The Frontstretch: Nuts for Nationwide: Texas Brings End Of Break, But Not Cup Dominance by Kevin Rutherford -- Thursday April 11, 2013

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The Nationwide Series returns to activity this weekend in Texas after a two-week break, with the full-time teams itching to get back racing. But when it comes to coming out on top Friday night? Don’t be expecting much other than yet another victory by a Cup regular.

That’s been the story of the 2013 Nationwide season so far: five races, four victories by full-time Cup competitors. Kyle Busch, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in his No. 54, has already scored three wins after going 0-for in the series in 2012. Tony Stewart added yet another Daytona victory at the beginning of the season. Behind him, Sam Hornish, Jr. remains the only Nationwide points contender with a win, taking a popular first-place finish at Las Vegas.

Try as they might, this season has seen Nationwide regulars watching scenes like these instead of heading off into Victory Lane themselves.

But while Hornish has been an unmistakable presence in the series so far, landing four top-5 results to lead the points – he actually has top 10s in every race this year – that story is the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, Friday night won’t be the race that makes everything better, either. The field will include six competitive full-time Cup drivers: Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

That’s already a higher number of entries than in weeks past. While Busch and Keselowski have been regular fixtures in the series so far in 2013, the others have been rarer entrants in Nationwide fields, either handing the seat over to other drivers or seeing their teams move to part-time status.

The mere existence of Cup regulars, however, does not necessarily equal Cup domination. In this case, it’s the track record of these drivers at Texas that should spell victory for at least one of them on Saturday.

Busch and Harvick are currently tied for the most wins at the track in Nationwide competition, both scoring five victories each. Busch’s wins famously came in a stretch of dominance from 2008 to 2010 that saw him win five races at the track, in a row. Meanwhile, Harvick can lay claim to being the most recent series winner, emerging victorious in last November’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge after leading 127 laps.

In fact, all but Keselowski have won at least once in the series at Texas, with Kenseth winning twice and Earnhardt and Kahne once each. But their success isn’t limited to just this series. Kenseth holds the top average finish at Texas in the Cup Series of all time, an average of 8.3 with two wins, 15 top-5 results and 15 top 10s in 21 races. Earnhardt and Kahne have added a Cup victory each to their resumes. Mention should be paid to the dominance of Cup regulars at the track in years past, too. In the last ten years, only twice has a Nationwide driver tasted victory in Texas, when Roush teammates Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won back-to-back races at the 1.5-mile oval from November 2011 to April 2012.

So if you’re a fan watching the series, hoping for one of its regulars to break through, you could be in for a buzzkill. Otherwise, it should be entertaining seeing these six drivers go at it for the win, given their past triumphs at the track. Time will tell if guys like Hornish, Austin Dillon and Regan Smith have anything to say about it. But so far, early results say that in 2013, the strongest field of Nationwide regulars in years remains a step behind their Cup counterparts more often than not.

Quick Hits

- In conjunction with the announcement Jeffrey Earnhardt will pilot JR Motorsports’ No. 5 at Richmond, the team said that CorvetteParts.net will adorn the Chevrolet in a one-off deal. Earnhardt is entered this weekend at Texas in his more familiar ride, the No. 79 for Go Green Racing but hopes this opportunity can springboard into more starts for his family’s team.

- Kevin Lepage will pilot Mike Harmon and Dave Novak Racing’s No. 74 at Texas, bringing with him Carved Records as a sponsor. Lepage, who has mostly start-and-parked in recent years ran for this team in Las Vegas, attempting to run the distance before blowing his engine late.

- Carl Edwards will be in the broadcast booth for the next three Nationwide Series races, starting at Texas. The Cup driver and former Nationwide Series champion had a two-race stint in the booth last season.

Looking Forward: Texas

Stats (entered drivers)

Most Wins: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick (5)

Top Average Finish: Austin Dillon (5.5, 2 races), Kyle Busch (6.9, 14), Matt Kenseth (7.3, 15), Kevin Harvick (8.6, 14), Kevin Swindell (9.0, 1)

Texas Nationwide Debuts: Juan Carlos Blum, Chris Buescher, Jason White, Nelson Piquet Jr., Kyle Larson, Travis Pastrana, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Dexter Stacey, Alex Bowman

Season Debuts: Landon Cassill

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Ken
04/12/2013 03:59 PM
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Other than NASCAR flat out telling the Cup drivers to say out of the Nationwide (and Truck) series races, which they won’t, there is one way that might finally discourage these drivers who need to build up their egos to stay away and race only in Cup races. If a Cup driver runs a Nationwide race, they get NO money. And if an owner puts a Cup driver in the seat of his Nationwide car, no owner’s points are awarded. This would stop Kyle “My Ego Needs Boosting” Busch and his lame excuse that he’s trying to win the owner’s championship for The Coach. If Gibbs wants it so bad, stick one of his development drivers in the seat.

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