The Frontstretch: Nationwide Breakdown: Subway Firecracker 250 by Phil Allaway -- Saturday July 6, 2013

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Nationwide Breakdown: Subway Firecracker 250

Phil Allaway · Saturday July 6, 2013


Races at Daytona International Speedway are by nature unpredictable. Some races are absolutely wild affairs, while others are staid. Friday night’s Nationwide race was somewhere in between, relatively caution free until the last few minutes, when fireworks always develop.

Matt Kenseth took the lead on a restart with seven laps to go with help from Turner Scott Motorsports’ James Buescher. From there, Kenseth and Buescher pulled away from the pack. A late crash involving Travis Pastrana, Jason White and others brought out a late caution-turned red flag, one that set up a green-white-checkered finish.

Matt Kenseth pulled away from the pack late, with a little help from James Buescher (No. 34) to win Friday night’s Nationwide Series race at Daytona.

On that restart, Kenseth chose the inside lane in order to stay with Buescher, who was lined up in third. Once the green flag flew, Kenseth and Buescher were gone, leaving the rest of the pack to fight over table scraps like a bunch of dogs.

Buescher’s intention was to push Kenseth out to a huge lead, then try to pass Kenseth coming to get the checkers. However, Buescher’s engine began to overheat, making it impossible for him to push Kenseth further out ahead of the pack. The gap that was opened was more than enough for the Cup driver to claim his first Nationwide Series victory of the season.

Behind Kenseth and Buescher was Elliott Sadler, the best finishing series regular and part of the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash promotion. As a result, Sadler received a check for $100,000. Kurt Busch, running as “Cole Trickle” with a special paint scheme was fourth, while Austin Dillon rounded out the top-5 finishers.

The Good

Ever since the tandem drafting first showed up in the Nationwide Series, it has been very rare for any one driver to dominate a race. But Friday night, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Joey Logano managed to pull that off. Even though there were 31 lead changes among 14 drivers, Hornish still managed to lead 61 of those laps himself, while Logano was glued to his rear bumper. Of note, Hornish and Logano never had to swap in order to keep their engines cool, while everyone else had to cool their engines after just a couple of laps. Hornish would have been in the hunt to win the race, but got a bad restart on Lap 94 and dropped like a rock through the field. The green-white-checkered restart did help him recover, to seventh; he gained two points on Regan Smith. But the night could have been even better.

For Kurt Busch, Friday night was simply one designed around two tasks. One was to build awareness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) via the Armed Forces Foundation, which is run by Busch’s girlfriend, Patricia. The other was to have a heck of a lot of fun. Much like last year’s “Me” car at Talladega, Busch’s team ran a car modeled after the No. 46 City Chevrolet that Cole Trickle drove in the movie Days of Thunder. If you happened to listen in to Busch’s radio during the race, there were references and quotes from the movie embedded into the legitimate radio chatter. This “roleplay” even included an ice cream break under caution. It certainly helped the team run well, scoring a top-5 finish in Busch’s last ride with James Finch before the organization is sold.

The Bad

One of the biggest stories to come out of Daytona this weekend has been the sheer number of teams busted for unapproved roof flap spacers. After 16 Sprint Cup cars were found with unapproved spacers during opening inspection, NASCAR decided to check all of the Nationwide teams after Happy Hour. There, they found 15 more teams out of compliance, with the highest driver in points affected by the findings being Brian Vickers in seventh. The general opinion is that it simply would not benefit anyone to use unapproved spacers, but it still happened anyway. Like the Sprint Cup penalties, expect to see a rather lengthy press release with consequences from NASCAR either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Ugly

*Travis Pastrana*’s baptism by fire and sparks in the Nationwide Series continues with no end in sight. Pastrana has three top-10 finishes in his rookie year, the best of which being a ninth at Richmond in April. However, he had already crashed out of three races this season entering Daytona. Friday night resulted in DNF No. 4 due to a wreck.

Travis Pastrana needs that look of shock to wear off during his rookie season in the Nationwide Series; he’s now had three wrecks for DNFs since the beginning of May.

The day actually started out very well. Pastrana qualified second in his patriotic-themed No. 60 and actually led the first lap of the race. From there, Pastrana and teammate Trevor Bayne dropped back to the rear of the field and rode around. However, they didn’t really plan for the race to go nearly 50 laps without a caution. By the time the first yellow came out on Lap 49 for debris, Pastrana and Bayne were the last two drivers on the lead lap, more than 30 seconds behind.

Towards the end of the race, Pastrana was trying to keep pace with Bayne and apparently pulled down in front of Cole Whitt before he was clear. The result of that move was that Pastrana hooked himself on Whitt’s bumper. Pastrana tried to save the car, but went up the track, hit Jason White and went hard into the wall. The crash, which involved five cars, severely damaged Pastrana’s car and put him out of the race.

The 34th-place finish didn’t cost Pastrana a position in the standings (he’s still 14th), but the freshman is tearing up equipment at a fairly prodigious rate. The crash marks his third DNF due to a crash since the beginning of May. Pastrana must be pleased that Friday night was the last restrictor plate race of the year, but he cannot keep tearing up equipment at his current rate.

For Mike Wallace, Daytona is typically a place in which he and JD Motorsports can really make a name for themselves. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be. Wallace qualified a distant 35th, but that was expected since the team was using one of their normal Tony Clements-built engines, which are a little down on horsepower.

In the race, Wallace moved up a little in the order, but was caught out by the long green flag run to start the race. Wallace was lapped by the leaders prior to the first round of pit stops, then took a wave around during the first caution to get back on the lead lap. In the second half of the race, Wallace got as high up as 20th before the car died on track due to battery issues on Lap 88. Wallace coasted around the 2.5-mile tri-oval until the car stalled, drawing a caution en route to a 37th-place finish. The DNF was especially unfortunate given that the team did not have a sponsor for Wallace, and was actually running the event without a backup car for Wallace or teammate Landon Cassill.

