NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES
Full Circle For Stenhouse Jr.
To truly appreciate the first NASCAR national series victory authored by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. last Sunday at Iowa Speedway, first look back at his one-year road to that accomplishment.
How could it get better than out-dueling teammate Carl Edwards – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader, last Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race winner, a three-time NASCAR Nationwide Series winner in 2011 and the 2007 NNS champion? And toss in beating 2010 NNS champ Brad Keselowski to boot?
Consider Stenhouse’s situation one year ago at Iowa where he totaled not one, but two cars during practices, forcing his team to use Edwards’ back-up car in order for Stenhouse to race.
That wild scenario was one of an early-season’s worth of disappointments in 2010 for the young driver that included team owner Jack Roush benching Stenhouse for a race in order to regain his breath – and confidence.
His comeback since has been well-documented – stringing together consistent finishes instead of DNF’s, logging then-career-best results, making his mark as one of the top drivers in the series’ new car and overcoming the largest deficit in series history to win rookie of the year honors.
Now, add race winner, championship contender and a solid favorite – yes, favorite – Saturday night at Charlotte to his resume. Although Stenhouse finished 40th with a DNF in this race last year, he rebounded with a 14th-place result in the fall event, the first at the track in the new car. Since last October’s race at CMS, Stenhouse’s average finish is 10.9.
Big Names In Different Series Make NNS Debuts At Charlotte
The NASCAR Nationwide Series is known for developing new talent. Saturday night at Charlotte, some pretty heady talent that’s already developed or is in the process of evolving will be on display for the first time in the series.
Kimi Raikonnen, the F1 superstar who made his NASCAR national series debut last week at CMS in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to the tune of a solid 15th-place finish, is entered again this weekend, this time in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car.
Also Cole Whitt, 19, the first rookie and youngest driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history to lead the standings, is entered in the No. 99 Toyota for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing. Whitt is progressing up the NASCAR ladder, having finished fourth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points last year. Whitt is coming off a third-place finish at CMS in the truck race there last Friday. Ryan Truex, himself a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, is expected to return to the No. 99 for the June 4 race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Numerous open-wheel stars have used the series as a NASCAR springboard over the past few years. Names such as Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick, Max Papis, Adrian Fernandez and Alex Tagliani have made their NASCAR national series debuts in the NNS.
Sadler Approaching Comfort Zone – And Comfortable Tracks
He may have to carry a rookie stripe at some tracks this season in his full-time return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but Elliott Sadler quickly is acclimating to new tracks and the new car. And to the top of the leaderboard.
Running full-time in the series for the first time since 1998, Sadler has battled back from a 38th-place finish at the season-opener at Daytona (and a 27th-place standing in the points) to leading the standings for the second consecutive week. He was chosen by the media in a pre-season poll to unify the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and owner titles this season.
His consistency over the last nine races has been stellar with seven top-five finishes in that span, including fifth-place results at two tracks on which he hadn’t raced before – Nashville and Iowa.
Following his Iowa finish, Sadler noted that his confidence was growing and also pointed to upcoming tracks on the NNS schedule where he has run well in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. He currently leads second-place Reed Sorenson by seven points in the NNS standings, followed by third-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who is eight points out of the lead.