Race Weekend Central

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.

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.

Nuts For Nationwide: Danica-Mania Leaving Travis At The Altar

In this day and age of NASCAR, when each well-known rookie is given so much hype they’re a blockbuster before ever setting foot on the track it’s near-impossible for someone to overachieve. Rarely, now does someone come along that raises your eyebrows with so much predetermined by money, equipment, and previous experience.

Edwards’ Cup Troubles Benefit Nationwide Teammate Stenhouse

Asked this past week at Pocono why he would be making his first Nationwide Series start of the year some six months into the season, Carl Edwards gave the expected answer: “It gives me a chance to have some fun and we can practice something we want to try on the Cup car.” But when asked if he’d be running any more races in 2012 after seven consecutive seasons of full-time double duty, Edwards remarked “This one just came up. There is the other factor that Ricky [Stenhouse] and those guys wanted someone at the road course to bounce information off of.”

There’s two facts to be taken from that statement. One, this race came about spontaneously, with longtime Cup sponsor Subway being the one to foot the bill for the Saturday race.

Looking Back: A Surprising 2012 for the Nationwide Series

Anyone that’s followed NASCAR’s scheduling habits the past decade was far from surprised that one of the sure-fire races of the Nationwide Series season (Lucas Oil Raceway) was yanked from the schedule in favor of a 250-mile jaunt at the Brickyard. Never mind the logic that less crappy stock car racing is still crappy stock car racing.

But having said that as the Nationwide Series approaches its debut on the big track in Indy, the 2012 season has been, well, surprising, on a number of fronts. Enjoying a compelling title race for the second consecutive year after an ugly stretch of Cup dominance from 2006-2010, this year’s campaign has actually been worth watching. Now, heading down the summer stretch, here’s a few of those surprises that have made the season just that.

Three Reasons Chicagoland’s the Wrong Place for Nationwide’s Sunday

There’s a number of things “wrong” with the Chicagoland Speedway. It’s about as cookie-cutter as cookie-cutters come. Despite having the name of the Windy City in its title, the venue is about as close to Chicago as the ill-fated Nashville Superspeedway was to the Music City. It’s hold the (in)distinction of kicking off the abomination known as the Chase on the Cup side.

And on the Nationwide side, though it’s hard to complain about a standalone weekend that sees the AAA ranks get their shot at a Sunday race date where they’re center stage, Chicagoland Speedway’s the wrong venue for such a rare opportunity race.

Eric McClure Seeks Return to Normalcy After Trying Start to 2012

Sitting down to do my first interview with Eric McClure in nearly a year, there was no avoiding an elephant in the room; namely, the harrowing wreck that McClure endured at Talladega the end of April, one that sidelined the Virginia-native until just a few weekends ago at Road America.

“I thought this was it” said McClure when asked if he had time to even think before his Camry nearly knocked down the interior retaining wall on Talladega’s backstretch, hitting headfirst at 185 mph. Asked whether his long-time family background in racing was of any benefit in dealing with arguably the scariest crash the Nationwide Series has seen in the COT era, the answer was blunt: “You think you’re prepared for something like that and you’re not. No one is. Anyone that says they are is lying.”

Truck Series Contenders Set to Invade Nationwide Series Race at Dover

While the Chase is doing NASCAR fans everywhere a favor by making the points race irrelevant for another three months, the Nationwide Series has a repeat of their Stenhouse vs. Sadler battle from a year ago brewing, with the standings tighter than they were a season ago and both teams combining for five race wins already in 2012. But even as that series heads to Dover to tackle the high banks of the Monster Mile, it’s also going to play host to another championship battle…even if it’s not for points. Because when the green flag drops on Saturday, positions three, four and five in the Truck Series standings will be taking it alongside the Nationwide Series regulars.

Nationwide Series Flashbacks for Biagi’s Return to Racing

_Whoever said you can’t go home again obviously didn’t write the NASCAR schedule, as the circuit currently has returned for the first of two weekends spent in the Charlotte area. And the same can be said for Biagi-DenBeste Racing, returning to Nationwide competition after a four-year hiatus. It’s a rare example of a team falling away only to return to the Nationwide Series, and a welcome addition back to the fold._

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Nationwide Tackles Darlington

It’s not quite time for this week’s Nationwide Series Breakdown, but here’s a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly facing the Nationwide Series heading into Darlington tonight.

*The Good*

Just as was the case with Richard Childress Racing and Turner Motorsports at Richmond, NASCAR did nothing more than slap Penske Racing on the wrist after they were found to have modified front bumpers at Talladega. The crew chiefs of the Nos. 12 and 22 cars were fined and placed on probation without any points penalties or suspensions, meaning for the well-endowed operation at Penske, life will simply go on.

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