STENHOUSE JR. LEADS TIGHT NATIONWIDE SERIES POINTS BATTLE HEADING TO O’REILLY AUTO PARTS CHALLENGE

Patrick Returns To Stock-Car Racing After Finishing 2011 INDYCAR Season

Wallace Will Set Mark For Career Nationwide Series Starts At Texas

By The Numbers, Keselowski Due For Nationwide Win At Texas Motor Speedway


American Muscle

FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 1, 2011) – The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Fort Worth this week for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge – one of three stops left on the 2011 schedule – with just 15 points separating the top two championship contenders.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has held the points lead for the past 11 races – the longest stint any driver has led the standings all season – and his position atop the championship has been fueled by two wins and 23 top-10 finishes, including 14 among the top five. Trailing just 15 points behind Stenhouse Jr. is NASCAR veteran Elliott Sadler, whose season has been paced by 22 top 10s, including 12 among the top five, but no visits as yet to Victory Lane.

“The biggest things that I think us, as a race team, worry about are the things you can’t really control on the weekend,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “Your transmissions, your engines, etc. Now that we have the lead, we’ve prided ourselves the whole time on not making mistakes.

“We made mistakes (at Kansas) and fortunately for us we bounced back from it and finished in the top five, but we can’t have those mistakes on pit road being a big issue. It’s tough in these Nationwide races to come back. The competition is so stout throughout the field that it’s tough to just start at the back and come up to the front.

The series is coming off a two-week break after running at Charlotte, where Stenhouse Jr. and Sadler finished ninth and fourth, respectively. Both Stenhouse Jr. and Sadler feel comfortable behind the wheel at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, but Sadler has an advantage in terms of experience. Sadler has made seven Nationwide Series starts at Texas – including a best of second – but he also has 18 Sprint Cup starts as well, including a victory in 2004. Stenhouse Jr. has just three Nationwide starts at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I’m pumped to go back to Texas,” Sadler said. “We had a great race there back in the spring with a top-five finish. Texas is a track that I’ve had success at in the past, including a win in the Cup Series back in 2004. I have a lot of confidence coming back here, especially after doing so well here in the past.

“We feel good about our team, about our car and about our plan to battle for this championship. Our team has done their part, so we just have to go out there and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I’m looking forward to a great race as we try to get our best finish and gain the most points that we can.”

Despite the lack of starts at Texas compared to Sadler, Stenhouse Jr. has improved in each visit and is coming off his best qualifying effort (4th) and finish (5th) in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.

“(Texas) is a race track that I’ve liked since I got there,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “It was the first mile-and-a-half track that I ran wide open at when I first got there and really felt comfortable at. I feel like it’s a drivers’ track and you really have to stand up in the seat and use a lot of throttle and that’s the kind of tracks I like.”

The O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge gets underway Saturday at Noon CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (817) 215-8500 or visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

Click here for the official O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge entry list.

Taking Stock

Danica Patrick returns to the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday after completing the IZOD INDYCAR Series season with a 10th-place championship finish.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge will mark Patrick’s 10th Nationwide Series start with JR Motorsports this season. Patrick’s first stock car race at Texas came in the 2010 O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, in which she finished 22nd.

“Texas is very unique from a visual perspective,” Patrick said. “I feel more comfortable (at Texas) than other tracks that I’ve raced at in a stock car even if I’ve raced there before just because Texas is so visually unique. I feel like I just have a good feel for it as a driver and visually that I can move around and just be familiar with it.”

Patrick’s best finish in her nine Nationwide starts this season is fourth at Las Vegas. Last season, she made 13 Nationwide Series starts and posted her best finish, 19th, during the season finale Homestead -Miami Speedway.

Milestones

NASCAR veteran Kenny Wallace will establish the record for career Nationwide Series starts when he takes the green flag for Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway. Wallace, the 48-year-old St. Louis native who made his NNS debut at 24, will make his 520th career Nationwide Series start to snap a tie for the mark he currently holds with Jason Keller.

During his 22-year Nationwide Series career, Wallace has nine wins, 170 top 10-finishes, 65 top fives and 10 poles. Fifteen of those current 519 starts have come at Texas Motor Speedway, where he has a best finished of ninth (2005, spring).

“When I think about 519 starts, I actually in a weird way don’t think of the Nationwide Series,” Wallace said. “I’ve had 344 Sprint Cup starts – 10 full years in the Cup series, so when you add it up it’s like 870-something starts altogether. As appreciative I am to be in the Nationwide Series, it’s not really that 519 I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about being ranked 13th all-time in the history of NASCAR and being a good B-plus driver.”

5, 4, 3, 2…

Defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski will make his 11th Nationwide Series start at Texas in the upcoming O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and if his previous four finishes are any indication for his finish Saturday, he’ll be hosting a Victory Lane celebration.

In the 2009 O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, Keselowski posted a fifth-place finish and has consistently earned a better position each race since then – fourth in the 2010 O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, third in the 2010 O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and second in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.

“Texas is an extremely fast track in any kind of car, but no stock car gives you the sensation of speed that the Nationwide Series car does,” Keselowski said. “It actually feels faster than a Cup car. You enter Turn 1 at around 190 to 195 miles per hour, depending on whether you are in race trim or qualifying trim. If your car is handling the way it needs to, you’ll go through that corner without lifting, or barely lifting, out of the throttle.”

During last season’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, Keselowski clinched the 2010 Nationwide Series championship. Though he isn’t a championship contender this season, per NASCAR’s new points system that only allows drivers to compete for one of NASCAR’s top-tier championships, he has earned four Nationwide Series wins in his 26 starts this season.

Last Lap

Reed Sorenson is closing out the NASCAR Nationwide Series season with MacDonald Motorsports after parting with his full-time ride at Turner Motorsports. Sorenson, one of only three full-time Nationwide Series drivers with a victory this season, currently is fifth in the championship standings. Sorenson and Elliott Sadler are the only two drivers among the top five in the standings that have earned top-five finishes at Texas. Both Sorenson and Sadler have each posted three top-five finishes in the Nationwide Series at “The Great American Speedway!” … Race fans can take their own lap around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola Family Track Walk with NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Bobby Labonte. Following Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, race fans can enter the track through grandstand Gate 121 to participate in the event, which begins approximately 30 minutes after the race. Admission is free for any fan with a race ticket.


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