Paul Menard is back in victory lane for the first time since he won the Brickyard 400 in 2011. However, this win is in NASCAR’s second-tier division, the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Menard has won his second career Nationwide Series event in 183 starts as he came out victorious at the Michigan International Speedway on Saturday afternoon for the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200. With five laps to go, Joey Logano had to pit after leading 43 laps during the race. Logano’s right rear tire gave out as he had a 1.3 second gap over Menard, handing over the No. 33 team their first victory of the year.
“This is a brand new car. It’s good to be back in victory lane. This feels really good,” Menard said. “I was trying to run him down and we were going to catch him a little bit, but we weren’t going to pass him.”
The Wisconsin native lone Nationwide Series win prior to Saturday’s event came in 2006 at Milwaukee while he was driving for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. In eight prior Nationwide Series starts at Michigan, Menard earned seven top-10s, and nearly went to victory lane in 2012 after leading 37 laps. The victory also marks the first win for Richard Childress Racing in any of the top-three NASCAR divisions since Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix towards the conclusion of the 2013 season.
Sam Hornish Jr., who was racing the No. 20 car for the first time this season, gave Menard a run for his money, but came up less than a half of a second short for the win. Hornish spun out of the second lap after getting loose in Turn 2 – forcing him to race his way from outside of the top-30 to the front of the field. He has finished no worse than fifth in his three Nationwide Series starts this season.
On Lap 79, Dylan Kwasniewski got loose while trying to get around Trevor Bayne for the 11th position. Kwasniewski slid right into Bayne’s No. 6 Ford, sending both cars hard into the outside wall in Turn 2.
"I have to start driving smarter. This is all my fault," Kwasniewski said on the wreck.
Elliott Sadler was running in the second position with 25 laps to go when there was a piece of debris on the grille of his No. 11 car. Sadler attempted to get the debris off his car by letting Earnhardt Jr. go by him, but he was unable to do so – forcing him to pit.
Regan Smith continues to hold the drivers points lead as he is 14 markers ahead of Sadler. Chase Elliott, who finished sixth, is six points behind Sadler in the third position. Elliott was battling Kyle Larson for the lead for the majority of the race, but the two opted to stay out during a caution flag while the majority of the lead lap cars pitted. Then, a caution came out several laps later, forcing them to take four tires while their competitors took either two tires or fuel-only. Larson ended up finishing eighth after leading a race-high 46 laps.
Here are some notables from the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200 at Michigan:
-Ryan Reed recorded the second best finish of his career and the best result of his season as he finished 11th in the No. 16 Ford.
-Ty Dillon led nine laps early in the race, but ended up finishing ninth as he is 35 points behind Smith in the standings.
-Ross Chastain recorded his best career Nationwide Series finish in his second start as he finished in the 12th position for Hattori Racing Enterprises.
-Landon Cassill raced his way to his seventh top-15 of the season for JD Motorsports as he finished 14th.
-There were six different leaders for a total of 14 lead changes.
Kyle Busch is two for two this weekend at the Dover International Speedway. After dominating the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on Friday afternoon, Busch scored his 66th career win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and now has a total of 134victories in NASCAR’s top-three divisions.
Busch led 124 of the 200 laps in the Buckle Up 200, providing the eighth win at Dover for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series. He restated his dominance, especially on restarts as he was able to pull out front within the first two laps of each restart, providing the No. 54 car with a comfortable lead for the long green flag runs. Entering this weekend’s events at Dover, no driver had previously won both the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series events at the Monster Mile. Busch will be looking to complete the Dover triple on Sunday afternoon during the FedEx 400.
Late in the race, Trevor Bayne was able to get around Joey Logano, who had won four straight Nationwide Series contests at Dover prior to this weekend. Logano led 59 laps on Saturday’s spectacle, but just didn’t have a car capable of keeping up with Busch who was setting a staggering pace after the second round of pit stops.
"This team has made some really big gains this week. We have been eighth to 10th every week and it kind of stinks to be that close. I will never complain about a second place finish, but when you can get that close, you want to keep going," Bayne said.
After being more than two seconds behind Busch, Bayne close the gap to less than half of a second with 15 laps to go. However, Bayne just could not keep up with Busch who showed signs of getting stronger within the concluding 10 markers. This marks Bayne’s second top-five of the year, and now sits fourth in points.
