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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. takes sole possession of Nationwide Series lead

Joey Logano wins the Great Clips 200 at Phoenix, but Stenhouse is poised to repeat as series champion after Elliott Sadler crashes with two laps remaining. Stenhouse and Sadler were tied in points.

November 11, 2012|By Jim Peltz, Los Angeles Times
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leads Kyle Busch during the NASCAR Nationwide race in Phoenix.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leads Kyle Busch during the NASCAR Nationwide race… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

AVONDALE, Ariz. — — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is poised to repeat as NASCAR Nationwide Series champion after his closest challenger, Elliott Sadler, found trouble Saturday.

Joey Logano won the Great Clips 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, but Stenhouse took a 20-point lead over Sadler in the Nationwide standings with only one race remaining.

The two had arrived in Phoenix tied for the series lead. But with two laps left in the 200-lap race, Sadler crashed into the outside wall along with Cole Whitt and Brendan Gaughan.

After the wreck's debris was cleaned up, Logano held off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brian Vickers for the win, Stenhouse finished third and Sadler hobbled around in his damaged Chevrolet to finish 22nd.

"It would mean a lot to me to go back to back" with consecutive titles, said Stenhouse, who is scheduled to move up to NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series next year when he takes over Matt Kenseth's car at Roush Fenway Racing.

Logano's No. 18 Toyota was dominant, having started on the pole and leading 168 laps. On the final lap, Vickers said he was battling Stenhouse for second and "by the time I got clear of [Stenhouse], the 18 was gone."

It was the ninth Nationwide win of the season for Logano, who isn't eligible for the series championship because he also drives in the Sprint Cup Series.

Danica Patrick finished 10th after starting 14th. The former IndyCar driver had climbed as high as sixth but, on a restart with about 40 laps left following a caution period, her Chevrolet got loose and several cars passed her.

Patrick also is driving in the Cup race Sunday at Phoenix International.

Sadler had a tough day even before his late-race wreck.

He scraped the wall during his qualifying run before the race, forcing his team to use a backup car that required Sadler to start the race in the rear of the field. And during his first pit stop, he lost several spots as his team struggled to change the left rear tire.

"I did it to myself," Sadler said. "I put my team in a hole qualifying like we did. I just apologize for putting them in this position."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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