Brad Keselowski wins the Ford 200, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr wins the 2011 NNS Championship

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 2011 Series Championship after the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

On Saturday afternoon, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. climbed into his No. 6 Blackwell Angus Beef Ford Fusion for the 200 lap Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he had one number in his head. He knew he must finish 37th or better for the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship to be his. Little did he knew he’d only have to wait 30 laps.

Long before the checkered flag would drop on Saturday night at the season finale, Stenhouse Jr had already clinched after six cars officially dropped out of the rae.

The team had some radio communications issues early. Apparently, someone not associated with Roush-Fewnay Racing left the push-to-talk button open on a radio, causing problems that would eventually be solved by switching channels.

Later in the race, he would scrap the wall for a second time.

None of that would dampen his mood.

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.”

Brad Keselowski would go on to win the race, his fifth of the season.

This is Roush-Fenway Racing’s third championship in the series. The other two came in 2002 with Greg Biffle and then again in 2007 with Carl Edwards behind the wheel. Stenhouse is the seventh former NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year to win the championship. With Carl Edwards finishing in the top three, he would capture RFR’s second Owner’s championship since 2002. This is the first time in series history that a team has won both the drivers and owners championship-but with two different primary drivers.

“I feel as a race car driver I’ve had more patience and more focus over last year,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I think I started learning that about halfway through last year as far as what I needed to do as a race car driver to run up front and run consistent, and we kind of just merged everything together this year.”

Stenhouse Jr. said one of the keys to his success this season has been racing with a sense of preservation and being around for the checkered flag. He had only two DNFs this season.

“I’ve run for one championship before in my life, so this is still all new to me,” he said. “I think toward the end of the year I really learned how to run for a championship, whether that be not taking as many chances on restarts or making sure I got to the end of the race.

Roush-Fenway Racing is still seeking sponsors for the 2012 season, so as of now Stenhouse Jr’s status is uncertain. He did say he hopes to return to the NASCAR Nationwide series to defend his championship and possbily run some Sprint Cup races.

The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award went to 18 year old Timmy Hill. Hill, who drives the No 15 for Rick Ware Racing, had a top finish of 11th at Road America earlier this season.

Unofficial Race Results:

1. Brad Keselowski
2. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
3. Carl Edwards
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Elliott Sadler
7. Sam Hornish, Jr.
8. Aric Almirola
9. Brian Scott
10. Joey Logano
11. Trevor Bayne
12. Jason Leffler
13. Justin Allgaier
14. James Buescher
15. David Stremme
16. Joe Nemechek
17. Mike Bliss
18. Jeremy Clements
19. Michael Annett
20. Mike Wallace
21. Timmy Hill
22. Robert Richardson Jr.
23. Blake Koch
24. Nelson Piquet Jr.
25. Reed Sorenson
26. Kevin Conway
27. Casey Roderick
28. TJ Duke
29.  Eric McClure
30. Derrike Cope
31. Stanton Barrett
32. Danica Patrick
33. Kenny Wallace
34. Kenny Wallace
35. Kevin Lepage
36. Andrew Ranger
37. Scott Riggs
38. Chase Miller
39. Josh Wise
40. Matt Carter
41. Scott Speed
42. Fain Skinner
43. Morgan Shepherd


Tags: Brad Keselowski Homestead-Miami Speedway NASCAR Nationwide Series Ricky Stenhouse Jr

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