Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved a big step closer toward defending his Nationwide Series championship with a strong run at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. He also got some help from Elliott Sadler, who had a rough day start to finish.
The two title contenders started Saturday tied for the championship. But as Stenhouse battled Joey Logano and Brian Vickers for the lead heading to the white flag, Elliott Sadler imploded 10 positions behind them. Sadler was vying for 12th with Justin Allgaier and Cole Whitt when he triggered a three-car accident.
“I just got loose. It’s hard to put this into words,” Sadler said.
The accident brought the race to a halt, and Sadler had to sit in his battered car as NASCAR cleaned the track.
Once the accident was cleared, he returned to pit road for some futile repairs, but the race went on without him into overtime.
Logano pulled away for his ninth win of the season, with Vickers finishing second. Stenhouse wound up third, and Sadler, his wounded car sputtering and sparking, was 22nd.
Sadler was 10 points behind Stenhouse before the accident but now goes to the finale down by 20. It capped a day that saw him wreck his primary Chevrolet on his qualifying lap, and it took his Richard Childress Racing team almost until the start of the race to get his backup car prepared.
Stenhouse needs to finish 16th or better next Saturday to become the sixth driver in Nationwide history to win consecutive titles.
CAPPS EYES NHRA TITLE
Ron Capps rallied to top Funny Car qualifying in the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., with a run of 4.007 seconds at 319.29 mph.
Capps trails points leader Jack Beckman by two points, and must win one more round than Beckman in the final eliminations to take the season title.
“I think I aged another 10 years these last couple of hours,” said Capps, who led the standings with three races to go.
Shawn Langdon claimed the top top-fuel spot in qualifying with a 3.730 at 327.82 in final session. By qualifying for the eliminations, Allen Johnson wrapped up his first Pro Stock title, and Eddie Krawiec won the Pro Stock Motorcycle crown for the second straight year and third time since 2007.
Danica Patrick has decided not to race in the Indianapolis 500 next season to concentrate on NASCAR. … The green flag for today’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, in Avondale, Ariz., drops at 12:16 p.m. The race will be broadcast on ESPN.