By the time the NASCAR Nationwide Series enjoys their next weekend off the championship contenders will have separated themselves from the pretenders. Saturday’s History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway marks the beginning of a 21-week stretch in which the series will be on track every weekend. It’s a stretch that lasts five months, ending with the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte on Oct. 11.
It spans the entire summer on into the fall and is a huge factor in determining the champion. During the stretch there are very little opportunities for drivers and teams to take a break, mentally collect themselves after a rough outing or not bring their “A game.”
A bad start could spell “D-O-O-M” for a driver’s chance at the crown, but a strong and consistent run throughout the stretch could help propel a driver to the Championship Stage at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
Last year, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove well during a similar, 16-week stretch that eventually led him to his second consecutive championship. With the exception of a 25th-place finish at Michigan in the first race of the stretch and a 17th at Kentucky in its 15th race, Stenhouse finished no lower than 12th, including wins at Atlanta and Chicagoland.
After the Michigan race, he was third in the overall standings, but by the end of the marathon he had moved into second (only nine points behind leader Elliott Sadler). Stenhouse briefly sat atop the standings after the 14th race (Chicagoland), but surrendered the lead the following weekend.
Three races after the 16-race stretch ended, Stenhouse regained the points lead and held it the rest of the way.