Underdog Performer of the Race: Mike Bliss for TriStar Motorsports. TriStar Motorsports debuted a new sponsorship from Tweaker Energy Shot. Advertising the company’s Berry flavor, Bliss and teammate Cole Whitt moved through the field fairly quickly, at one point getting up to fifth and sixth. However, the TriStar duo couldn’t really compete with Hornish-Logano and their drafting strategy that allowed them to forgo switching.

Later in the race, Bliss and Whitt were back in the main pack, but were able to keep themselves out of trouble, for the most part. A 14th-place finish may not sound like much to yell about, but it moved Bliss up to 12th in points and he came away from Daytona with a clean, although gaudy-looking car.

Ill-Gotten Gains

There was only one start-and-park team on Friday night (Morgan Shepherd’s No. 89). Shepherd pulled in after completing 21 laps with a “rear gear” issue. Shepherd received $13,430 for his troubles. Jeff Green was originally entered in the No. 10 for TriStar Motorsports, but failed to record a time in qualifying. The team quietly withdrew after qualifying despite Green having a Past Champions’ Provisional to fall back on. TriStar’s actions removed one start-and-park car from the field, while allowing Dexter Stacey to start.

Four Sprint Cup regulars competed in the event (Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano). They won the race, claimed two of the top-5 and three of the top-10 finishing positions (Kyle Busch finished 11th). Collectively, the quartet earned $156,240 for their work.

Not-so-Ill-Gotten Gains

Two Camping World Truck Series regulars (James Buescher and Ty Dillon) competed in Friday night’s race. Buescher finished second, while Ty Dillon was 27th. Collectively, they took home $80,275 in prize money.

Nationwide Dash 4 Cash

The Subway Firecracker 250 was the first week for Nationwide’s annual Dash 4 Cash promotion. Here, the four top finishing Nationwide Series regulars from Kentucky had a shot at an additional $100,000 if they could finish as the highest of the bunch. Elliott Sadler had a great run in the final segment of the race to move up to third and claim the money. If a driver can win the money at each of the four Dash for Cash races, then they will receive a $600,000 bonus.

Eligible Drivers for Daytona
No. 3 – Austin Dillon for Richard Childress Racing (finished fifth)
No. 11 – Elliott Sadler for Joe Gibbs Racing (finished third, claimed the big bucks)
No. 20 – Brian Vickers for Joe Gibbs Racing (finished 13th)
No. 32 – Kyle Larson for Turner Scott Motorsports (finished sixth)

Drivers Eligible for Nationwide Dash 4 Cash at New Hampshire:
No. 3 – Austin Dillon for Richard Childress Racing (finished fifth)
No. 11 – Elliott Sadler for Joe Gibbs Racing (finished third, claimed Daytona bonus)
No. 12 – Sam Hornish, Jr. for Penske Racing (finished seventh, led most laps)
No. 32 – Kyle Larson for Turner Scott Motorsports (finished sixth)

The Final Word

Compared to other recent Nationwide races at Daytona, Friday night’s race was actually not wreck-strewn. There was only one crash (the five-car wreck towards the end that took Pastrana, White, Robert Richardson, Jr., and Jeffrey Earnhardt, while Jamie Dick continued with damage) and 29 cars managed to finish the 101-lap event on the lead lap. Other than those five drivers, most all of the teams are happy that the race was a little less crazy than normal.

Regan Smith effectively stopped the bleeding from the past couple of weeks with a solid eighth-place finish, having spent much of the race working with Brian Vickers. Despite the top-10 result, his points lead is down to six points since Hornish finished right in front of him and managed to lead the most laps.

Going to New Hampshire next weekend, there are five drivers (Smith, Hornish, Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Austin Dillon) that are within 17 points of each other. It should be quite the championship duel for the rest of the season.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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07/06/2013 09:59 AM

OK, raise your hand if you think the cup race will end in “green, white, checkered.”

Bonus points if you know how much the 48 will gain in points after nascar gives out penalties.

another Andy D
07/06/2013 12:18 PM

I’m interested to know when the teams started using their home brewed roof flap spacers.

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07/06/2013 04:56 PM

Another Nationwide race won by a Cup driver. A former Cup champion, no less! It’s amazing how many races Kenseth has been running for Gibbs this year. But, while amazing, Kyle Busch’s remarks after his California win explained it. When Busch won at Cali, he said that the Toyota nationwide and Cup cars are so similar, he (and Kenseth) can learn a lot from running the Nationwide car and apply it the next day (or night) to their Cup cars. Contrast this to what Hornish said at Kansas, when he was asked about the difference between the Ford Nationwide and Cup cars. He said the cars are so different that no setting can be exchanged between the two. So, the Fords are totally different, while the Toyotas are so similar? NASCAR blew this one big time!

About “Roofflapgate”, the roof flaps in question were all manufactured by Roush. You can bet the penalties will be really big, probably the biggest in NASCAR history. Especially the ones against Roush and his entire organization (including all other Ford teams involved). I predict that the penalties will be so harsh that Roush will be forced to completely shut down, and quite possibly he could be banned from NASCAR forever. I also predict that, if that does happen, Ford will withdraw from NASCAR immediately over this, leaving Brian with only Chevrolet and Toyota teams competing in his “shows”. And notice I said “shows” and not “races”. there is a difference, but Brian France is too stupid to know that!

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07/07/2013 11:35 AM

Jeff Green actually did qualify. He ended up in the early 20’s, but the team was paid off by the #92 to withdraw, that way the #92 would qualify.

The same thing happened at Charlotte, with the #10 withdrawing so that Steven Wallace would qualify.

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