Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can’t Keep Reigning Champ Stenhouse Down For Long

Can’t Keep Reigning Champ Stenhouse Down For Long
After a tumultuous beginning to his 2012 season, the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has fought back from ninth in the standings following Daytona to retake the No. 1 position five points ahead of second-place Elliott Sadler. 
Consistency has been the key to success for Stenhouse. While Sadler and Stenhouse both have two wins, Stenhouse has the upper hand with his series-leading six top-five finishes compared to Sadler’s four.
The tide may turn back in Sadler’s favor after Darlington. While both Sadler (third) and Stenhouse (10th) posted their best series career finishes at Darlington last season, Sadler’s experience might give him the edge. Sadler has made eight starts at Darlington, posting one pole, two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 18.7, compared to Stenhouse’s two starts, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 23.5. Several key pre-race Loop Data categories give Sadler the edge heading into Darlington: Driver Rating - Sadler (120.8), Stenhouse (85.5); and Average Running Position - Sadler (4.2), Stenhouse (16.3).

Blaney Showed Veteran Experience In Debut; Can He Back It Up At Darlington?
Among the glitz and glamour that followed the big-name drivers of the series around two weeks ago at Richmond, one driver, Ryan Blaney, let his driving speak for itself.
Blaney, 18, the son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, made his series debut at Richmond, starting eighth and finishing seventh. But Blaney’s race was no cakewalk. After experiencing a penalty on pit road that dropped him outside of the top 10, Blaney kept his resolve and fought his way back to seventh place. In the process, he made 40 Quality Passes (passes made during green flag conditions while running in the Top 15), the most of any driver in the event.  
"Anything that Ryan does is not a surprise," said two-time NNS champion Kevin Harvick. "He is a tremendous talent." (Click for Harvick’s audio)
In just four starts in the K&N Pro Series East and West, Blaney has a win – last November at Phoenix – a second and two other top-10 results. Blaney is running for Tommy Baldwin Racing, a team with a limited schedule that also includes drivers Ryan Truex and Bobby Santos.

Star-Studded Field Provides Plenty For The Fans To See
The storied history of Darlington Raceway has caused many of NASCAR’s top drivers to sign up for this Friday’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 under the lights. Not only will the field have the likes of NSCS drivers Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, but also NNS standouts Travis Pastrana and Danica Patrick. Patrick will be pulling double duty, driving the No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet in the NSCS race Saturday night. The weekend will be Patrick’s and Pastrana’s NASCAR national series track debut at Darlington Raceway.  
"I know it is going to be hard, and I know there will be some frustrating moments, and that I am probably going to feel a little embarrassed. But I am there to get my Darlington stripes and move along," Patrick said. 
Pastrana took advantage of the opportunity to meet with NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee David Pearson on March 31. Pearson holds the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Darlington (10) and most poles (12).
 "I’m still learning the sport of NASCAR, so to get some great advice from a legend like Mr. Pearson will be extremely beneficial for me when I get to Darlington," Pastrana said.

NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
Kyle Busch, the 2009 series champion, is the defending winner at Darlington. He will play the role of team owner this weekend, overseeing brother Kurt Busch in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota. Kurt delivered Kyle’s first NNS win as an owner two weeks ago at Richmond. ... It’s homecoming week for Jeremy Clements (Spartanburg), Danny Efland (Irmo) and the JD Motorsports team (Gaffney). Clements is currently 14th in the driver standings. He was as high as 11th three times earlier this season. Efland, a graduate of the University of South Carolina, will make his third start of the season at his home track. It will be a welcome week at home for JDM after scrambling to get to Talladega following a hauler fire at their shop on April 29. The team’s driver, Mike Wallace, will attempt to make his 425th series start (third on all-time NNS starts list). … Plenty of young talent has forced its way into the top 10 in the current series standings, but veterans Mike Bliss and Joe Nemechek are ninth and 10th, respectively. Bliss finished 12th in the final rankings last year for his TriStar Motorsports team. Nemechek, the 1992 series champion, also was ranked 10th following Phoenix in March. ... Due to a late-race incident that cost him an almost certain top10, Michael Annett‘s string of six consecutive top-15 finishes was snapped at Talladega. Despite the 23rd place, Annett is sixth in the standings. … Brian Scott will be among the current and former NASCAR drivers participating in the skid plate race Thursday night at Myrtle Beach Speedway’s "NASCAR Celebrity Night." Proceeds benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

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