Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became the sixth driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. left little doubt he is ready for a promotion.
Stenhouse became the sixth driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series. He finished sixth Saturday in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, beating Elliott Sadler for the title by 23 points.
“A lot of people put a lot of effort into this and I’m just the lucky guy who gets to drive it,” said Stenhouse, who is replacing Matt Kenseth in the top-level Sprint Cup Series next season at Roush Fenway Racing.
Stenhouse finished the Nationwide season with six victories.
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Regan Smith won the Ford EcoBoost 300, his first victory from 103 starts in the Nationwide Series.
One issue in the finale was whether Stenhouse would play it safe. He did, but not without a few close calls. His spotter had to remind him several times over the final 10 laps to avoid potential pitfalls.
Stenhouse eventually obliged, but only after he held the push-to-talk button down on his steering wheel to drown out all the chatter in his helmet.
“I don’t ride around,” Stenhouse said. “That’s not how we got in this position.”
Smith will drive next season for JR Motorsports. This was his debut race with the team, which is partly owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and had not won a race since 2010.
“These guys worked hard all year long, and we’re going to do the same next year and contend for a championship,” Smith said. “That’s our plan. Hopefully, tonight was part of a statement right there.”
Kyle Busch was second.
Danica Patrick was 19th and plans to move to the Sprint Cup Series full time. She finished 10th in Nationwide points, becoming the highest-finishing female driver in the history of NASCAR’s three national series. The previous record was held by Sara Christian, who finished 13th in 1949 in the Cup series.
Keselowski to start
from front row
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Series leader Brad Keselowski got some help on the last day of practice for the Sprint Cup season finale.
Pole-sitter Joey Logano was involved in a three-car accident during the first of two practice sessions Saturday, switched to a backup car and thus will start from the rear of the field Sunday.
That will move Keselowski, who had qualified third, to the front row when the green flag drops for the Ford EcoBoost 400. Marcos Ambrose will start on the outside.
If Keselowski leads the first lap, he will extend his points lead over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson from 20 to 21. Keselowski needs to finish 15th or better to guarantee he will win the title.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to be on the front row,” Keselowski said. “It’s different from what we’re used to, but it’s different in a good way. … If I can take the lead without wrecking myself, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Keselowski seemed a little tighter than usual Saturday, perhaps starting to feel the pressure as he goes for his first championship.
F1 comes to Texas
AUSTIN, Texas — Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel maintained his early domination of the new Circuit of the Americas by winning the pole position for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix, putting the German in a good spot to pursue his third consecutive Formula One championship.
Vettel, 25, is on the brink of history with two races left on the calendar. He would be the third driver — and youngest — to win at least three consecutive F1 championships, joining Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
This will be the first Formula One race in the United States since 2007.