Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stenhouse Surges To Win, Regains Point Lead

Stenhouse smoked `em at Chicagoland.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., saved his best for last, while point leader Elliott Sadler faded in the final laps of the Dollar General 300 Powered by Coca-Cola Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Stenhouse’s Roush Fenway Racing Ford ran in the Top-10 throughout Sunday’s race, but failed to mount a serious challenge for the lead until 20 laps to go, when he surged past leader Kyle Busch and drove off into the sunset to claim his fifth victory of the 2012 Nationwide Series season by a comfortable 2.4 seconds.

Sadler, meanwhile, plummeted through the field after a sizzling final pit stop pushed him from fifth to the lead. His ill-handling Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet fell from the top spot to eighth in the final 20- circuits, allowing Stenhouse to regain the championship point lead for the first time since early June. After entering Chicagoland with a one-point edge, Sadler now trails Stenhouse by nine points heading to Kentucky next weekend.

"We knew if we won (at) Chicago that we would leave the points leader, and that is what it is all about," said Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide Series champion who now has two wins and two runner-up finishes in his last four starts. “(Winning another title) is going to be tough, as you can see. Elliott was up front as well, and he runs good at every racetrack we have left. It is going to be a lot of fun."

“I feel like we've got good momentum, but in this business and this sport, anything can change at any time," he said. "You've got to keep your guard up. We've got to keep not making mistakes."

Busch finished second Saturday, followed by title contender Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard.

Busch admitted he thought he had the race in hand after driving away from challengers Sadler and Austin Dillon on the final restart. "The six (Stenhouse) just came out of nowhere, “he said. “That's the only discouraging part of the day… seeing the six drive by us and check out there at the end."

A potential intra-team controversy arose in the late going at Chicagoland, when Dillon’s crew chief instructed him no to help Sadler; his Richard Childress Racing teammate who is leaving at season’s end for a rumored ride with Joe Gibbs Racing. Dillon attempted to defuse the controversy, saying, “It's just racing hard for the championship. We're both wanting to win, and we had to beat the six.

“We didn't help each other at all today. It hurt us not much -- because (Stenhouse) was that much faster. (We were) just racing hard. I don't know what else to say."

Sadler said he had no issue with the way Dillon raced Saturday, adding that the RCR teams continue to share information while competing for the championship.

No comments:

Post a Comment