Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the race off pit road and in doing so won Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mark Martin, in his first race driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished second, followed by series points leader Elliott Sadler in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Trevor Bayne in a second Roush Ford and the RCR Chevy of Brendan Gaughan.
Stenhouse, the reigning Nationwide champion, didn’t lead until Lap 146 of the 200-lap race, but from there he dominated the final quarter of the race in his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to win his third series race in 76 career starts.
Red-hot Sadler, last week’s winner at Phoenix, started from the pole and opened a lead of more than 1.5 seconds by Lap 11, when Kyle Fowler and Benny Gordon crashed coming out of Turn 4.
Hometown favorite Kyle Busch brought out the second caution on Lap 27, when he spun on the backstretch trying to pass Sam Hornish Jr. Kasey Kahne passed Sadler during the ensuing round of pit stops, with Mark Martin moving into third.
On the restart, Sadler fell all the way back to eighth place, complaining that his right-rear tire was overheating.
Then, on Lap 96, Brian Scott had a savage impact into the Turn 4, when he got sucked around by Trevor Bayne, who was outside of him. Scott got loose, overcorrected and went hard, nose-first into the outside wall. “You can go from hero to zero pretty quick in this sport,” said Scott.
After a lengthy stop to clean up the track, it was Martin who asserted himself, taking the lead on pit road and holding it for the Lap 104 restart.
While Martin was pulling away, second-place Brad Keselowski ran out of gas on Lap 130, ending his hopes of victory.
T.J. Bell ran out of gas on Lap 145, forcing another caution period. The Roush Fenway Racing Fords were the big winners, with Ricky Stenhouse first off pit road and Bayne third, sandwiching Martin’s Toyota.
Stenhouse took the high line on the restart to take his first lead of the day. And once out front — like virtually every leader before him — Stenhouse ran away from the field. He led by 1.485 seconds when Jeremy Clements had a lurid slide across the infield on Lap 156 to bring out yet another caution.
Once again, Stenhouse used the outside line to go past Martin, as Cole Whitt moved into third behind Bayne.
From there Stenhouse cruised to an easy victory, with no one able to mount a threat.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.