It’s All About Winning In This Championship
After 31 races packed with close competition, the championship title hunt has resulted in a deadlock at 1,170 points between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler, making only one thing matter – wins.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Last season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup came down to a tie in the points between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. The championship was ultimately decided by wins (Stewart, five). This season in the NNS championship race, Sadler and Stenhouse could face the same fate, though currently Stenhouse holds the advantage with six victories to Sadler’s four. Two races remain, Phoenix and Homestead, and it’s still anyone’s title.
Both championship contenders have been impeccable this season. Stenhouse has posted six wins, 18 top fives, 24 top 10s and four poles. His season-to-date Driver Rating (110.0) leads the series and his Average Running Position (8.854) is third best in the series. Sadler’s resume is nothing to scoff at either. The veteran has posted four wins, 15 top fives, 23 top 10s, and four poles. His season-to-date Driver Rating (108.9) is second only to Stenhouse and his Average Running Position leads the series with a 6.956.
Heading West to Phoenix International Raceway, a track that was repaved last season, the series will make its third go on the new surface and reconfiguration. While Stenhouse has a better average finish (6.6 in five starts) at Phoenix than Sadler (15.4 in seven starts), Sadler won on the newly reconfigured 1-mile track earlier this season. Stenhouse finished third, but didn’t lead a lap. Bonus points will be big in these final two events. The most a driver can earn in an event is five points: one for leading a lap, one for leading most laps and three for the win. Stenhouse has accumulated 37 bonus points this season compared to Sadler’s 32.
Still on the championship periphery, 21 points behind Stenhouse and Sadler, sits Austin Dillon. Third in the standings and still not mathematically out of contention for the title, Dillon has the opportunity to capitalize on any mistakes Stenhouse and Sadler make over these next two events. Dillon has made two starts at Phoenix posting one top five, a fourth earlier this season.
On The Brink Of History, Patrick Returns Home To Phoenix
As the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to the city Danica Patrick calls home for the penultimate race of the 2012 season, a strong performance this weekend would go a long way in ensuring she remains on the threshold of history. This Saturday, Phoenix plays host to the NNS Great Clips 200.
With two races remaining, Patrick currently sits in 10th in the points standings, 398 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. andElliott Sadler.
Although she is pretty much out of contention for this season’s title, if Patrick finishes 12th or higher in the final standings, she will become the highest-finishing female in national series history. Sara Christian set the record in 1949 when she finished 13th in the NASCAR premier series’ inaugural season.
In 31 races this season, Patrick has three top-10 finishes. Her best finish was eighth in Texas’ April race. In her last six races, she hasn’t finished lower than 16th. In four trips to Phoenix, she has never finished higher than 17th or on the lead lap. With her recent success, that could all change Saturday.
Former Champion Vickers Set To Return To Nationwide In 2013
Past NNS champion Brian Vickers is returning to the series full-time in 2013. Vickers will pilot the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota sponsored by Dollar General, the team and retailer announced Tuesday. Vickers returns to the series in which he won the 2003 championship as the youngest driver (age 20) to win a national series title. In 117 NNS races, Vickers has three wins – all in 2003, the last season he raced full-time in the series. In eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season, he has three top-five and five top-10 finishes.
Vickers will be getting a jump on next season this weekend at Phoenix in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Dollar General Toyota during the Great Clips 200. This weekend, Joey Logano will drive the No. 18 Toyota, in which he’s won six of his series-high eight races.
NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
Quick Season Recap: In 31 races, there have been 11 different winners, 16 different Coors Light pole winners and five championship point lead changes among two drivers. Most successful driver this season with the most wins (eight) and poles (five) is Joey Logano. … Kyle Busch leads the series in wins all-time with 52. He also has the longest-running winning streak (eight seasons) having won at least one race each season since his sophomore season in 2004. Winning one of these final two races in the NNS would tie Busch with Mark Martin’s series record (nine straight seasons with a win in the NNS – 1992-‘00); plus it would give him his first win in KBM equipment. … The 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope will be attempting to make his 300th NNS career start this weekend at Phoenix.
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