Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins Iowa again
NEWTON, Iowa -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn't need a fortuitous push from a teammate to win at Iowa Speedway this time around.
Stenhouse's No. 6 car was strong enough to keep the drama and the rest of the field out of reach.
He led 209 of 250 laps and won the NASCAR Nationwide race at the Iowa Speedway on Sunday, his third straight win on Iowa's short oval.
Stenhouse, who won both races in Iowa in 2011 and took first last August after blowing an engine and being pushed across by Carl Edwards, picked up his third victory of the season. He also extended his lead in the points chase to 28 over Elliott Sadler, who was second.
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"It feels good to win three in a row, and it was a lot of fun leading that many laps," Stenhouse said.
Michael McDowell tied his career best by finishing third, followed by rookie Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch. Danica Patrick failed to finish for the second time this season and Travis Pastrana finished 26th in his third career Nationwide race because of an electrical issue.
For Stenhouse, Sunday's race was a lot less exciting but a lot more efficient than his last trip to Iowa.
Stenhouse's 209 laps led tied the track record set by Kyle Busch in 2010. He also became the first Nationwide driver to win three in a row at the same track since Kyle Busch won three at Texas in 2009-10.
"This is the way you want to win. You want to go out here and dominate," Stenhouse said. "We want to go out there and lead laps, stay up front and get the job done."
The Sprint Cup event in Charlotte on Saturday kept all Cup regulars except for Kurt Busch out of the field, giving the Nationwide series a rare Sunday in the spotlight.
Busch still showcased his skills as a driver though, briefly taking the lead after starting in the back and saving a top-five finish after being bumped by McDowell on the last lap.
"Stenhouse man, he did a good job (Sunday). The kid is getting really good," Kurt Busch said. "It's great to sniff the lead, be close to it and just missing a couple little components."
Sadler started on the pole, but Sam Hornish Jr. quickly took the lead away and held it for 30 laps until Stenhouse took control. Though Cole Whitt, Justin Allgaier and Busch each took turns with the front position, none of them could hold off the charging Stenhouse for more than a few laps.
Sadler bounced back nicely from his late wreck in Darlington last week by starting first and finishing second, but he was still frustrated he couldn't beat Stenhouse.
"We thought we had a car to win the race when the race started. But I'm proud of my guys for rebounding the way they did after last week. To come back and finish second, a good job on their part," Sadler said.
Patrick's promising weekend ended in a wall.
Patrick started ninth, just her fifth top-10 start in 35 career Nationwide races. But Patrick was already in 16th place when she drifted high into a turn and slammed into the wall 114 laps into the 250-lap event.
The No. 7 car suffered damage on its right side that was too extensive for Patrick to continue. Patrick said she was encouraged by the progress she and her team made this weekend, even though it ended poorly.
"I'm bummed out because we were on a good roll and we were having the best short track weekend we've had yet," Patrick said. "These are the things that happen. You can't control it. You've got 34 weekends and they're not all going to go perfect."
Darrell Wallace Jr., held his ground in his first career start in the Nationwide series, finishing ninth after starting eighth.
Wallace, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished last in the K&N Pro Series event on Saturday night after hitting the wall just 26 laps in. But that was an aberration for the 18-year-old Wallace, who has won six times in that series.
"He's somebody with the most promising talent who is an African-American to come through our diversity program. He has been dominant at the K&N. He's winning," NASCAR chairman Brian France said about Wallace while in Charlotte on Saturday night. "That's a breakthrough if that materializes. If not him, there's going to be somebody who is going to walk in the door and be a star, and it's going to be very good for us."
But neither Wallace nor Patrick nor anybody else could steal the spotlight from Stenhouse.
Though McDowell thought that Sadler, Kurt Busch and himself all had stronger cars than the No. 6 at the end, the top spot was already a foregone conclusion by then.
"Nah, they didn't have a faster race car," Stenhouse said. "If they had faster race cars, I feel like they should have been there out in front of us. But our race car was solid."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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