Standalone events provide an abundance of opportunities for Nationwide Series drivers. Men such as David Gilliland, Trevor Bayne, Jason Keller, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and other Nationwide Series regulars in the past and present, have been able to lock up race wins during standalone events.
This weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will hit the 7/8-mile track in Newton, Iowa – the Iowa Speedway. Since holding its first Nationwide Series event in 2009, the Iowa Speedway has had five different winners in eight events. Stenhouse Jr. dominated the speedway in 2011 and 2012, winning three straight races. However, there are only two drivers who have won a Nationwide Series race at Iowa that are entered in this weekend’s spectacle. Ryan Blaney and James Buescher also have won Camping World Truck Series events at Iowa, and Chase Elliott scored a K&N Pro Series East victory once at Iowa.
Elliott Sadler, coming off of his first win with Joe Gibbs Racing after joining the organization in 2013, is looking to use his momentum to the No. 11 team’s advantage. Sadler scored a victory at Iowa in 2012, and has been a contender for the win in all six events he has run at the track. He was inside of the top-five in the first two practice sessions to begin the weekend, but was eighth in the third practice and 16th in Saturday’s final practice.
Chase Elliott currently leads the Nationwide Series points standings after nine events. Elliott, 18, participated in his high school graduation ceremony on Saturday morning, causing him to miss final practice. However, he ran a total of 144 laps in the first three practices, and paced two of those three sessions. Elliott’s time of 23.236 seconds during the third practice was the fastest lap recorded throughout the weekend, and might be poised to win his third event of the year.
Brian Scott is still looking for his first career win. With an opportunity weekend, Scott might be able to lock up the victory at Iowa. Scott was quickest in second practice, yet he has finished 6th or worse in seven Iowa starts without any laps led.
Dylan Kwasniewski swapped over to the No. 42 car for Turner Scott Motorsports as Kyle Larson is in Charlotte where he ran the Sprint Showdown on Friday evening. Kwasniewski will be in the car Larson usually pilots during each of the Nationwide Series standalone events. Moreover, Kwasniewski will be paired up with Larson’s crew chief, Scott Zipadelli, rather than his usual crew chief, Pat Tryson. The pair was able to pace final practice with a time of 23.320 seconds. Kwasniewski has just one top-10 finish to start his rookie year in NASCAR’s second-tier division, and a weekend without the Cup Series regulars could lead him to a solid finish.
Sam Hornish Jr. is looking to get his first win for JGR this weekend. Hornish made his debut for the No. 54 team at Talladega, scoring the pole award in his first Nationwide Series race since Homestead at the end of the 2013 season. Hornish has been consistently inside of the top-13 throughout the weekend, and had the fastest 10 consecutive laps average in final practice at 130.371 mph.
Here are some notables for the Get to Know Newton 250 at Iowa:
- Chad Boat returns in his family-owned No. 84 car. Boat was outside of the top-15 in each of the first three practices, but was fifth in final practice.
- AustinTheriault is making his Nationwide Series debut this weekend driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. He was 18th or worse in each of the first three practices, but ended the final session in the third position.
- Ryan Ellis is driving the No. 46 car for The Motorsports Group after running the Camping World Truck Series event for FDNY Racing on Friday evening.
- Matt DiBenedetto, who usually drives the No. 46 car, has moved over to the No. 40 Chevrolet since Josh Wise is in Charlotte after making the Sprint All-Star Race due to winning the fan vote.
- Hal Martin is making his season debut for TriStar Motorsports in the No. 44 car. Martin ran the first 10 races for the team last year, but sat out all but two races after that.
- Caleb Roark is making his Nationwide Series debut for SS Green Light Racing in the No. 55 Chevrolet in conjunction with Viva Motorsports. Roark has five previous starts in the Camping World Truck Series with a best finish of 19th at Martinsville in 2011.
- Ryan Gifford is making his first of two scheduled starts for Biagi-DenBeste Racing. He has been inside of the top-20 in each of the four practice sessions as he prepares to start his second Nationwide Series event.
- Cale Conley returns to the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet for his fourth start of the season. Conley has two top-15 finishes this year, and has had a respectable weekend – running inside of the top-20 in each practice session.
