The checkered flag is approaching. Sadly, it’s that time of year again for race fans. The NASCAR season will be completed on Sunday afternoon as teams will be attempting to end the year on a high note after what has been an exciting championship battle across all of the national series.
20 points is what separates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. over Elliott Sadler in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings. It may not seem like such a large margin, however it will take quite a bit of luck for Sadler to lock up the championship this weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 300.
In order to win the championship, Sadler needs to basically win the race and hope that Stenhouse will have some bad luck which will cause him to finish outside of the top 15 at the minimum. Stenhouse’s clinching scenario is simply to finish the race 16th or better, 17th if he leads a lap, or 18th if he leads the most laps.
It is Déjà vu yet again for the two drivers, except this season, the battle is tighter than it was last year as Stenhouse clinched the championship once the start and park drivers were deemed as out of the race which took no longer than 25 laps.
“I love the determination and the heart each member of the team has, and although we head to Homestead with a deficit, we are not out of this championship,” Sadler said in a statement on the Richard Childress Racing website. “We will fight until the end. We have to finish off what we started, and we are as prepared as we need to be to go out there and make it happen.”
“The 20-point lead makes us feel good but we’ve given up 20 points in one race so it’s not over till it’s over. We still have some work to do at Homestead, but it feels pretty good,” Stenhouse Jr. said on the Roush Fenway Racing website.
The championship battle isn’t the only headline entering the Nationwide Series race this weekend though. Two drivers that will be competing on Saturday afternoon have plenty to prove.
Kyle Busch hasn’t won a race this year. The last time he didn’t win a race was in 2003 which was his semi-rookie year where he ran only seven races, two of which he finished in the second position. If Busch is unable to win this weekend at Homestead with his self-owned, Kyle Busch Motorsports, it will be the first time in the past eight seasons that Busch has been unable to win a race in the Nationwide Series. The fact that Busch holds the record for most wins in the Nationwide Series with 51 wins makes this weekend even more important for the Las Vegas, Nv native.
Women racing full-time in NASCAR is a rarity, everyone knows that. Danica Patrick is attempting to make history this weekend as she will attempt to be the first woman driver to finish inside of the top-10 in the points standings in a NASCAR national series. The previous record is held by Sara Christian who finished 13th in the final standings in the second year of NASCAR when the Sprint Cup Series was known as the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series. If Patrick is able to hold onto her position in points, which she should do since she is 16 points ahead of Joe Nemechek, she will have finally proved that she can be semi-competitive within the sport.
This weekend should be exciting for race fans across the world. Drama, strategy, speed, and more will come into play at the Homestead-Miami Speedway as the NASCAR Nationwide Series will make its last hoorah of the year with one of the tightest championship battles since 2008 where Clint Bowyer edged out Carl Edwards for the championship trophy.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.