Race Weekend Central

Nuts for Nationwide: Five Races In, Some Underdogs Showing Promise

Last week, we looked into the highs and lows of the 2013 Nationwide Series season, five races in. In one small segment, the spotlight turned onto the series’s smaller teams and their progress throughout the season.

As we near the completion of the second straight off-week in the series, let’s take a closer look at the little guys and gals.

The current owner points standings in the series are led by Roger Penske’s No. 12, driven by Sam Hornish Jr., the driver points leader. The following 14 spots, all the way down to 15th, are occupied by the sport’s more successful organizations, from the Nationwide programs of Cup teams like Penske and Roush Fenway Racing to series stalwarts such as Turner Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

Nuts for Nationwide: The Highs and Lows of 2013 (So Far)

Just five races into the NASCAR Nationwide Series season, we’ve already learned some things–some are important, some you probably couldn’t care less about. Do we know the clear front runners for the title yet? Maybe, but there’s also still a lot of season left to count some drivers out this early in the year. Do we have a good feel on what the 2013 season as a whole will be remembered for? Again, too early, but a few common themes are emerging.

Some of these common themes can be construed as positives. Some, on the other hand, leave us scratching our head or banging said head on a table in frustration. Either way, the 2013 Nationwide season is shaping up to be an interesting year, though it’s unclear as to whether or not it will remembered fondly, if at all. We might remember it as the year Kyle Larson became a household name, or a season of redemption for former Cup drivers like Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers, Regan Smith and Sam Hornish, Jr.

Nuts for Nationwide: A NASCAR Journeyman’s (Comparably) Hot Start

If you’re looking for a feel-good story four races into the Nationwide Series season, look no further than Mike Harmon.

Harmon, a longtime journeyman contender in multiple NASCAR series and ARCA, published an article with Catchfence last October decrying the change from 43- to 40-car Nationwide fields, writing that he “just [didn’t] think NASCAR has really thought this thing out” and that he was “just about finished with NASCAR.”

Nuts for Nationwide: Time To Retire Those JWT Jokes

Three years ago, John Wes Townley got what has thus far been his only shot in great equipment at the upper levels of NASCAR. After a 2009 rookie season in the Nationwide Series during which he crashed out of many of the events he made, the much maligned driver hitched a ride with Richard Childress Racing via sponsor Zaxby's – his father's business. A practice crash at Phoenix nixed that almost immediately, and Townley disappeared from the circuit, reappeared with former team RAB Racing, disappeared again, got a DUI and competed full-time in the Camping World Truck Series in 2012 for RAB, with a few one-off Nationwide races. Along the way, his chronic crashing earned him quite a few detractors, who said he was only there on his dad's money. There were even comments of 'worst NASCAR driver ever.' Now, to 2013. JWT is entered in one of the biggest races of the ARCA season, the year-opening Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. He's entered in a car owned by Venturini Motorsports, arguably the top team in the series. He's come close to victory at the track in the past. This time, he wins it, after Bobby Gerhart runs out of fuel. The Chicken Man triumphs! <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15383.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"184\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Jon Wes Townley and his frequent crashes were the butt of many jokes but now he's won in ARCA and started finishing races in NASCAR, making him…just another driver on the track. Which is actually an improvement.</p></div> Is it finally time to stop the jeers? The naysaying? The laughs at his expense? This weekend, Townley makes his first 2013 Nationwide Series start, driving a Venturini Toyota at Bristol. He's running a limited schedule for the team this year, marking the return to NASCAR for the longtime ARCA competitors. He also has a full-time gig in Red Horse Racing's No. 7 in the Camping World Truck Series. He won't light the racing world on fire at Bristol. He may never, unless he pulls a Montoya into a jet dryer. But it just might be time to take Townley more seriously – or, at least as seriously as you might take another so-so competitor in a given series. Granted, while a win is a win no matter how you look at it, JWT still won at a restrictor plate track, which are famous for evening the playing field and allowing unexpected victors. He did it for a team that's strong wherever it goes, not an organization like his former RAB team, which is solid but unspectacular the majority of the time. But it's not just that. The year off in 2011 seems to have done wonders for the guy. In 2012, he scored two top-10 finishes running in the trucks. More importantly, he did it with a mere two DNFs. What's more, he was either on or near the lead lap for most of the races. In a five-race Nationwide schedule? He didn't wreck out of any. Going forward, Townley may still wreck out of races – heck, expect it, because everyone does at some point. It may even happen this weekend at Bristol, if he can get his No. 25 in the show. But it's time to stop seeing John Wes Townley as a driver who can't hold a line without crashing. Instead, look at him as just another NASCAR driver. It's not a very flattering distinction, but it's certainly a step up. <b><u>Quick Hits</u></b> -Do people still have paper calendars? If Michael Annett does, chances are May 4 is circled on his. That's the date the Nationwide Series travels to Talladega, and it's the day Annett hopes to return to the series following the season-opening crash at Daytona that left him with a fractured and dislocated sternum. He had surgery Feb. 28, where doctors repaired the injury with screws and a metal plate. Annett actually hopes he can return a week earlier, at Richmond. Until then, Reed Sorenson is in the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. -NASCAR reinstated Jeremy Clements just in time for the Bristol race this weekend. According to NASCAR, Clements completed a program with Dr. Richard Lapchick at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports in order to be reinstated. Said Clements in a statement: \"I would like to thank NASCAR for their support throughout this entire process. I would like to also thank Dr. Lapchick and his team for their time and the opportunity to help me grow. I have learned a lot and am looking ahead, to getting back in the car at Bristol and having a fresh start to the season. I am truly grateful to my sponsors who have stood by me, to my fans for their tremendous outpouring of support and to my family and team for their unwavering love and support.\" Ryan Sieg drove Clements's No. 51 during his absence. -Just a few days after the close of its last sponsored event, Sam's Town renewed its sponsorship of the March Nationwide race at Las Vegas. The agreement extends the sponsorship another four years. <b>Looking forward: Bristol</b> <b>Stats (entered drivers)</b> <b>Most wins:</b> Kevin Harvick (5) <b>Top average finish:</b> Kevin Harvick (7.8, 23 races), Austin Dillon (8.0, 2), Parker Kligerman (9.0, 2), Kyle Busch (9.9, 17), Brad Keselowski (11.6, 11) <b>Bristol Nationwide debuts:</b> Brad Sweet, Juan Carlos Blum, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Hal Martin, Travis Pastrana, Dexter Stacey, Alex Bowman *Connect with Kevin!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/surfwax83\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><a href=\"http://facebook.com/surfwaxamerica\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6501.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Kevin Rutherford\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/37802/