The Get to Know Newton 250 can be seen on ESPN on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET.
One million dollars is on the line Saturday evening. No, it is not your ordinary NASCAR race. This is not just a preparation for NASCAR’s longest spectacle. This is the Sprint All-Star Race.
Jimmie Johnson has won back-to-back All-Star events, and is going for his third straight win. However, Johnson will have to beat Brad Keselowski who is driving the “best car he has ever driven” for the All-Star Race. Johnson had the second fastest 10 lap average in the lone practice session on Friday afternoon, but Keselowski was more than 1.2 mph faster than Johnson.
This edition of NASCAR’s All-Star event is setting up to be different from each of the previous races. After holding the Sprint Showdown on Friday evening, the three drivers which were able to lock themselves into the All-Star Race, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Josh Wise, will be enabled to qualify with the drivers already locked into the one-of-a-kind event. Bowyer and Allmendinger were the class of the 23-car field. Wise pulled off the fan vote upset thanks to the Reddit.Com community, stunning the NASCAR world by beating Danica Patrick in the popularity contest. This will be Wise’s first career All-Star Race start after finishing 18th in the Sprint Showdown.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. paced the practice session on Friday afternoon, but was several miles per hour off the pace set by Keselowski, ending the day sixth out of seven cars to run 10 consecutive laps. Earnhardt Jr. currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, and is looking to get his first win at Charlotte for the All-Star Race since he won the event during his rookie season.
Coming off of his win at Kansas, Jeff Gordon has plenty of momentum heading into the All-Star Race. Gordon is the points leader after 11 races, and looks to win his first All-Star Race since 2001. However, he has not finished inside of the top-10 for one of NASCAR’s most coveted events since third place finish in 2006.
Kevin Harvick was the fastest car during the test at Charlotte over the winter. Throughout all of the simulation races NASCAR held during that test, Harvick was arguably the best car no matter what type of aero package NASCAR created. Harvick was fourth in practice, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, and he are looking to win their first All-Star Race together. Harvick's teammate, Kurt Busch, will make it to the All-Star Race after qualifying his No. 26 Honda in the IndyCar Series for his first Indianapolis 500 start. Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet was practiced by Parker Kligerman, who is on standby in case Busch misses the All-Star Race or Coca-Cola 600.
Qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race will be held on Saturday evening preceding the main event at 7:10 p.m. ET. This qualifying session will be unlike any other throughout the season as drivers will run three laps with a four-tire pit stop without a pit road speed limit, and the total time elapsed will determine the starting grid. This is the first time qualifying will be held on the same evening as the All-Star Race.
After qualifying is completed, the All-Star Race will start at approximately 9:00 p.m. ET.
Camping World is going to be a part of NASCAR's third-tier division for a while. On Monday, Camping World and NASCAR announced an extension between the two sides which enables the RV company to continue their title sponsorship of the Truck Series. The deal is good until 2022, and runs at $5 million per year, which is approximately half of what Verizon spends for their title sponsorship in the IndyCar Series.
The Camping World Truck Series has been rather strong over the past several years, and arguably has stronger competition over the NASCAR Nationwide Series due to the domination set by Sprint Cup Series drivers. However, the Nationwide Series has been excelling this year. Meanwhile, even with a new body package that has shown to produce equally competitive competition, if not better even though only two races have been completed, the size of the Truck Series entry lists are decreasing at tracks which young drivers can't run.
With a new body style comes increased costs for teams. In the Truck Series, a full-time sponsorship deal to be competitive surpasses $2 million. Ron Hornaday Jr., a four-time champion in the Camping World Truck Series, does not even have a full-time deal signed for this season. Hornaday has begun the season with Turner Scott Motorsports - providing him an opportunity to compete for wins after struggling with NTS Motorsports in 2013. Hornaday's struggles are not alone. Todd Bodine, another former champion in the Truck Series, has yet to find a ride for this year because of increased sponsorship rates to have a top ride.
