Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200

Denny Hamlin dominated all night long Friday and was primed to score his fourth win in his last five tries at Darlington. In the end, Joe Gibbs Racing took the trophy, but it wasn’t Hamlin. That honor instead went to Joey Logano, and it didn’t come without controversy.

After a quiet race by Darlington standards, things went haywire on lap 142. Elliott Sadler, who had used tire strategy to take the lead, appeared to spin his tires slightly on the restart. Logano, running third behind Sadler, tried to bump the No. 2 down the track, but in doing so turned him into oncoming traffic, damaging Hamlin’s machine and ending the night for Sadler. Logano would then hold off his teammate on the next restart, apologizing to Sadler from victory lane after the event was over. Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Danica And Sam Go At It

In the battle of Gibbs teammates, it was an unlikely victor on Saturday, with Joey Logano snatching victory from Kyle Busch heading down the frontstretch on the final lap of the second green-white-checkered attempt at Talladega. Busch finished second by less than a car length, with the tandem of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Cole Whitt finishing third and fourth after proving unable to mount a serious challenge to the Nos. 18/54 tandem coming to the checkers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Virginia 529, College Savings 250

For the 16th consecutive race, a Cup regular bested the Nationwide Series field at the Richmond International Raceway. But at least the finish was worth watching. Kurt Busch came out only inches ahead of Denny Hamlin, who spent the second half of the event running qualifying laps to make up ground after missing his pit stall during a cycle of stops under yellow; the two cars made contact exiting turn 4 and both slid across the finish line.

The win was the first for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, one that brought tears to the eyes of the team owner, who was in the pits watching his brother score the win. Polesitter Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top-5 finishers.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: O’Reilly 300

Even as a single-car operation, Roush Fenway Racing didn’t miss a beat after two weeks off. Overcoming a slow mid-race pit stop, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed polesitter Paul Menard and held off a furious charge from Denny Hamlin on the race’s final restart to score his second win of the 2012 campaign. Menard, Kasey Kahne, …

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: Royal Purple 300

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and it finally did Saturday. The Nationwide Series regulars’ streak of wins to start 2012 ended at four in southern California, with polesitter Joey Logano pulling away from the field after a late restart to score Joe Gibbs Racing’s eighth consecutive victory at Auto Club Speedway. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Brian Scott, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Ford EcoBoost 300

It’s been nearly 14 years since Elliott Sadler won a Nationwide Series race at Bristol.

Not anymore. A decade removed from the site of his first career Cup win, Sadler drove away from the field on a Lap 272 restart with old tires, scoring his second victory and fourth consecutive top-5 finish of the 2012 season. Sadler held off a bevy of Cup regulars behind him, with Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, polesitter Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounding out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Sam’s Town 300

Just one week after 2011 championship runner-up Elliott Sadler sent a message with a return to victory lane at Phoenix, the defending title holder Ricky Stenhouse Jr. returned the favor. Holding off Mark Martin on the final two restarts of the afternoon, Stenhouse’s No. 6 proved to be the class of the field, and the driver delivered with his third career Nationwide Series win. Martin, polesitter Sadler, Trevor Bayne and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 5.

Weathering asphalt and bumps growing more pronounced in the lower groove of turns 1 and 2 made the high line an active route around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, which when combined with a softer tire allowed for side-by-side racing and passing throughout much of the field. Still, even with the additional grip, the high speeds on the reconfigured high banks still proved treacherous, with a number of entries proving able to loosen cars significantly by taking air off the spoilers.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Bashas’ Supermarkets 200

Track position was king at the Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, and it proved to be the nemesis of a dominant Kevin Harvick. Despite leading 107 circuits, Harvick’s decision to take four tires during the final cycle of pit stops on lap 164 left him behind too many cars. That left Elliott Sadler, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski to fight it out, with Sadler holding off Keselowski to score his first Nationwide Series win since 1999. Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Harvick rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Drive4COPD 300

After a Truck Series race Friday night that went down as one of the most destructive, unpredictable endings the sport has ever seen, the Nationwide Series came in and one-upped John King’s unlikely win. Over the course of the race’s final 17 laps, three wrecks collecting 23 cars devastated the field. And when an ill-timed block pinched Tony Stewart into the fence, setting off a melee coming to the checkered flag, James Buescher came from 11th place entering turn 4 only to emerge unscathed down the frontstretch, taking his first career NASCAR victory less than 18 hours after his Turner Motorsports Truck team saw a dominant evening go sour late. Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler, Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Ford 300

For the first time since 2005, a Nationwide Series regular was crowned a Nationwide Series champion…and he nearly won the race as well. Racing as aggressively as he has for much of the 2011 season, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. made a hard charge past Carl Edwards late, but fell a car length short of catching Brad Keselowski in a spirited dash to the checkered flag. Keselowski scored his fifth win of the 2011 season Saturday, with Stenhouse, Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top 5.

Stenhouse entered Saturday needing only to finish 37th or better to clinch his first NASCAR championship, which came early courtesy of the usual fleet of start-and-parks at the back of the field. Stenhouse ended up leading a Roush Fenway Racing assault on the field which saw the Mustangs occupying three of the top 5 positions for much of the afternoon, until Bayne found trouble with the wall while rim-riding and losing a tire. Still, the three RFR drivers combined to lead 111 of the 200 circuits run. Elliott Sadler finished sixth in a strong conclusion to his 2011 campaign.

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