Nuts for Nationwide: 2013 Could Be Allgaier's Year

You can't make 2013 without a three and a one. Of course, a three and a one make a 31, the number of Justin Allgaier's car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I know this is cheesy, but bear with me. Though an established competitor in the series since 2009, the man formerly (maybe still?) known as Little Gator has rarely been in the conversation for weekly victories, let alone a championship. That all may change this season. Two races in, Allgaier is tied for the points lead with Sam Hornish Jr., having scored a seventh-place finish in the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona and following it up with a third at Phoenix last weekend. Of course, he was rarely in contention for the victory – but who really was aside from Kyle Busch at Phoenix, and Daytona is a bit of a crapshoot anyway. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14541.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"184\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">31 is 13 backward so is 2013 the year Justin Allgaier has a breakout season?</p></div> This year, I think, could be Little Gator's year. Entering his third season with Turner Scott Motorsports, Allgaier has actually become the senior presence at an organization that includes series rookies Kyle Larson and Nelson Piquet Jr. running full-time. That's not to say he'll beat Larson and Piquet each week, but one has to wonder if the majority of the team's eggs will be put in the No. 31's basket this season – that is, until Larson inevitably starts winning soundly and becomes a constant threat the whole season. Turner Scott has always been a strong organization, able to contend for wins most weeks. It's tough to say just yet what the added investment of Harry Scott will entail in terms of performance, but it may pay great dividends for Allgaier's team especially. Plus, like Allgaier himself, the team has had a few seasons in the series to grow and to simply get better. Seeing them as championship contenders at this point just seems like a no-brainer. It's Allgaier's fifth full season, too. With the exception of the new tracks the circuit visits in 2013, he's been to all speedways, some more than others. Barring major issues with the cars themselves, weekly top-10 finishes seem within grasp. That also gives him an edge over Larson at his own team; the rookie hasn't seen quite a few of the tracks and simply doesn't have the veteran status Allgaier has at this point. That's right – it's weird to say, but Justin Allgaier is basically a Nationwide veteran at this point. But mainly, I see consistency. Throughout his career, Allgaier has been a fairly surefire bet for the top 10. That's a great skill to have, because even if he might lose to Kyle Busch or whatever other Cup driver decides to mingle with the lower series that week, he's still likely to finish near the front. All he has to do is push himself even harder. Though the consistency's been great, we need to see just a little bit more. While his average finish generally hovers around 11, Elliott Sadler produced an average finish of 7.6 in 2012. That's about where Allgaier needs to be – a four-position increase. Can he do it? Absolutely. But a few things need to happen, too. First: as mentioned, that consistency. He needs to be closer to the top five more often while maintaining his lack of poor finishes from crashes, equipment failure and the like. Second: BEAT JOE GIBBS RACING. That's a tall order, so let's just take Kyle Busch out of the equation and focus on Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler. So far, he's doing good on that; Sadler has a best finish of fifth, and Vickers hasn't even cracked the top 15, though that's due in part to bad luck. Still, he has to keep beating them, and that will be no small feat. Third: quite simply, win some more races. Capitalize on the events sans Cup guys. Show you belong at the top of the points standings. I'm convinced he can do it. He's off to a great start, and given his new position as his team's main guy, as well as the experience gleaned from a handful of years in the series, this could be Justin Allgaier's year. *Connect with Kevin!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/surfwax83\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><a href=\"http://facebook.com/surfwaxamerica\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6501.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Kevin Rutherford\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/37802/

Nuts for Nationwide: Annett’s Anguish, Plus Seven Part-Timers To Watch In 2013

The crop of young talent in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series is deeper than it has been in years. After many years of Cup guys running the show, more teams are taking chances on rookie drivers to lead them on the path to victory — or, at least, some good finishes here and there.

In 2013, three of those drivers — Alex Bowman of RAB Racing, Kyle Larson of Turner Scott Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Parker Kligerman — lead the charge with full-time efforts and established organizations. Count on at least one, if not more of them making it to Victory Lane by season’s end. That’s how good this group is.

Nuts For Nationwide: 2013 Season Preview, Part Two

In part two of the 2013 Nationwide Series preview, let’s take a look at the drivers I expect to finish in the top 10 of the overall points standings. Check out part one of the preview “here!”:https://frontstretch.com/krutherford/42330/

10. Brian Scott

After a tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing, Scott moves over to Richard Childress Racing, effectively switching rides with Elliott Sadler. I’ve seen some improvement from the Idaho native over the years, culminating thus far with two top-5 finishes and 11 top 10s in 2012. But I want to see more. A change of pace may be what he needs, and now, he’s paired with a team that nearly won the championship two years in a row. I’d rank him higher, as a result but there’s still a lot of unknowns with Scott, who has yet to win in the series.

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.

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.

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com