Not only is there a lack of spending by top companies in NASCAR's third-tier division, but there is also a lack of top notch teams. There are seemingly about five organizations capable of competing for wins on a weekly basis - Turner Scott Motorsports, Brad Keselowski Racing, Thorsport Motorsports, Red Horse Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports. Of course, there are some rather new teams that might join this group of multi-truck organizations that seem to have become the class of the field. NTS Motorsports is a rather new team in the Truck Series, but they have expanded their operation a great deal over the past two years. If they are able to rack up some decent results, GMS Racing might be around for a few years as well. Right now, they have Joey Coulter in the Truck Series, and they are running Spencer Gallagher in the ARCA Series, but they also plan for him to race in the Truck Series on a part-time basis.
Some of the top teams have struggled with sponsors. Turner Scott Motorsports lost Jeb Burton to begin the season because their sponsor defaulted on payments. Though it is not the most uncommon thing to happen to a race team, it is still something that occurs, and there is no way to prepare for it.
Even with Camping World's contract extension, decaying entry lists might have some worried. However, there is no need to worry. Turner Scott Motorsports continues to bring in new companies on a yearly basis. Teams that are marketable not only help companies that invest with them, but they help the driver as well. TSM won a title with James Buescher, and were contenders for two other titles with Buescher thanks in part to dedication from their sponsors. Due to that success, Buescher has taken his Rheem sponsorship to RAB Racing in the Nationwide Series.
As a feeder division to NASCAR's higher levels, the Truck Series has provided great opportunities for younger drivers. However, besides helping younger drivers develop their skills - the Camping World Truck Series has also helped drivers ease out of their careers. It has been the home to Hornaday and Bodine for quite sometime. Who can forget the days when those two drivers, along with Johnny Benson, were battling for the championship in the mid-late 2000s? Heck, it even revived Ted Musgrave's dying career after failing to win in NASCAR's top-tier division.
The Truck Series is here to say. Fortunately, there are multiple up and coming drivers that will be entered in nearly half of the races this season. These younger drivers, many of which are still in high school, are extremely competitive. They might move up through the ranks rapidly such as Chase Elliott, but they could also take their time in the Truck Series, attempting to develop sponsorship relationships such as Ryan Blaney with Cooper Standard and Reese Towpower. The future is bright, but it is up to the teams to make sure they keep around the veterans to help teach the younger drivers.
Sam Hornish Jr. made a daring move over the off-season. It was a questionable move at first, but so far, it is paying off for the former Indianapolis 500 champion, even though he has only run two races for his new team.
After getting let go from Team Penske coming off of a runner-up finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings, Hornish was left searching for a ride. He could have gone full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series once again, but he would not have been competitive. Hornish chose to race for Joe Gibbs Racing. However, the deal is just for seven events in the No. 54 Toyota which is usually piloted by Cup Series driver, Kyle Busch.
Hornish had a chance to replace Denny Hamlin at the Auto Club Speedway in March. Although it was at the last minute, Hornish capitalized on the opportunity - racing inside the top-15 during the second half of the race before finishing 17th. Prior to that event, Hornish had not even tested a car with Joe Gibbs Racing, and was not in a racecar since the season finale last year at Homestead.
"I think this is a great starting point with a great sponsor in Monster Energy and being at JGR. I feel like this year is the first time that I have my foot in the door and I will have the opportunity to go out there to race and to be in excellent equipment," Hornish said during the Bristol race weekend.
"This is probably the best opportunity as far as equipment wise that I have ever had on the stock car side. I don’t have any opportunity yet to know how it is all going to turn out, but I am looking forward to it and I think it is going to be good. You never know, but if you look at a lot of the stats from last year, I was second to Kyle in a lot of stats-as far as cars passed a lap after a restart or driver rating wise, laps led, top-three finishes and stuff like that. I feel like it should be a pretty good thing for us to work together. I am excited about it."
On Saturday's running of the Aaron's 312 at Talladega, Hornish finally had his chance to prove he is capable of contending for wins. In his first time racing a Toyota in NASCAR's second-tier division, Hornish won his sixth career Nationwide Series pole award. Even with mediocre results at Talladega in the Cup Series, the Defiance, Ohio native earned a top-five finish. He was able to stay out of trouble, and earned valuable points for the No. 54 car which will help the team contend for the owners title.
While his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Elliott Sadler, won the race - Hornish helped get him there. Sadler fell back late in the race. However, Hornish and he were working together. Hornish was ahead of Sadler, but then Hornish enabled Sadler to squeeze in front of him, and the two lost little to no track position. That bold move enabled the two to work their way back into contention, giving JGR two cars in the top-five even though their teammate, Darrell Wallace Jr., was out of contention due to a wreck.
