Authors: By MARK LONG
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Nationwide Series championship long before the checkered flag dropped Saturday at the season finale.
Stenhouse clinched the title 30 laps into the 300-mile race when six cars officially dropped out at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Stenhouse was running fourth when NASCAR officials announced his title.
Stenhouse started the race with a comfortable 41-point lead over Elliott Sadler. They were the only drivers still eligible for the title. Stenhouse needed to finish 37th or better to secure his first championship.
His guaranteed finishing spot kept improving as "start and park" cars headed to the garage. Morgan Shepherd, Fain Skinner, Scott Speed and Matt Carter all drove just a few laps before calling it quits. Chase Miller and Scott Riggs following them a few laps later.