A hard fought 2012 Nationwide Series season came to a close with a first time winner in the Nationwide Series and a driver winning two consecutive championships. Ricky Stenhouse Jr did all he needed to do Saturday evening in Homestead-Miami to claim his second straight championship. Stenhouse Jr and his crew made no mistakes all night long and they received a great rewarded of a championship trophy. Regan Smith raced in his first Nationwide Race in five years and he dominated the race and took home the trophy.
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch dominated early in the race and le led much of the first half of the Ford EcoBoost 300. The race stayed green for much of the first half and the first caution didn’t fly until lap 66. The caution came out for Ryan Truex who crashed in turn four after getting into the wall and spinning down the track then he over-corrected the car and went nose first into the wall at the beginning of the frontstretch. The second yellow flag of the race came out on lap 73 for Robert Richardson Jr who got loose in turn four and spun down the track through traffic. The first lead change of the day occurred when Regan Smith passed Busch for the lead on lap 92.
The halfway mark of the race came up very quick and Sam Hornish Jr was the leader after he took the lead under the last caution. Ricky Stenhouse Jr was in fourteenth at the halfway point and the driver chasing him –Elliot Sadler- was sixteenth. Sadler needed to gain at least twenty points in this race if he wanted the championship and halfway through the race, Sadler wasn’t getting it done.
Austin Dillon took the lead with 95 laps to go. Dillon had a slight chance at the championship coming into the race but he would need Stenhouse Jr and Sadler to have issues. For a rookie, Dillon was doing well in his first Nationwide season. If a rookie was told he or she would be competing for the championship in their rookie season they wouldn’t have believed it. Dillon proved that rookies can be successful and with a third place finish in the standings in his rookie season, he did pretty well.
The race was winding down and Sadler sat in third while Stenhouse Jr was in fifth. Sadler was still not doing good enough to have shot at the championship and by this point, he’s hoping for a miracle. With 27 laps to go, the caution flew for debris and the field was set up to have another restart. The leaders pitted under the caution and Sadler came off of the pits third while Stenhouse Jr came off fifth. Regan Smith re-gained the lead on the restart and he started to set sail.
The final caution of the race and season came out with twenty laps to go for Johanna Long who wrecked hard on the backstretch. Long got hit in the left rear by Joey Logano and she spun down the paved run-off area on the backstretch and she went nose first into the inside wall, lifting the car off the ground for a second. Long got out of the car by herself and she was okay. Regan Smith took off on the final restart, leaving the rest of the field in his rearview mirror. Smith would cross the finish line first and win his first career Nationwide Series race. Smith said in victory lane that this is a good start to his full-time ride in the No.5 car starting in 2013.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr finished sixth while Sadler finished ninth and Stenhouse Jr had won the championship for the second straight year. Stenhouse Jr joined an elite group of drivers who have won the Nationwide Series championship in back to back years. Stenhouse Jr is the first driver to accomplish the feat since Martin Truex Jr did it in 2004 and 2005. Stenhouse Jr celebrated with his team in the championship victory lane and he said “These guys (his team) have done a great job all season.” Stenhouse Jr had a lot more mishaps this season than last year and without his amazing crew, Stenhouse Jr’s car wouldn’t have been able to race after he had incidents on the track and he needed to get back on the track to salvage points. Stenhouse Jr will move up to the Cup Series in 2013 and he will be competing with the Cup drivers to try to win his third consecutive NASCAR championship.
An amazing and competitive season in the Nationwide Series has come to a close. This season we saw lots of young talent come through along with Ricky Stenhouse Jr winning his second straight championship. In 2013, a lot of new faces will be competing for the Nationwide Series title and it is sure to be another great season. In just under 100 days the Nationwide Series will be back in action in Daytona, a long off-season is ahead and the 2013 season looms in the near future.
Results via Nascar.com
|2||1||54||Kyle Busch||Toyota||Monster Energy||0||200||Running|
|3||16||33||Brendan Gaughan||Chevrolet||South Point Hotel & Casino||0||200||Running|
|4||11||12||Sam Hornish Jr.||Dodge||Alliance Truck Parts||41/1||200||Running|
|5||3||3||Austin Dillon *||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops||40/1||200||Running|
|6||4||6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||Cargill||39/1||200||Running|
|7||7||11||Brian Scott||Toyota||Dollar General||37/0||200||Running|
|8||20||22||Ryan Blaney||Dodge||Discount Tire||36/0||200||Running|
|9||2||2||Elliott Sadler||Chevrolet||OneMain Financial||36/1||200||Running|
|10||8||88||Cole Whitt *||Chevrolet||TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl||34/0||200||Running|
|12||32||43||Michael Annett||Ford||Pilot Flying J||32/0||200||Running|
|13||14||7||Danica Patrick||Chevrolet||GoDaddy.com “Make Yourself Mobile”||32/1||200||Running|
|14||15||21||Joey Coulter||Chevrolet||Darrell Gwynn Foundation||0||200||Running|
|16||5||18||Joey Logano||Toyota||GameStop / Afterglow||0||200||Running|
|17||18||38||Brad Sweet *||Chevrolet||Great Clips||27/0||200||Running|
|18||25||87||Joe Nemechek||Toyota||AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves||26/0||200||Running|
|20||13||8||Scott Lagasse Jr.||Chevrolet||HybridLight / BSA||0||200||Running|
|21||22||198||Kevin Swindell||Ford||Carroll Shelby Motors||24/1||200||Running|
|22||23||51||Jeremy Clements||Chevrolet||St. Jude / USS James E. Williams DDG 95||22/0||200||Running|
|26||34||01||Mike Wallace||Chevrolet||G&K Services||18/0||197||Running|
|27||30||14||Eric McClure||Toyota||Hefty / Reynolds Wrap||17/0||196||Running|
|29||35||81||Jason Bowles *||Toyota||Thrush and Son / Hi Technologies||15/0||195||Running|
|30||26||19||Hal Martin||Toyota||American Custom Yachts / US Forensics||0||195||Running|
|32||33||52||Joey Gase *||Chevrolet||BBB / My Three Sons Vending||12/0||190||Running|
|33||40||23||Robert Richardson Jr.||Chevrolet||North Texas Pipe||11/0||188||Running|
|34||36||70||Johanna Long *||Chevrolet||Foretravel Motorcoach||10/0||177||Running|
|35||37||40||Erik Darnell||Chevrolet||Key Motorsports||9/0||147||Out of Race|
|36||27||44||John Blankenship||Chevrolet||Coal Save the Country||0||92||In Pit|
|37||38||41||Juan Carlos Blum||Chevrolet||Key Motorsports||7/0||92||Out of Race|
|38||12||20||Ryan Truex||Toyota||Grime Boss||6/0||66||In Pit|
|39||9||100||Blake Koch||Toyota||teamboom||5/0||40||In Pit|
|40||42||191||Jeff Green||Toyota||Bandit Chippers||4/0||17||In Pit|
|41||29||46||Chase Miller||Chevrolet||The Motorsports Group||3/0||6||In Pit|
|42||43||42||Josh Wise||Chevrolet||Curtis Key Plumbing||0||6||In Pit|
|43||39||39||Dexter Stacey||Ford||Maddies Place||1/0||0||Out of Race|