The Nationwide Series debuted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday as part of the track’s “Super Weekend.” The 100-lap race started out looking like it was going to be a Kyle Busch walkover, shifted into a Elliott Sadler points lead protector, then finished up with Roger Penske’s first ever stock car win at the fabled racetrack. Most importantly of all, there were actual people sitting there watching it all unfold. While the rumblings among some fans and most of the media was that the idea to move the Nationwide Series from Lucas Oil Raceway to the Speedway was a horrendous idea, attendees came out in some surprising numbers. While NASCAR’s overall estimate might be generous at 40,000 fans, it was, indeed a typical Nationwide crowd. Once the checkered flag flew, Brad Keselowski was in the Winner’s Circle celebrating the victory in the inaugural Nationwide race at the Brickyard.
The good news for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his No. 6 team on Sunday was that the event marked a return to championship form. For the first time this summer, the defending champions were the class of the field.
The bad news? That still wasn’t enough. Though Stenhouse was running down Elliott Sadler in the closing laps, a late-race yellow bunched up the field and left the event up to a final restart. On that restart, Justin Allgaier gave Sadler a huge shove down the frontstretch, which provided all the No. 2 team needed to score their third win of the 2012 season and first since Bristol way back in March. Stenhouse, Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, and Michael Annett rounded out the top 5. The late caution interrupted what had been a largely green event, one of only five yellows to fly Sunday afternoon.
*In A Nutshell:* Was it Saturday afternoon or Sunday? It could have been either after Sprint Cup regulars put on a dominating show that saw Brad Keselowski emerge victorious for the second time in 2012. Keselowski easily took the pole with Kasey Kahne beside him, and both led early. And even if Keselowski hadn’t made his race winning pass, the victory still would almost certainly have gone to Cup regular Kevin Harvick. In fact, with the exception of yellow flag laps, Nationwide regulars did not lead during the race. Nationwide regulars did comprise the rest of the top 5, with Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. filling those spots. Dillon, the top finishing NNS regular, took home a $100,000 bonus via the Dash for Cash program, which rewards series regulars in certain races.
Friday night’s Nationwide race at Daytona seemed to have the best of both worlds for restrictor plate fans. Yes, the outcome was ultimately decided by tandem drafting. But in the process, there was more than enough pack racing to whet fans’ appetites, turning the event into a wild competition of record-setting proportions.
James Buescher laid waste to the Truck Series field Thursday night, leading 119 laps in a dominating effort. Well, Austin Dillon took that dominance and made it look tame, lapping Buescher twice and leading a Nationwide Series record 192 of 200 laps to score his first career Nationwide Series victory. There was not a single car in the entire field that was capable of passing the No. 3, which started on the pole, under green flag conditions. Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top 5.
In what was arguably the tamest outing the Nationwide Series has seen in its short history at Road America, a Truck Series regular that laid waste to the field. After winning the pole in only his third Nationwide Series start, Nelson Piquet Jr. found himself battling all day with some of the best road racers in the business… and driving away from them. Leading 19 of the 50 circuits run, Piquet scored his first career NASCAR victory and became the first Brazilian to win a Nationwide Series race. Michael McDowell, Ron Fellows, Max Papis, and Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top 5.
Lap after lap of stalking proved to be of no avail for James Buescher, who despite a late move into turn 1 on the final lap, was unable to steal the win Saturday from Joey Logano. Logano scored his fifth win of the Nationwide Series season after holding off charges on a number of late race restarts, leading the final 24 circuits. Buescher, Kurt Busch, Cole Whitt, and polesitter Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.
The tire issues that popped up during Saturday’s ARCA race were not noticeably present with NASCAR’s Goodyears on Saturday, as the repaved MIS surface proved to have little impact on the on-track action seen.
The scoresheet will show Saturday’s Nationwide race at Dover as a Joey Logano romp. And while the JGR Cup regular did emerge victorious in the 5-Hour Energy 200 after leading 154 of the laps run, this one was oh-so-close to being so much more. Also driving a JGR Toyota, hometown driver Ryan Truex grabbed the lead after misfortune of Logano’s own making (while leading the race, the No. 18 bowled over the lapped car of Tim Bainey Jr. exiting turn 2, wrecking the No. 24 car and forcing Logano to pit road for a check-up and tires), and was holding a steady lead of one second with less than five laps to go.
Brad Keselowski crossed his fingers, hoping track position and just the right fuel mileage would keep him out front during a final, 46-lap green-flag run to the finish in Saturday’s History 300. There was only one problem: the calculations by those pesky computers left him just a little short.
Good thing aerodynamics could come to the rescue. After pulling away following that final caution flag, Keselowski coasted during the final 10 laps at Charlotte, letting Denny Hamlin use up much of a three-second cushion while saving just enough Sunoco to make it to the checkered flag. Crossing the line 0.838 seconds ahead, it was the first 2012 Nationwide victory for Keselowski, Penske Racing and No. 22 crew chief Jeremy Bullins. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Elliott Sadler rounded out your top-5 finishers.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has won at Iowa in a number of different fashions. Add dominant to that list. In an event that was a far cry from his crazy win last summer courtesy of Carl Edwards’ bumper, Stenhouse set the tone early and never looked back, leading 209 laps en route to a convincing third consecutive win at the Iowa Speedway. Elliott Sadler, Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 5.