This was one time Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t mind being wrecked by a teammate.
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The smoke billowing from Stenhouse’s blown engine as he approached the checkered flag blinded his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards, who rammed into him, inadvertently sending Stenhouse to victory in a wild finish to the NASCAR Nationwide race Saturday night.
”If he wouldn’t have hit us, we would have definitely ended up second. I knew we would have had enough momentum to get there. I just wasn’t sure if we were going to be first or second,” Stenhouse said. ”You definitely don’t want to win them like that. You don’t want to tear up a race car, but you definitely want to win.”
Stenhouse appeared set to cruise to his second win at Iowa this year when the No. 6 car blew an engine with the checkered flag in sight. With the smoke obscuring Edwards’ view and oil on the track, he slammed into Stenhouse and shoved him across the finish line.
Stenhouse crossed the line sideways, becoming the first Nationwide series regular to win two races this year.
Edwards wound up second, his No. 60 car torn to shreds as well.
”That’s the most amazing finish I’ve been involved with in a long time. That was spectacular,” Edwards said.
Pole sitter Elliott Sadler was third, followed by Josh Wise and Aric Amirola.
For once, luck was on Stenhouse’s side.
Stenhouse led all but 15 laps last week in Indianapolis before losing to Brad Keselowski. He led just 25 laps in Iowa, but those were the only ones that mattered.
Stenhouse made contact with Edwards earlier in the race — leaving hard feelings on both sides — then captured the lead from Edwards and Sadler with a bold move to the inside. He held it until the end, though he got some unexpected help from his teammate to do it.
”I think I saw a bunch of opportunity for things to go horribly wrong there for Roush Fenway and for Carl and for Ricky. Happily the tempers didn’t rise above the boiling point and everything is OK,” team owner Jack Roush said.
Edwards, who announced earlier this week that he had signed a multiyear extension with Roush Fenway earlier this week, led for 109 laps after starting 17th.
Edwards dropped all the way to 16th after a sloppy pit stop, though he quickly moved back into the front of the pack to set up the memorable finish.
The earlier contact between Edwards and Stenhouse stirred up some issues that’ll have to be worked out in the near future, but Edwards insisted things were ”fine” between the two.
”(Roush) came over and said, ‘Hey, this is exactly what’s supposed to be happening. You’re supposed to have a young guy that’s fast, that’s frustrating everybody because he’s too aggressive, and that’s all that’s going on with Ricky,” Edwards said. ”He’s just being a little bit overaggressive. And in the end, it’s almost better that he doesn’t figure out that he’s too aggressive because that’s going to make him better.”
Sadler took his third pole of the season earlier Saturday and started on the front row with Trevor Bayne — who won the pole in Iowa in 2010 and finished fourth. Bayne spent 12 laps in front before a tire issue midway through the race sent him two laps down. He finished 25th.
Sadler quickly fell back and didn’t appear to be a factor until seemingly coming out of nowhere to grab the lead with 60 laps left. He might have won, too, had the wreck between Stenhouse and Edwards not happened on the final lap.
”I want to talk to the Iowa race track and see if they can’t make it 251 laps next year,” Sadler said.
Saturday night’s Nationwide race was the second of the year at Iowa Speedway. It was the first time the series ran twice in the same year in Iowa, but attendance was as strong as ever.
Officials needed temporary seats to accommodate a standing-room-only crowd of just more than 48,000. The packed house was a nice sight for the series, which saw Nashville announce this week that it was pulling out in 2012.
They got to see a finish they won’t soon forget — from a pair of teammates at each other’s necks all night.
”We both race really hard. It doesn’t matter who it is. We both want to win,” Stenhouse said.