This Year, Stenhouse Brings A Different Story To The Glen
Hot driver plus unfamiliar track equals interesting outcome.That’s the story behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader and his trip to Watkins Glen.
Last year at this juncture, Stenhouse was watching Billy Johnson, his Roush Fenway teammate on the Grand Am side, drive his No. 6 stock car around the seven-turn course. Then, Stenhouse was in the midst of rebounding from a dismal first half of 2010. Not only had he nearly lost his ride after suffering five DNFs (did not finish) results in his first 16 races, he also failed to qualify for one and was benched by team owner Jack Roush for an event.But he turned his fortunes around in the second half, posting three top fives and seven top 10s while also overcoming the largest deficit in series Rookie of the Year history to claim that award.
In February another teammate, Trevor Bayne, shocked the sporting world with his improbable Daytona 500 win. His stock, already high following a solid first full NASCAR Nationwide Series season in 2010, was through the roof. Meanwhile Stenhouse, who finished eighth to Bayne’s 10th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opener the day before, remained in the background.
But a month after his breakthrough win, Bayne contracted an illness that set him back in both his fulltime NASCAR Nationwide Series and part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rides. Meanwhile Stenhouse has become a success story of major proportions. In that span, he’s claimed the standings lead – currently +12 over Reed Sorenson – has registered his first two NASCAR Nationwide Series wins after sweeping the races at Iowa Speedway. He’s posted three poles and is cultivating a "never-back-down" reputation that has seen him go door-to-door with yet another teammate, Carl Edwards, in order to get to his current standings status.
He’ll make up for missing last year’s race this weekend. He’ll run in the Grand Am race with RFR teammate David Ragan, the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie of the year, after the Zippo 200 on Saturday.
The last time Justin Allgaier and Ron Fellows were on a NASCAR Nationwide Series road course, both thought they had wins in the bag.
In June at Road America, Allgaier was leading on the last lap – a caution lap no less – but ran out of gas before being able to cross the finish line. During that same caution, Fellows was penalized for passing the leader – Sorenson – under yellow. Believing he was on the way to a win, he instead was crushed to learn he had been placed back into his original position – second – after the checkered flag.
Needless to say, both drivers might be experiencing a bit of "road rage" upon their arrival at Watkins Glen.
Fellows has three series wins at The Glen, which ties Marcos Ambrose for second all-time behind Terry Labonte’s four, but he hasn’t won there since 2001. Fellows is also tied for the most series poles there with two. He has one win for JR Motorsports, a victory two years ago at Montreal.
Allgaier has a three-pronged reason for road-course revenge: In order to stay in the championship race, he needs a solid finish. He’s currently fifth, 83 points behind leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Also, he’d like to reverse the disappointment of Road America plus improve upon his finish at The Glen last year – 34th due to engine failure. He was 17th in his 2009 series track debut.
Double Dose of Double J At The Glen
With Watkins Glen serving a wild card of its own, serving as the first of consecutive road courses for series drivers, toss into the mix an entry list that includes some double-duty star power.
Jimmie Johnson, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, will serve as a teammate to Ron Fellows. This will be Johnson’s first race in the series since 2008 and his first road-course event since this race also in 2008. That season, he also competed for JR Motorsports. He finished 29th after running out of gas.
Additionally, Paul Menard, fresh off his Brickyard 400 win, will drive the No. 33 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Johnson spent two full seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series from 2000-01 before moving to NASCAR Sprint Cup. He’s competed in 19 series races since, but hasn’t fared as well as he has in the premier series. His average finish in those races is 19th, with five DNFs.
NNS – The Glen
Kyle Busch, the 2009 series champion, goes for his 50th series win, which would make him the all-time wins leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, breaking a tie with Mark Martin. … Chase Miller will attempt to make his 50th series start. … Joe Nemechek, the 1992 series champion, goes for his 75th top-five series finish.