The move might have been questionable for Hornish. Running full-time might have given him a shot at contending for top-10s on a weekly basis. However, he wants to contend for wins. Hornish did that on Saturday.
He will have six more chances to do so in the No. 54 this year. He will be in the Monster Energy Camry at Iowa in two weeks as well as Road America, Chicagoland, Mid-Ohio and Kentucky. Moreover, the biggest part of Hornish's decision was what can come out of this opportunity if he capitalizes in each event.
"I’d like to go out there, I have seven races on the schedule right now, and I’d like to go win (all) seven races. That is not really what is expected of me. What is expected of me is to maximize the amount of points on the days that we have together. If we have seven second place finishes, I’m sure we would be happy with that too. I just have to be smart about it. I think we’re going to have some good races and be successful. You never know until you go out there and do it. I feel like I have an opportunity here to be really good."
Redemption works in crazy ways. Denny Hamlin has had some bad luck over the past year or so. However, Hamlin is victorious for the first time in 2014, and in doing so - won in his 300th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Hamlin won his 24th career race on Sunday afternoon as he held off a hard charging Greg Biffle before a caution came out on the backstretch to end the race. Winning the Aaron's 499 at Talladega marks the first points paying race which Hamlin has won at a restrictor plate track. Biffle led a race-high 54 laps, which is more than he has led throughout the season after eight races. The win marks the third victory for Joe Gibbs Racing at Talladega in Sprint Cup Series competition. Elliott Sadler, a Joe Gibbs Racing driver, won Saturday's Nationwide Series event - giving the organization a weekend sweep.
After starting the Aaron's 499 in 2013, Hamlin was forced to remove himself from the car due to his back injury. Now, Hamlin is in victory lane, and was quite emotional after having to miss the race at Auto Club Speedway several weeks ago.
"We really just want to win race, regardless of the implications that this means for the Chase," Hamlin said in victory lane.
The caution came out as the field was in the middle of the backstretch on the final wreck. Cole Whitt, who was involved in several incidents on the day, got into Justin Allgaier. Allgaier's No. 51 Chevrolet slammed into the wall right by the finish line. However, NASCAR kept the green flag out. Biffle was debating whether or not to make a move to pass Hamlin, but wanted to wait until the field was back on the frontstretch. However, the spin occurred in the tri-oval, several yards before the leaders took the white flag.
"I didn't have any teammates out there. I was going to try to pass him going into the tri-oval," said Biffle after the race. "I was backing up to get a run on him on the backstretch, but then the caution came out."
After the race, fans were outraged on social media about the caution which concluded the race. However, a large piece of fiberglass-like material from Allgaier's car was sitting right in the middle of the track by the finish line. If NASCAR would have enabled the cars to keep going, most of the field would have ran that piece of debris over, possibly causing it to fly into the grandstands. Some people believe that the cars could have just gone around it, but if the leaders were to go three-wide, it would have been extremely difficult to miss a piece of debris that could have put people in danger. Moreover, this will make NASCAR look at their policy on green-white-checkered finishes as the ARCA Series has adapted the same mentality as NASCAR, but enables the possibilities of having yellow flags after the white flag.
There were several major wrecks during the Aaron's 499 which featured 23 different leaders with 48 lead changes. Brad Keselowski was battling Danica Patrick for the lead early in the event when he went down to clear Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet at the end of the front stretch, but was not clear of Patrick. Patrick went up the race track a drop, and Keselowski continued to go down. Keselowski spun out, then went below the apron, and he went back up the race track. Keselowski had overheating problems, putting him eight laps down at one point.
However, that was not the last incident the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was involved in.
Keselowski was racing in the midst of the pack where he got loose, collecting multiple cars including Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. It is arguable that Keselowski should not have been racing in the pack since he was multiple laps down. However, he was racing for the lucky dog, and had to stay ahead of Jamie McMurray, who sustained damage during Keselowski's spin, to do so. Throughout the race, McMurray had six lucky dog awards - putting him just one lap down at the finish.
