Time To Let Nationwide Series Shine On Its Own

The postponed DuPont Pioneer 250 Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway may have started late, but it had plenty of action. Trevor Boys emerged as the winner in an exciting finish.

On a day in which Jimmie Johnson started on pole and dominated at Pocono, it was the young guns of the NASCAR Nationwide Series that stole the show in Iowa on a rare Sunday morning race.

After weather postponed the Nationwide event at Iowa Speedway, NASCAR made the call to run the race at 11 ET on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, rain fell again, delaying the race once more and pushing the conclusion well into the Sprint Cup Series’ time slot. The 250-lap event saw hard short-track racing with an old-fashioned side-by-side battle for the win in the closing laps. Two of the sport’s future stars – Trevor Bayne and Austin Dillon – raced hard, bent sheet metal, and put on quite the show in pursuit of the checkered flag.

However, with so many eyes glued to the Sprint Cup Series broadcast, one has to wonder just how many fans saw what ended up being the best NASCAR race of the day.

While the Nationwide race may have had the better action of the weekend, it is important to take a look at the reason behind the success.

With the series performing as a stand-alone event, only one Sprint Cup Series driver – Joey Logano – was slated to run the race. When weather forced the Penske Racing driver back to Pocono, the field was set with only Nationwide Series drivers for the first time all season.

Austin Dillon leads the field to the green flag at the start of the Nationwide Series race in Iowa. Dillon was a victory contender and raced hard against Boys for the win.

Knowing it was their time to shine, they took to the short track in Iowa for their chance to finally reach victory lane – something that has rarely happened in 2013.

Since the season-opening race at Daytona, Sprint Cup Series regulars have won nine of the first 12 events – Kyle Busch leads the series with six victories. In fact, each of the 12 races this season has been won by a driver with some Sprint Cup experience.

A double dipping driver is certainly not a recent trend in NASCAR. Drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin and Harry Gant often pulled double-duty with great success in the Nationwide Series.

In recent years, NASCAR eliminated the opportunity for Sprint Cup Series drivers to win the Nationwide Series championship by making them ineligible for points, but the time has come to do more.

Sunday’s Nationwide-only field put on one of the best races of the season, as well as up-staged the Sprint Cup event nearly 1,000 miles away.

While racing against the likes of Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and others may help younger drivers learn from the best, allowing them to race on their own and contend for wins will further develop their fan base and experience within NASCAR – as well as rejuvenate a series in dire need of a boost.




Victory In Exciting Daytona Nationwide Race Is Redemption For Kurt Busch

The Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway was exciting and had its share of wrecks due to pack racing. Kurt Bush (No. 1) escaped this one and others to win the race.

(Editor’s Note: Mark DeCotis is a veteran journalist who spent 37 years in the newspaper business before beginning a second career combining leisure and earning a living.

He covered 26 Daytona 500s, numerous Pepsi/Coke Zero 400s, Busch/Nationwide, Trucks, more than a few Rolex 24s at Daytona, season finales at Homestead, Kevin Harvick’s emotional first win at Atlanta, IndyCar, sports car, NHRA, motorcycle, ATV and power boat racing.

His favorite race car driver interviews of all time were with 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force).


DAYTONA BEACH. Fla. – After more than half the field wrecked in six separate incidents in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, Kurt Busch played the role of survivor and won the Subway Jalapeno 250 in overtime.

He managed to get through two big wrecks including the startling one in which pre-race favorite Danica Patrick walloped the inside retaining wall off Turn 2 with such ferocity that it drove the steering column in her JR Motorsports Chevy nearly to the roof.

The lap 83 wreck was unnervingly similar to the one Patrick was involved in coming off Turn 2 during practice for February’s Daytona 500. Fortunately for her, her team and the sport she walked away.

When the smoke and sparks finally dissipated Busch found himself in victory lane in a car damaged in one of the earlier wrecks. His smoky burnout capped a wild and entertaining evening which at times saw the field running four-wide on Daytona’s narrow racing surface and, not surprisingly, ended in a wreck involving Austin Dillon and others as the field came to the checkered flag.

