Nov 14, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
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.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — One day after announcing he would not be returning to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2015, Marcos Ambrose made it official that he’s going home to his native Australia to and race in the V8 Supercars series for Roger Penske.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT
For the second time in the last three races, the National Hot Rod Association has been forced to start a race in one location and finish it in another.
Sep 14, 2014, 7:48 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – Oh, how we’d love to be a bug on the wall when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. get home after Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jeff Gordon makes strong ‘Drive For Five’ start, also has high praise for Kyle Larson in Chase opener
Sep 14, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – In the first race of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Jeff Gordon took the first step in his “Drive For Five” – and put his best foot forward.
Sep 14, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – Sunday’s opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup was good for 12 of the 16 contestants, as they dominated the top-15 finishers in the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. But four others struggled and find themselves in a hole heading into the second race of the Chase.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — While Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick were jousting for the lead, Keselowski slipped up in-between them and then sailed right through with 15 laps left to win Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400, the opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – With 134 of the scheduled 267 laps complete, Brad Keselowski leads the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — Kevin Harvick made a celebrated trade of pit crews with Tony Stewart for Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 due to numerous mistakes and errors committed by his pit crew during the first 26 races of the regular season. Unfortunately, Harvick’s pit road jinx continued with the new crew.
Sep 14, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — If Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 plays out the way folks in the garage were talking Sunday morning, there’s going to be at least a few surprises both in the course of the race and potentially in the outcome in the opening event of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Sep 13, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – A ticked-off Kyle Busch is the most dangerous kind of Kyle Busch. Dejected after coming up short in the Nationwide Series race earlier in the afternoon, the younger Busch brother rallied back to win Saturday night’s Lucas Oil 225 Camping World Truck Series race.
Sep 13, 2014, 8:09 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — Joey Logano is ready to go from wanna-be champion to doing the real thing in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
DeJoria (FC), Enders-Stevens (PS), Todd (TF) and Krawiec (PSM) are the ones to beat in NHRA race in Charlotte
Sep 13, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), J.R. Todd (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will enter Sunday’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals as the No. 1 qualifiers at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.
Sep 13, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – What looked like yet another almost certain Kyle Busch win on Saturday literally went up in smoke, as Kevin Harvick rallied to earn his third career Nationwide Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sep 13, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. – Kyle Busch believes he can win his ‘second’ Sprint Cup championship in 2014. Wait a minute, when did he win his first? Did we miss something somewhere?
Sep 13, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — Carl Edwards was fastest in Saturday’s Sprint Cup happy hour practice, but Brad Keselowski was the bigger story, finding the speed he’s been lacking up to now. Also, Danica Patrick was fifth-fastest.
Sep 13, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — Marcos Ambrose cited being homesick for his native Australia as well as family concerns as the main reasons he’s leaving Richard Petty Motorsports and NASCAR at the end of this season.
Sep 13, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — Shortly after Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard posted the fastest speed in Saturday morning’s Sprint Cup practice, teammate Brian Scott went out and earned the pole for Saturday afternoon’s Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sep 13, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Frenchman is confident that Lotus will be in better shape than it was at Monza.
Sep 13, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT
JOLIET, Ill. — Paul Menard shot to the top of the speed charts during the first of two practice sessions for the Sprint Cup drivers Saturday morning at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sep 13, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Spaniard dominates at the Hungaroring, strengthening his case for an F1 seat with Caterham.
Video from NASCAR America
- Jeff Gordon makes strong ‘Drive For Five’ start, also has high praise for Kyle Larson in Chase opener 0
- Keselowski surges between Harvick, Larson to win Chase opener at Chicagoland 0
- For 16 Sprint Cup drivers, the time is here: ready, set, Chase 0
- Kyle Busch starts Truck race ticked-off, only to end up in victory lane at Chicagoland 1
- Joey Logano: ‘We’re ready’ to win Sprint Cup championship 1
- Kyle Busch ready to claim his ‘second’ Sprint Cup championship 2
- Marcos Ambrose decision to leave RPM, NASCAR due to family, desire to return to Australia 4