Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 10/16/14

Tables Turned: Stenhouse Chases Sadler This Time Around

No one can doubt the talent that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has, but his championship chase this season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series is quite different compared to his last. In 2011, Stenhouse took the standings lead with 15 races left on the schedule and didn’t look back. This season hasn’t been quite as fortuitous. With five races remaining, Stenhouse is second in the standings, nine points behind Elliott Sadler. Already deemed the ‘Comeback Kid’ of the series, Stenhouse has the opportunity to be the sixth driver in series history to win back-to-back championships if he can make up the points deficit in the last five races.

Due to a repave at Kansas Speedway, the series races at Kansas and Charlotte have been transposed on this season’s schedule. But the same five tracks make up this season’s schedule as they did a year ago and while Sadler has the standings lead by nine points, some interesting statistics point to Stenhouse making a concerted run at that lead over the next five races.  Last season, Stenhouse had a better average finish (5.4) than Sadler (6.8), and he also led (117) four times as many laps as Sadler (25) over the last five races of the schedule. Stenhouse also had a better average Driver Rating (116.6) compared to Sadler (104.1) over that same span of races.

This season, both drivers have been stellar through adversity and have continued to raise each other’s game. Richard Childress Racing’s driver and series standings leader Sadler has posted three Coors Light poles, four wins, 13 top fives and 21 top 10s. His season-to-date Driver Rating (108.3) ranks second in the series and his Average Running Position (7.122) leads the series. Sadler has raised his season-to-date Driver Rating by 8.6 points compared to his performance at this point in the season last year (99.7). Roush Fenway Racing’s Stenhouse has posted four Coors Light poles, five wins, a series-high 16 top fives, and 21 top 10s. He leads the series in season-to-date Driver Rating (109.8) and ranks fourth in the series in Average Running Position (8.956). Stenhouse also has improved his season-to-date Driver Rating by 2.7 points compared to his performance at this point in the season last year (107.1).

NASCAR Nationwide Series Heads Into Weekend Off

After 16 straight weekends of racing, the NASCAR Nationwide Series is taking a well-deserved weekend off. The series returns to competition the following Friday night (Oct. 12) at Charlotte for the Dollar General 300.

Over that span, 10 different drivers have found Victory Lane with NSCS regular Joey Logano visiting three times. Current NNS points leader Elliott Sadler has two victories during that time period, the same number of wins as runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (nine points back).

Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Dillon, currently third in the standings (-25), also has two wins over the past 16 weeks, as does another NSCS regular, Brad Keselowski. Other winners during that span areNelson Piquet Jr., Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Justin Allgaier and Kevin Harvick.

The weekend off provides the NNS drivers and teams a chance to recharge before the final five races over six weeks. They have another scheduled weekend off following the Kansas race on Oct. 20. They return to the track at Texas on Nov. 3 before hitting Phoenix and Homestead, where the champion will be crowned.

Annett, Whitt Perform Well At Dover, Working Toward Top Five In Points

Michael Annett and Cole Whitt had solid performances on Saturday in the OneMain Financial 200 at Dover. Annett and Whitt finished third and sixth, respectively, in the race won by Joey Logano.

Despite their strong showings at the one-mile track, both drivers are trying to crack the top five in the NNS championship standings. Through 28 of 33 races, Annett is currently sixth (138 points behind leader Sadler), while Whitt is seventh (-211).

Annett’s third-place finish at Dover is his sixth top five this season, an amazing accomplishment considering that in 105 races prior to this season he had never posted a top-five finish.  His best finish prior to 2012 was three sixth-place efforts (Auto Club – 2009, Daytona – 2011, Bristol – 2011). His career-best finish at Dover ties his third place in Daytona’s July race.

NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.

While the rest of the series takes the weekend off, five series drivers will attempt to compete in this weekend’s NSCS race at Talladega Superspeedway: Cole Whitt, Sam Hornish Jr., Timmy Hill, Joe Nemechek and Trevor Bayne. … With Joey Logano’s win at Dover last weekend, his total has reached a series–high seven trips to Victory Lane this season. With that success, Logano has helped Joe Gibbs further his No. 18 team’s points lead in the owner standings by 21 points over Richard Childress’ No. 2 team. … When the series returns to the track next week for the Dollar General 300 Miles of Courage at Charlotte Motor Speedway, numerous drivers, teams and sponsors will “go pink” in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

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