At least 25 of the 43 cars were damaged in wrecks and24 of the 101 laps were run under caution. But the race did set a track record for lead changes with 42 involving 16 drivers.

Danica Patrick qualified and ran well in the race and might have had an excellent shot at victory had not she been involved in one of the race's multi-car crashes.

Unfortunately the attendance was sparse by Daytona standards. And those who stayed home missed a show that left Kurt Busch emotionally spent in victory lane – and his brother Kyle steaming in his wrecked car that he skidded to a stop just yards away while heading the wrong way on pit road following the finish.

If NASCAR was planning to penalize the sport’s premier pouter for the bonehead move was not immediately determined.

All that didn’t faze Kurt Busch.

“We just won at Daytona,” he exulted. “I’m hoarse because I’ve been screaming so loud. This is awesome.”

The victory marks a step toward redemption for the volatile Busch. He was suspended from his James Finch-owned ride in the Sprint Cup Series in June after a run-in with a reporter that followed his being put on probation after a run in with driver Ryan Newman and Newman’s team at Darlington.

He was retained after the Finch team voted to keep him in the driver’s seat and hopefully the victory was his first payment on the debt he owes.

“I’ve got only a couple of things to give and that’s heart and that’s passion,” Busch said.

Surely Finch will accept his driver’s effort and the first-place check that can only help his underfunded and understaffed operation.

While the riveting action up front kept the crowd on its feet, Dillon came from the back after his Richard Childress Racing Chevy failed post-qualifying inspection that negated his pole-winning run.

He eventually led and finished fourth sliding sideways across the finish line. It continued a wild two weeks that saw he and his team penalized for a failing post-race inspection following his first career victory at Kentucky.

“I never got really worried about getting to the front, I thought we had a car capable of getting there,” Dillon said.

As for the penalties: “We made another mistake that’s two in a row,” Dillon said. “My grandfather (Childress) is upset with the guys. It’s like ‘Man, we’ve got to stop doing that. We’ve got to be on our game.’ ”

Kurt Busch was surely on his game in winning for the fifth time in 23 career Nationwide starts and for the second time this season, the first for Finch. He won at Richmond in a Kyle Busch Motorsports car.

“It means more to me but it means more to these guys,” Busch said of his team. “I’m happy we were able to deliver. I couldn’t be more proud of this team effort tonight.

“We didn’t give up. It’s not vindication. You want to win for James Finch.”

As for his up and down career that has seen him lose Cup rides at Roush Racing and Penske Racing due to his mercurial nature, and whether the victory could put him on the right path, Busch maintained Friday night was not about him.

“When you win for James Finch in just a few starts in the Nationwide Series for these guys that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I don’t care about me right now.”


It Could’ve Been Better For Kyle Busch But He Offers No Excuses Or Regrets


Kyle Busch is presented the Goodyear Gatorback Award for leading the most laps in each race more than any other driver in 2011. Unfortunately, Busch, ranked No. 12 in the final standings, won't be there when NASCAR honors champion Tony Stewart on Friday.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, will not be on the stage tonight when NASCAR stages its annual ceremony to honor 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

Only the drivers who finished among the top 10 in the final point standings will be on hand to receive recognition – and the monetary awards that come with it.

Kyle wound up 12th in points; his older brother 11th.

It seems a shame the two will not be at the festivities conducted at the Wynn Hotel on Vegas’ celebrated Strip. After all, the town called ‘Sin City’ is their home.

Now, it would come as no surprise if both of them decided to ignore the event, given they are intense competitors and seemingly wouldn’t care much to see glory heaped on others.

But as far as Kyle is concerned, that won’t be so.

“Yeah, I’m going to watch,” the younger Busch said. “To have Champions Week on home turf is nice.

It seems there’s a lot positive about it.

“Having it in Vegas, it seems there is a lot more areas for drivers to play, if you will, and spend some good times, whether they make money or lose money.

“We like it here, not just Kurt and I, but I think most of the guys think it’s a good place for it.”

