Chase Elliott lands JR Motorsports Nationwide Series seat

Chase Elliott, son of 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott, has secured a 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series deal. The 18-year-old will contest the full season with JR Motorsports.

In a surprise move, Elliott’s car will be backed by NAPA Auto Parts, which had previously indicated its intention to withdraw from NASCAR after splitting with Michael Waltrip Racing in the wake of the team orders scandal at last year’s Richmond race.

“I just couldn’t be any more excited and any more fortunate,” Elliott said. “I feel it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and this is my chance to do what I love to do and make the most of it.” 

Elliott became the youngest-ever Truck Series race winner with his win at Mosport last September, although his record stood for just two months before being broken by Erik Jones. His car (BELOW) will carry No. 9 for his debut Nationwide season, the same number that his father carried during his career.


Hornish gets Gibbs Nationwide deal

Sam Hornish Jr

Sam Hornish Jr. will run a part-time NASCAR Nationwide Series campaign with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014, sharing a car with Kyle Busch.

The three-time IndyCar champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner finished second in last year’s Nationwide standings with Penske, only to lose his drive when the team opted to scale back to one car. His Gibbs deal is for just seven races, starting at Talladega in the first week of May. He is also scheduled to race at Iowa (twice), Road America, Chicagoland, Mid-Ohio and Kentucky.

“It’s the best possible situation for me to jump into great equipment and have the opportunity to go right out and win,” Hornish said. “After working with Penske for 10 years and now to have the opportunity to partner with Joe Gibbs Racing, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Buescher to compete full time in NASCAR Nationwide Series with RAB Racing in 2014

RAB Racing has signed 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher to a multi-year deal to compete full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Buescher has competed full time in the NCWTS for the past three seasons and has recorded one championship and two third-place finishes in the drivers’ championship standings.

Buescher is coming off his third full-time season in the NCWTS. He followed up his successful four win-season in the NCWTS in 2012 with two victories in 2013. He has also recorded one NNS win, taking the checkered flag in the 2012 series’ opening race at the famed Daytona International Speedway.

“My first couple of years in NASCAR have been a dream come true, and I can’t thank Turner Scott Motorsports enough for the opportunity they have given me to develop my skills,” said Buescher. “I am very excited to be able to take the next step in my career, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity that RAB Racing is giving me to run full time in the Nationwide Series. I am really excited to get back behind the wheel of a Toyota and I am looking forward to driving their cars next year. RAB Racing is a solid organization with great people; I can’t wait to get to work with them.”

Buescher will have veteran crew chief Chris Rice on top of the pitbox for the 2014 season. In 2013, Rice lead the No. 99 Toyota Camry to two poles, two top-5 finishes, and six top-10 finishes.

“Everyone at RAB Racing is honored to have James come on board to drive our No. 99 Toyota Camry,” said RAB Racing owner Robby Benton. “James has a tremendous amount of talent and experience, and we feel like he will take our program to the next level. I’m looking forward to what will likely be a very special season, not only for our team, but all of our partners as well. This is a great addition to the Toyota family, and I’m proud James saw the strength in our team to further his career.”

Sponsorship details for Buescher and RAB Racing will be announced in the near future. Buescher will first take to the track for RAB Racing in the DRIVE4COPD 300 on February 22, 2014 at Daytona International Speedway.

Austin Dillon claims NNS title as Brad Keselowski wins Homestead finale

Austin Dillon celebrates his title. (LAT photo)

It was all in the restarts in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as both race winner Brad Keselowski and NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Austin Dillon accomplished their respective goals thanks to late-race charges.

After a restart with five laps left, Keselowski surged from 10th to the lead by lap 198 of 200, passing both Kyle Busch and race runner-up Kyle Larson to take over the top spot.

“That late-race restart was key,” Keselowski said in Victory Lane. “We came in and put tires on with 20 to go, and that yellow (for a four-car crash on lap 183) was out for [12 laps], and I didn’t think we were going to have a shot at it. But we got the right restart and made our way through. I’m going to have to watch the in-car camera, because that was one hell of a ride. Be glad there wasn’t a passenger with me, because they would have been screaming the whole way. I know I was.”

Dillon was simply screaming with joy after holding off Sam Hornish Jr. for the championship. Fighting a balky No. 3 Chevrolet for most of the night, Dillon finished 12th but kept Sam Hornish Jr. in his sights after two late restarts.

