HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove dozens of laps as a champion – and didn’t even know it.
Stenhouse won the Nationwide Series title long before the checkered flag dropped Saturday at the season finale.
Stenhouse clinched his first championship about 30 laps into the 200-lap race, securing the title when six cars officially dropped out of the 300-mile event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Stenhouse was running fourth when NASCAR officials announced he had wrapped up the title. He finished second behind Brad Keselowski. Carl Edwards was third, followed by Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Elliott Sadler.
Edwards clinched the owner’s title for Jack Roush, who is looking to become the first owner in NASCAR history to win both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide championships in the same season. Edwards leads Tony Stewart by three points heading into today’s season finale.
Edwards and Stenhouse did a double burnout in celebration.
Sadler, who started the race 41 points behind Stenhouse, finished second in the points standings.
Stenhouse knew he held a comfortable lead over Sadler, needing to finish 37th or better to secure the championship a year after earning the rookie of the year honors.
Crew chief Mike Kelley gave Stenhouse the news a little past the halfway point, saying, “All right, man, I got the word. You are the champion.”
Stenhouse’s guaranteed finishing spot improved just after the green flag as “start and park” cars headed to the garage. Morgan Shepherd, Fain Skinner, Scott Speed and Matt Carter drove just a few laps before calling it quits. Josh Wise and Chase Miller followed them a few laps later, making it official.