It all comes down to three hundred miles. After months of blood, sweat, tears, and miles of rubber it was time for the Nationwide series to crown a champion. All that stood between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and a second consecutive title was three hundred miles. But as we all know, anything can and will happen during a race, so into the cars they go.
So with Kyle Busch on the pole, off they went into the twilight. Busch was strong in the beginning which lead us to wonder if he could keep it and his winning streak up. And after 65 caution free laps he looked to be cruising. While Stenhouse was keeping the steady pace he needed to clinch the championship.
Stenhouse's closest competition, Elliott Sadler tried to use pit strategy to gain some much needed positions on the track and points in the standings stayed out during the first caution. But couldn't hold onto the lead and on a subsequent pit stop had a missing lug nut that all but ended his hopes of claiming the elusive title. He did rally back to finish ninth.
But it was Austin Dillon who really tried to keep the championship interesting by leading some laps when Busch started to fade as the track changed. Try as he might though, Stenhouse Jr was never far behind, so Dillon wasn't able to make up any ground in his quest.
And with seventeen laps to go a driver running his first race with his new owner for next year took the lead on the race off pit road and never looked back. Regan Smith, driving for JR Motorsports his team of the future, took the checkered flag to the surprise of everyone and the delight of the crowd.
Stenhouse finished sixth and secured his second consecutive NASCAR Nationwide championship.
While things might have been a little crazy towards the end, his crowning was never really in doubt. His biggest obstacle of the race was being told by his spotter to not race hard. In fact during the last ten laps, he keyed his mic so he could block his spotter out. He was upset about not winning the race because, after all, he's a racer, that's what he came to do.
Winning this title was just a sweet as the first, and maybe perhaps a little bittersweet with his jump to full time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup next year.
For the second straight year, the standings end the same way, Stenhouse on top with Sadler in second. After leading the standings for most of the year this loss will be a little tougher to accept.
While there will be no three-peat for Stenhouse. Still, we should have no fear because I believe next year's battle will be better than ever.