One shouldn’t be fooled by the nine lead changes that show up on the scoresheet. Or that the pass for the win occurred inside 15 laps to go. In reality, this race was over almost as soon as it began. In leading 173 laps, Brad Keselowski delivered the most dominating performance the Nationwide Series has seen in recent memory, winning at Kansas Saturday after passing Carl Edwards (who was on four fresh tires) despite having only scuffs for the final run. Keselowski averaged a lead between eight and 11 seconds for much of the afternoon, with Edwards, Elliott Sadler, Paul Menard and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounding out the top 5.
Want to read about Turner Motorsports? Check out Wednesday’s column. The scenarios, rumors and non-nonsensical facts that were running wild around Reed Sorenson’s firing earlier this week haven’t gone anywhere, with the picture of how the third-place driver in points lost his ride five races short of the season’s end still opaque at best.
Regardless of how it came about, Sorenson is still without a racecar with the Kansas race weekend looming. Suddenly, a three-horse race is now a two-car battle between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler. Are the pieces in place for a great duel to the finish? Sure. With only 22 markers between the two and five races to go, the ever-consistent No. 2 team needs only one ill-timed spin or trading of paint from Stenhouse and the No. 6 to get back into the hunt, even without a win on the 2011 season.
What is a bigger crime: Reed Sorenson getting yanked out of the No. 32 Turner Motorsports car for the final five races, ending his hopes of making a late rally for a Nationwide Series championship – or Brian Vickers being excited to the point of using exclamation marks in a press release about taking over …
Less than a month ago, NASCAR’s two lower national touring series were rocked by the news that Kevin Harvick, Incorporated was ceasing its racing operations following the close of the 2011 season. It was the first time in recent memory that a well-sponsored, upper middle-class racing organization was impacted by the harsh financial and competitive realities of today’s Nationwide Series, built as a development division combined with lifetime racing veterans that, at the moment, is creating homes for neither.
Less than a month later, disaster struck again.
This one was practically over before it began. After an early race caution for Timmy Hill’s splitter being jammed off his car, Carl Edwards powered by polesitter Elliott Sadler on lap 11 and never looked back, leading 179 circuits en route to a commanding win, his seventh of the 2011 season. Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top-5 finishers.
Keselowski remarked that he felt “first in class” after the showing that Edwards put on in the No. 60 car, and that was about as well as it was put. Edwards was untouchable up front, with a Mustang that never slipped through the high-banked corners and motored away from the entire field on the straightaways.
_As previously discussed in Five Points to Ponder two weeks ago, even the drivers at the top of the Nationwide Series food chain are facing a great deal of uncertainty regarding their futures in the series for 2012. Be it losing sponsors, lacking sponsors or still waiting for a contract renewal, there’s more than a full field of drivers wondering if they’ll be taking the wheel at Daytona come February. Here’s five rides that absolutely need to happen for the Nationwide ranks in 2012._
It’s a shame Carl Edwards didn’t pull a Jeff Gordon and get completely out of Nationwide racing for 2012, because over in the ARCA ranks the Ford camp has quite the prospect waiting in the wings. The younger brother of James (who’s busy threatening for a Truck Series title this season), Chris has been a regular in the ARCA Racing Series this year, and has made quite the name for himself.
One of the fastest races in recent Nationwide Series memory saw Brad Keselowski all but untouchable on Saturday afternoon, leading 158 of 200 circuits in cruising to an easy win, his third of the season. Keselowski, despite stroking it the final 10 laps or so, finished over eight seconds ahead of Carl Edwards. Polesitter Brian Scott, Aric Almirola and Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top 5.
The race was stopped by caution flags only three times, with the final 131 laps of the afternoon run under green; only 10 cars were on the lead lap by race’s end. In terms of the title chase, the contenders largely held serve, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson all scoring top 10 finishes (eighth, sixth and 10th respectively). As a result, the standings changes were minimal; Stenhouse left Chicago with a 14 point lead, as the field comes to six races to go in the 2011 season.
A night that opened seemingly poised to have a dramatic impact on the 2011 Nationwide Series title chase ended up being more of the same: the Cup drivers stealing the show. Carl Edwards dominated early, but Kyle Busch in the end used strength on pit road to muscle out front late and take home the checkered flag. Together, those drivers led a combined 234 of 250 laps, with Busch holding off Edwards and an upset bid by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. early in the final run. Ryan Truex and a surprising Kenny Wallace rounded out the top-5 finishers.
Despite the best efforts of Kyle Busch to run him down, Carl Edwards topped a dominant evening with his 35th career Nationwide Series win Saturday night in front of a stellar crowd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 5.
Though Edwards led 101 of the 195 laps led en route to victory, side-by-side racing at the front of the field proved plentiful, with each of the drivers in the top 5 taking turns at the front. Goodyear seemed to get the tire situation under control after fielding rocks at Bristol a week ago, with the rubber proving to wear on the abrasive Atlanta service. Drivers throughout the field were seen visibly wrestling with loose race cars throughout the 300 miles.
Kyle Busch scored his 50th career Nationwide Series victory under the lights at Bristol on Friday night, winning by merely a foot or so after a spirited charge from teammate Joey Logano on the final lap. Logano got underneath Busch in turn 2 on the last circuit and the two battled side-by-side to the stripe, with the momentum on the upper side of the track proving to make the difference in what was an otherwise quiet race up front. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.
Though much was made of Busch’s car not being the dominant force that it has been in the past at Bristol, the No. 18 still paced the field for 186 of the 250 laps run Friday night. Clint Bowyer was the fastest car in the field for much of the evening, but track position ended up meaning a lot as the tire compound being run provided little advantage for fresh rubber (Logano nearly stole the win on old tires). Tires proved to be the cause of most of the race’s yellow flags as well; three of the five cautions were caused by single car wrecks triggered by tire failures.