The Frontstretch: Nuts For Nationwide: Sprint Cup Team Trying Its Luck In The Nationwide Series by Kevin Rutherford -- Friday October 11, 2013

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Yes, you’re seeing (almost) double. No, this isn’t the Sprint Cup Series race. It’s Friday, not Saturday. Everything’s OK.

Friday night, the Nationwide Series sees a new team join the fold as Leavine Family Racing makes its first series start at Charlotte. The No. 95 Ford, piloted by Reed Sorenson, is nearly all pink, with sponsorship from Jetset Getset.

If the car looks familiar, that’s no coincidence. Charlotte may mark the debut for Leavine Family Racing in the Nationwide Series, but when it comes to the Sprint Cup Series, the organization already has roots — albeit shallow.

Leavine Family Racing will make its Nationwide Series debut with series veteran Reed Sorenson at the wheel.

In early 2011, the team was formed as Leavine Fenton Racing, with Texan Bob Leavine and part-time driver Lance Fenton the principal owners. The plans were to run a limited schedule in both the Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series, and for its first race in the former circuit, David Starr qualified the team’s car at Texas into the race. Fenton’s shares were eventually bought out and the team took on its present-day name. Scott Speed drove for the mostly start-and-park organization in 2012 and at the beginning of this year, before Speed left the team and was replaced by a combination of Sorenson and Scott Riggs.

Earlier this month, Leavine announced its entry into the Nationwide Series for two races to end the 2013 season, with Michael McDowell taking the wheel at the team’s home track of Texas. “We couldn’t be more thrilled about our expansion this season,” Bob Leavine said in a statement. “Our program is an independent team, but we have potential – and with an infusion of sponsorship, perhaps a lot more than that.”

This week, that potential could come to fruition. After first practice Thursday afternoon, the team was ranked 25th out of 45 on the speed charts, while happy hour saw Sorenson 22nd out of 46, putting the No. 95 well ahead of the necessary cars to qualify on time.

Leavine Family Racing’s entry into the Nationwide Series could pay big dividends for the team. Though purses and exposure tend to be more lucrative in the Sprint Cup Series, the team has found little success aside from a top-10 finish with Speed at Talladega earlier this season, starting and parking most of the time. A part-time schedule, limiting the team’s on-track presence, doesn’t help.

The Nationwide Series could be a different story. Along with lowered costs, the competition is generally not as tough. As long as a team can garner fairly decent equipment, good runs here and there are tangible, even for a part-time team (see: Biagi-DenBeste Racing). Courting a driver like Sorenson, who has multiple wins in the series, helps the new(ish) organization get off the ground with a veteran that understands how the cars should run. Plus, being able to compete somewhat in the Cup Series bodes well for the team’s Nationwide program. Look at Nemco Motorsports or Tommy Baldwin Racing’s occasional forays into the series, for instance.

Either way, it’s good to see a new team joining the series. When was the last time that happened? Back at Bristol with Mario Gosselin’s No. 90 team, with few entrants before then.

Make no mistake; Leavine Family Racing needs to qualify into the races it’s running first before it can, you know, scrape together a good run. But assuming Sorenson qualifies, keep an eye on the pink No. 95 — especially in comparison to other part-time teams like Biagi’s No. 98 and ML Motorsports’ No. 70. If Sorenson can spout off a good run, perhaps this is the team’s new calling.

Quick Hits

-After Thursday’s two practice sessions at Charlotte, Alex Bowman and Austin Dillon emerged as the fastest drivers in either session. Bowman led first practice with a speed of 182.469, while Dillon topped happy hour at 182.395. In the first practice, Trevor Bayne followed Bowman, with Brad Sweet, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top five. In practice two, Sam Hornish Jr. was second, followed by Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Regan Smith.

-Most Popular Driver voting for the Nationwide Series is now underway. The series will see a new winner in 2013, as Danica Patrick, last year’s winner, has moved up to the Sprint Cup Series. The deadline for the award is Nov. 16, and fans can vote online by visiting this website.

—Dexter Stacey and KH Motorsports are returning to the track after a few months of inactivity. The No. 92 started the season running full time, with Stacey competing for Rookie of the Year honors, but went on a hiatus after July’s Chicagoland race when sponsorship dried up.

-Multiple teams announced new sponsorship deals for Friday’s Charlotte race. Mike Wallace’s No. 01 will be sponsored by Bojangles, while Jeremy Clements acquires the Flex Seal sponsorship generally on Landon Cassill’s No. 4, which is sponsored this week by Oskar Blues Brewery. Other special sponsorships include Charter on Brian Scott’s No. 2 and Goody’s for Regan Smith’s No. 7.

Looking Ahead: Charlotte

Stats: Entered Drivers

Most Wins: Kyle Busch (7)
Most Top Fives: Kyle Busch (15)
Most Top 10s: Kyle Busch (17)
Most Poles: Matt Kenseth (4)

Entered Past Winners: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Green, Mike Bliss, Joe Nemechek, Joey Logano

Top Average Finish: Kyle Larson (4.0, 1 race), Kyle Busch (6.0, 20), Joey Logano (8.0, 10), Austin Dillon (10.3, 3), James Buescher (10.7, 3)

Charlotte Nationwide Debuts: Ryan Reed, Tanner Berryhill, Chad Hackenbracht

Season Debuts: none

Series Debuts: none

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