Things seemed bleak for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. soon after the mid-point of Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, when a collision with Joey Logano sent him onto pit road for costly repairs that put him two laps off the lead.
With his main rival Elliott Sadler looking set for a top five finish, it looked like being a damaging outing for Stenhouse in terms of his hopes of retaining the Nationwide championship before moving up to Sprint Cup full time in 2013 with Roush Fenway replacing Matt Kenseth in the senior team.
There was nothing Stenhouse could do but to keep his cool, get his head down, and see if there was anything he could do to limit the damage. That perseverance netted first one wave-around and then a lucky dog pass to put him back onto the lead lap; then an opportunistic well-timed tyre-and-gas stop off the back of the latter gave him the chance to take advantage of others' fuel misfortune to pull off the ultimate in damage control - an outright race win.
"I didn't see the win coming like this but we will take it," said a delighted Stenhouse in victory lane. "It was in front of a great crowd. I can't say enough about the fans coming out and supporting us. It is a lot of fun to run in this series and especially to come to Kansas."
At the start of the race, Logano has easily converted pole position into an early lead, with his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Brian Scott following him through and tucking into second place ahead of Austin Dillon, Paul Menard and Elliott Sadler. But it was to be a spin-prone race for Scott, who was responsible for three of the first five cautions, the first coming on lap 14 when the #11 got loose in turn 4 and went skidding through the infield grass.
That caution saw the field start to break up into an array of differing pit strategies for the afternoon, as Stenhouse and Danica Patrick took the opportunity to pit early. Most cars waited until the next caution that came on lap 31 when Australian Scott Saunders spun in turn 3 and put the rear of the #08 into the outside wall.
Stenhouse stayed out this time and duly took point for the restart ahead of Paul Menard, Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick, with Logano dropping back to ninth place for the restart; but Menard got the better start and took the lead for the first of what would prove to be 110 laps in the lead in the 200-lap race.
There was a stop-go feel to the following laps, as Scott went for his second spin on 41, and then on lap 49 it was Dexter Stacy loosing the rear end of his car and then backing into the wall to bring out the fourth caution. Just five laps of green flag running later and Scott had his third and final spin of the day on lap 58, this time doing enough damage to the #11 on the outside wall to send him to the garage area.
Stenhouse stayed out while others pitted to take the lead at the restart ahead of Kenny Wallace, Cole Whitt, Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier. Further back, Scott Lagasse Jr. pulled off the save of the afternoon as he caught a vicious spin to the left out of turn 4, which nearly caught out Elliott Sadler and did result in Kyle Busch scraping the outside wall to avoid what had looked to be a seemingly inevitable accident.