HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 2011 Series Championship after the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Roush-Fenway Racing driver, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship Saturday evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Brad Keselowski, last year’s champion, would win the race.
Stenhouse, Jr. as you may recall almost lost his job with the team 18 months ago. He was finishing in the back of the field and just destroying team equipment. Rosuh stuck with him. He pushed him into meetings, challenged him at the track, and dogged him all the time. Roush’s method worked. It led to a championship.
He clinched his first championship 30 laps into the 200 lap race, after six cars officially dropped out of the 300 mile race.
"They believed in me when we were struggling," Stenhouse said. "Everyone rallied together. It just means the world to bring this championship to Jack."
Stenhouse’s Roush-Fenway Racing teammate, Carl Edwards would clinch the owner’s title. On Sunday, Roush is looking to become the first owner in NASCAR history to win both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide championship in the same season.
After the race, Edwards and Stenhouse parked their Ford Fusions nose to nose and did a double burnout to celebrate.
Earlier in the race, the team had some communication issues. Someone not associated with the team left the push-to-talk button open on a radio, causing problems that eventually got solved by switching channels. With about 70 laps to go, Stenhouse scraped the wall for a second time.
None of the mishaps dampened Stenhouse’s day.
Crew chief Mike Kelley gave Stenhouse the news a little past the halfway point, saying, "All right, man, I got the word. You are the champion."
This is Roush-Fenway Racing’s third championship in the series. The other two came in 2002 with Greg Biffle and then again in 2007 with Carl Edwards behind the wheel. Stenhouse is the seventh former NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year to win the championship. This is also the first time in series history that a team has won both the drivers and owners championship-but with two different primary drivers.