Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was perseverance personified in the 2010 Nationwide Series season.

Stenhouse Jr.’s first full-schedule run in the series started about as badly as a devoted pessimist might imagine. He crashed in the first two races – at Daytona and Auto Club Speedway – and through the first 12 events had five accidents.

Those first dozen races resulted in nine finishes of 25th or worse, then Stenhouse failed to qualify for the race at Nashville. Team owner Jack Roush put him on the sidelines for the next race.

At that point, the Mississippi driver’s future looked dim, indeed. But he managed a second-half rally that resulted in five top-10 finishes (including a pair of fourths) in the season’s final 10 races, and the end-of-year run was enough to carry him to Nationwide Rookie of the Year honors after a tight battle with Brian Scott.

After falling to 26th in Nationwide points at mid-year, Stenhouse managed to finish 16th, with three top fives and eight top 10s, hardly the kind of season the 23-year-old might have imagined back in the depths of February.

His best finish – a third – was scored at Daytona International Speedway in July.

Stenhouse made his Nationwide debut in 2009 at Nashville. He scored his series pole in his sixth race at Iowa and turned in a top finish of fifth – at Milwaukee – in seven races.

A native of Tennessee, Stenhouse started racing go-carts at the age of six.

In 2007, he drove for Tony Stewart’s USAC Sprint and Midget teams and won Rookie of the Year honors in both series.

He advanced to ARCA in 2008, scoring a pair of wins and 10 top fives and finishing fourth in the point standings.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.