Regan Smith leaves Dover with a four point lead over Elliott Sadler as the two were battling for the ninth position late in the race. After leading the race early, Chase Elliott ended up finishing fifth, and is now 22 points behind his teammate, Smith, for the points lead.
Cale Conley was running 18th, just trying to earn experience when James Buescher got loose off of Turn Four, and slid into Ryan Reed. Reed tried to save it, but slammed into Conley, tossing his No. 33 Chevrolet into the outside wall in Turn One.
Dylan Kwasniewski had a track bar issue late in the race, sending his No. 31 Chevrolet to pit road where he went 12 laps down.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series is back at the Dover International Speedway this weekend for the 33rd running Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket. Joey Logano has dominated the past four Nationwide Series events at the Monster Mile. However, Logano has yet to win in NASCAR’s second-tier division in multiple starts this year as he has been enjoying success in the Sprint Cup Series with Team Penske.
If anyone will stop Logano’s dominance at Dover, it will occur this weekend. The Nationwide Series regulars have won nearly half of the events this season, and a track such as Dover falls into the hands of some younger drivers which often race well at the shorter tracks.
Regan Smith enters Dover with the points lead after 11 events in the Nationwide Series in 2014. After winning at Daytona to start off the year, Smith has been extremely consistent – finishing inside of the top-10 during each race this season. However, he has not led at any tracks this season other than the two restrictor plate races. In eight starts at Dover in Nationwide Series competition, Smith has recorded one top-10 finish.
“We just need to put ourselves in situations to get up front and lead laps. We are not lacking that much really. I think all three of our cars are capable of winning. Chase has two intermediate wins, and as you said – we have been top-10 all season long. It is just the little stuff. Maybe we need a better pit stop here or an adjustment there, or maybe a little better qualifying at some places,” Smith said. “I think in the first five/six races, we were really learning each other. We really had some struggles with the No. 7 car in particular. Around Darlington, we really started making a turn, getting better each week.”
Kyle Busch will be attempting to score his third victory of the season this weekend, and his fourth win at Dover in what will be his 18th career start at the track. Busch has finished inside of the top-five at each race he has been entered in this year, and is looking to score his 66th career Nationwide Series victory. Busch’s teammate, Matt Kenseth, is also racing in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. This will be Kenseth’s ninth start of the 2014 season, but he has been winless this year, albeit leading 253 laps.
“There’s always the argument being made that there are certain tracks where it is nice to get extra track time. It’s good at a track that you go to once a year and take two tires or something like that. It’s nice to get some extra time,” Kenseth said on how running the Nationwide Series races effects his Cup Series effort.
There are 40 drivers entered in the Nationwide Series event this weekend. Paulie Harraka is making his first start for TriStar Motorsports in the No. 44 Toyota. Todd Bodine returns to the Nationwide Series for his second start of the year in the No. 55 Chevrolet. Joe Nemechek will not be racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event this weekend, but is making his fifth Nationwide Series start of the year for his self-owned NEMCO Motorsports team. Morgan Shepherd is making his return to the Nationwide Series as well this weekend. Shepherd, 72, will make his 352nd career start in NASCAR’s second-tier division after resetting his previous record of being the oldest driver to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Phoenix earlier this year.
The Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket starts at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon.
A hard charging Kevin Harvick was not enough for the second straight weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. After coming so close to a victory during the Sprint All-Star Race, Harvick could not catch the reigning champion.
Jimmie Johnson ended his 13-race winless streak on Sunday evening. Johnson dominated the Coca-Cola 600, leading 165 of the 400 laps. The victory marks the fourth time Johnson has won the Coca-Cola 600, and his seventh points paying victory at Charlotte. After 447 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Johnson has secured his 67th victory, which is approximately 15 percent of the races he has started.
Johnson was in position to lose the race after fuel strategy was falling into Carl Edwards’ hands, but after a late race caution – Johnson was able to capitalize after taking four tires, maneuvering his way through traffic, and shooting by Matt Kenseth with nine laps to go.
After 100 laps, Harvick had a five-second lead over Johnson as only 12 cars were still on the lead lap. The race went green for the first 107 laps while Harvick lapped all but the top-10.
David Gilliland slammed the wall on Lap 164, forcing him to become the first driver to go to the garage.
