Stenhouse On Path To Repeat His Championship WaysExclusive company is where current standings leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be if he stays the course and repeats as the NASCAR Nationwide Series champion. Stenhouse would become the sixth driver to win consecutive series championships, joining Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy LaJoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05).
Stenhouse, the unofficial ‘Comeback Kid’ of the series, is doing it again. Following his win at Iowa Speedway last weekend, Stenhouse bolstered his points lead to 34 over second-place Elliott Sadler and in the process posted the series’ first Perfect Driver Rating performance of this season (150.0). Since a 19th-place result to start the year at Daytona, Stenhouse has ripped off nine straight finishes of sixth or better, including three wins (Las Vegas, Texas, Iowa).
Compared to last season, the stats are pointing to Stenhouse to pull it off. He has accumulated 90 more points in the series standings, including 13 more bonus points, than he did after the first 10 races in 2011. He also has bettered his season-to-date Driver Rating (117.9) by 13 points (’11 Driver Rating - 104.9), and his Average Running Position (6.1) by two positions (’11 Avg. Running Position - 8.2) over last season after 10 races.
Stenhouse returns to Charlotte after winning the pole for this race last year and finishing fourth, just missing the opportunity to give Roush Fenway Racing a top-three sweep – Matt Kenseth won, followed by Carl Edwards. Stenhouse has made five series starts at Charlotte, posting one top five and two top 10s.
Bliss-ful Return To Charlotte Motor SpeedwayMike Bliss, 47, is one of the most versatile – and perhaps unheralded – drivers in NASCAR. Running for TriStar Motorsports, an independent series team, Bliss currently is ranked eighth in the standings, the seventh straight week he’s been listed in the top 10 after starting off the year in 27th due to an accident at Daytona. Although he’s yet to post a top-10 finish this season, the 2002 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and only driver to accumulate 200 starts in both NNS and NCWTS has had his best success at Charlotte. Both of his NASCAR Nationwide Series victories have come at Charlotte. He won this race in 2009 and captured his first series win in the 2004 fall event. He finished 18th in this race last year. With 135 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, Bliss will pull double duty this weekend, also running in the Coca-Cola 600. Other full-time NNS regulars entered in the season’s longest NSCS race are T.J. Bell, Danica Patrick, 1992 series champion Joe Nemechek and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Cole Whitt.
Coulter Next In Line As RCR Continues To Groom Young TalentHard work, experience and success are all keys to making it in NASCAR, and car owner Richard Childress is notorious for having one of the best eyes for talented drivers. The NASCAR ladder system has been quite beneficial to Childress. He has used it to hone the talents of Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and his grandson, Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Dillon, currently third in the series standings. This weekend, Childress has tapped up-and-coming driver Joey Coulter for the History 300 at CMS.
Coulter, 21, is currently in his second full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Coulter earned five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in his rookie season. He currently is 10th in the 2012 NCWTS driver standings with two top-10 finishes in the first five events.
"I'm really excited to be given the opportunity to run in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with RCR this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway," Coulter said. "I can't thank RCR and everyone that has helped me grow as a driver over the past two years enough."