Stenhouse Jr. takes points lead to Darlington

After finishing third in last Saturday's race at Talladega, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved into the points lead in the Nationwide Series.

Stenhouse, the defending series champion, began this season with a 19th-place finish at Daytona. Since then, the Roush Fenway Racing driver has climbed his way to the top in points, thanks in part to his victories at Las Vegas and Texas.

Elliott Sadler held a 25-point advantage over Stenhouse following the March 17 race at Bristol, but after his 10th-place finish at Talladega, Sadler gave up the points lead for the first time this season. He is now five markers behind Stenhouse.

The points battle between the two moves on to Darlington Raceway this week.

Stenhouse finished 37th in his first Nationwide race at Darlington in 2010. He followed up with a 10th-place run there one year later.

"We were running really strong there last year, passing for third late in the race and got in the wall which messed up our race, but we were really fast," Stenhouse said. "I look forward to getting back there. I think we will have another strong top-five run, hopefully, or even go for the win."

Last year, Sadler finished third in his first Nationwide race at Darlington since 1999.

"The track brings back a lot of memories for me," Sadler said. "I earned my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole there in 2003 and earned a pole in the Nationwide Series early in my career in 1997. I really love the driving style at Darlington, and with so much history there, I always want to go there and do well."

Sadler also has two wins this season -- Phoenix and Bristol.

Darlington will mark the second race for Travis Pastrana. The 11-time X Games gold medalist made his Nationwide debut on April 27 at Richmond, starting 25th and finishing 22nd.

While competing in a NASCAR K&N Series event in March at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, SC, Pastrana received some helpful tips from NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson on how to race at Darlington. Pearson won 10 Cup races and claimed 12 poles at Darlington.

"I really appreciate the time that Mr. Pearson spent with me at Greenville- Pickens," Pastrana said. "I'm still learning the sport of NASCAR, so to get some great advice from a legend like Mr. Pearson was extremely beneficial for me. It really has been amazing to see the people willing to help me each week.

"I have received help from Jimmie Johnson, Matt Crafton and Ryan Truex just to name a few. It's just amazing all these people are willing to help me when they have to race against me each week. In motocross, you never told another competitor your secrets. It just wasn't part of the culture."

Ryan Blaney, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, will also make his second start in the series at Darlington. Blaney finished an impressive seventh in his debut at Richmond.

Eric McClure will not compete in Friday night's event at Darlington due to his injuries sustained during a late-race crash at Talladega. McClure, who drives the No. 14 Toyota for TriStar Motorsports, slammed head on into the inside retaining wall in turn three. The 33-year-old suffered a concussion and mild internal bruising. He was released from a Birmingham, AL hospital on Tuesday.

Jeff Green, the 2000 series champion, will substitute for McClure in the No. 14 car at Darlington. Green has scored one win and nine top-10 finishes in 18 Nationwide races there.

Forty-three drivers are on the preliminary entry list for the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200.

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Friday, May 11. Race: VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200. Site: Darlington Raceway. Track: 1.366-mile oval. Start time: 7:15 p.m. (et). Laps: 147. Miles: 200.8. 2011 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: ESPN 2. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.