Hornish finished eighth, with 37 laps led, but lost the title to Dillon by three points. Dillon became the first driver to win the series championship without winning a race, thanks to season-long consistency.

“I was just glad to see the 12’s back bumper [after the final restart],” Dillon said. “I knew if I could see him and know where he was that I wasn’t going to give up till the end. I had a great start and tried to get the jump on him. It worked out.

“That’s all I can say. He was a great competitor, and he brought his stuff tonight, and we were able to capitalize at the end. Man, it was a hell of a race”

Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate, Joey Logano, gained six spots after the final restart to secure the owners’ championship for his No. 22 Penske Ford. The margin over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch? A single point.

With his fourth second-place finish of the season, Larson locked up Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. His No. 32 Chevrolet, however, failed post-race inspection for being too low, the team’s second offense. Keselowski’s victory also secured the NNS manufacturers’ championship for Ford.

“It means a lot to me to win rookie of the year in the Nationwide Series,” Larson said. “A lot of veterans in the past and in the current Sprint Cup Series have won the rookie of the year. To add my name to that list hopefully means I’m doing something good.”

Larson will move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next season in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

For Keselowski, the victory capped a remarkable NASCAR Nationwide Series effort in 2013. The win was his seventh of the season but his first in the No. 48. Keselowski won his first six races in the No. 22 Logano drove on Saturday. The 2010 NNS champion, Keselowski notched his 27th victory in the series. 

Hornish: I belong in Cup

Sam Hornish Jr

Sam Hornish Jr. believes that his performances in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series merit a step up to a Sprint Cup seat in 2014.

The three-time IndyCar champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner moved across to stock cars with Penske full time in 2008, but disappointing results over the next three years and the loss of his sponsor Mobil 1 forced him to step back to Nationwide in 2011.

Hornish has made irregular Cup starts since, but his focus on Nationwide earned him fourth in last year’s standings, and he is eight points behind championship leader Austin Dillon going into this weekend’s finale at Homestead. The 34-year-old admitted that the demotion to Nationwide had ultimately been beneficial but he says that he feels ready to return to NASCAR’s top tier next season.

“I definitely feel I belong in the Cup Series,” Hornish said. “Taking the step back was to prove what I’ve known for a long time: given the equipment, the right people around me, what I would be capable of.

“Each one of those experiences was a learning one. At one point, because I’d been so successful on the IndyCar side, I was going to pick up the car and carry it on my back if it wasn’t good enough.

“I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to be able to come out here and be in it long enough to prove what I’ve known for a long time. Pacing myself back and doing what I’m capable of, not trying to carry the car, also getting the right people around me, are the biggest things that have helped me out.”

Pastrana ends NASCAR career

Travis Pastrana

Travis Pastrana has ended his fledgling NASCAR career, citing poor results, a lack of sponsorship, and a desire to spend more time with his family.

The 30-year-old motocross and X Games icon posted a message on his Facebook page on Monday announcing that he will step away from stock cars after this weekend’s Nationwide Series finale at Homestead.

“This past season of NASCAR has been an awesome experience,” he wrote. “I have made a lot of great friends, had a lot of fun and gained a new appreciation for all aspects of this sport.

“Jack Roush and everyone at Roush Fenway Racing have gone above and beyond to try and help me succeed and I am truly grateful for their support. I would like to thank them and all of the other people who stuck behind me during the last two years as I tried to learn how to make a successful career in NASCAR.

“It’s tough to step back now and prove the critics were right, but unfortunately my results were not good enough to get the sponsors I needed to appropriately fund next season.”

Pastrana made his NASCAR debut with a sprinkling of appearances in the lower-level K&N Series in 2011. Plans to make his Nationwide debut that same year were derailed by injuries sustained in an X Games crash that ruled him out for several months. He made his first Nationwide starts in 2012, achieving a best result of 13th, and moved to Roush to race full time this year. Pastrana goes into Homestead having achieved just four top-10 finishes, and admitted that he struggled to adapt to the requirements of the car.

“I hate to quit and I hate to fail, but sometimes things work out as they should,” Pastrana said. “I’ve never been able to figure out the finesse required in pavement racing and that is disappointing.”

Pastrana said that he plans to support his wife Lyn-Z’s professional skateboarding career and spend more time with his newborn daughter, but that he intends to continue to compete in rallycross and off-road.

