Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 Nationwide Series Champion: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Coming into the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a 41-point lead over Elliot Sadler.  With a 37th place finish, Stenhouse would win the championship, regardless of what Sadler did.  On lap 30, when Scott Riggs was officially scored as "out" of the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was declared the 2011 Nationwide Series Champion.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates winning the Nationwide Series Championship (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Stenhouse didn't need to worry about finishing in the back; he finished in second place.  2010 champ Brad Keselowski won the race, passing 2007 champion Carl Edwards on the final restart.  Edwards and Keselowski raced hard for the next few laps, but when Edwards got into the back of Keselowski, it opened the door for Stenhouse to finish off his championship-winning season with a runner-up finish.

Carl Edwards congratulates teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on winning the championship (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Last year, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was almost out of a ride at Roush-Fenway Racing.  But Jack Roush stuck by him, and he came back to become the Rookie of the Year for the Nationwide Series last year.  This year, he was able to sweep the races at Iowa, winning his first and second career Nationwide Series wins.

I picked Elliot Sadler to win the championship at the beginning of the year, and he was almost able to do it.  But Ricky Stenhouse was able to overcome the legend of a sophomore slump (much like Austin Dillon) to become the 2011 Nationwide Champion.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. solidified himself today as a champion NASCAR driver.  One day, we may be talking about Stenhouse becoming the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.
Champion (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

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