Kyle Busch led 192 of 200 laps on Saturday en route to scoring his 11th victory in the Nationwide Series this year. Coming in just his 23rd start, he broke the previous mark for wins in a season set by Sam Ard in 1983. There. He did it. Enough about it. It’s not like the guy proved anything.
Busch was the class of the field from the drop of the green and was never seriously challenged, part of another 1-2 punch by the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. However, the margin of victory did close to three tenths of a second by race’s end after the No. 18 team reported a vibration with eight laps to go. That allowed teammate Joey Logano to close the gap, but it was too little, too late for the driver of the No. 20. Logano, Carl Edwards, Reed Sorenson, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-5 finishers, while Trevor Bayne was the highest full-time Nationwide Series regular in sixth.
The race was marred by a 10-minute red flag on lap 136 after a vicious accident that saw Elliott Sadler get broadsided by Drew Herring. Sadler, who spun after getting loose under Erik Darnell in turn 4, slid back down the high concrete banks and right into the path of Herring, who connected with the No. 88 at nearly full speed. Fortunately, both drivers were treated and released at the track’s infield care center.
Carl Edwards’ third-place result allowed him to make up 53 points on Brad Keselowski, who suffered a spin and right front damage on lap 162 after making contact with Steve Wallace in turn 1. The No. 22 team managed to stay on the lead lap, but limped home 17th, their worst finish since Chicago back in July. Keselowski remains in a league of his own, though, still 320 markers ahead of Edwards with seven races remaining. Justin Allgaier rallied from early handling woes to finish ninth, remaining fourth in points – the highest-ranked NNS regular.
Trevor Bayne’s Out! Pet Care sponsorship was highly visible all over the grounds of Dover Downs on Saturday, and reps were treated to a stellar run of their No. 99 entry. Bayne not only banked a top-10 qualifying effort, he stayed there all afternoon and finished sixth, the highest position for any driver in the field who isn’t also racing on Sunday. Bayne’s result was also his fourth top-10 run in the last five races, also his best ever on a concrete race track. That’s exactly what the driver currently considered the hottest prospect on NASCAR’s AAA tour needs right now; with sponsorship in question for Diamond-Waltrip Racing in 2011 and Jack Roush reportedly interested in Bayne should be become available, it’s go time for the 19-year-old. Of note, Bayne outran every Roush Fenway Racing driver in the field not named Carl Edwards.
Justin Allgaier’s ninth-place finish was unlike Bayne’s in that it was not the continuation of a hot streak, but it was also just what the doctor ordered for this development prospect. With Allgaier’s 2011 future also cloudy now that Verizon Wireless will be ending their sponsorship – plus, Penske veteran Sam Hornish, Jr. may be looking at a move to the Nationwide Series next season – Allgaier is another youngster simply hoping to stick around another year. The difference is, unlike Bayne, he’s been in a bit of a regression since winning at Bristol back in March, pulling off one top-5 finish in the last fifteen races after starting the year 5-for-13.
But performances like Saturday’s will work wonders to keep his name around. Allgaier dropped like a rock from his seventh place starting position, falling well out of the top 10 and nearly wrecking on several occasions throughout the first run of the race, a 72-lap, green-flag marathon. The No. 12 team recovered, though, adjusting well the rest of the afternoon and delivering just their third top-10 finish inside the last two months. Saturday ended with Allgaier far better than where he started, a theme he hopes to carry on well into next season.
Derrike Cope and the Stratus Racing No. 73 team showed up to Dover with a new sponsor in RagingBid.com and plans to go the distance, the first time the team would have done so since Daytona back in July. Running a full 200 miles at the Monster Mile, however, was simply not in the cards. Replays were inconclusive as to whether Cope blew a right front tire or simply lost his car on the exit of turn 2, but the results were the same; the No. 73 slammed both the inner and exterior retaining walls of Dover’s backstretch, leaving its driver 34th in the final running order.
