AVONDALE, Ariz. – After 31 races packed with close competition, the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship title hunt has resulted in a deadlock at 1,170 points between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler, making only one thing matter – wins.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Last season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup came down to a tie in the points between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. The championship was ultimately decided by wins (Stewart, five).
This season in the NNS championship race, Sadler and Stenhouse could face the same fate, though currently Stenhouse holds the advantage with six victories to Sadler’s four. Two races remain, Phoenix and Homestead, and it’s still anyone’s title.
Both championship contenders have been impeccable this season. Stenhouse has posted six wins, 18 top fives, 24 top 10s and four poles. His season-to-date Driver Rating (110.0) leads the series and his Average Running Position (8.854) is third best in the series. Sadler’s resume is nothing to scoff at either. The veteran has posted four wins, 15 top fives, 23 top 10s, and four poles. His season-to-date Driver Rating (108.9) is second only to Stenhouse and his Average Running Position leads the series with a 6.956.
Heading West to Phoenix Int’l Raceway, a track that was repaved last season, the series will make its third go on the new surface and reconfiguration. While Stenhouse has a better average finish (6.6 in five starts) at Phoenix than Sadler (15.4 in seven starts), Sadler won on the newly reconfigured 1-mile track earlier this season. Stenhouse finished third, but didn’t lead a lap. Bonus points will be big in these final two events.
The most a driver can earn in an event is five points: one for leading a lap, one for leading most laps and three for the win. Stenhouse has accumulated 37 bonus points this season compared to Sadler’s 32.
Still on the championship periphery, 21 points behind Stenhouse and Sadler, sits Austin Dillon. Third in the standings and still not mathematically out of contention for the title, Dillon has the opportunity to capitalize on any mistakes Stenhouse and Sadler make over these next two events. Dillon has made two starts at Phoenix posting one top five, a fourth earlier this season.