The Frontstretch: Nationwide Breakdown: Kentucky 300 by Kevin Rutherford -- Monday September 23, 2013

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Nationwide Breakdown: Kentucky 300

Kevin Rutherford · Monday September 23, 2013

 

In October 2006, Dave Blaney won what’s been his only Nationwide Series race. While driving part time for Braun Racing (he was a full-time competitor in Cup for Bill Davis Racing), Blaney piloted his Hass Avocados Chevrolet to victory at Charlotte, in the process gaining his first NASCAR win.

Nearly seven years later, another Blaney is in victory lane in the Nationwide Series. Rather than being 43 years old at the time of triumph, he’s 19, and hasn’t even run his first Sprint Cup Series race.

Ryan Blaney turned a one-off deal with Penske Racing in the Nationwide Series into a win Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway for his first series win. The full-time competitor in the Camping World Truck Series piloted Penske’s incredibly formidable No. 22 to victory over Kentucky master Austin Dillon, leading 96 laps in the process.

The win was Blaney’s second of the NASCAR season, following a first-place finish at Pocono in the Truck Series earlier this year. It came in only his second series start in 2013, following a 13-race campaign in 2012. Blaney’s dominance continued to solidify the No. 22 team’s standing as an absolute powerhouse; he became the fourth different driver to win in the car in 2013, following Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger.

Dillon looked strong around the second third of the event, but despite 32 laps led could only manage second when the night ended. Matt Crafton continued his blistering pace as a newcomer to the series, finishing third. Pole sitter Sam Hornish Jr. fought to a fourth, while Alex Bowman scored his first top five since the season-opening race at Daytona, finishing fifth.

Drew Herring, Brian Vickers, Jeb Burton, Cole Whitt and Michael Annett rounded out the top 10.

Dillon’s runner-up finish cut the points deficit to Hornish to a mere 15, despite the latter’s top-five run. Meanwhile, troubles for Regan Smith and Elliott Sadler set the duo even further back in points, with Smith 45 points behind and Sadler 54 back.

The Good

- One knew the race was going to finally give non-Cup driver an unopposed shot at a win, which was intriguing from the start. Turns out it ended up being a Truck regular — not a Nationwide driver — that won the race, but it was nonetheless exciting to see a new face in victory lane. Ryan Blaney’s victory was going to happen sooner or later; it’s good to see the guy get that monkey off his back. He continues to show his prowess in each level in which he competes.

- Jeb Burton wasn’t exactly too noticeable Saturday night. It was Ward’s son’s series debut, but little to-do was made about it, and Burton’s Turner Scott car wasn’t exceedingly competitive through the first three-quarters of the race. The kid showed patience, however, and got his car better throughout the evening, as well as quieting down on the radio; he was told by crew chief Jeremy Bullins that he needed to stop talking so much because he was losing a few tenths each time he spoke. All told? Eighth-place finish. Not a bad debut at all.

The Bad

- Kyle Larson had a fantastic middle part of the season, during which he rattled off a commanding string of top-10 finishes and leapt higher and higher in the standings. But if he made some sort of deal with the devil to attain such a great start to his rookie season, it looks like it might be payment time for the 21-year-old driver. After a 32nd-place finish at Chicagoland, Larson had all kinds of problems thrown at him at Kentucky, with a brake issue being the final straw toward a 33rd-place finish. That makes the first time the kid wonder’s finished outside the top 20 — let alone the top 30 — in two straight races all season. Think he’s ready for some Cup racing?

The Ugly

-One can’t blame Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt for pressing the issue late in the race, but a little impatience on their parts cost at least Kligerman a great finish. With 11 laps to go, Kligerman went three-wide with Brian Vickers and Cole Whitt, who had poked the nose of his No. 44 into the gap between the two. Kligerman didn’t expect Whitt to do this and moved down, which caused his No. 77 to roll across Whitt’s nose and spin into the wall. Racing for position is always something we want to see, but it’s unfortunate when a fairly minor mistake costs someone — in this case Kligerman — that much.

Underdog Performer of the Race: Cole Whitt has now taken Tristar Motorsports equipment to the top 10 three times in 12 starts. That’s insane.

Ill-Gotten Gains

Start-and-parkers occupied six of the 40 starting positions in Saturday’s race, taking home $65,361 in purse money.

Best Career Finishes: Ryan Blaney (1st), Matt Crafton (3rd, ties), Jeb Burton (8th), Dakoda Armstrong (13th)

The Final Word

Ryan Blaney will be a star, but you already knew that.

Throughout my NASCAR viewing career, I’ve seen a ton of drivers come and go. I’ve watched a bevy of competitors win their first races, too. That said, I think I’ll remember Blaney’s first Nationwide win.

He did it with little competition, but not in the sense that his fellow drivers were pushovers. Once he got into clean air, he couldn’t be touched. He even held onto the car despite teammate Sam Hornish, Jr. nearly wrecking underneath him in the groove toward race’s end.

Who knows what the future holds for him — if he’ll continue in the Truck Series or move up to Nationwide on a full-time basis, for instance — but let’s hope he ends up in the Nationwide Series a little more. I’m very intrigued at the prospect of Blaney, Ty Dillon and more duking it out each week.

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MattG_Fl
09/23/2013 06:40 AM
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From what little I saw of the race, that was a pitiful turnout! Maybe a few thousand in the stands…?

Old Fan Bill
09/23/2013 07:56 PM
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I enjoyed the NW race the other night without the Cup drivers. Some of the best races I have ever seen was back in the day when the Cup drivers didn’t cherry pick.