Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Nationwide Title Chase One For The Ages

Stenhouse is gunning for a second NNS title...
After 31 races filled with razor-close competition, the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship stands in a dead-heat tie; 1,170 points each for defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and challenger Elliott Sadler. 

If that scenario sounds familiar, it should. One year ago the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ended with a tie in the points between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. The title was ultimately decided by a tiebreaker – most wins in the season – giving five-time Sprint Cup Series victor Tony Stewart the championship. 

This season’s Nationwide title chase has potential for a similar outcome. Currently tied in points, Stenhouse holds the tiebreaker with six victories to Sadler’s four. Two races remain, Phoenix and Homestead, and it’s still anyone’s title.  

Both championship contenders have had outstanding seasons.  
...but Sadler has other ideas.
Stenhouse has posted six wins, along with 18 Top-5 and 24 Top-10 finishes, with four poles. His season-to-date Driver Rating (110.0) leads the series and his Average Running Position (8.854) is third best among all Nationwide Series drivers. 

Sadler has posted four wins, 15 Top-5 and 23 Top-10 finishes, along with four poles. His 2012 Driver Rating (108.9) is second only to Stenhouse and he leads all drivers with an Average Running Position of 6.956.  

At Phoenix International Raceway, Stenhouse has a better average finish (6.6 in five starts) than Sadler (15.4 in seven starts), but Sadler won on the newly reconfigured one-mile track earlier this season. Stenhouse finished third, but failed to earn a bonus point for leading a lap that day; something he will be anxious to avoid this time around.  

With the title chase so close, bonus points could weigh heavily in the final two races. The most either driver can earn in a single event is five points; one for leading a lap, one for leading the most laps and three more for the win. Stenhouse has accumulated 37 bonus points this season, compared to Sadler’s 32.  

The championship picture may not be a two-man affair, either. Austin Dillon still hovers on the periphery of the title chase, 21 points behind Stenhouse and Sadler and still mathematically in contention for the title. Dillon will almost certainly need to capitalize on mistakes by both Stenhouse and Sadler to claim the title, but the third-generation driver is up for the challenge, and has the talent, equipment and personnel to push the title chase to the very end.
Photos: LAT Photographic,

No comments:

Post a Comment