While Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck teams were home this Easter weekend — spending quality time with family and catching up on March Madness — the Nationwide Series spent Saturday afternoon roaring around Nashville Superspeedway, the series’ sixth stop this season. While this column is normally reserved for discussing the trends of the hottest and coldest teams in Sprint Cup, on this off week we’ll take a quick look at what’s going on in the other series; and considering who’s raced most recently, Nationwide plays a prominent role in the column to come.
Oh, you want to know about the race? Well, Scott Wimmer took advantage of a Kyle Busch spin this weekend to pick up his first win since July of 2003, and the series’ first non-Sprint Cup winner since Jason Leffler in July of last year. Wimmer is hot, averaging a 10.3 finish in his three starts this season, but come in and see who else is sharing that fire in this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not. At this point, we take a look at which non-Buschwackers, or Nationwhackers, or Insurance Adjusters, or whatever they’re called now, in NASCAR’s other two premier series.
Who’s Hot in Nationwide?
Brad Keselowski (Points position: sixth)
Keselowski competed in the first 13 races in 2007 with Keith Coleman Racing before joining forces with JR Motorsports in July. In 14 races in the No. 88 last year, the third-generation driver registered five top-10 finishes, but no top fives coming into this season. Perhaps an offseason of seasoning was just what the young driver needed, however; because as of late, Keselowski is hotter than any non-Sprint Cup Nationwide driver. In his last four starts, the 24-year-old has finishes of 23rd, sixth, fourth and fourth. His worst finish over that span, a 24th-place run at Las Vegas resulted from an accident while competing for his first victory in the closing laps.
Mike Bliss (Points position: fifth)
After a brief stint with BAM Motorsports in Sprint Cup last year, Bliss joined forces with Fitz Motorsports for 23 races in the Nationwide Series, and recording eight top 10s and three top fives. Like Keselowski, Bliss was able to remain with his team in the offseason, and it has paid dividends in 2008. In six starts, the former Truck Series champ has an average finish of 13.1, and hasn’t finished worse than eleventh in his past three starts.
Wimmer (Points position: 27th)
Becoming the first non-Sprint Cup driver to win a Nationwide race since July is enough in itself to warrant a spot on the “Hot” list, but Wimmer also has the best average finish of any non-Cup Nationwide driver with a 10.3 average. In addition to the win this weekend, Wimmer also earned the pole last week at Bristol.
Best of the Rest
Kelly Bires (Points position: eighth) Top-20 finishes in all but one race; first career top five this weekend.
Mike Wallace (Points position: ninth) Five consecutive top-20 finishes, including two top 10s in that span.
Leffler (Points position: 10th) Two top 10s in last three races.
David Stremme (Points position: 13th) Three top 10s in last four races.
Who’s Hot in Trucks?
Todd Bodine (Points position: second)
The only winner this season not named Kyle Busch, Bodine has yet to finish worse than ninth in the first three races of 2008. The highlight of the 2006 series champion’s young season came in the opener, when he picked up his first Daytona victory.
Ron Hornaday (Points position: third)
Ran into problems at Daytona, but finished fifth and second in his other two starts. Hornaday has yet to qualify worse than fifth this season, and he has recorded two consecutive poles in a bid to record back-to-back championships.
Chad McCumbee (Points position: fourth)
The 23-year-old driver had just one top 10 in 22 starts last year, but already has two this season. Starting off the year with a seventh-place run at Daytona, he followed that up with second and finished fifth at Atlanta. His only hiccup this year came when he finished one lap down at California.
Best of the Rest
Johnny Benson (Points position: fifth) Pair of third-place finishes in first two races.
Mike Skinner (Points position: seventh) Top 10s in last two races.
Terry Cook (Points position: 11th) Top 10s in last two races; yet to qualify worse than 10th.
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