Jimmie Johnson had an up and down day in his No. 48 Chevrolet. However, the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion did not have the day he wanted. Johnson had an incident similar to that of Keselowski's. He was in the midst of the pack when his car just got slightly loose, collecting Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and last year's winner of the Aaron's 499, David Ragan. Even with the spin, Johnson had the least amount of damage of those which were involved in the accident.
A.J. Allmendinger collected his second straight top-five finish for JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was running inside the top-10 for the majority of the race. Kyle Larson was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate. Larson unofficially finished ninth in the No. 42 car as he stayed in the back of the pack for most of the race until late in the going. Landon Cassill had an impressive run in the No. 40 car for Hillman Racing. Cassill finished a career-best 11th after running well throughout the race.
27 cars were able to finish the race on the lead lap.
Josh Wise, in a car sponsored by Reddit.com users, was running towards the front of the field late in the race, but ended up finishing the day in 20th for Phil Parsons Racing. Patrick was able to lead six laps early, but experienced some power issues during the race - causing her to finish 22nd. Pole sitter, Brian Scott, finished the day in the 42nd position after getting caught up in the Keselowski wreck.
Here are some other notables:
-Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 26 laps. However, Earnhardt Jr. finished 26th after struggling late in the race.
-Cole Whitt finished 21st after being involved in several wrecks in his second race for BK Racin
- Terry Labonte finished 24th in the No. 32 car for GO Fas Racing. Labonte will be returning to competition for only two more races (Daytona in July and Talladega in October).
-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had his fourth top-10 finish of the season.
-Michael Waltrip finished 25th in the No. 66 Toyota. Waltrip was hanging towards the back of the pack for the majority of the race, but could not gain many positions late in the event.
-Jeff Gordon has a three point lead over Matt Kenseth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
-There are now eight drivers which are seemingly locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup as long as they attempt to qualify/race each event and are inside the top-30 in points.
1)11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 188 laps
2)16 Greg Biffle 3M Window Film Ford 188 laps
3) 15 Clint Bowyer PEAK Antifreeze/Motor Oil Toyota 188 laps
4) 55 Brian Vickers Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 188 laps
5) 47 AJ Allmendinger Bush's Beans Chevrolet 188 laps
6) 27 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Chevrolet 188 laps
7) 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevrolet 188 laps
8) 5 Kasey Kahne FrmrsInsrnce/Thankamillionteachers.com Chevrolet 188 laps
9)42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet 188 laps
10) 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Zest Ford 188 laps
11) 40 Landon Cassill(i) Hillman Racing Chevrolet 188 laps
12)18 Kyle Busch M&M's Pretzel Toyota 188 laps
13) 43 Aric Almirola Logan's Roadhouse/Gwaltney Ford 188 laps
14) 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 188 laps
15) 3 Austin Dillon # Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 188 laps
16) 7 Michael Annett # Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet 188 laps
17) 78 Martin Truex Jr Furniture Row Chevrolet 188 laps
18) 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 188 laps
19) 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford 188 laps
20) 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 188 laps
21) 26 Cole Whitt # Scorpyd Crossbows Toyota 188 laps
22) 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 188 laps
23)48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Valspar Reserve Chevrolet 188 laps
24) 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 188 laps
25) 66 Michael Waltrip Blue/DEF Toyota 188 laps
26) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr National Guard Chevrolet 188 laps
27) 51 Justin Allgaier # Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet 188 laps
28) 23 Alex Bowman # Dr.Pepper Toyota 187 laps Accident
29) 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 187 laps
30) 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford 182 laps Accident
31) 83 Ryan Truex # VooDoo BBQ & Grill Toyota 182 laps Accident
32) 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 174 laps Accident
33) 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 174 laps Accident
34) 36 Reed Sorenson Golden Corral Chevrolet 174 laps Accident
35) 34 David Ragan KFC Go Cup Ford 174 laps Accident
36) 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 174 laps Accident
37) 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 171 laps Running
38) 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 160 laps Running
39) 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 156 laps Running
40) 38 David Gilliland Love's Travel Stop Ford 150 laps Engine
41) 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 136 laps Accident
42) 33 Brian Scott(i) Shore Lodge Chevrolet 136 laps Accident
43) 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 136 laps Accident