Monday, December 9, 2013
The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rallied from two laps down at Kansas Speedway to salvage his points day.
Then he stole a win, as well.
Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide Series champion, lucked into his sixth win of the season Saturday when leader Kyle Busch ran out of gas heading into the final turn. A late caution extended the race by six laps, and it stretched the fuel tanks of several cars at the front of the field.
Not Stenhouse, though. Because he ran into Joey Logano early into the race, falling two laps down during his stops for repairs, he was on a different pit sequence and had plenty of gas to make it to the end.
So he liked his chances when he lined up fifth on the final restart.
As the field prepared to take the green, Sam Hornish Jr. ran out of gas and NASCAR called off the start. It tacked on yet another lap, and that cost Paul Menard, who led a race-high 110 laps but ran out of gas as the field took the green.
Busch, who was seeking his first Nationwide win of the season and first in his Kyle Busch Motorsports entry, was the leader on the restart and jumped out to a comfortable lead. But his tank ran dry as he exited the third turn, and Stenhouse cruised past for the improbable victory.
"I saw Kyle and he was really shaking it down the back straightaway trying to make sure it had a lot of fuel and I thought it was good to go," Stenhouse said. "But right in the center it ran out and I was able to sneak by him on the outside and get the win. That was exciting."
The win tightened up the Nationwide championship race, too. Stenhouse was 13 points behind leader Elliott Sadler at the start of the race but cut it to six points with three races remaining.
"We knew we had to do that. I didn't see the win coming like this but I felt we had a car that was capable of winning before we got in the mess there with (Logano)," Stenhouse said. "We know we need to win races and if we win the rest we will win the championship no matter what."
Austin Dillon finished second to clinch the manufacturer championship for Chevrolet.
Logano was third, and was still smarting from the early contact with Stenhouse. He made a point to rub against Stenhouse's car on the cool-down lap to show his displeasure.
Sadler was fourth and was followed by Cole Whitt and then Busch, who has won a Nationwide race every year since 2004 but has only three chances left to keep his streak active.
CHASE: Kasey Kahne, who is running in fifth place, will start on the pole at the Kansas Speedway on Sunday, after his lap of 191.360 mph.
Meanwhile, Chase leader Brad Keselowski will have a lot of ground to make up over the speedway's repaved surface, after a lousy qualifying lap on Saturday left him starting deep in the field at 25th.
Nonethless, Keselowski thinks he has a couple of things going for him.
He's performed well at Kansas in the past -- he won over the 1.5-mile track last year, and his average finish in his last three races is fifth. And he's performed well over tracks that have had a facelift this year, winning at Chicago and finishing fourth at Pocono.
"The track has been very good to me in the past, but obviously it's much different now with the repave," said Keselowski, who has a slim seven-point lead over Jimmie Johnson.