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THE FULL MONTY: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. proof of what the Nationwide Series should be

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Iowa John Deere Dealers 250 at Iowa Speedway.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Iowa John Deere Dealers 250 at Iowa Speedway.

By Lee Montgomery
Editor/NNSracing.com

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has come so far as a driver, it's almost immeasurable.

Take the last time he raced at Iowa Speedway. Please.

Seriously, Stenhouse Jr. crashed TWICE at Iowa in 2010, prompting Roush Fenway Racing to pull out CARL EDWARDS' backup car so Stenhouse Jr. could start the NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

And here he is, not quite a year later, celebrating as NASCAR's newest winner.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has come so far as a driver, it's almost immeasurable.

Take the last time he raced at Iowa Speedway. Please.

Seriously, Stenhouse Jr. crashed TWICE at Iowa in 2010, prompting Roush Fenway Racing to pull out CARL EDWARDS' backup car so Stenhouse Jr. could start the NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

And here he is, not quite a year later, celebrating as NASCAR's newest winner.

I remember talking with Stenhouse after last year's Iowa race, where he was more than relieved to simply finish without tearing up another car. That he finished a respectable 14th was an underrated performance given what happened before the race.

"My confidence level was definitely down," Stenhouse Jr. said in 2010. "Obviously, I had to get to the end of this thing."

Almost hard to believe how things have changed for Stenhouse. Given the shaky state of the Nationwide Series - i.e., the sponsors' crazy demand for Sprint Cup drivers - Stenhouse probably should've been given the boot for good last year.

After all, team owner Jack Roush canned his teammate, the talented Colin Braun.

Yet Roush stuck with Stenhouse, giving him "The Greg Biffle Speech." In other words, shape up or ship out.
Stenhouse shaped up, and now he has a victory to prove Roush was right for sticking him. Kudos to Roush, and kudos to Stenhouse.

And other car owners and sponsors should take notice, too.

We've seen too many drivers cast off into career purgatory in the last few years, as car owners and sponsors have become too impatient, expecting young drivers to come in and challenge for victories right away in the Nationwide Series.

The Nationwide Series really isn't a proving ground, for it's virtually impossible for a young driver to prove himself - or herself - while facing tall odds against Sprint Cup teams and drivers. And when you consider most young drivers don't even get a full season, how can they prove themselves?

No, the series SHOULD be a proving ground, and Stenhouse Jr. clearly proved that Sunday at Iowa.

Give a young driver the right equipment and support - and give him time - and they can prove themselves.

I just wish we could see it more often.