The Frontstretch: Nationwide Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250 by Kevin Rutherford -- Monday September 9, 2013

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Nationwide Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250

Kevin Rutherford · Monday September 9, 2013

 

Brian Scott’s four full seasons in the Nationwide Series have been solid, if not unspectacular campaigns. He’s had chances with RAB Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and now Richard Childress Racing, but has only eight top-five finishes to show for his efforts in 134 career races.

But it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy.

The 25-year-old Idaho native scored the pole Friday night (Sept. 8) at Richmond for the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. He led from the pole, too. In fact, he led every single lap through the 239th circuit, out of a scheduled 250.

Of course, late-race cautions are a fickle thing.

After completely dominating and looking on the way to his first Nationwide win, a caution on lap 231 due to a Hal Martin spin bunched up the field, allowing Brad Keselowski and co. to slither in. Another caution six laps later cut Scott’s lead again, and three laps after that, the No. 22 and Keselowski was out front, and even after a final caution on lap 241 was able to keep the point for his team’s ninth win of the 2013 season.

Scott fell to second, tying a personal best, while championship contender Regan Smith finished third, gaining a bit of ground on Sam Hornish Jr. on a day when Austin Dillon could only manage a 12th after being involved in a late-race caution. Kyle Busch finished fourth, leading no laps — a shocker these days in the Nationwide Series — while Trevor Bayne managed fifth.

Hornish, Brian Vickers, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Reed and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top 10.

Hornish extended his points lead by six over Dillon, carrying a 16-point lead into Chicagoland. Smith now sits 26 back, while Sadler has a 28-point deficit to overcome in fourth.

The Good

-Shout-out to Ryan Reed. The 19-year-old native of Bakersfield, Calif., started just his third race in the Nationwide Series Friday, returning to the spot of his series debut earlier in the season. Reed proved he’s a quick learner, scooping up a ninth-place finish for Roush Fenway Racing — his first top 10 in NASCAR competition in four total starts. If it weren’t for a less-than-stellar showing at Bristol last month, Reed — who has type 1 diabetes — would be having a fairly solid first season of Nationwide competition, perhaps paving the way for more races in 2014.

-The points race continues to tighten up. Sam Hornish Jr. carries a 16-point lead into the next race, sure, but while Austin Dillon lost ground, Regan Smith cut some of his own deficit with a third-place finish to Hornish’s sixth. The top four drivers are separated by a mere 28 points; it’s completely possible that any of the four — including fourth-place Elliott Sadler — could be leading after the next race. Imagine how that could go down if it’s still that way come Homestead.

The Bad

-Welcome back to the Nationwide Series, Hal Martin. After being announced as the full-time driver of Tristar Motorsports’ No. 44 before the season began, Martin had sat on the sidelines since Charlotte, while Cole Whitt and Chad Hackenbracht split the ride from there. Martin finally returned to the ride at Richmond with sponsorship from U.S. Forensic, but couldn’t rise to the occasion in the way he might’ve hoped, bringing out a lap-231 caution and finishing 30th, four laps down.

The Ugly

-Blah, blah, blah, Brad Keselowski and the No. 22 team is a buzzkill, etc., etc. It’d be remiss of me not to say something. I mean, sure, it was maybe nice to see a new face actually leading the race — for a split-second, of course.

Underdog Performer of the Race: Ryan Reed, for reasons listed above. He may have been driving for Roush Fenway, but Reed’s never been thought of as a top prospect, and scoring a top 10 in just your third Nationwide race is no easy feat.

Ill-Gotten Gains

Start-and-parkers occupied four of the 40 starting positions in Saturday’s race, taking home $50,670 in purse money.

Cup regulars won the race, scored three of the top 10 finishing positions, occupied six of the 40 starting positions and took home $120,173 in purse money.

Best Career Finishes: Brian Scott (2nd, ties), Ryan Reed (9th), Ryan Ellis (31st), Ricky Ehrgott (33rd)

The Final Word

In the end, it didn’t matter that a single driver had led 95 percent of the race and seemed nigh untouchable.

It didn’t matter that Brian Scott had never won a Nationwide Series race and that, even on the final restarts, he still had a fast car and could conceivably have driven to the front even after losing the lead.

The thing about racing — or any sport, really — is that the status quo can change at any moment, just like that.

Remember that next time a driver dominates most of a race and you turn the TV off in frustration before the end, I suppose.

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