Ricky Stenhouse came from two laps down in the No. 6 Ford to claim victory in the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway on Saturday. The win was his sixth of 2012 and pulled him to within six points of series points leader Elliott Sadler.
“We were doing a lot of praying, trying to get two laps, there,” Stenhouse said of his battle back toward the front.
As several drivers ran out of gas in the final laps of the race that had a green-white-checker finish after a race record 12 cautions, Austin Dillon finished second.
With Dillon’s second-place finish, Chevrolet captured the Nationwide Series manufacturer’s title for the 15th time.
“Chevrolet is honored to win the 2012 Bill France Performance Cup, and capture the Manufacturers’ Championship in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the 15th time,” Chevrolet US Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports Jim Campbell said in a statement released soon after the race. “Our success is the result of dedication and determination of our Nationwide Series team owners, crew chiefs and their crews as well as the drivers giving it their all on the track. We salute the efforts of everyone who worked tirelessly to bring this award to Chevrolet.”
Joey Logano started on the pole and led the way until the second caution of the race came out on lap 32. Logano and most of the other drivers on the lead lap headed down pit road, while Stenhouse stayed out to move into the lead.
Stenhouse also stayed out during the next couple of cautions to hold on to his lead. With the large number of yellow flags, pit strategies varied, putting drivers on a multitude of pit cycles. After pitting early during the first caution of the race on lap 15, Stenhouse finally made his second stop of the race during the sixth yellow flag that came out on lap 69, handing the lead over to Paul Menard. Menard remained up front to lead 110 laps of the race, the most of any driver.
While Logano ran at or near the front in the early stages of the race, his JGR teammate, Brian Scott had a difficult time holding on to a car that was running with an experimental setup. Scott and the setup were responsible for three early-race cautions, with his No. 11 car finally hitting the wall on lap 57.
Stenhouse and Logano made heavy contact several laps later. According to Stenhouse, hewas trying to get debris of the grill of his car but then changed his mind and deceded to pass Logano when he decided that the debris was not going to come off. While trying to complete the pass, Stenhouse’s car moved up on Logano, sustaining heaving damage and pushing Logano’s car into the wall, also causing significant damage to Logano’s No. 18.
“Made a mistake there, trying to get some debris off the grill,” Stenhouse said. “I thought it was over.”
Logano acknowledged after the race that he didn’t have a car capable of winning anyway, but it didn’t ease the frustration that stemmed from the contact.
“It’s frustrating,” Logano said. “We didn’t have a car to win this thing anyway, but neither did the No. 6. It just happened that way.”
Logano wound up going a lap down after the incident, and Stenhouse fell to two laps down. Logano got back on the lead lap on a later caution, and Stenhouse eventually got back on the lead lap by first taking a wave-around during a yellow and later getting a free pass under caution.
After getting back on the lead lap with 39 laps to go, Stenhouse headed down pit road to get enough fuel to go the rest of the way. A few other drivers headed down pit road during another yellow flag that waved with 29 laps to go, but race front runners like Menard, Sam Hornish Jr. and Kyle Busch opted to stay out and hoped the high number of caution laps would enable them to stretch their fuel mileage the rest of the way.
The yellow flag waved one more time, but it was too late to help those in fuel conservations mode. Instead, it worked against them. A caution with three laps to go sent the race into overtime, adding laps for a green-white-checker finish.
Menard and Hornish ran out under the caution, while Busch looked to be on his way to his first Nationwide win as a owner/driver. Busch, though, ran out of gas after taking the white flag for the final lap, moving Stenhouse into the lead.
“I ran out in the middle of three and four,” Busch said. “That’s our year. Oh well, you get defeated sometimes.”
Sadler finished second after battling an ill-handling race car for much of the event, and Cole Whitt rounded out the top-five.
Busch coasted across the start/finish line to finish sixth. Seventh through 10th were Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Hornish and Danica Patrick.
— Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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