Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 9/23/14

LOUDON, NH - JUNE 27: Elliott Sadler, driver of the #19 Best Buy Dodge, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 27, 2009 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Sadler, Stenhouse Face Heated Final Championship Stretch Run
Eight races left, two drivers on top of their game and just one point separates the fierce competitors as the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway.
Standings leader Elliott Sadler just barely held on to the points lead following last weekend’s race at Richmond. Sadler and the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team rebounded from an accident involving the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of rival Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that sent the points leader behind the wall. Sadler finished 12th and Stenhouse went on to finish second, closing a 12-point gap to just one.
Last season Stenhouse turned it on and closed out the championship over the last eight races. Starting with Chicago all the way to Homestead, Stenhouse had an average finish of 5.4 compared to Sadler’s 9.8. Stenhouse also led more laps over that span than Sadler, leading a total of 117 laps to Sadler’s 35.
But this could be Sadler’s year. Sadler (5.5) did better than Stenhouse (6.7) in average starting position over the last eight races of the 2011 season. Minus Sadler’s accident at Phoenix, the two drivers almost mirrored each other in 2011. This season, Sadler has posted three Coors Light poles, four wins and 18 top 10s; Stenhouse has four poles, four wins and 19 top 10s.
Heading to Chicago this week is like pouring gas on the fire. Sadler and Stenhouse finished one-two respectively at the 1.5-mile track earlier this season. Stenhouse sat on the pole and dominated the race leading 135 laps, but Sadler took the lead late for the victory. Stenhouse’s performance at Chicago gives him an edge in the pre-race Driver Rating category (110.6) over Sadler (85.7).
Illinois Natives Return Home For Dollar General 300 Powered By Coca-Cola
On Saturday, three NNS regulars return to their home state of Illinois for the Dollar General 300 Powered by Coca-Cola at Chicagoland Speedway. Justin Allgaier (Riverton), Danica Patrick (Roscoe) and Erik Darnell (Beach Park) are all hoping to impress their home-state crowd.
Allgaier, currently fifth in points (-95), has one victory (Montreal), six top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 2012. In June 2011, he earned his only victory at Chicagoland after leading only the final lap. In five NNS races, he has two top-five and four top-10 showings.
In three appearances at Chicagoland, Patrick has one top-10 effort. Her best finish at Chicagoland is 10th place in June 2011. In the track’s first race this season, Patrick finished 14th, the last driver on the lead lap. She is 11th in the standings (-351).
This Saturday will be Darnell’s second NNS start at Chicagoland. Darnell, who is in 16th place in the standings (-581), made his only other start at the track earlier this season, when he placed 30th. His best finish of the year is 14th at Talladega in May.
Six Former NNS Champions Make The 2012 Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup
Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. are just two of the six former NASCAR Nationwide champions who made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. Joining them is their former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.
Truex makes only his second Chase appearance, but he does have championship experience having won back-to-back NNS championships in 2004 and 2005 with Chance 2 Motorsports, which was co-owned by Earnhardt.
This is also Keselowski’s second stint in NASCAR’s playoffs. He won the NNS championship in 2010 while driving for Penske, but drove for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports from 2007-2009.
Earnhardt, who also won NNS titles in back-to-back years (1998-99), enters the Chase for the fifth time. The 2002 NNS champion Biffle returns to the Chase after missing it last year. It is his fifth appearance in the playoffs. In 2008, Bowyer won the NNS title, but he also qualified for his second Chase. This year marks his fourth trip. Harvick, another two-time series champ (2001 and 2006), enters the Chase for the sixth time in his career.
NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
Owners Championship Update: With just eight races left in the 2012 season, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team is leading the owner standings by 13 points over Richard Childress Racing’s No. 2 team. Just one point behind the No. 2 team is Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 team in third. … Milestone Watch: Joey Logano attempts to post his 50th NNS top-five finish this weekend at Chicago. …  Lap Leaders: RCR’s No. 33 car has led the most laps this season with 948. Two-time series champ Kevin Harvick owns most of the laps led in the No. 33 with 787. Harvick matched 2007 series champ Carl Edwards for third on the all-time NNS wins list with his 38th victory last weekend at Richmond.  Paul Menard is in the No. 33 this weekend. … All-time NNS starts leader (532) Kenny Wallace returns to the series this week in the No. 99 car. … Million Dollar Quartet will make its second appearance of the season in pre-race activities at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, Sept.15.
NASCAR PR
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mike Pettine considered benching Hoyer for Manziel

Percy Harvin speaks out: 'I'm not a perfect person'

Report: Kobe has prevented Lakers from signing top talent

Red Sox may be ready to move Yoenis Cespedes

Alleged details of War Machine's suicide letter released

Austin Davis says Rams security didn't recognize him

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

LeBron: Bulls are 'much better' than Cavs right now

Redskins to stick with Colt McCoy over Kirk Cousins

Rick Pitino: Louisville will beat FSU in football

Report: Rams considered favorites to move to LA

Kobe to Julius Randle: You’re an idiot if you (expletive) this up

Slava Voynov arrested on D.V. charge, suspended indefinitely

WATCH: Boxer viciously attacks referee at Euro Championships

WATCH: Salvador Perez hassles Lorenzo Cain at media session

Lane Kiffin trashed in Tennessee political ad

WATCH: Lawrence Timmons throws up on field during MNF

10 NBA players who could be traded by the All-Star break

WATCH: Jimbo Fisher gets annoyed, cuts interview short

WATCH: Les Miles has classic reaction to dumb question

WATCH: Tennessee coach tried to trip Ole Miss player?

News station congratulates Gary Payton for breaking TD record

Did Sidney Crosby troll Flyers fans with Halloween costume?

Why Dan Mullen is not leaving Mississippi State

12 amazing stats from Week 7

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Lane Kiffin trashed in political ad

Details of War Machine's suicide letter leaked

Angry Jimbo Fisher cuts off interview

Is Kobe's deal hurting the Lakers?

Tenn. coach tried to trip Ole Miss CB?

GGG continues his reign of terror

The 6 things that mattered this weekend in the premier league

News station congratulates Gary Payton for TD record

Ray Rice could be back by Week 10?

12 amazing stats from Week 7

World Series preview

Favre: I got calls about playing last season

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.