The aura of invincibility that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seemed to project over the first third of the season found a hitch at Charlotte Motor Speredway last weekend. As a result, the NASCAR Nationwide Series points race is back to a nip-and-tuck fight.
Stenhouse aims to rebound from his Charlotte misfortune in Saturday afternoon's 5-Hour Energy 200 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET) at Dover. He leads nearest challenger Elliott Sadler by 13 points heading to the series' first stop at the Monster Mile.
Stenhouse had strung together nine straight races finishing no worse than sixth before a drive shaft failure saddled him with a 26th-place finish at Charlotte. The defending series champion said that the setback won't alter his approach coming into one of the tour's toughest tracks.
"It doesn't at all really. We're going to go out to win every week," said Stenhouse, who logged a pair of top-five finishes at the mile track last season. "We've been fast at Dover every single time we've been there. We're going to win. It's what we do every week and I think we're going to have a shot at it."
Sadler's sixth-place finish allowed him to chop 21 points off Stenhouse's lead. Top rookie Austin Dillon is just 28 points back of Stenhouse in third.
Dillon will be joined by his younger brother, Ty, who will be making his series debut in Saturday's 200-miler.
LOFTON LEADS AS TRUCK TOUR MIXES IT UP
Parity has been the name of the game this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The win column shows it.
The circuit's five races have had five different winners in 2012, a trend that could continue in Friday's Lucas Oil 200 (SPEED, 4:50 p.m. ET) at Dover. The Monster Mile has produced a similar variety of Victory Lane visitors, with 11 different winners in its last 12 races; Kyle Busch has been the only repeat winner since the trucks debuted at Dover in 2000.
Justin Lofton, the series' most recent first-time winner, used his win May 18 at Charlotte to rocket into the points lead. While he's all for the parity that landed him in Victory Lane two weeks ago, he wouldn't mind breaking the string this weekend.
"My roommate, and one of my best friends, his name is Miles," Lofton said. "I beat him on Xbox a lot, but it sure would be nice to be able to say I beat the monster Miles. I'd like to put that trophy right next to the TV. It can taunt the other Miles every time we play a game on there."
Lofton's hold on the series lead is a slim one; Timothy Peters is one point behind in second and top rookie Ty Dillon is third, 16 points back. Both Peters and Dillon are seeking their first wins of the season. Just 31 points separate the top six.