Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins Nationwide race, takes points lead
BY TINA AKOURIS Sun-Times Media September 15, 2012 11:56PM
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcame problems in the pits to hoist the trophy after winning the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. | AP
NASCAR RACE WEEKEND
At Chicagolan d Speedway, Joliet
• Parking lots open, 7 a.m.
• Gates open, 9
• Luke Bryan infield concert, 11:15
• Sprint Cup driver introductions, 12:20 p.m.
• GEICO 400, 1, ESPN
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:50AM
This time Ricky Stenhouse Jr. mastered Chicagoland Speedway’s mile-and-a-half track.
Stenhouse led only 22 laps, but won the Dollar General 300 NASCAR Nationwide race in Joliet on Saturday, overtaking Elliott Sadler for the NNS points lead. Stenhouse, the defending NNS champion, leads the standings by nine over Sadler.
Kyle Busch led 50 laps but finished second and Austin Dillon was third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard to round out the top five.
“In this business and in this sport, anything can change at any time,” Stenhouse said. “You have to keep your guard up and keep not making mistakes. We overcame the mistakes we had today on pit road with the wrong adjustment and a stalled car [coming out of a pit stop].”
The victory was Stenhouse’s fifth of the season, and the first for a Jack Roush-owned car at Chicagoland Speedway in any of NASCAR’s three series.
And it capped a huge weekend for Stenhouse. Roush announced Friday that Stenhouse was going to drive the No. 17 Sprint Cup car for Roush-Fenway Racing on a full-time basis in 2013, and that Best Buy was going to be a primary sponsor. Stenhouse will, though, run a Cup race at Dover Sept. 30.
“If we felt like running a Cup race would distract us, we wouldn’t do it,” Stenhouse said. “I just like track time. It doesn’t matter in what type of car it is.”
This time the roles were reversed for Sadler and Stenhouse. In the July STP 300 at Chicagoland, Stenhouse led a whopping 135 laps only to lose to Sadler on a late restart. With that victory, Sadler retained his position atop the point standings.
But now Sadler is looking up at Stenhouse with Dillon creeping up 25 points behind him.
Sadler was only one point ahead of Stenhouse going into the race, and was up by eight in the point standings with 29 laps to go. But Sadler only led three laps and finished eighth.
“We were playing catch up after our right-front tire came apart and we got a little loose there at the end,” Sadler said.
“I don’t know what adjustments we made at the end. The pit stops were great but we made the car too loose at the end and that tire threw us for a loop.”
Sadler announced earlier this month that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season, but did not give a reason for wanting to make the change.
So it may not have been a surprise when teammate Austin Dillon heard on his radio, “You do not help that No. 2 car [Sadler’s] today.”
It wasn’t Childress, who is also Dillon’s grandfather, who made the directive but crew chief Danny Stockman.
“That wasn’t R.C.,” Dillon said. “It’s just racing hard for the championship. We were racing hard by Sam [Hornish Jr.] and that’s all it is. Everybody is worked up about it and we both want to win and beat [Stenhouse]. We didn’t help each other at all today. It’s just part of the game, I guess.”