Victory has helped fuel Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s hopes for a second straight NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, which appeared to be headed in reverse before his win two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway.
Stenhouse, who has trailed points leader Elliott Sadler for four straight races, watched his deficit slowly grow -- from four points after Kentucky to nine points after Dover to 13 points after Charlotte. Now on the heels of his Kansas win and heading to a track where he won in April, the defending series champ hopes the momentum is headed in the right direction.
Stenhouse heads to Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) with a six-point deficit to Sadler. A season sweep of events at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track would strengthen his bid to become the first repeat champ since Martin Truex Jr. (2004-'05).
Last season's march to the Nationwide crown was solidified by an error-free closing stretch, which included a sixth, a fifth and a runner-up finish to outrun Sadler in the final points. This season's victory total (six) has far outpaced last season's (two), but Stenhouse knows that consistency will factor into how this year's points race shakes out.
"I think this year we're in more contention to win races, and so I think sometimes I lose track of that we've got a championship to win, and I go out to win races," Stenhouse said. "I think last year -- we've kind of got to get back to last year where we don't make any mistakes the last three races. But I don't think it's any easier. I think it's actually a little tougher to get your second one in a row. But I think we're up for the challenge."