In a Nutshell: The Nationwide Series took to a short track for the second time in three weeks and, also for the second time in three weeks, Clint Bowyer dominated the race. And nonetheless, for the second time in three weeks, Bowyer failed to score the win. Despite leading 195 of the 250 laps run, Bowyer’s car went to the loose side late in the running, allowing fellow title contender Carl Edwards to sneak by late and score his fourth Nationwide victory of the season. Bowyer finished third, after he was passed by Scott Wimmer with less than 15 laps to go.
While Edwards’s victory allowed him to close the gap further on current series’ points leader Bowyer, the same could not be said for fellow contender Brad Keselowski. Coming off of his worst finish of the season after suffering carburetor problems at Fontana, Keselowski’s No. 88 car started third and dropped like a rock immediately, suffering from constant chattering and poor handling. Keselowski and team struggled to stay on the lead lap all race long, settling for a 21st-place run that left Keselowski and the No. 88 third in points, 279 markers behind Bowyer.
Who Should Have Won: Wimmer. Granted, Wimmer got past Bowyer for second place with plenty of laps to go and had a shot at getting past Edwards on the final restart yet still finished second, but Wimmer needed this win a lot more than Edwards. With rides in NASCAR’s top divisions beginning to dry up, Wimmer’s Richmond start on Sunday marked the first of his last six with Richard Childress Racing. Wimmer has more than earned another shot at a full-time ride in NASCAR after playing the good test driver role at RCR over the last two years, and while his second place run was impressive, a win would have done much more for this Nationwide Series standout.
Bobby Hamilton Jr. and his No. 25 team are one of many Nationwide teams facing uncertain sponsorship situations for 2009, but they delivered a strong performance for their local sponsor on Sunday. Carrying the colors of the Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, which is located less than an hour from the Richmond International Raceway, Hamilton raced his way to a solid 14th-place finish, his best short-track finish of the 2008 season, despite getting the snub from ESPN during their race broadcast. The finish marked the 11th consecutive top 20 for the No. 25 team.
David Stremme made contact with Brad Teague early in the race, spinning out and flat-spotting his tires. Because the team had to use a set of tires early to replace the ones flat-spotted, Stremme found himself out of tires after lap 162, forcing him to remain on the track with nearly 40 laps to go while the rest of the lead-lap cars got fresh rubber and lined up behind him. While Stremme was not able to hold the point for long, he fought hard and by night’s end had a ninth-place run to his credit despite being on nearly 100-lap old tires. Stremme’s No. 64 was carrying the colors of Penske Truck Rentals on Sunday, and if his performance at RIR was any indication, Roger Penske made the right call in naming Stremme Ryan Newman’s successor in his No. 12 Cup car for 2009.
Kenny Wallace, with loads of representatives from primary sponsor U.S. Border Patrol on hand, took his No. 28 Jay Robinson Racing entry and scored an 18th-place finish. A Jay Robinson Racing car finished lead lap in the top 20… nothing else needs to be said here.
Better Luck Next Time
Though Bryan Clauson made headlines earlier this week when he was named Dario Franchitti’s full-time replacement in Chip Ganassi’s No. 40 Nationwide car, Clauson was not able to make headlines on-track at RIR on Sunday. After running mid-pack in the early going, Clauson blew an engine on lap 94, and went behind the wall before ESPN’s cameras could get so much as a glimpse of the No. 40 machine. Clauson finished a very disappointing 38th.
Jason Keller’s 16th-place finish at Richmond certainly wasn’t that bad, but what ESPN’s Mike Massaro reported during the race coverage was. According to Massaro, Keller, who led CJM Racing to multiple top 10s in their limited runs in 2007, who kept the No. 11 at the front of the field early in the 2008 season enough that primary sponsor America’s Incredible Pizza Company signed through 2013, and who has the team knocking on the Nationwide Series top 10 in their first full-time campaign, will be out of a ride following the 2008 season.
Keller, who has made a stellar career out of racing the Nationwide Series circuit, appeared to have found a home to finish his career on his terms with at CJM Racing following a tough few seasons that saw him abruptly fired by Phoenix Racing and struggling to land a part-time ride with then Brewco Motorsports. But, despite having taken a true underdog team to legitimate competitiveness, CJM Racing apparently wants to “go in another direction.” Should this story prove true, shame on you CJM Racing for making a move that is disrespectful to both Keller and the history of the Nationwide Series in general.
Keselowski has certainly felt the agony and ecstasy of racing in recent weeks. After scoring the biggest win of his career at Bristol, Keselowski endured his worst finish of the season at Fontana thanks to mechanical troubles, and lost valuable ground in his pursuit of the Nationwide title. This weekend wasn’t much better. Keselowski dropped from third to outside the top 20 in the first 30 laps of the race, suffering from drastic handling problems that his team proved unable to correct all race long. Keselowski lost a lot of ground on leader Bowyer with his 21st-place finish, and allowed Edwards to retake second in the Nationwide Series standings. Dover has become a do or die race for the No. 88 if they want to stay in the title hunt.
Underdog Performer of the Race
Nobody has seen much of 2006 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year Danny O’Quinn this year. O’Quinn had only attempted three races coming into the Richmond weekend, failing to qualify at Daytona, Bristol and Kentucky. This weekend, with only 43 cars at the track, O’Quinn finally got back into Nationwide competition for the first time in 2008. Driving for Mac Hill Motorsports, O’Quinn made steady and clean progress all race long, moving from his 42nd starting spot to finish 24th, only one lap down to the leaders. O’Quinn’s run was by far the most competitive for the No. 56 team this season, who previously had been using driver Travis Kittleson. One can only hope that O’Quinn and Mac Hill Motorsports find enough money to be more prolific in their attempts.
“Clint was doing such a good job and he was just a little free and he was hanging on for all it was worth and he just wiggled that one time and that’s all I needed.” – Carl Edwards on scoring his fourth Nationwide Series win of the season
“No, not satisfied yet. I mean, the guys really worked hard and we didn’t give up and that’s what important. I hate that we had to work so hard, though [laughs]. Sometimes you’d like to have an easier run but we definitely earned a 12th-place finish tonight. – Landon Cassill on his 12th-place finish
Up Next: The Nationwide Series takes the week off before heading to Dover for the Camping World RV Sales 200. Coverage from the Monster Mile begins September 20th at 3 p.m. on ESPN2 and 3:30 on MRN.