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. Grosjean reveals Lotus escape clause

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    GrosjeanAUS AP

    Romain Grosjean can opt out of Lotus at year’s end if he so desires.

  2. Button hit with five-place grid penalty for Austin

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    British driver forced to change his gearbox for this weekend’s race at COTA.

  3. Johnny Sauter is fastest in both Truck practices at Texas

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT

    (Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway) Getty Images

    Johnny Sauter was fastest in both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices Thursday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.

  4. NASCAR America video: Top five drivers to watch in Texas

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    On Thursday’s NASCAR America, Rusty Wallace gave his top five drivers to watch in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas. Rusty’s pick for the winner? Jeff Gordon.

  5. Alonso speaks of “ambitious plan” for his racing future

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Qualifying Getty Images

    Spaniard says that his future is not his first priority, and that all of the events of the past few months have gone as planned.

  6. NASCAR America video: Who has the best chance in Texas?

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Rick Allen and Rusty Wallace discussed what are Carl Edwards’ and Jeff Gordon’s chances Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

  7. Kaltenborn “beyond the stage of frustration” over F1’s cost crisis

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-SIN-F1 Getty Images

    Sauber team boss has long warned about the problems blighting Formula 1.

  8. Hamilton excited by F1’s profile and growth in the USA

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton AP

    British driver speaks about his appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show and his trip to New York City.

  9. Hamilton questions fairness of double points

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel AP

    Lewis Hamilton politely questions double points.

  10. 2014 United States Grand Prix Preview

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton AP

    As the end of the 2014 Formula 1 season draws near, the sport ventures to the United States for one of the most popular races of the year in Austin, Texas.

  11. Watch NASCAR America LIVE at 5 pm ET: Texas 3-step, Harvick’s 500th, up-and-coming Quiroga, lots more

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    Things are always bigger and better in Texas, and we live up to that with the big show we have planned for Thursday’s NASCAR America.

  12. Miles explains IndyCar’s 2015 schedule changes, clashes

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    TorontoLeadPts Getty Images

    Date changes, date equity, and broadcast windows play key role in shaping 2015 IndyCar schedule.

  13. What does the future hold for F1 in the United States?

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    F1 United State Grand Prix Auto Racing AP

    F1 is booming in the United States, but could the arrival of an American team and an American driver send its popularity off the charts?

  14. Road To: Mercedes teaser – The very first Mercedes-Benz car (VIDEO)

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    RTM Logo 101714

    Ahead of the premiere of Road to Mercedes on NBCSN at 10p ET, here is one final teaser for the show that will see NBCSN’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales travel to Germany to visit the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.

  15. Vergne: Being kept by Toro Rosso win-win for everybody

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia Getty Images

    Frenchman thinks he would be the best choice for Toro Rosso in 2015 alongside Max Verstappen.

  16. Perez close to new deal with Force India

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain Getty Images

    Sergio Perez closing on in contract extension with Force India.

  17. In just three years, why have Austin and COTA become favorites for F1?

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    F1-US Grand Prix AP

    The F1 community loves coming to Austin and COTA, but why?

  18. Crew chief trade for Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch begins this weekend

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    (Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images) (Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

    This weekend’s race at Texas will mark the official debut of Tony Gibson and Daniel Knost as crew chiefs for Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick, respectively. How will they and their drivers fare together?

  19. Successful COTA Forum in Austin proves the importance of fan engagement in F1

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Fan Forum - Austin, TX Getty Images

    Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez appear at the event in Austin ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

  20. Get your calendars ready for conflicts: Here’s the IndyCar/sports car ones in 2015

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Long-Beach-Lead Getty Images

    Get your calendars out and start marking up which series run where, when.

Video from NASCAR America

Who has the best chance in Texas?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. McMurray (1101)
  2. K. Harvick (1059)
  3. J. Logano (1052)
  4. T. Stewart (1039)
  5. D. Hamlin (876)