News & Media


Keselowski wins, Stenhouse savors first championship

November 21, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Roush Fenway Racing claims both the driver, owners' championship in finale

Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski may have won Saturday's Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Roush Fenway Racing had a better night, winning two Nationwide Series championships in one race.

Keselowski held off a furious charge from series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the final lap to secure his fifth victory of the season and the 17th of his career.

Third-place finisher Carl Edwards clinched the owners' championship for Roush Fenway, leading the most laps and finishing two positions ahead of Denny Hamlin's No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, which entered the race with a one-point lead.

"What an effort, champion," spotter Mike Calinoff radioed to Stenhouse after Keselowski blocked a last-ditch attempt at a pass.

Ford 300

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Ford
3.Carl EdwardsFord
4.Clint BowyerChevrolet
5.Denny HamlinToyota

Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide champion, wasn't allowed to defend his title under a NASCAR rule -- new this year -- that prevents a driver from competing for a championship in more than one series.

"You couldn't ask for a better way to end the season," Keselowski said. "Not being able to win the championship, it's good to be able to finish on a high note, winning the pole and the race at Homestead. It's a great exclamation point to the season for the whole team."

Long before Keselowski crossed the finish line, however, Stenhouse, 24, clinched the Nationwide Series championship. When the number of cars retired from the race reached six on Lap 28 of 200, Stenhouse was guaranteed the 37th-place finish he needed to lock up the title.

As it turned out, he ran much better than that.

"That was all I had," Stenhouse said of the final lap. "I was really hoping for one more lap there, but Brad did a good job. I got a little loose there coming off [Turn] 4, or I thought we could have got him. But the [No. 6] Mustang did its job at Ford championship weekend.

"This is a dream come true."

The title in hand, Stenhouse stepped up his effort as the race unfolded. After the sixth caution, for Steve Wallace's spin in Turn 1, Stenhouse passed fourth-place finisher Clint Bowyer for the lead on Lap 155 and began to pull away. But teammate Trevor Bayne scraped the wall and cut his right rear tire to put the field under yellow again on Lap 174.

Pit stops under caution shuffled the field, and a problem with lug nuts on the right rear tire dropped Edwards back to sixth. Moments after a restart on Lap 180, however, Edwards rocketed into second place and went on to secure the owners' championship for the No. 60 Ford.

Keselowski grabbed the lead on that same restart and stayed out front until Reed Sorenson's spin in Turn 2 slowed the field for the eighth time.

Edwards passed Keselowski for the top spot on a Lap 187 restart, but the race didn't stay green for long. Separate incidents on Lap 188 involving Danica Patrick and Kenny Wallace brought out the ninth caution, and Edwards led the field back to green on Lap 194, before Keselowski made the winning pass shortly after the restart.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Brad Keselowski became the 13th different driver to win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his 17th career victory in his 168th race.
• Homestead is the 15th track on which Brad Keselowski has won.
• This was the third victory in the past seven races for Brad Keselowski.
• Brad Keselowski won from the pole for the second time in his career.
• This was the seventh victory of the season, and 23rd overall, for Penske Racing.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (second) clinched the Nationwide Series title on Lap 28 and picked up his ninth consecutive top-10 finish.
• Carl Edwards (third) finished third or better in his past nine starts.
• Clint Bowyer (fourth) earned his seventh top-10 finish in 10 starts of 2011.
• Denny Hamlin (fifth) finished seventh or better in all five races of 2011; the No. 18 lost the owners' championship to the No. 60 by three points.
• Elliott Sadler (sixth) finished a career-best second in the series points despite rebounding from penalties for loose lug nuts and speeding.
• Brian Scott (ninth) had five top-12 finishes in the past seven races.
• Timmy Hill (21st) won the rookie of the year award.

Championship Notes-n-Nuggets

• This is Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s first Nationwide championship in his second full-time season (20 or more starts).
• Stenhouse becomes the 23rd different driver to win the series championship in its 30th season.
• Stenhouse becomes the seventh different Nationwide champion in the past seven seasons in the series.
• Stenhouse is the third driver to win the series championship while driving for Roush Fenway Racing.
• This is the third time that a driver won the Nationwide championship the season after winning rookie of the year honors, joining Kevin Harvick in 2001 and Greg Biffle in 2002.
• Stenhouse led the points standings following 17 races including the final 14.
• Stenhouse took over the points lead for the final time following race No. 21.
• Stenhouse won twice in 2011 (both at Iowa).
• This season marks the seventh time that a driver got his first series win and then went on to win the championship the same year: Bobby Labonte in 1991; Joe Nemechek in 1992; Randy LaJoie in 1996; Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1998; Brian Vickers in 2003; Martin Truex Jr. in 2004 and now Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011.
• This season marks the third time a Ford driver has won the Nationwide championship.
• This is crew chief Mike Kelley's first Nationwide championship.

Championship Video: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. | Roush Fenway Racing