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.
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.