Kyle Busch crushes the competition in dominating NNS win at Phoenix

All Kyle Busch at Phoenix on Saturday. (LAT photo)

Don’t bet against Kyle Busch when he races at Phoenix. Don’t bet against him when he wins the pole for a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Kyle Busch did both on Saturday, and blew away the opposition to win his sixth race at the one-mile flat track in the Sonoran desert.

The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finished the ServiceMaster 200 more than four seconds ahead of race runner-up Justin Allgaier, who passed series leader Austin Dillon for the second position on the final lap. Dillon held third, followed by Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr., whose deficit to Dillon in the championship battle grew from six to eight points.

Busch led 169 laps en route to his 12th NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in 25 starts this season. Busch extended his series record for wins in the series to 63. The pole was Busch’s 10th of the season — on nine occasions this season, he has converted the top starting spot into a victory.

“It was certainly a great day for us,” Busch said. “It’s a testament to (crew chief) Adam Stevens and the group of guys that he’s got around us that do such a great job for us and work real hard and give us some great equipment.”

With a bold move from the outside lane, Brad Keselowski powered past Busch into the lead after a restart on lap112, but the tenure of the No. 22 Ford at the front of the field was short-lived.

Busch, who slipped to third on the restart lap, regained the second spot on lap117, overtaking Harvick for the position. Three laps later, Busch and Keselowski were side-by-side at the start/finish line, with Busch nosing ahead as the cars crossed the stripe.

Busch began to inch away over the next 10 laps before Brad Sweet’s spin in Turn 3 brought out the third caution of the race on lap130. Diverging strategies scrambled the running order as five drivers — Bayne, Hornish, Allgaier, Smith and Scott — opted not to pit under the yellow, leaving Busch to take the green from the sixth spot on fresh right-side tires.

Four more cautions followed in short order — in a race that had run under green for 100 laps between the first two yellows — and allowed Busch to pick off the cars running on old tires. Shortly after a restart on lap154, he passed Allgaier for the lead.

“When we got back in traffic there, the restarts just worked out perfectly for me,” Busch said. “We went green, I picked off a spot, we went yellow. We went green, I picked off one or two more spots, we went yellow.

“So every time I just kept picking off a car, and the caution would come out, so it would just re-bunch the field and give me another opportunity, instead of having it spread and take more to get back to the front. So it worked out real well for us in that situation.”

Twelve laps before Busch made the winning pass, a tap from Scott’s Chevrolet had knocked Keselowski’s Ford into the Turn 3 wall in an accident that had serious implications for the owners’ championship. Entering the race, the No. 22 led the No. 54 Toyota driven by Busch by 26 points, but Keselowski’s wreck, coupled with Busch’s win, trimmed the margin to four points with one race left.

Late pass gives Kyle Busch Nationwide Series victory at Charlotte

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Kenseth wins as Busch and Keselowski war at Kansas

Keselowski tells Busch’s crew they’re No. 1…or something. (LAT photo)

Matt Kenseth may have won Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, but Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski provided the most explosive fireworks in a wild race that featured 11 cautions in 200 laps. 

Kenseth pulled away after a restart with five laps left and won going away, as Paul Menard edged Regan Smith for second on the final lap. Busch finished fourth after causing the final caution by sending Keselowski into the fence on lap 188.

Justin Allgaier was fifth, followed by Austin Dillon, who took the series lead from Sam Hornish Jr., who came home 17th. Dillon leads Hornish by eight points with four races left in the season.

The victory was Kenseth’s second of the season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, his first at the 1.5-mile speedway and the 28th of his career.

Keselowski surged into the lead after a restart on lap 151 but surrendered the top spot to Kenseth on lap 166. Busch caught Keselowski a few laps later, and as the cars that were 1-2 in the owners’ championship standings battled for the second position, Kenseth’s lead expanded from 1.4 seconds to more than 2.5.

With Kenseth streaking away, Busch closed up on Keselowski’s rear bumper. Contact from Busch’s No. 54 Camry sent Keselowski’s No. 22 Ford spinning toward the infield grass and then back up the track rear-end-first into the outside wall.

“Really?!” Keselowski said incredulously on his radio as his car began to spin.

Keselowski climbed from his car, which was unable to restart, ran toward Busch’s pit and saluted his rivals’ crew, then headed full-speed toward the infield care center, as Busch and Kenseth rolled toward a five-lap shootout for the win.

But Kenseth pulled away after the restart as Busch was shuffled back to fifth, leaving Menard and Smith to settle second place between them on the final lap.

Joey Logano dominates for fourth straight Nationwide win at Dover

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• Castroneves/Dixon interview

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