Nationwide Series Season Review
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on November 23, 2013 | 9:31 A.M. EST
Dillon outraced Sam Hornish Jr. to capture the title by three points. (Photo: Getty Images)
Several records fell during the 2013 Nationwide season that ended with Austin Dillon capturing the championship.
Dillon outraced Sam Hornish Jr. to capture the title by three points. In doing so, the 23-year-old became the third-youngest champion in series history.
"Sam Hornish is a great competitor," said Dillon. "When you win them like this, it means so much more. Tight, nerve-wracking all the way down to the end. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous. I cover it pretty well."
The Richard Childress Racing driver, who won a Camping World Truck Series crown two years ago, used a season of consistent finishes to win the title. Although Dillon became the first driver in series history to claim the championship without a victory, he put together 13 top-five and 22 top-10 performances during the 33-race season.
Dillon’s accomplishment was made more special with the No. 3 on his car, which was made famous for RCR with the late Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel.
"The first one with Dale was so special," Childress said. "It felt like a truck was lifted off my back and then when we won more of them, we were wanting to win a lot more. Then for Austin to come along and win the two, and be the Nationwide champion, is really special for the '3' and all the fans."
While RCR celebrated the championship, the season was punctuated by the dominance of Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing. Those two organizations combined to win 28 races (JGR-14, Penske-14), breaking the record of 27 previously held by JGR (19) and Roush Fenway Racing (8) in 2008.
Penske’s No. 22 ride helped the team win the 2013 owners' championship with four different drivers scoring victories: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Blaney.
"To me, as we set out at the beginning of this season, it was that we had such a great group of drivers," team owner Roger Penske said of the championship season. "The expectation within the team and the sponsors was to win this championship. I wanted to see if we could rise to the occasion to beat Gibbs. J.D. and Joe are world-class guys. We respect them. We like to race with them. Kyle Busch obviously is one of the best guys out there.
"I think it was just in our DNA from the beginning of the year. Joey and Brad, it was one thing we could bring them together, drive the same car, get the speed out of it, consistency and the wins, I think, brought our team closer together."
Although JGR came up short in the owners' championship race, Kyle Busch turned in one of the most dominating season performances in series history. Busch won 12 times in 26 starts, falling one short of his season win record set in 2010.
"You win 12 races a year and with Drew Herring or Owen Kelly, they're trying to run for solid finishes and get themselves experience," said Busch, who celebrated his 12th win of the season in the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale but was still disappointed that JGR missed winning the owners' championship. "You're racing against Cup guys in another Nationwide car with a Cup team. It was a little bit more difficult than it should have been, but those were the hands we were dealt. All in all, (I'm) proud of the team and everyone, the way they worked this year."
NASCAR "Drive for Diversity" graduate Kyle Larson was named 013 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year.
"It means a lot to me to win the Rookie of the Year in the Nationwide Series. To add my name to that list hopefully means I'm doing something good," said Larson, who will make the move to a full-time Sprint Cup Series ride in 2014 with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Overall, 128 different drivers competed in at least one race in 2013. Seven track qualifying records were set over the course of the 33-race slate held at 23 tracks, including the series’ debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season will begin Feb. 22 at Daytona International Speedway.