Stenhouse Seeks Second Straight Title

Ricky Stenhhouse Jr.

Stenhouse leads Elliott Sadler by 20 points in the standings. (Photo: Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be looking to become the sixth driver to win consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series championships in Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Stenhouse, who leads the series with six wins this season, brings a 20-point advantage over Elliott Sadler into the season finale and needs a finish of 16th or better to lock up the title.  If he is able to accomplish the feat, Stenhouse will join Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy Lajoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05) as drivers that have claimed back-to-back titles.

"That would be huge," Stenhouse said about the possibility of winning consecutive championships.  "That was the goal we set coming into this year.  We wanted to win six to 10 races and I was hoping we were going to be closer to 10, but the six is a great accomplishment for our team."

Stenhouse and Sadler have exchanged the series points lead five times this season and Austin Dillon is also in the hunt for the championship, 25 points back.

"I think it's a testament to this series; and how well Elliott and his guys have run, and Austin and his guys," Stenhouse said.  "Seems like the level of competition has really stepped up this year and that's really cool to see.  It's been fun to be a part of."

Homestead-Miami Speedway is Stenhouse's favorite track.  Although he has yet to win on the 1.5-mile oval, Stenhouse has recorded a 4.7 average finish in three starts.

"If you want to build a racetrack, you've got to build it like Homestead," Stenhouse said, "with the progressive banking and identical ends, so your racecar is similar at both ends.  The tires wear out.  The older asphalt is coming to life, I guess.  You slip and slide.  It reminds me of racing my dirt car.  You can run in on the bottom, slide up to the top, put slide jobs on guys, run the bottom, run the middle, you can run the top.

"The few times I've been here, I've heard, 'Hey, you're four- or five-wide.'  That's a good racetrack when you can run bottom to top.  It's got a lane for everybody depending on where your car is running best.  So I really enjoy it here."

This year's championship bid is a bit different than 2011, when Stenhouse brought a 41-point advantage over Sadler into the season finale.

"Last year, mathematically it was still possible but really out of reach for Elliott," Stenhouse said.  "This year, it’s definitely within reach.  A mistake by us or a tire coming apart like you saw for Jimmie (Johnson) last week could happen – maybe something you can’t control.  You step up your game as far as preparation goes on the racecar because that’s the last thing they want is a parts failure or something to happen to the racecar that we might have been able to control.

"For me, it would mean a lot to win.  Just because we won last year doesn’t mean we’re not going to go for it again this year.”

Even with a smaller lead in the points, Stenhouse is relaxed heading into the race.  In his first day at the track on Thursday, Stenhouse gave ride-alongs to the media in a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and then had a cookout with his team when the Nationwide garage closed.

"I'm really relaxed," Stenhouse said.  "That's how I approach everything ... so relaxed that I almost have to tell sponsors, 'Hey, I'm really focused on this but this is how I like to be.'  I like being relaxed, I like goofing off, don't like being uptight.  I don't have any pre-race rituals.  I don't do anything the exact same every week."

Stenhouse will also be preparing for 2013 - when he takes the reins of the No. 17 Ford in the Sprint Cup Series - by competing in his fifth cup race of the season on Sunday.  The decision to run the Ford EcoBoost 400 will also give Stenhouse some more time working with his future crew chief, Scott Graves.

"I think it's going to be a great weekend for us running both," Stenhouse said.  "To get another race in with Scott before next year is going to be a huge help."

Photos

  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • Ty Dillon Wins at Indy
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • EnjoyIllinois.com 300
  • Sta-Green 200
  • Sta-Green 200
  • Sta-Green 200
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire
  • Kahne Edges Smith at Daytona
  • Kahne Edges Smith at Daytona
  • Kahne Edges Smith at Daytona
  • Kahne Edges Smith at Daytona
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300
  • © 2014 MRN. All Rights Reserved

    FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

    ISC Track Sites