For Danica Patrick, her crash was conclusively the result of a blown right-front tire, but her Saturday was a wreck long before that. After a promising Friday saw the open-wheeler post a top-15 practice speed and a top-10 finish in the East Series race, Patrick qualified 44th of the 48 cars to take to the track Saturday morning, then spent the next five minutes on the radio not breaking down her lap, but throwing a tantrum over the radio because she couldn’t figure out how to return her car to the garage (despite instructions from Tony Eury, Jr. to take her car down pit road and turn left like they did in practice. What a concept). Before bringing out the yellow on lap 72 after her blown tire, Patrick was on the verge of going three laps down and was struggling to keep up with even the backmarkers in the field. She wound up 35th, yet still earned the distinction of being a 35th-place finisher interviewed post-race on ESPN.
MacDonald Motorsports had at least one entry finish better than 35th, but it was still a terrible Saturday for the team. Driver Michael McDowell scraped into the field by the skin of his teeth in the No. 81, qualifying dead last and suffering through suspension issues to bring home a 28th-place finish, four laps off the pace. As for the team’s second car, Matt Carter was nearly four laps down by the end of his qualifying attempt on Saturday; though the driver reported that his Dodge wasn’t handling that poorly, a flat motor made it impossible for the machine to make any sort of speed on the straightaways, resulting in a DNQ for the team’s second car.
The wreck between Drew Herring and Elliott Sadler was the epitome of ugly, especially considering the wicked impacts Sadler has already endured in 2010. Herring, who actually laid down a surprisingly fast first qualifying lap Saturday morning while running the lowest line of any driver during his attempt, got greedy the second time around and lost his No. 27 car entering turn 2. The resulting spin sent his No. 27 backing into the wall, and the team to a backup car. That backup was then destroyed in his lap 136 wreck with Sadler, one that occurred at nearly full throttle more than a few seconds after Sadler had spun. Replays showed a trio of bad coincidences coming together: Sadler seemed to let off the brakes late into his spin, Herring did not let off the gas, and Herring’s spotter may have been late to the draw. The only conclusion to be drawn was that mistakes were made on lap 136, and a harrowing wreck was the result.
Underdog Perfomer of the Race: Willie Allen. To think that the No. 05 team just two seasons ago was running start-and-park almost weekly, their development has been substantial in a 2010 filled with promising performances. Listening over the radio this Saturday was a night-and-day comparison to 2008; Allen has infused this team with both an enthusiasm and a conviction that they can run well. This weekend proved the latest example, with Allen scoring a 20th-place result that was the best ever for Wayne Day’s operation on the Monster Mile (keep in mind Day’s entered NNS cars on at least a part-time basis since 1991). It’s amazing to hear just how far this operation has come, especially considering Allen has a rep through the garage for being both an underrated talent and a positive presence. Both of those have shone in the No. 05 team, scoring top-15 runs throughout the year, and a top 20 at Dover is nothing to be ashamed of, either, for an underfunded operation.
The Final Word
- Read about Justin Allgaier and Trevor Bayne above, two of the faces of the Nationwide Series. Both of them might not be back in 2011 due to sponsorship woes. These are guys running top 10 frequently, running with the Cup regulars as best they can, and are clearly the class of developing stock car drivers – yet NASCAR’s supposedly top driver development division may not even have a home for them next year. See a slight problem with that picture?
- Interesting statistic to look at from pit road. Take the Cup regulars out of the picture, and that leaves 33 cars. Take out the seven additional start-and-parkers, that’s 26 cars. Out of those 26 Nationwide Series entries, only 15 of them actually had a full allotment of tires this weekend. If only a tick over half of the non-Cup teams in the field can afford a full allotment of race tires (and that includes Cup-backed NNS entries), how, exactly, are they supposed to be keeping up and making themselves attractive to sponsors? And this problem comes in a series where they actually limit the tires allowed in a weekend…
- Willie Allen’s continued string of solid performances in the No. 05 car has that team within 100 markers of overtaking the No. 70 joint entry of ML Motorsports and Jay Robinson Racing – even with Mark Green now running the distance on weekends Shelby Howard isn’t competing – for a top 30 “locked in” spot in owner points. For those looking for a Nationwide Series points fix, here’s one that doesn’t involve Brad Keselowski running away from everyone and hiding.
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