Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: OneMain Financial 200

Just like the spring, Joey Logano emerged victorious in Nationwide competition at Dover. The only difference was this race was devoid of the close battle to the finish between he and teammate Ryan Truex. This one was never in doubt, with the No. 18 team leading 184 of the 200 laps run en route to his seventh victory of the 2012 season. Paul Menard, Michael Annett, Elliott Sadler, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.

Title Fight Better the Second Time Between Stenhouse, Sadler

Last year’s battle between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler was about as much entertainment as Nationwide Series fans had gotten in a decade. After five consecutive years of having the trophy bestowed upon a double dipping all-star with premier equipment, Cup pit crews and talent that had long proven ready to graduate to the Sprint Cup Series, finally the points battle had some suspense…and some fresh blood to boot.

This year, it’s only gotten better. With Cup involvement down, leading title contenders Stenhouse and Sadler have combined for nine race wins and proven among the class of the field for the vast majority of the season’s 27 events thus far. Not only is the battle for top of the charts close, it’s among drivers that are viable threats to win every weekend.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kentucky 300

Austin Dillon must wish the Nationwide Series tackled the Kentucky Speedway 30 times a season after Saturday. Cruising unmolested in the latter parts of the race, Dillon had no trouble scoring his second win of the 2012 season and sweeping the 2012 campaign’s races in Sparta, KY. Sam Hornish Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Drew Herring and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 5.

The championship chase took a dramatic turn in this one after a red-hot start by incoming points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Having led the first 32 laps, a trip down pit road turned treacherous for the No. 6, which had its right front fender caved in after contact with Eric McClure’s car exiting his stall. Ensuing work to repair the damage mired Stenhouse in traffic, and led to handling woes that saw the defending champ pound the turn 4 wall on lap 48. Cutting down a tire, the No. 6 team was forced down pit road under green and limped around the rest of the afternoon, eventually coming home 17th, three laps down.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Dollar General 300

It’s hard to believe that Roush Fenway Racing entered the weekend without a win to their credit at the Chicagoland Speedway, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took care of that on Saturday. Running down Kyle Busch in the closing laps with a car that was unstoppable on the high side of the track, the defending Nationwide Series champion scored his fifth win of the 2012 season… and took the points lead back for his troubles. Busch, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, and Paul Menard rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250

Although Friday’s event was largely uneventful at the front, the same could not be said for the title contenders that endured a wild 250 laps. Sam Hornish Jr. cut a tire down after contact with teammate Ryan Blaney on lap 156, spinning into the turn 1 wall and eventually backing down directly into Timmy Hill’s path. The resulting wreckage left both ends of Hornish’s Dodge crunched and the fourth title contender with an ugly 30th place result. Even more notable was both the wreck and recovery of Elliott Sadler, who spun himself out trying to pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but rebounded with crash damage to salvage a 13th place result.

Nationwide Breakdown: NRA American Warrior 300

Kevin Harvick ran away and hid from the field for 157 of 195 laps on Saturday night. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get to lead the last lap. After a late-race caution for debris, then a wreck that resulted in a red flag, Harvick had to withstand the onslaught of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. with the help of Brad Keselowski in order to win the NRA American Warrior 300.

That’s when dominance turned to disaster. Taking advantage of the short run, Stenhouse made a pass on the outside of turns one and two and held onto the lead for the last ¾ of a lap to score his fourth win of the season. Brad Keselowski, who pushed Stenhouse past Harvick on the final lap was able to hold off Harvick to come home in second. Harvick was forced to settle for third while Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Food City 250

Joey Logano emerged victorious yet again in Nationwide Series competition Friday night, capitalizing on a strong qualifying effort and off-sequence pit strategy en route to score his sixth trophy of 2012 and his first at Bristol. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 5.

The story of the night emerged with less than 10 laps to go after a lap 242 caution that saw Austin Dillon slip up and slam polesitter Trevor Bayne into the fence. With points leader Sadler in position to challenge for the victory, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. executed a textbook bump and run on the lap 249 restart, driving off to a runner-up finish. Stenhouse went to Sadler’s car immediately post-race to try and clear the air, but Sadler in his post-race remarks noted that the move would open the door for the rest of the season in terms of racing aggressively with the championship on the line.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: NAPA 200

It took more than a year, but Justin Allgaier finally found redemption for his fuel mileage shortcomings at Road America a season ago. In yet another Montreal race dotted with late-race yellows, Allgaier capitalized when leader Jacques Villeneuve got complacent in turn 6 trying to save fuel, bumped the No. 22, and took the lead for good. It was his third career Nationwide Series win, scoring a Sunday sweep for Turner Motorsports (Nelson Piquet Jr. had scored the Truck win at Michigan earlier in the day). Sam Hornish Jr., Villeneuve, Elliott Sadler, and Ron Fellows rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Zippo 200 at the Glen

Watkins Glen saw the return of Carl Edwards to the Nationwide Series after a 20-race hiatus that was designed so that Edwards could focus more on the Sprint Cup Series. Well, Edwards seemed to really miss spending his Saturday afternoons in the car; so, with support from Subway, Edwards returned to the No. 60 that had been parked due to lack of support since Las Vegas.

Despite almost no practice on Friday due to rain (he literally did the absolute minimum required in order to get a spot in the qualifying order), Edwards turned in the second fastest time in qualifying.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: U.S. Cellular 250

Oh, what a difference a week can make.

Following a late-race (and hotly-debated) black flag while leading at last weekend’s Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that relegated the championship points leader to 15th and a mere one-point standings lead over Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler took to Iowa Speedway Saturday, August 4, with a vengeance. After starting from the pole, Sadler took the race lead from Justin Allgaier late in the going, leading 60 laps en route to his third win of the 2012 season.

“They are not taking the championship from us!” cried Sadler after crossing the line by about a second over Allgaier. He should have plenty to cheer about — following his race win and a disappointing showing from Dillon, the Richard Childress Racing driver gave himself some much-needed breathing room in the points standings, increasing his lead to 18.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

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