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Nationwide: Stenhouse victorious over Menard

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard battled over victory in Friday night's Nationwide Series race, with the reigning champion holding on during the final restart.
Between them, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard led for over two-thirds of the entire 200-lap race distance in Friday's night's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 under the floodlights at Texas Motor Speedway, so it was only fitting that in the end, the battle for the lead came down to a final sprint to the line for the two of them after a late final caution.

"One thing that I do enjoy about this is that we're running up front every week," said reigning series champion Stenhouse. "We have a shot to win every week, and that's all we can do, and when we can finish it off like that, it's a positive."

Menard had started from pole position but lost the lead to Stenhouse on lap 4, with the reigning series champion then retaining the top spot and pulling out a big lead through to the first caution of the evening for debris on lap 45. A problem with a right front tyre saw Stenhouse slip back to sixth place for the restart - behind Menard, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Elliott Sadler.

Menard was able to hold off a surge from Kahne at the green flag to keep the lead through to the next caution, which was triggered by a spin by Brad Keselowski in turn 4 on lap 90. The restart attempt a few laps later saw Blake Kock spin out of turn 2 and hit the inside wall after being tagged by Kurt Busch, immediately putting the race back under yellow for the third time of the evening. The caution period was longer than anticipated, after a bank of floodlights around turn 3 briefly failed.

Racing was under way again on lap 103, with the running order reshuffled by cautions and pit stops to leave Denny Hamlin ahead of Stenhouse, Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Menard. But Stenhouse suffered a poor restart and fell back dramatically before gathering it back together, giving Menard the opportunity to shoot down the inside line and mount a three-wide battle for the lead with Hamlin and Sadler.

Menard won that battle, and Stenhouse quickly dealt with his restart gremlins to bounce back into second place once more with Sadler a fair way back in third. As the race reached three-quarter distance the field started to cycle through a green flag pit stop sequence that could conceivably see them through to the end without the need for another visit to pit lane if they conserved fuel, after which Menard's lead over Stenhouse was 1.8 seconds with Sadler, Kahne and Austin Dillon filling out the top five.

The action was rudely interrupted on lap 162, however, when the turn 3 lights failed for the second time that night. The race was briefly red-flagged to allow technicians to investigate the problem and change circuit breakers, and everyone took the opportunity to pit again after all to ensure fuel and worn tyres didn't become deciding factors in the result. Racing resumed ten minutes later with Austin Dillon and David Ragan in the lead having gambled on not coming back to pit road for tyres or fuel; Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kasey Kahne followed them taking the green flag on lap 172.

Once again it was the ongoing duel between Menard and Stenhouse that caught the attention at the restart as they battled side-by-side for second: Stenhouse won this round, and was rewarded by a prompt opportunity to take the lead on lap 176 when Austin Dillon twitched coming out of turn 2 on his older tyres. Stenhouse needed no second invitation and nipped through to the front, with Menard following his cue past the rookie to take second.

There would be one final caution on lap 186 when Kurt Busch's engine expired in clouds of smoke, leaving Stenhouse to manage the restart with just six laps to go. It was a fierce battle at the green flag with Stenhouse, Menard and Denny Hamlin going three-wide for the lead out of which Stenhouse somehow managed to come out with the prize, while Menard took longer to clear Hamlin for second and the critical delay allowed Stenhouse to pull out several car lengths over them both which was sufficient to give him a 1.4s lead by the chequered flag.




Related Pictures

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FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 13: Blake Koch, driver of the #15 Rick Ware Racing Ford, hits the wall as cars race during the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 13: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Pure Michigan Ford, takes the chequered flag as he crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates by kissing the bricks 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, takes the chequered flag to win 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, 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)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet, leads during 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: Brian Lawdermilk/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)
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, 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)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents, the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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