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UPS Game-Changing Moments: Homestead

November 17, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com

UPS Game-Changing Moments: Homestead
Moments that changed the course of the final race in the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup

DENNY HAMLIN GETS WIN TO EXTEND STREAK

Denny Hamlin found redemption for a lost season.

Sidelined for four races with a broken back earlier in the season, Hamlin took the checkered flag in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Jimmie Johnson claimed his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with a ninth-place finish.

Hamlin won for the first time this season, the second time at Homestead and the 23rd time in his career. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has won at least one race in each of his eight full seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

UPS


JIMMIE JOHNSON FINISHES NINTH FOR SIXTH TITLE

Johnson finished the season 19 points ahead of polesitter and race runner-up Matt Kenseth, who held off a furious charge from third-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps. With six NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, Johnson is one behind career leaders Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Johnson's path to the title was far from easy. Moments after a restart on Lap 194, Paul Menard rammed the back of Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet as the outside line checked up. The impact jerked Johnson's car sideways, but the five-time champion was able to regain control and keep the car off the outside wall.

His momentum sapped, however, Johnson plummeted to 23rd in the running order, the precise finishing position he needed to secure his sixth championship. Over the next nine laps, Johnson recovered to 16th and drove the No. 48 out of the danger zone.

From that point on, he advanced as high as sixth in the running order before finishing ninth, and the sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title was his.

TIRE BLOWS UP FOR FINAL CAUTION, SETS STAGE FOR RACE’S END


After contact with Johnson on the Lap 194 restart, Menard's tire blew off, resulting in a fire on pit road with plenty of smoke and the ninth and final caution of the race that led the final restart.

Thankfully, everyone near the car was OK, Menard's crew chief, Slugger Labbe, reported over the radio.

Menard came in to pit on Lap 230 with his right rear tire blown and sparks were flying from under his car.

When he reached his pit stall, his wheel blew up and there was fire on the right side of his car and smoke everywhere.

Menard told ESPN about the incident that "I didn't really know it until there was a spark."

Menard and his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet were out of the race following the incident.

NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.