 22 team) and the job he's done in preparing the car for different drivers. And with six wins, one with Ryan Blaney, it's obvious the Nationwide means so much to us because it's the proving ground."
Starting next year, Comcast's Xfinity will be the title sponsor of the series. The 2015 season begins on Feb. 21 at Daytona.