There are those moments in racing that get your heart thumping. They usually involve scrunched sheet metal, smashed cars, and crushed hopes. Tight battles and hard racing.
Those last ten laps in the Nationwide championship race got me going just like that.
It wasn’t solely the fact that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was in a squirrelly situation, what with being surrounded by the two other contenders of Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon. The other part was that his car was loose. Wrecking loose. He was sawing on that wheel like crazy. You didn’t know if he would be able to hold onto it or not.
Earlier in the race, Stenhouse’s spotter Mike Calinoff kept telling the driver to keep it off the wall, to which Ricky replied, “I know . . . I don’t need you to repeat it.”
Aside from the few cautions we received, the championship race drew most of our attention. The single moment that broke my heart? When Sadler’s crew missed a lugnut. You could hear the collective intake of breath from fans everywhere, as if we had all been punched in the gut. Add that to the other mishaps that plagued the #2 team -like the restart fiasco at Indy and the wreck last week in Phoenix- and it’s just sad.
Sadler recovered to get a great finish, but it wasn’t enough. He ended up twenty-three points behind Stenhouse. Austin Dillon impressed and contended for the win, yet, similarly, he came up short.
This is Stenhouse’s second straight championship, the success worlds apart from his fruitless Rookie season back in 2010. Who would’ve thought the driver Jack Roush forced to sit out a few races back then would be the current two-time champion? Ricky proves how things in this sport can change drastically if you keep pushing and trying. Not only that, it’s inspirational for anyone who needs a bit of help during a tough point in their life.
As for the race winner, it was Regan Smith, trying out the #5 JR Motorsports Chevy to get a head start on next season. He will run full time for the team in 2013, and his win proved he would be a force to be reckoned with for the championship. His crew chief, in his Nationwide series debut, was Steve Letarte, and the crew? Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s posse. Great momentum to build off of for next season.
The Nationwide series has come to a close, but fear not; next season will be just as exciting and just as nerve-racking.