Door Kicked Wide Open In Sadler, Stenhouse Championship Chase
Sports fans thrive on great rivalries and the NASCAR Nationwide Series has one brewing between standings leader Elliott Sadler and 2011 series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. With just 10 races left on the schedule, tensions are mounting as only 19 points separate the competitors in the top two spots of the standings.
The two drivers have battled most of the season, but this past weekend at Bristol the gauntlet was thrown. Stenhouse got into Sadler late in Friday night’s race, costing Sadler several positions. Following the event the two talked, but Sadler had this to say: “I told him, we’ve always raced each other with a lot of respect. I‘m glad he didn’t wreck us, but it’s not the finish we deserved. He opened it up. Now we can race differently the last 10 races.”
In the same 10-race stretch last season, Stenhouse outperformed Sadler posting an average finish of 5.1 to Sadler’s 9.4, building the tension even more.
This will be quite the season for both of them. Each has three poles and 17 top-10 finishes. Sadler holds a slight edge with four series wins to Stenhouse’s three. Stenhouse has the better season-to-date Driver Rating of 108.5 to Sadler’s 107.3.
Heading to Atlanta this weekend, Stenhouse holds the upper hand. Sadler has more experience having made six starts and posting three top 10s, including a 10th-place finish last season; but Stenhouse has made two starts posting one top five and two top 10s, including a third-place finish last season.
Patrick, Pastrana Make Inaugural Visits To Atlanta
Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana, two of the biggest names in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will compete on unfamiliar territory this weekend in the NRA American Warrior 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Patrick, who has raced at the other 22 tracks, arrives in Atlanta for the first time fresh off a ninth-place finish at Bristol in the Food City 250. The Atlanta race will be Patrick’s 49th start in the NNS. Patrick is currently 10th in the points standings, 325 points off the lead and 11 points behind ninth-place driver Brian Scott.
She will be pulling double-duty in the NSCS AdvoCare 500. It will be her fifth premier series start.
Pastrana also makes his inaugural trip to Atlanta for the eighth NNS start of his career (all this season). In his most recent start, at Indianapolis in July, Pastrana posted a career-best finish of 13th. He has two 17th-place finishes at Darlington Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway.
The action sports superstar was scheduled to make his NNS debut last July in Indianapolis, but an injury in the X Games delayed his arrival.
Hornish, Dillon Have Little Time To Waste
Time is running out for Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon to make a run at the NASCAR Nationwide Series title. With 10 races remaining before a champion is crowned, Hornish and Dillon both have their work cut out for them.
Hornish sits 28 points behind leader Elliott Sadler and nine points outside second-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Hornish can carve away at the lead if he continues his streak of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes.
Prior to this weekend’s NRA American Warrior 300 at Atlanta, Hornish has made only one series start at the track. In 2007, he finished 15th after starting fifth. In six NSCS starts, his best finish is 24th.
This weekend marks Dillon’s (35 points behind Sadler) first NNS start at Atlanta. In two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the track, he has sixth- and 10th-place finishes. Dillon has also been hot lately with 12 top-10 finishes in the last 16 races.
In order for either driver to make a serious run at the championship, they will need to have strong performances this weekend.
NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
In the 20 NNS races at Atlanta, only four drivers have won from the pole, most recently 2007 series champion Carl Edwards last season. … Idaho native Brian Scott will make his 100th career start in the NNS this weekend. Scott made his series debut at Nashville Superspeedway in April of 2009 and since then has earned five top fives, 18 top 10s and one pole. Scott currently sits ninth in the series championship point standings. NCWTS driver and Texas native James Buescher will attempt to make his 50th NNS start this weekend. … The National Rifle Association will honor military heroes Jason Amerine and Greg Stube this weekend. Amerine is a lieutenant colonel from Honolulu, Hawaii. Stube, a retired member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, hails from Long Beach, Calif. … Several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are participating in the NRA American Warrior 300 this weekend: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Scott Riggs, Joe Nemechek, Reed Sorenson and Sam Hornish Jr.