Nov 14, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
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.
Nov 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EST
Electrical failure in FP2 robs the Spaniard of some much-needed track time after sunset in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 1:15 PM EST
Hamilton and Rosberg leaving nothing in reserve as they fight for the F1 drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Nov 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
The six-time champ says a title victory for Ryan Newman last weekend at Homestead “would have been tough to swallow for the sport.”
Nov 21, 2014, 12:45 PM EST
Emerson Fittipaldi to a race a Ferrari F458 Italia in Brazil next week, plus two PWC notes.
Nov 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
McLaren junior driver becomes the first in GP2 history to score four poles in a row.
Nov 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Part two of the championship profiles sees us take a look at Nico Rosberg’s rise through Formula 1 and to within reach of the world championship. Can he follow in his father’s footsteps and win the title?
Nov 21, 2014, 11:30 AM EST
Red Bull junior driver picks up the championship in Abu Dhabi, and is now targeting a move up to F1 in 2015.
Nov 21, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
In the first half of our articles profiling the championship contenders, we take a look at the leader, Lewis Hamilton, ahead of Sunday’s showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Stewards in Abu Dhabi penalize the Frenchman after changes are made to his engine on Friday.
Nov 21, 2014, 9:45 AM EST
A great read from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Jimmy Fennig as he prepares for semi-retirement.
Nov 21, 2014, 9:32 AM EST
After topping FP1 earlier today, Hamilton doubles up in second practice as the sun sets in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 8:45 AM EST
With the addition of Caterham to the grid for this race, five cars will drop out in Q1 and Q2 in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 7:45 AM EST
Lewis Hamilton looks to double up and pile the pressure on Nico Rosberg as the sun goes down in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 7:20 AM EST
Cheese puns aside, FETA looks to give the ten teams racing in Formula E a voice in the new series.
Nov 21, 2014, 6:45 AM EST
Despite having a Sauber contract, Sutil will not be racing for the Swiss team in 2015.
Nov 21, 2014, 6:00 AM EST
“Kimi is probably the least complicated driver on the grid so in terms of performance on the track, when we talk about the skills Kimi has, I don’t think there is a single person in the paddock who doubts his skills, including myself.”
Nov 21, 2014, 5:32 AM EST
The world championship leader edges out teammate Nico Rosberg in the final FP1 session of the year.
Nov 21, 2014, 3:45 AM EST
First practice from Abu Dhabi is live on Live Extra from 4a ET today.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:29 PM EST
Joey Logano on a turnaround and breakout season.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:37 PM EST
After a month of voting and more than 350 ballots cast by their peers on all Sprint Cup teams, the top pit crew members and overall pit crews of 2014 were announced Thursday.
Video from NASCAR America
- Jimmie Johnson: Kevin Harvick winning Sprint Cup title was “the right thing” 2
- 2014 F1 championship showdown preview: Nico Rosberg 0
- 2014 F1 championship showdown preview: Lewis Hamilton 0
- Hamilton quickest in second practice for Abu Dhabi GP 0
- First blood to Hamilton in Abu Dhabi as he tops FP1 0
- F1 Paddock Pass: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (VIDEO) 0
- The F1 champ is crowned on NBCSN from Abu Dhabi this weekend 0