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Nationwide: Stenhouse takes 2011 title

Ricky Stenhouse knew early on during the Ford 300 season finale race that the 2011 championship was his - but he couldn't do quite enough to also clinch the race win.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was crowned the 2011 Nationwide Series champion after coming second in the Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, more than enough to see off any lingering threat to his new title from Elliott Sadler.

Yet despite pushing for all he was worth in the closing minutes, Stenhouse wasn't able go one better and pass outgoing champion Brad Keselowski for Saturday afternoon's race win, and had to settle for the runners-up spot instead.

"What an effort, champion," Stenhouse's spotter Mike Calinoff radioed in as the #6's last attempt to get around Keselowski was thwarted.

"That was all I had," admitted Stenhouse of that last lap push. "I was really hoping for one more lap there, but Brad did a good job. I got a little loose there coming off 4, or I thought we could have got him.

"But, man, it was fun racing those guys," he continued. "We were sideways, turning right, trying to keep it off the fence, getting into the fence every now and then, and to race up there with Carl, Brad, Denny, Clint Bowyer, Elliott Sadler - they're some of the best in the business and to be up there racing with them is fun.”

Stenhouse was still dazed with the reality of his championship achievement: "This is a dream come true ... It is unbelievable," he said. "There are a lot of people that have worked really hard for this. My family has sacrificed a lot. Jack Roush and all these guys on our team, they were with us when we were struggling and they never gave up last year."

Stenhouse had actually clinched the title early during the afternoon's proceedings, when enough cars had retired by lap 28 to make it impossible for Elliott Sadler to close up the points difference between them and steal the title at the last moment. Even if Stenhouse crashed out, he was now assured 37th place which put him out of Sadler's reach. That meant he was released to run as hard as he liked for the outright race win as well, having previously been required to put safety first and prioritise making no accidents.

Sadler himself had started the race alongside polesitter Keseelowski and immediately taken the lead at the green flag for the first half dozen laps before Keselowski found his groove and dived underneath him for the lead that he would then hold for all but one of the next 50 laps. After that, Carl Edwards made a determined effort to go head-to-head with him and finally came off best; with only temporary interruptions for pit stops and cautions, Edwards continued to lead through to lap 148 and set the most laps led (87 out of the 200-lap race distance, compared with 66 for Keselowski and 22 laps in front for Stenhouse.)

Staying out under a caution then put Clint Bowyer in the lead, but at the restart Stenhouse made his move and went to the front hoping to build up a margin over Keselowski and Edwards, who were still too close for comfort behind him. A final flurry of cautions meant that Stenhouse was dropped back out of the top five, which consisted of Edwards, Keselowski, Sadler, Bowyer and Denny Hamlin as the green flag came out with seven to go.




Related Pictures

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Brad Keselowski gets ready to celebrate after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-ending Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, Nov. 19. [Photo Credit: By John Harrelson, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Race winner Brad Keselowski celebrates with the flag at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, Nov. 19. [Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #6 and teammate Carl Edwards perform a head-to-head burnout in celebration of Stenhouse`s NASCAR Nationwide Series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, Nov. 19. [Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR]
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, races the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and his team celebrate by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, stands on the grid with Haley Carey prior to the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Resers Toyota, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates with brother and Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon after Ty won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The Richard Childress Racing #3 Chevrolet Nationwide Series car driven by Ty Dillon. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ty Dillon with his team owner and grandfaster Richard Childress at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 7 2014. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field out of the pits during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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