HOMESTEAD — Ricky Stenhouse nearly lost his job 18 months ago.
He was finishing near the back of fields and floundering for Roush Fenway Racing. Team owner Jack Roush stuck with him, pushing him in meetings, challenging him at racetracks and dogging him all the time.
It worked wonders — and led to a championship.
Stenhouse, 24, won the Nationwide series title long before the checkered flag dropped at Saturday's season finale. He clinched his championship about 30 laps into the 200-lap race when six cars dropped out of the Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For Stenhouse, it was a long time coming.
"They believed in me when we were struggling," Stenhouse said. "Everyone rallied together. It just means the world to bring this championship to Jack."
Stenhouse finished second in the race behind Brad Keselowski. Carl Edwards was third.
Edwards, who is aiming for his first Sprint Cup title today, clinched the owner's title for Roush, who seeks to become the first owner in NASCAR history to win both Cup and Nationwide championships in one season.
Edwards and Stenhouse parked nose to nose and did a double burnout to celebrate.
Roush said he always believed Stenhouse would turn things around: "He just wanted it so bad, and he was good at doing what he did," Roush said.
JUNIOR OKAY WITH NO. 3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ready to see the famed No. 3 car back on the track. Car owner Richard Childress asked Earnhardt if it would be okay for his grandson, Austin Dillon, to drive one of NASCAR's most revered numbers in Nationwide next season. Junior had no problem and said he wouldn't mind if Dillon eventually drove the No. 3 in the Sprint Cup series. Junior's late father, seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, made that number famous while driving for Childress.