Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Wypall 200

Short of Tony Stewart, it’s hard to think of a more talented open-wheel transplant to the stock car racing realm than Sam Hornish Jr. So it should come as no surprise that, racing in the Nationwide Series and getting a chance to actually take part in driver development after being rushed to Cup racing in 2008, that the former IndyCar champion finally broke through, driving away from Brad Keselowski late in the going to win at Phoenix on Saturday. Keselowski completed a 1-2 finish for Penske Racing, with Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounding out the top 5.

The newly-configured Phoenix International Raceway proved to be as treacherous as expected, with a rash of ugly wrecks dotting the 200-mile run.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: O’Reilly Challenge

When all was was said and done Saturday, Roush Fenway Racing had clinched the manufacturer’s championship in the Nationwide ranks for Ford. Just as expected. The only difference is…it wasn’t Carl Edwards who did the clinching.

Despite leading a race-high 157 laps, Edwards couldn’t close the deal for the final six. Trevor Bayne came out of nowhere on a late-race restart, stormed past Edwards, and held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin to score a long-awaited first NNS win. Hamlin, Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kansas Lottery 300

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: OneMain Financial 200

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Dollar General 300

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2011 Great Clips 300 at Atlanta

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Food City 250

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: NAPA 200

The Marcos Ambrose Redemption Tour carried on across the border into Montreal Saturday, with the Tazmanian exorcising his demons on the Circuit Gilles Villeneueve by recovering from an early-race run-in with Jacques Villeneuve to score his fourth career Nationwide Series win in his first start of 2011. Hometown IndyCar regular Alex Tagliani finished second, with Michael McDowell, Steve Wallace and JR Fitzpatrick rounding out the top 5.

With the sun shining as the green flag dropped, the first half of the Montreal road course event was among the quietest seen since NASCAR started racing on the renowned Formula One circuit; there was still battling for position, but minus the myriad of incidents accompanying it. That all changed when the sky darkened on the horizon, and the threat of rain forced the entire field into a frenzy, with four yellows taking up nearly 50% of the final 21 laps. The closing laps saw a myriad of road ringers, including Villeneuve, Robby Gordon and Boris Said all forced out of the event.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Zippo 200

Kyle Busch was the only driver in the field that had anything for brother Kurt at Watkins Glen on Saturday, but Rowdy learned the hard way that one mistake on a road course is enough to cost a win. Racing for the lead less than halfway into Saturday’s event, Kyle got out of shape in the bus stop chicane and ended up with a grill full of grass. Forcing an earlier-than-scheduled pit stop, the No. 18 was a few laps short on fuel and forced to pit from the lead less a mere 10 miles from the checkered flag, leaving Kurt to drive away from the field on a green-white-checkered to score his second career NNS win at the Glen. Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 5.

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