With 16 races down and 21 remaining in the Nationwide Series, we have a long way to go. But after two straight maiden victories for two of the most promising young drivers in the sport, there is a lot to like about this year’s Nationwide Series championship. After a couple of blow out seasons–Kevin Harvick won the title at a canter in 2006 as did Carl Edwards in 2007–it looks like 2008 will be much more competitive. So who are the contenders and the pretenders for the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide crown? Who are we likely to be saluting come November? Who has a better than average chance and who are the pretenders – the men who might just pull off a surprise and win it all?
When asked if the races at Pocono Raceway should be shortened to 400 miles, track owner Dr. Joe Mattioli said that the 500-mile races are done for television, and that the networks want the extra 100 miles to sell more advertising. Is there merit to this argument, or are the races at Pocono so long as to be detrimental to TV? Based on this week’s race, is there any reason for Pocono to stay at 500 miles?
This weekend saw a changing of the guard of sorts in professional motorsports, as two young drivers finally broke through to score their first career victories in their respective series of competition. Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee, 24-year-old Brad Keselowski began his own Cedar Revolution of sorts, able to finally escape trouble and notch his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. And only 12 hours later, just north of the border at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, 23-year-old Robert Kubica of Poland recorded his first win in Formula 1 competition, taking the checkers in his BMW-powered Sauber machine.
1. What Program? – NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program has now entered its ninth year of existence as of this weekend. There are 13 Sprint Cup teams, eight Nationwide Teams, and four Craftsman Truck organizations participating in the program. But after nine years only one ethnic minority driver — Aric Almirola — has graduated to NASCAR’s top series through the program, and even then only on a part-time basis. No women or African-Americans have participated in the Sprint Cup series full-time… and none are expected to anytime in the future. Looks like NASCAR’s best diversity plan is to hope for more open-wheel defections.
Brad Keselowski was able to celebrate the Federated Auto Parts 300 win in victory lane with much of his family, as brother Brian Keselowski was also in town after attempting to qualify for Saturday’s event (he spun on his qualifying lap and DNQ’d).
Though he failed to overwhelm the CARQUEST 300 field as he has in so many other races this season, Kyle Busch was the class of the field again at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
The Sprint All-Star Race lacked the excitement of previous years. Why was that, and what can be done to revitalize the race in the future?
10. Pretended to befriend Brad Keselowski, gave him his sun goggles to wear, slapped him on the back, and sent him on his way.
On this very day some 10 years ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first race in NASCAR’s second series, taking the checkered flag in the 1998 Coca-Cola 300. The Kannapolis, N.C. native drove his father’s AC Delco sponsored No. 3 Chevy to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway. Later that same year, Junior founded JR Motorsports, initially to deal with his burgeoning sponsorship and marketing opportunities. Four years later he turned the business into a race team running in the street stock division at Concord Motorsports Park. And in 2006, Earnhardt Jr. debuted the No. 88 car in the Nationwide Series with Mark McFarland picking up the driving duties. Tomorrow, Junior will pilot the second Nationwide car in his JR Motorsports stable, the No. 5 GoDaddy Chevy, as he tries to mark the 10th anniversary of his maiden victory at a track where he also secured his first Sprint Cup win.
The first off week of the season allowed our staff to take a look at the other racing series that NASCAR has to offer; as such, they did a little ranking of some other drivers that the fans love to follow. Whether they are seasoned veterans in the waning years of their career, or young drivers who are trying to prove themselves, they were all considered for this poll of the best stock car driver without a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series. Check below to see if your budding superstar — or old favorite — made our list!