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. Danica Patrick finishes career-best 6th after G-W-C craziness in Atlanta

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:25 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    The result beats her previous high water mark of seventh this past May at Kansas.

  2. Kevin Harvick far from being happy after Paul Menard wrecks him, costing a chance for win

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:10 AM EDT

    (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — It was a rough night for a number of drivers in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, including Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

  3. Kenseth clinches Chase berth; Bowyer falls out of Grid with one race to go

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:43 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth enters the post-season with a second place result, while Clint Bowyer finds himself outside the Chase Grid going into next Saturday’s regular season finale.

  4. Kasey Kahne rallies in last 2 laps to win at Atlanta, makes Chase

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT

    Kahne wins at Atl 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne’s 17th career Sprint Cup win couldn’t have been any larger.

  5. Tony Stewart’s comeback hopes end with rough 41st-place finish at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    stewart atlanta 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the comeback that Tony Stewart had hoped for.

  6. NASCAR Atlanta Update: Stewart falls back after contact with Kyle Busch; Kenseth leads

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Tony Stewart’s return to competition tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway has encountered some trouble after a restart run-in with “Rowdy.”

  7. Schumacher (TF), Hagan (FC), Line (PS), Krawiec (PSM) ones to beat in Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals finals

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals LOGO

    Following Sunday’s final round of qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their respective classes as No. 1 qualifiers for Monday’s final eliminations of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

  8. Tony Stewart the obvious fan favorite during pre-race introductions at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    ATL fans pre-race 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — There was no question which driver received the most applause and cheers during driver introductions prior to the start of Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  9. Another major sponsor reaffirms backing of Tony Stewart

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts - Practice Getty Images

    Rush Truck Centers’ CEO: “We stand with Tony.”

  10. How many Chase spots will still be in play after Atlanta?

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Pure Michigan 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth can clinch a spot in the post-season with a finish of seventh or better in tonight’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  11. Atlanta Motor Speedway honors longtime motorsports reporter ‘Capt. Herb’ Emory

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    herb emory AMS media center

    HAMPTON, Ga. — Atlanta Motor Speedway will honor longtime Atlanta-area broadcaster and motorsports reporter “Capt. Herb” Emory, who passed away in April at the age of 61, prior to Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

  12. Ryan Blaney takes last-lap duel, wins NASCAR Trucks at CTMP (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    14th Annual Michigan National Guard 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Ryan Blaney uses a cross-over move on German Quiroga in the final corner and then beats him to the stripe, winning the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

  13. NHRA: Tony Schumacher claims $100K Top Fuel bonus at U.S. Nationals

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    NHRA Auto Racing AP

    The 9-time U.S. Nationals champion dispatches Richie Crampton in the final of the Traxxas Shootout with a track-record speed of 328.54 mph.

  14. Former Caterham staff begin legal action against team

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Practice Getty Images

    The legal wranglings following the sale of the team look set to continue.

  15. Mosley: Mercedes shouldn’t publicly chastise Rosberg

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BRITAIN-MEDIA-POLITICS-LEVESON Getty Images

    Former FIA president believes Mercedes made a mistake hanging its dirty laundry out for all to see.

  16. VIDEO: Max Verstappen crashes during Rotterdam show run

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Previews Getty Images

    Not the best start to life with Red Bull for the young Dutchman.

  17. Moto GP: Marquez a winner again, beating Lorenzo at Silverstone

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    MotoGp Of Great Britain - Qualifying Getty Images

    Marquez claims win number 11 of his remarkable sophomore year in Moto GP.

  18. COTA and V8 Supercars mutually terminate contract

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    V8 Supercars - Austin 400: Qualifying And Race Getty Images

    Australian touring car series will not be returning to Austin in 2015 as originally planned.

  19. Will Power’s brother Damien live tweets Will’s IndyCar title run; hilarity ensues

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:00 AM EDT

    WillChamp2 Getty Images

    Will Power’s brother Damien provides raucous, hilarious commentary as Will drove towards the Verizon IndyCar Series title.

Video from NASCAR America

Inside Tony Stewart's return to racing
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (2088)
  2. K. Harvick (1934)
  3. T. Stewart (1521)
  4. K. Busch (1322)
  5. J. Logano (1322)