NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity

Nuts For Nationwide: 2013 Season Preview, Part One

The NASCAR Nationwide Series might just have its best year in awhile in 2013. After years of Sprint Cup domination, whether in single races, series championships or both, the division is beginning to take on an identity of its own, solidifying itself beyond just a playground for the sport's elite on Saturdays. In preparation for the NASCAR premiere race next weekend, down at Daytona, let's take a look at some of the top stories and drivers coming into 2013 in the form of preseason awards. These are the drivers, teams and tracks I expect to be considered the best at the end of the year, starting with smaller distinctions and moving towards the eventual champion. As the season hasn't even kicked off yet, this is pure speculation... but I feel good about my choices. For part two of the preview, check back next Friday.

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Throwback Thursday: Jason Keller’s Future Looks Bleak

_Attention, NASCAR fans... welcome to Throwback Thursday! Every week, from now until the start of the 2013 season we'll be giving you, our readers the favorite stories we treasure from our writers over the past few seasons. Today we focus on Toni Montgomery, a our open-wheel editor and Nationwide Series expert who shares pieces that have proven meaningful to both her and our fans through the years._ _This article originally ran April 23rd, 2006. Take a look through, see what two rookies in particular are mentioned in this article and then wonder, "Where are they now?" in this age of NASCAR contraction._ I gave the Buschwhackers a rest the last time I took my turn for Second Fiddle, but it looks like I need to revisit the subject again. This time around, though, I have a few other observations on things going on in the Busch Series, specifically concerning Jason Keller, Busch Series veterans, Busch Series rookies, and the fans.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: Ford EcoBoost 300

After a late-race wreck drastically changed the championship picture at Phoenix courtesy of Elliott Sadler’s troubles, the season finale race at Homestead was tame by comparison. Though Sadler started strong and even challenged for the lead during the first run of the race, by event’s end it was business as usual, with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. comfortably ahead of Sadler, who had faded in the final stretches. The result was Stenhouse and the No. 6 team easily scoring their second consecutive Nationwide Series championship, with Sadler holding off teammate Austin Dillon by only one point for second in the standings.

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Handicapping the 2012 Nationwide Series Finale at Homestead

One race. Three hundred miles. Three contenders left. Let’s handicap the 2013 Nationwide Series championship race as it ends in Homestead: *Austin Dillon, No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet* *3rd in points (-25)* *2 wins, 26 top 10s* One race. Three hundred miles. Three contenders left. Let’s handicap the 2013 Nationwide Series championship race as it ends in Homestead: *Austin Dillon, No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet* *3rd in points (-25)* *2 wins, 26 top 10s*

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Vickers a 2013 NNS Title Contender…Is That Enough?

There are very few drivers that have taken to the track in 2012 more deserving of a full-time ride in anything than Brian Vickers. A stellar part-time performance with Michael Waltrip Racing after finding himself out of a job following the closure of Red Bull Racing has kept Vickers in Toyota’s good graces, as he will drive a Nationwide car full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013. It will mark Vickers’ first full Nationwide campaign since 2003, where he won the championship driving for Rick Hendrick.

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Consistent Inconsistency: NASCAR’s Latest Licensing Episode

While the usual suspects will be battling for the win at Texas come Saturday’s Nationwide Series event, one driver that will not be there is Nur Ali. The driver who two weeks ago made history as the first Pakistani to start a Nationwide Series race was not approved to run Texas, with NASCAR sending Ali back to shorter tracks to garner more experience. A replacement for Rick Ware Racing’s No. 41 car remains to be named. Of course, what else would one expect from NASCAR, the sanctioning body whose only consistency is inconsistency? If there’s one element of their governance that has proven the definition of subjective and impulsive, it’s with regard to competitors’ licenses.

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The No. 7 and the Risk of Backwards Development

My first visit to the Daytona International Speedway came as a writer in 2010. Though the weekend would eventually be defined by a pothole and the Daytona 500 going from day to night, entering Speedweeks the story was one Danica Patrick. Danica-mania was coming to NASCAR, to an extent that the ESPN broadcast booth and execs took questions in the media center regarding their coverage of her debut race.

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40 Cars to Freedom: Change is Coming for the 2013 Nationwide Series

It’d take an act of God to get this writer to declare that NASCAR has left the state of denial, but they did take a step in the right direction on the Nationwide Series front this week with the announcement that the field will be cut from 43 to 40 cars for the 2013 season. It’s been a change long overdue; though NASCAR’s AAA series has largely dodged short fields over the last eight months, the start-and-park entries filling the starting grids week after week have accounted for nearly 30% of those “full” fields. Coupled with the return of testing, this week’s announced competition changes are absolutely radical alterations for the Nationwide Series, as 43-car fields have been the norm for a decade-plus. And even at only a three-car reduction, it will have an impact across the series. While it’s impossible to tell just how much of an impact this will have until the entry list for Daytona is released in February, it’s never too early to play a little fact or fiction.

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Looking Forward on a Bye Weekend: The 2013 Nationwide Series

For all intents and purposes, the 2012 season has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationwide Series. A razor-thin title fight, series regulars capable of winning races and doing it, its been at least on paper the best season the Nationwide ranks have enjoyed since 2003. But all good things come to an end, and this cast of characters is no different. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been promoted to Cup, and will be doing his best Matt Kenseth impression in 2013. Sam Hornish Jr. remains without a contract, even in the Penske Racing camp that has stuck behind him so loyally. And through the rest of the top 10 in points, uncertainty is abound; Justin Allgaier, Cole Whitt, Mike Bliss and Brian Scott all aren’t guaranteed to return to their respective cockpits next season.

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The End of the Eury Era at JR Motorsports

For a team that is the de facto Hendrick Motorsports entrant in the Nationwide Series, JR Motorsports’ results of late can’t be described as anything other than underwhelming. No wins since 2010, with only two poles in that same span. In 59 starts for the operation in 2012, only 20 top 10 finishes have been scored. And with the team’s leading full-timer Cole Whitt a distant seventh in points, JRM is poised to have its worst finish in team history in terms of fielding a regular driver. Considering this is one of the rare teams in the Nationwide garage with full sponsorship on its race cars, that their driver stable includes the most hyped open-wheel convert since Juan Pablo Montoya and the hottest prospect the Truck Series had at the end of the 2011 campaign, that they carry the name Earnhardt, the status quo does not meet any expectations. The status quo is not acceptable.

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