Published on November 23rd, 2011 | by NASCAR Wire Service0
Keselowski Wins As Stenhouse Clinches N’wide Title
Keselowski held off a furious charge from series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the final lap to secure his fifth victory of the season and the 17th of his career.
Third-place finisher Carl Edwards clinched the owners’ championship for Roush Fenway, leading the most laps and finishing two positions ahead of Denny Hamlin’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, which entered the race with a one-point lead.
“What an effort, champion,” spotter Mike Calinoff radioed to Stenhouse after Keselowski blocked a last-ditch attempt at a pass.
Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide champion and current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifier, wasn’t allowed to defend his title under a NASCAR rule—new this year—that prevents a driver from competing for a championship in more than one series.
“You couldn’t ask for a better way to end the season,” Keselowski said. “Not being able to win the championship, it’s good to be able to finish on a high note, winning the pole and the race at Homestead. It’s a great exclamation point to the season for the whole team.”
Long before Keselowski crossed the finish line, however, Stenhouse, 24, clinched the Nationwide Series championship. When the number of cars retired from the race reached six on Lap 28 of 200, Stenhouse was guaranteed the 37th-place finish he needed to lock up the title.
As it turned out, he ran much better than that.
“That was all I had,” Stenhouse said of the final lap. “I was really hoping for one more lap there, but Brad did a good job. I got a little loose there coming off (Turn) 4, or I thought we could have got him. But the (No. 6) Mustang did its job at Ford championship weekend.
“This is a dream come true.”
The title in hand, Stenhouse stepped up his effort as the race unfolded. After the sixth caution, for Steve Wallace’s spin in Turn 1, Stenhouse passed fourth-place finisher Clint Bowyer for the lead on Lap 155 and began to pull away. But teammate Trevor Bayne scraped the wall and cut his right rear tire to put the field under yellow again on Lap 174.
Pit stops under caution shuffled the field, and a problem with lug nuts on the right rear tire dropped Edwards back to sixth. Moments after a restart on Lap 180, however, Edwards rocketed into second place and went on to secure the owners’ championship for the No. 60 Ford.
Keselowski grabbed the lead on that same restart and stayed out front until Reed Sorenson’s spin in Turn 2 slowed the field for the eighth time.
Edwards passed Keselowski for the top spot on a Lap 187 restart, but the race didn’t stay green for long. Separate incidents on Lap 188 involving Danica Patrick and Kenny Wallace brought out the ninth caution, and Edwards led the field back to green on Lap 194, before Keselowski made the winning pass shortly after the restart.