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Stenhouse rallies for improbable win at Kansas

October 20, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com



Stenhouse rallies for improbable win at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Ricky Stenhouse rallied from two laps down to win Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway and tighten the battle for the series championship.

During a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the race six laps beyond its scheduled distance of 200 laps, Stenhouse surged to the front in the final turn after Kyle Busch ran out of fuel.

Kansas

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2. Austin Dillon Chevrolet
3. Joey Logano Toyota
4. Elliott Sadler Chevrolet
5. Cole Whitt Chevrolet

Nationwide Series

Standings
Pos.+/-DriverPts.Behind
2.--R. Stenhouse1,130-6
3.--A. Dillon1,110-26
4.--S. Hornish1,038-98
5.--M. Annett986-150

* Final Laps | Victory Lane | Post-Race Reactions

Austin Dillon ran second, .288 seconds behind Stenhouse. Pole-sitter Joey Logano finished third, followed by Elliott Sadler and Cole Whitt, respectively.

In winning for the sixth time this season and the eighth time in his career, Stenhouse cut Sadler's series lead from 13 points to six with three races left in the season.

To get to Victory Lane, Stenhouse had to survive a collision with Logano's No. 18 Toyota -- an incident team owner Jack Roush said was Stenhouse's fault -- just past the halfway point (watch).

"The guys did an awesome job getting the car back together, and we never gave up," Stenhouse said. "Mike [Kelley, crew chief] made great calls and adjustments to fix how the car drove with the damage, and it was still one of the fastest cars out there.

"I didn't see the win coming like this, but we will take it."

Saturday's event was the first NASCAR race on a track that was newly repaved and reconfigured with graduated banking, and there were some growing pains. The race produced a record 12 cautions for a total of 50 laps.

The championship battle took an ominous turn for Stenhouse, the defending series champion, just after the midpoint of the race. Stenhouse and Logano collided off Turn 2, damaging both cars, but both were able to continue.

Stenhouse was following Logano closely just before the contact.

"We had a lot of debris on the grille, and we were 300 [degrees] on water and oil, and I thought we would have to pit to come get that off before we blew up," Stenhouse said. "I was trying to get behind him to get the debris off and he checked up at the last second and I turned and just drove right into the side of him. There wasn't much he could do about it, and I thought it ruined our day, but we were able to bounce back from it."

Stenhouse lost two laps during a green-flag pit stop but got them back on a wave-around before a Lap 142 restart and a free pass as the highest-scored lapped car under the 10th caution of the afternoon.

Back on the lead lap for a restart on Lap 167, Stenhouse had charged to 13th by the time Mike Bliss' slide through the tri-oval caused the track-record-tying 11th caution. Stenhouse was two spots behind Sadler in fifth when first-time Nationwide starter Hal Martin and Scott Lagasse Jr. wrecked off Turn 2 on Lap 198.

Fearing they would run out of fuel in overtime, Sadler and Dillon both pitted for a splash of fuel under the 12th caution. Stenhouse restarted fourth and took the checkered flag when Busch ran out of fuel on the final lap.

So ended another disappointing day for Busch, still trying to win for the first time behind the wheel of the No. 54 Toyota he owns.

"That's our year, man -- nothing else to it than that," said Busch, who rolled across the finish line in sixth place. "What a frustrating defeat."

The race marked the first appearance for a Pakastani driver in a NASCAR event. Nur Ali finished 33rd in his NASCAR debut after slamming the Turn 3 wall on Lap 69.

Derek White, who wrecked in Turn 4 on Lap 138 to cause the ninth yellow, was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Danica Patrick (10th) posted her third top-10 finish of the season, but she'll remember this race for a spectacular three-wide pass of Sadler and Ryan Blaney for the sixth spot on Lap 171.

With Dillon's second-place finish, Chevrolet clinched the manufacturers' championship for the 15th time in series history.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his eighth career win in his 103rd start and first at Kansas in his third start.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his sixth win of 2012, second to Joey Logano's eight.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his fifth win on a 1.5-mile track.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led four times for 25 laps, including a last-lap pass; it was the sixth last-lap pass of 2012, tied with 2011 for most in an NNS season.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gained seven points on first-place Elliott Sadler, and now trails by six points.
• Roush Fenway Racing scored his 131st career win, seventh of 2012 and second at Kansas.
• Ford posted its seventh win of 2012 and third at Kansas.
• Austin Dillon (second) posted his 24th top-10 finish of 2012, most of all drivers; he's third in points, 26 back.
• Joey Logano (third) has posted top-10s in all five Kansas starts.
• Elliott Sadler (fourth) posted his fifth consecutive top-10 of the season.
• Cole Whitt (fifth) posted his fourth career top-five; it's his best finish since placing fourth at Michigan in June.
• Kyle Busch (sixth) was passed on the last lap for just the second time in his career; the other also occurred in 2012 (by Joey Logano at Talladega).
• Michael Annett (eighth) has posted top-10s in the past eight races.

* Vote: Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver 2012