It was widely anticipated that Kyle would indeed be a part of the celebration and, perhaps, even the driver honored as the 2011 champion.

He was No. 1 in the point standings when the 10-race Chase began after the 26th race of the year at Richmond. He had already won four races, strengthening his reputation as the driver whose ability to win on NASCAR’s top three national tours – which includes Nationwide and Camping World Trucks – is unparalleled.

But what has plagued him and his Joe Gibbs Racing team in the past reared its ugly head again. Busch’s performances in the last 10 races of the season were, by his standards, sub-par.

“All in all, there were certainly some highs and lows during the year,” Busch said. “And not having the right final 10 races hit us again.

“It seems like we just can’t figure out the Chase thing. But, it was what it was, and we’ll move on to 2012.”

“It was what it was” included an incident that effectively removed all hopes the younger Busch had of winning a title – and, for that matter, finishing among the top 10.

At Texas Motor Speedway, site of the eighth of 10 Chase races, Busch planned to run in three events – in truck, Nationwide and Cup.

In the truck race an angered Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday. The response from NASCAR was harsh.

He was not permitted to drive in either remaining event in Nationwide or Cup.

Naturally, his absence in the Cup event cost him an unrecoverable amount of valuable points and, obviously, removed him from championship contention. He fell to the rear of the point standings.

Busch did apologize for his actions at Texas. Beyond that, logic dictates that one of his regrets was they ultimately took him off the stage in Vegas when it could have been otherwise.

But when asked if he had a singular regret; any one thing he wish had happened or he had done differently, Busch was candid, direct and honest with his answer:

“Nope, nope, nope.”

Maybe he won’t be part of the ultimate celebration, but Busch got to enjoy time in Champions Week as one of the honorees at the annual National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award luncheon, which incorporates the presentation of all the season’s contingency awards, given to the drivers who have earned them.

One of the awards is the Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award, given to the driver who, over the season, most often established the fastest lap in each race.

The younger Busch was the winner and got his share of the more than $1 million in contingency loot.

“Yeah, the Goodyear Gatorback Award was pretty cool,” he said. “I didn’t know that we had won anything so I was kinda surprised when I had to go up there and accept it.

“I was trying to think of something to say. But in the end, to come out here and be a part of NASCAR’s Champions Week is fun. We’ve had a great time.”

Busch might have an even greater time when Champions Week rolls around at the end of the 2012 season.

There are more than a few who feel that it’s likely to happen if, somehow, he manages to keep his temper in check.

But what is certainly needed is for he and his team to keep the high level of performance they have clearly displayed over the first 26 races of each season intact over the final 10.

Busch apparently agreed when asked to grade his team for 2011.

“It’s hard to grade on your own,” he said, “because we always grade low because we feel, no matter how we did, that we did not meet our expectations

“But I’d say our No. 18 team, with all the accomplishments we’ve had this year, certainly through the first 26 races, we were an ‘A’ or an ‘A-plus.’

“Over the last 10 races, we were a ‘D.’

“You just have to keep working at it. You have to get better as a team and make the circumstances better.”

Danica Patrick to Announce NASCAR Move: Shocking

The worst kept secret in motorsports is about to leap out of the jack-in-the-box. Danica Patrick will move to NASCAR with Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s Nationwide team, JR Motorsports. She’s rumored to also run a few Sprint Cup races for Tony Stewart’s team.

Brickyard A Critical race: Nationwide A Mistake

No doubt that the Brickyard 400 is an important race this season. This race will weed out more contenders for a Chase berth. Nationwide at the Indy Speedway is not a good idea. 50,000 people in the stands looks like 5,000 at a track Indy’s size.

