The Frontstretch: Nationwide Breakdown: Feed the Children 300 by Kevin Rutherford -- Saturday June 29, 2013

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Nationwide Breakdown: Feed the Children 300

Kevin Rutherford · Saturday June 29, 2013

 

Even though he had never won a rain-shortened race, Brad Keselowski didn’t want to win Friday night’s Feed the Children 300 without making it the scheduled 300 miles. In an interview with ESPN during the race’s rain delay with 30 laps to go, Keselowski, the race leader, said that he wasn’t content to win by default.

“I want to race. I’ve never won a rain-shortened race and I don’t want this to be the first,” he said. “I want to earn this.”

Mother Nature had other plans. After a long period of rain that threatened impending high winds on the horizon, NASCAR called the race after 170 laps, giving Keselowski his first rain-shortened victory.

The win, Keselowski’s second in the Nationwide Series this season, was his second at Kentucky, a track more recently dominated by Austin Dillon, who sat on the pole. Keselowski, on the other hand, had to rally from a 19th-place starting spot, reaching the lead on lap 94 and eventually leading for 59 laps, including the final 15 circuits. He had to top Kyle Busch to do it. Busch, who shot to the lead on lap 19, was the class of the field for much of the race, until he faded late. All told, despite leading the most laps of the day at 74, he could only manage a fifth-place finish, ensuring that he wouldn’t win at all in the series in June after a blistering first few months.

Elliott Sadler picked up his second runner-up finish of the year, with Matt Crafton placing third in his series debut, showcasing a strong car all evening that could have conceivably fought with Keselowski and Busch for the top spot by race’s end. Sadler and Busch teammate Brian Vickers was the other top five finisher, racking up a fourth-place finish. Dillon, Kyle Larson, Nelson Piquet, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr. and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.

The caution flag flew five times total, including the final one that eventually ended the race. Both incidents of the evening were one-car affairs, with Brad Sweet and Carl Long spinning separately.

Following Kentucky, Regan Smith’s points lead has shrunk get again, now to only eight points over Hornish after suspension problems relegated him to a 30th-place finish.

The Good

Boy howdy, look at Matt Crafton go! As I mentioned in Nuts for Nationwide yesterday, a Crafton win — or at least a good finish — was by no means out of the question, and after winning one of the practices at the track before the race, things were already looking good for the longtime Truck Series mainstay making his Nationwide Series debut. He started eighth and led eight laps, eventually finishing third, having shown definite power all night. Crafton has two races left in the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 at the moment. Definitely don’t underestimate him, if his Kentucky debut is to be taken firmly.

Kevin Swindell continues to impress. The part-time driver with the part-time team came out strong at Kentucky, running in the top 10 for part of the race before settling for an 11th-place finish, the team’s second-best result of the season following a 10th-olace run at Fontana. Swindell and company are exhibiting definite worth on both sides of the coin — the driver and the team. Could we see Swindell challenging for championships with an elite team one day? Biagi-DenBeste rising to full-time status and perhaps pulling off wins again? Stay tuned.

The Bad

Rain, rain, go away! After a hot and humid few days in the area, the skies finally opened up on Kentucky Saturday evening. Funny thing? Forecasters apparently said that there was a 0 percent chance of rain in the hour during which it finally started raining. Thanks, bros! At any rate, the rain coming down was unfortunate because a fairly promising sprint to the finish had set itself up. Busch could’ve driven back up to the top spot. Crafton might’ve made a run for it. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Apparently, the attendance at the track was bad. Like, really bad. USA Today‘s Jeff Gluck even tweeted that it may have been the smallest crowd he’d seen for a Nationwide race at a 1.5-mile track. If that’s the case, it’s sad, because Kentucky used to be a fairly decent draw. Remember when that was? Oh, right, when it wasn’t a companion weekend with the Cup Series. That’s not to say other factors aren’t at work, but if fans around there can only spend money on tickets for one race, you know which one they’re going to pick.

The Ugly

Oh, how the mighty (in this case, Regan Smith) have fallen. He climbed to the top of the heap in the Nationwide Series and won two races in the process, but now he and his JR Motorsports No. 5 are sliding back down to the commoners. A 58-point lead after Michigan is now eight, after two horrible finishes and even worse luck. Remember, the same thing happened to Sam Hornish Jr. earlier in the season; he had a big lead but saw it evaporate over time. Looks like it’s going to be very tough for anyone to get very far ahead in the points this season.

Dexter Stacey was the lone driver who failed to qualify for the race. The Canadian looped his No. 92 around prior to taking the green flag on his qualifying lap, thus flat-spotting his tires. He got rolling again, but could only manage a speed three mph off the next nearest driver, Morgan Shepherd, on his first lap. Then, after being told he needed to pick things up in order to make it into the show, he spun the car again, this time doing much more damage to the rear end. Tough break.

Underdog Performer of the Race: Kevin Swindell. See above.

Ill-Gotten Gains

Start-and-parkers occupied seven of the 40 starting positions in Saturday’s race, taking home $81,000 in purse money.

Cup regulars won the race, scored two of the top 10 finishing positions, occupied three of the 40 starting positions, and took home $121,995 in purse money.

The Final Word

At least it didn’t end up the Austin Dillon and/or Kyle Busch Show. After Dillon’s dominance at the track in recent memory and Busch’s tough-to-beat demeanor in the series this year, helped along by the fact that one sat on the pole and the other led the most laps, it looked like the race could have came and went with little suspense as to who would be crowned victorious.

But in the end, Brad Keselowski became the winner, though his victory came due to heavy rains that moved into the Sparta area. Regardless, though Keselowski’s win marked another triumph for Cup regulars in the series in 2013, he wasn’t necessarily the guy many expected to emerge as the winner, which has to count for something.

Seriously though, how about Regan Smith? If this continues at Daytona, someone’s going to need to check to see if he built a new house on Native American burial grounds or something.

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