HOMESTEAD, Fla. — NASCAR’s newest champion wouldn’t take his helmet off.

If he did, then everyone would see Martin Truex Jr. cry.

Truex capped the most successful season of his journeyman career as NASCAR’s champion Sunday, then struggled to start the celebration. He was mobbed on the frontstretch by his Furniture Row Racing team, and after his girlfriend pushed through the crowd to get to him, he finally pulled the helmet and black visor off to show his face.

Truex was sobbing.

“I was a mess. I couldn’t even talk,” Truex said. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with, the times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me, but the guys, the people who mattered did, my fans, my family.

“Then when I got with this team … they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Truex won his first Cup title by winning the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, beating Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski for the championship. The other three were former champions. Truex was the favorite.

He thrived in that role, didn’t flinch when fellow Toyota driver Busch tried to use a different pit strategy to steal the race, and then held off a hard-charging Busch over the final 12 laps.

It was the eighth win of the season for Truex and the first championship for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. It’s the second title in three years for Toyota.

“Just a dream season. I was going to be gutted if we didn’t win,” Truex said. “We gave it our all, and it was enough tonight.”

Busch finished second for Joe Gibbs Racing as Toyota, the most dominant manufacturer this season, went 1-2 in the finale.

Kyle Larson, who was eliminated from the playoffs last month, finished third in a Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Harvick, seeking his second title, was fourth in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

Keselowski wound up seventh and was stopped short in trying to give Team Penske a season sweep of the top American racing series. Penske won the IndyCar title in September.

Truex tried to express what this season – a year in which longtime partner Sherry Pollex suffered a recurrence of ovarian cancer – has meant.

“A lot of it was for (Pollex). A lot of it was for me. A lot of it was for this team,” Truex said. “I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid. Just never give up on your dreams no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through.”

Missing from the celebration party was Furniture Row team owner Barney Visser. He suffered a heart attack two weeks ago and watched the race on television from Colorado.

Truex led nearly every statistical category this year, including wins, laps led and stage victories.

“I mean, yeah, they’ve had the fastest car all year, so it was good to see him win,” said Harvick.

It was the final race as full-time drivers for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth finished 15th, Earnhardt was 25th, and Patrick blew a tire and wrecked, finishing 37th.