With just two races to go, Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are in a deadlock in their battle for the Nationwide Series championship. Both drivers are tied in points with 1,170 each.
Stenhouse's fourth-place finish compared to an 11th-place run for Sadler in last Saturday's race at Texas allowed Stenhouse to pull even with his championship rival. He trailed Sadler by six points before Texas.
Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion, is the points leader by virtue of his six wins for the season. Sadler has four victories.
The series now heads to Phoenix International Raceway before the season wraps up next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sadler won the most recent Nationwide race at Phoenix in March. It was his first win in the series since Oct. 1998. He had been without a victory in his last 91 starts.
When the series competed at Phoenix in Nov. 2011, Sadler trailed Stenhouse by 17 points, but Sadler was caught up in a multi-car wreck late in the race, which essentially ended his chances of winning the championship. Stenhouse went on to clinch the title the following week at Homestead by a 45-point margin of victory.
"With two races left in the season, there is still a lot to be decided with this championship," Sadler said. "This time last year, we saw our season basically end after being wrecked toward the end of the race. It was a bit of redemption being able to come back and win at Phoenix earlier this season, and I know that we are looking to do the same thing this weekend."
Prior to Texas, Sadler had led in the point standings for four consecutive races. But Stenhouse has managed to take over the top spot after battling back from adversity in the past two races.
Last month, Stenhouse won at Kansas after he bounced back from an accident and a two-lap deficit midway through the race. He dealt with an ill-handling car and nearly fell one lap behind in the early going at Texas but rebounded later in the event for a top-five finish.
"We have made gains on it the last two weeks to where we are tied (in points) now," Stenhouse said. "I guess all we have to do is tie. Last year, a tie won it with the most wins, and we have that right now. I feel good about where we are."
Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended last year's Sprint Cup Series season in a points tie, with Stewart clinching the championship due to his five wins.
Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Great Clips 200. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are those Sprint Cup regulars competing in this event. Brian Vickers, a part-time Cup competitor, will make his Nationwide debut with Joe Gibbs Racing, driving the No. 20 Toyota. Vickers will compete in the series full-time for JGR next year.
Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, Nov. 10. Race: Great Clips 200. Site: Phoenix International Raceway. Track: one-mile oval. Start time: 4 p.m.(ET). Laps: 200. Miles: 200. 2011 Winner: Sam Hornish Jr. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.