Clint Bowyer had a vibration preceding the half-way mark. Bowyer pitted for two tires, but continued to report a vibration, and was forced to bring his No. 15 Toyota back into the pits to change left-side tires after competing for the win.
Jeff Gordon had the lead on the final restart, but slipped back to the seventh position after taking two tires as his No. 24 team assumed the race would go green for the remaining 20 laps. But after having back spasms for the majority of the weekend, Gordon's fight for the win was another small victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
Harvick led at the half-way mark with Johnson and Brad Keselowski trailing him by over two seconds. At the time, there were just 16 cars on the lead lap.
While running several laps down, Kurt Busch blew an engine on Lap 274, forcing an end to his attempt at becoming the first driver since Tony Stewart in 2001 to run all 1,100 miles in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Busch finished sixth during his first race in the Verizon IndyCar Series after starting the day in what was originally Marco Andretti’s backup car. Overally, Busch ran a total of 906.5 miles between the two events.
“This symbolizes how tough it has been this year on the Haas Automation team,” Busch said after his engine blew. “I can’t let what happen with the car here dampen what I did today. The motor just went. I trained hard and gave it my all.”
At Lap 220, Danica Patrick began reporting she was down a cylinder. Patrick was running in the top-15 for the majority of the first half of the race, but began to slide back as the track began to cool down. Evidently, Patrick’s car blew up proceeding Busch’s engine woes, making the Stewart-Haas Racing duo finish 39th and 40th, respectively.
13 cars finished on the lead lap in a race where green flag runs spread out the field, forcing a mixture of strategies. Six different drivers led during green flag conditions for 13 or more laps, and four of them led for 34 or more markers with a total of 34 lead changes.
Sam Hornish Jr. is back in victory lane. However, this time, it is with a new organization. After making the move to Joe Gibbs Racing from Team Penske over the off-season, Hornish is running a part-time schedule this season.
On Sunday afternoon, the 35-year-old Ohio native was able to capture his first victory with his new team. Hornish dominated the Get to Know Newton 250 at the Iowa Speedway, leading 167 of the 250 laps. In just his second start of the year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, last year’s championship runner-up held off Ryan Blaney throughout the day. Blaney and Hornish were the only two drivers to lead during green flag conditions, swapping the lead eight times amongst each other.
The victory marks the second straight for JGR after winning at Talladega with Elliott Sadler, and it is the organization’s fourth victory of 2014. The win is also JGR’s second victory at the Iowa Speedway with the lone other one coming in 2010 with Kyle Busch, who usually pilots the car Hornish drove to victory lane.
“We had a great car all day long. The Monster Energy No. 54 was just awesome. Adam Stevens made some great calls. I am so blessed that this opportunity came around. It is pretty darn awesome,” Hornish said in victory lane.
The JR Motorsports tandem of Regan Smith and Chase Elliott ended the day in the third and fourth positions. However, Smith ran outside of the top-five for the majority of the race, struggling to find the handle on his No. 7 Chevrolet. Meanwhile, Elliott had a competitive car on the long runs, but took approximately 20 laps to run lap times which were equivalent to the leaders.
Track position proved to be extremely important on Sunday afternoon. Landon Cassill took two tires on a late pit stop, attempting to get some track position after running just outside of the top-10. However, the strategy proved to work as Cassill stayed inside of the top-10 for the duration of the race, earning his second consecutive top-10 finish.
Elliott stretched out his points lead to two markers over Elliott Sadler, who finished fifth after having a tangle with Brian Scott where both drivers simultaneously were loose off of turn four heading onto the frontstretch. Both drivers were able to save their cars, but were not able to advance their positions due to the ground they lost while battling side-by-side.
Michael McDowell finished seventh in his season debut for JGR. McDowell was racing with Hornish and Blaney for the lead throughout the day, and was the lone driver to take the lead besides those two. Chase Pistone finished 14th in his first career Nationwide Series start for Turner Scott Motorsports. Pistone was sent to the back of the pack to begin the race along with Ryan Reed, but was able to capture a solid finish. Austin Theriault also made his Nationwide Series debut at Iowa, and was able to run approximately 10th at certain points during the race. Theriault finished 15th in his first race for JR Motorsports. Cale Conley was running inside of the top-15 early in the race, but started to drop back as his No. 33 car evidently had a tire going down.