Kurt Busch: Road Course Ringer

In a weekend that had both NASCAR top series on road courses. Nationwide at Elkhart Lake was a wild race but the skills of the younger drivers shown through. Kurt Busch drove a flawless Cup race at Infineon to take his first road course win. http://www.motorsportsunplugged.com

Edwards, Stenhouse,Busch, Raikkonen: Good Weekend

Carl Edwards took the 1.2 million dollar prize in Saturday nights All-Star, Ricky Stenhouse gets his first win, Kyle Busch wins in Trucks and Raikkonen had so much fun he’s going to run the Nationwide race at Charlotte. Alex Tagliani take the Indy 500 pole. http://www.motorsportsunplugged.com

Ruling Could Return Nationwide Series To Its Old Self

Although it has neither confirmed nor denied it, NASCAR’s latest ruling, when announced, is not intended to bring something new; rather, it is to return to the old.

It is anticipated, and already reported by some competitors, that NASCAR will require before the season starts, drivers must claim the circuit – be it Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Trucks – for which they desire to run for a championship. This intended to achieve a few goals.

Among them is one that appears obvious. It is to end Cup driver dominance of the Nationwide Series, and in so doing, perhaps re-establish a true identity for that circuit.

If the legislation is enacted, it would seem Cup driver rule over the Nationwide Series is finished, at least when it comes to championships. And for many of the series’ fans, that’s a good thing. They have long complained about the omnipotence of the competitors once known as “Buschwhackers.”

Cup drivers can compete in as many Nationwide races as they wish – Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski plan to run the full schedule – they just can’t win a championship unless they choose to run for it. Do you really think any would do so?
That means the title will be won by a Nationwide regular.
But, given they can enter as many Nationwide races as they wish, Cup drivers may well garner the majority of victories. It’s
possible – but not likely – that the Nationwide champion could be winless in 2011. He may not even have the highest number of points.

That is not going to sit well with everyone. There will be controversy. Many have already expressed their doubts.
Nevertheless, the champ will be a driver on a team dedicated to the Nationwide Series. That’s how it used to be and that’s the way – the old way – NASCAR wants it.

The series has always been considered a “feeder” circuit, one that breeds future Cup drivers while standing on its own. It has most often been compared to Triple-A baseball.

It evolved from the Late Model Sportsman circuit, the precursor to the Busch Series and later the Nationwide Series.
In the past, for the most part, the circuit did exactly what it was supposed to do – it served as a training ground for future Cup stars, among them Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers, all champions by the way.

However, in the past there were several drivers who made their careers in today’s Nationwide Series and really never made any serious forays into Cup competition. Many of them simply were not interested for various reasons.

Drivers like Jack Ingram, Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Tommy Houston, Tommy Ellis, Chuck Bown, L.D. Ottinger and several others became stars, fan favorites and champions in their own right.

Sure, they raced against Cup drivers who made regular forays into their series. The intruders won a lot of races – Mark Martin holds the record with 48 – but they never fretted losing a championship to any of them.

That’s because Cup drivers never followed the full schedule and thus didn’t go after a title.
But, as you know, that has changed over the years.
I think some Cup teams – and drivers who formed their own Nationwide organizations – realized that there was money to be made. Also, a little more track time under racing conditions was appealing. And a championship would be an excellent return on a sponsor’s investment, not to mention a boost to a career and reputation.

Since a title is not possible now it might be more difficult to attract a sponsor.
It might be easier for Nationwide regulars to acquire financial backing as sponsors realize they are going to be the only championship contenders.

Although Cup drivers will still compete in Nationwide races the chances are good they won’t do so in as many as they once did. This may mean more young, aspiring drivers could get opportunities – Cup drivers aren’t hogging the seats.

Where the Cup teams once dominated the under funded Nationwide groups, now, perhaps, they may be forced to use a junior series regular – or another promising competitor – which also affords more opportunity.

A powerful Cup organization might well run a full Nationwide schedule with a developmental driver. It’s been done before and might be more prevalent this year. That’s good for the circuit.

All said, the Nationwide Series is supposed to be a feeder circuit that stands on its own and produces its own stars. In recent years it has gotten away from that.

But now that its champion will be one who is a regular, not an intruder – and the tour will have its own “pony” cars – it has a real chance to return to what it was. It can develop its own identity.

Given that, NASCAR has done something new to return to something old.
You know, it seems it’s done a lot of that recently.

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