Skip to content

A winless champion could be trouble for NASCAR Nationwide Series

Nov 14, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

History 300 Getty Images

The good news: a NASCAR Nationwide Series regular will win the 2013 series championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The bad news: the potential exists that champion could finish the 2013 season winless.

So long as Austin Dillon finishes ahead of Sam Hornish Jr. – the Richard Childress Racing prodigy leads Penske Racing’s Hornish by eight points entering Saturday’s Ford Ecoboost 300 – and doesn’t win, he’ll be the champion. To Dillon’s credit, that would give him titles in both Nationwide and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2011).

NASCAR can spin it all it wants, as in “Dillon’s incredible consistency carried him to the title” or some such. But a winless champion would be the first all-time in any of NASCAR’s three top tiers, and a potential nightmare scenario from a marketing or PR standpoint.

After all, the Chase for the Sprint Cup was introduced a year after Matt Kenseth won a solitary race in 2003, building his lone title triumph on consistency rather than race wins and dominance.

Nationwide has, for better or worse, traditionally allowed the influx of Sprint Cup regulars to compete in its races. And while Cup drivers can’t register driver points, they can play major dividends in both the driver and owner championships.

The dominant teams entering this weekend are the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota teams; Penske lead JGR by 4 owner points, 1256-1252. Both teams have 12 wins; Busch has all 12 for the 54 while four different drivers (Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Blaney) have won in the 22. That’s a full 24 of 32 races thus far won by just these two cars (75 percent), and in total, 27 of 32 won by Cup regulars. Dillon’s and Hornish’s teams rank only third and fourth in the owner points, by contrast.

That’s a majority of the races where the 54 and the 22 have received the most ink, the most press, and the most coverage, instead of the series’ actual full-timers.

Knowing and learning how to win races should be part of a training ground, and so long as the Cup regulars continue to dominate the scoreboard, it’s always going to be difficult for Nationwide drivers to gain that skill before moving up.

Perhaps a “maximum race cap” gets introduced for Cup regulars, or the schedule itself designates only a certain number of races where Cup regulars will be eligible. That’s a topic for another day, though.

Still, it’s no coincidence that some of the most intriguing Nationwide races this year – Iowa and the road courses at Road America and Mid-Ohio, for instance – have featured less than a full handful of Cup regulars in the field. And all three were won by drivers not competing in Cup full-time.

You could properly see how well Dillon and Hornish fared against their Nationwide peers in those races compared to the majority, populated by Cup regulars, where all they really needed to do was finish “best in class” to keep building the points.

Hornish has finished second five times this year, and third four times. Of those nine races, the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford driven by Keselowski, Logano or Allmendinger has won five of them (Hornish finished second to the No. 22 three times, third twice). He finished best in class, but you could argue he left points on the table in ending behind the team car. Indeed, it’s more than 20 points that have gone begging as a result, and right now, those points would be pretty valuable heading into Homestead.

Sponsorship is the main reason Hornish doesn’t have a 2014 contract in place, although he plans to remain in NASCAR. But those missed winning opportunities have to loom large to potential suitors.

Perhaps Hornish overcomes the deficit this Saturday, and a win with Dillon outside the top five would do just that. For his and the series’ sake, it would be welcomed, to give him his second win of 2013. Or, Dillon could reduce the potential angst of a winless champ with a win of his own.

Either way, game on this Saturday.

Latest Posts
  1. Scott Dixon captures Sonoma race win and 2015 IndyCar championship (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Dixon wins race, title in Sonoma in dramatic fashion.

  2. Sebastian Saavedra leads at halfway in IndyCar season finale (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Will Power and Juan Montoya must fight from the back of the field following an accident.

  3. Robin Miller pays tribute to Justin Wilson (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Robin Miller remembers Justin Wilson in this touching tribute.

  4. Webber elated with “awesome” first WEC victory

    Aug 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    © FIA WEC © FIA WEC

    Webber and the no. 17 Porsche crew claimed their first win at the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on Sunday.

  5. INDYCAR confirms Chevrolet wins fourth straight Manufacturer’s Championship

    Aug 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    ChevySTPdomination AP

    Chevrolet wins its fourth straight INDYCAR Manufacturer’s Championship.

  6. WATCH LIVE: IndyCar’s championship decided in Sonoma at 1 p.m. PT, 4 ET on NBCSN

    Aug 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    SonomaTitle AP

    With heavy hearts, IndyCar moves ahead and will crown its champion this afternoon in Sonoma.

  7. WATCH: Red Bull Global Rallycross midseason review at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

    Aug 30, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    GRCDaytona Getty Images

    Catch up on the Red Bull Global Rallycross season at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

  8. Maldonado: Good feeling heading into Italian GP weekend

    Aug 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 21, 2015 in Spa, Belgium. Getty Images

    Maldonado keen to make up for his DNF in the Belgian Grand Prix at Monza.

  9. What to watch for: IndyCar at Sonoma (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Live Extra)

    Aug 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    SonomaW2W4 AP

    What to watch for ahead of the 16th and final round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway.

  10. Will Power fastest in final IndyCar practice at Sonoma

    Aug 30, 2015, 1:42 PM EDT

    PowerWarmup AP

    Pole-sitter Will Power claimed the fastest time in the 30-minute session.

  11. Porsche’s no. 17 car surges to maiden WEC victory in 6 Hours of Nürburgring

    Aug 30, 2015, 1:01 PM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 10:  The Porsche Team 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley drives during practice for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone at Silverstone Circuit on April 10, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard claim their first WEC victory since joining forces at the beginning of the 2014 season.

  12. Grosjean: Lotus E23 Hybrid better suited to Monza than Spa

    Aug 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 23:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus celebrates on the podium after finishing third in the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 23, 2015 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Grosjean sets his sights on repeating his third-place finish in Belgium last weekend.

  13. Audi boss Ullrich laughs off continual F1 rumors

    Aug 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 11:  Wolfgang Ullrich of Austria, Head of Audi Motorsport looks on during practice on June 11, 2014 in Le Mans, France.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images) Getty Images

    “If somebody wants to go into Formula 1 and they think that they can do it from one to the next year, I think he shouldn’t try to do it.”

  14. Trefethen Family Vineyards combines Napa tradition, PWC racing at Sonoma

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    Lorenzo Trefethen. All Photos: Tony DiZinno Lorenzo Trefethen. All Photos: Tony DiZinno

    While there’s no shortage of wineries in Napa Valley, few have racing tie-ins, and fewer still get a racing tie-in at Sonoma Raceway – here’s the story of the Trefethen Family Vineyards.

  15. MotoGP: Rossi wins British GP as Marquez crashes out

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Italy’s Valentino Rossi of Movistar Yamaha on his way to finish in fourth position during Moto GP qualifying at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, England, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira) AP

    Rossi wins a wet-weather thriller to regain the lead of the MotoGP world championship.

  16. MotorSportsTalk’s IndyCar championship pre-Sunday post round-up

    Aug 30, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    GoldenGatePosts AP

    In case you missed it, a look back at the week’s worth of coverage in the lead-up to Sonoma.

  17. Webber: WEC something for Button to consider for 2016

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:00 AM EDT

    during warm-up for the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 13, 2015 in Le Mans, France. Getty Images

    Webber jumped from F1 to WEC at the end of 2013 with Porsche, but could Button do the same?

  18. WATCH LIVE: Sonoma qualifying at 3:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 ET, on NBCSN

    Aug 29, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    QualsWatchLive AP

    Power is only active driver in the field with a pole since 2008 at Sonoma.