Smith wins NNS at EcoBoost 300 Homestead; Stenhouse Jr. wins the 2012 championshipBy Bryan Nolen
Kyle Busch finished second, Brendan Gaughan third, Sam Hornish Jr fourth and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-5.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the 2012 Nationwide Championship for the second season in a row. Stenhouse Jr. won by 23 points over Elliott Sadler and Dillon by 24.
“It’s been fun. I’ve got to say hi to my granddad at home. He’s not doing as well as he needs to be, so I want to say ‘hey’ to him and we’ll see him soon. But I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to everybody else as well.” Stenhouse Jr. said.
Busch started from the pole position and led the field three times for a race-high 89 laps. This was Busch’s 26th pole in 244 NNS races. He is fourth on the all-time series poles but winless in 2012.
“Just couldn’t get to the front and couldn’t pass Regan (Smith). I don’t know that I’ve lost so many different ways in a season, but this is that year.” Busch said.
Busch led the first lap by a couple car lengths over Sadler. Sadler never gave up but was struggling with his car telling his crew chief “I’ve got no front grip.” That didn’t really effect him as he took the lead for only a corner which then Busch made the slide-job perfectly. While all of this was happening, championship leader Stenhouse Jr. was sneaking up on them to also challenge for the lead. After Busch cleared Sadler, He pulled away to a 1.517 lead on lap 18.
By lap 40, Busch was on fire! He had over a 8 second lead over Sadler and Stenhouse Jr. He also lapped up to 23rd position.
Green flag pit stops occurred on lap 49 with Smith being the first one to make the ride to pit road. Smith, who is getting pitted by Dale Jr’s No.88 crew, said he was little tight but was getting better. He got a slight air pressure along with four tires and all the important fuel and was away. Busch, the leader, went down pit lane saying it was very good but just a tic free. He got a wedge adjustment along with four tires and fuel and was away. The two championship contenders came in together with Sadler stopping first. He said he want a little help but was getting better. He got that along with the usual and was away. Stenhouse was complaining that he was lacking grip overall. They went down on the track bar along with some fresh Goodyears and was away.
The first caution waved on lap 65 with the No.20 of Ryan Truex spinning off of turn 4 and slamming the wall. All of the leaders came in to pit. Smith said he was much better but could not get in the throttle coming in off the corner. Stenhouse Jr. said he was much more free this run so they dropped the track bar down two rounds and no tires and came out first. Busch got four tires and came out second. Sadler did not pit and will lead the field back to the green flag.
They restart on lap 70 with Busch going three wide to take the lead back from Sadler. Smith took Ryan Blaney for 4th and then took Stenhouse Jr. for 3rd.
Caution came out on lap 72 when the No.23 of Robert Richardson Jr lost it in turn 4 and almost collected Jason Bowles and Joey Coulter. They all saved it. Nobody came in for pit stops due to coming in just 2-3 laps ago.
They restarted on lap 72 with Busch being the leader. He cleared Sadler easily into turns one and two with three wide racing behind them. Busch increased his lead to 1.277 lead after Smith passed Sadler for second.
Right after Smith passed Busch for the lead, the caution came out for Richardson Jr spinning for the second time. Everyone came in except for Danica Patrick who took tires the previous stop. Stenhouse and Sadler both took four tires and fuel but Sadler did not put all of the lug nuts on the tires which will result in a penalty. Smith, Sam Hornish Jr. and others just came in for fuel only. Sadler will restart from 19th.
Patrick restarted from the lead but did not last long as Busch and Hornish Jr took her three wide and she was down to five by the backstretch. Hornish Jr. took over the lead but with 95 laps to go Austin Dillon reeled him in and took over the spot. Dillon, who is still mathematically eligible for the championship, also got tires during that stop which is why he is rolling. Smith then took the second spot from Hornish Jr. Hornish Jr. was going backwards as he got passed for third from the championship leader, Stenhouse Jr.
Green flag pit stops started to occur with 54 laps to go with Smith starting then. Steve Latarte, Smith Crew Chief, said he wanted a track bar but then called it off saying he would make Smith’s car to tight. They put four tires on with fuel and was away. Smith was wanting some new tires as he has had 78 laps with the ones he has had on. Busch came in after saying he wanted to snug it up some more. He told his Crew Chief that this was not the car they had at the beginning. Sadler was in saying his main problem was not having enough right rear lateral grip. He got four tires with a air pressure adjustment and some fuel and was gone. Dillon came in and was very happy with his car. He wanted no changes, just four tires and fuel.
Stenhouse Jr. stayed out and led a lap and then came in. Stenhouse Jr. was not happy at all telling Mike Kelley, his Crew Chief, this has been the worst the car has been. They made a wedge adjustment along with some tires and fuel and off he went. Kevin Swindell and Kenny Wallace stayed out to lead a lap and then came in for the pit stops.
After 78 laps of green flag racing, the caution came out for debris in turn 1. All of the leaders came in for the last stop which could define the championship. Sadler came in, telling his crew that this was a break since he would be five laps short, told his team he was lacking right rear grip. They dropped the track bar down and got only one can of fuel. Stenhouse Jr. was terrible and that he wanted triple the adjustment from last time. He got three rounds down in the right rear. Dillon was to tight on the gas and got a air pressure adjustment and was off first. Kevin Swindell did not pit so he will lead the field back to the green.
Green flag waved with 22 laps to go. Swindell lead them to the green but easily got passed into turn 1 as they went four wide to pass him. Smith took over the lead as Sadler was screaming at crew shouting” THIS CAR IS JUNK! WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO?!?!” While he was saying this the caution came out for the 70 of Johanna Long who got turned by Joey Logano and slammed the inside wall on the back stretch.
Smith led the field back to green with 15 laps to go. Smith and Sadler were clear as the the top-10 were going two and three wide to gain positions. As they were going side by side looking like they were about to wreck, Stenhouse Jr’s spotter was yelling at him to settle back and not to race them. He lifted a little bit but he got the championship!
This is the first time in Roush Fenway history that a driver has won back-to-back championships.
“Thank you. It is unbelievable. These guys have put a lot of hard work into it. From the engine shop to the body shop and chassis shop these guys that go on the road and their families. There are a lot of people that have put a lot of effort into this. I am just the lucky guy that gets to drive it” Stenhouse said.
“Ricky Stenhouse has won our first back-to-back championship for a driver in a series. We had back-to-back Cup championships in 2003 and 2004 but with different drivers. He did a great job and he has made a great champion and is going to make a great Cup driver next year.” Jack Roush said.
|Unofficial Race Results|
|Ford EcoBoost 300, Homestead-Miami|
|4||11||12||Sam Hornish Jr.||Dodge||41|
|5||3||3||Austin Dillon *||Chevrolet||40|
|6||4||6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||39|
|10||8||88||Cole Whitt *||Chevrolet||34|
|17||18||38||Brad Sweet *||Chevrolet||27|
|20||13||8||Scott Lagasse Jr.||Chevrolet||0|
|29||35||81||Jason Bowles *||Toyota||15|
|32||33||52||Joey Gase *||Chevrolet||12|
|33||40||23||Robert Richardson Jr.||Chevrolet||11|
|34||36||70||Johanna Long *||Chevrolet||10|
|37||38||41||Juan Carlos Blum||Chevrolet||7|