Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Notes from the NASCAR Nation: The Nationwide Series at Daytona
by Dave Grayson
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will hit the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway this Friday night for the running of the Subway Jalapeno 250. There is a lot on the line from this race. First off, there's the prestige of winning at one of the most internationally famous race tracks in the world. Secondly, the Nationwide Series' championship points profile is starting to get really interesting and Friday night's race at Daytona could become a huge factor in that outcome.
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
We all know what the big story line is in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It's, of course, Austin Dillon and what happened during and after last weekend's series race at the Kentucky Speedway.
First off, accenting the positive, Dillon, in his #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, scorched the competition by leading 192 of the 200 lap event for his first ever Nationwide Series win. Unfortunately the elation of victory lane took a downward turn when the car failed a post race inspection. NASCAR inspectors discovered that the rear end of the car did not meet their minimum required height standards.
The final result, announced by NASCAR last Monday afternoon, was a $10,000 fine for the crew chief, Danny Stockman, plus probation until December 31st. Team car chief Robert Strmiska was also placed on probation until the end of this year. The really big hit came from the loss of six owner's and driver's points. Dillon left Kentucky as the new championship leader and, by Monday, he was moved back into second place.
Ironically, the big winner from the penalty was Dillon's Richard Childress Racing team mate: Elliot Sadler. Going into Friday night's race at Daytona, Sadler has a very slim four point lead over Dillon in the standings. Sadler, of course, has far more experience racing on the high banks of Daytona than his younger team mate. However, Dillon has a tremendous amount of momentum going into this race. After his on track performance at Kentucky, he now knows he can get the job done in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. These two drivers will be a pair to pay
attention to Friday night.
The other major storyline is, without question, reighing Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse and last week's stunning announcement that said Roush Fenway Racing will be promoting him to the Sprint Cup level next year to replace the departing Matt Kenseth. Since that announcement, Stenhouse's schedule has been a whirlwind of media requests for interviews. He now feels like the whirlwind has finally subsided and it will allow him to again focus on the task at hand: giving Roush Fenway Racing a second, consecutive, NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.
First off, it's not likely that the whirlwind of this driver's racing future has subsided. The story seems to be too huge at the moment. In fact, it appears that the whirlwind hasn't even reached its peak velocity yet. However, Stenhouse is correct in his belief that he really needs to focus on the Nationwide championship. Some recent setbacks now has him third in the standings and 23 points behind the leader. In the current configuration of NASCAR's points system, 23 points is approximately one half of one race win. The deficit is certainly not insurmountable but it won't be easy to eradicate either. If Stenhouse is going to claim that second title, it's go time and the process needs to start on Friday night at Daytona.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Subway Jalapeno 250 is 100 laps/250 miles around the Daytona International Speedway's mammoth 2.5 mile oval.
The race has 44 entries vying for the 43 starting berths.
14 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning these teams do not have a guaranteed starting berth because they are currently outside of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' top 30 in owner's points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to make the race. The lone exception is driver Jeff Green who has a past champion's provisional available.
The defending race champion is Joey Logano who is entered in this year's race.
Friday night's Subway Jalapeno 250 will be broadcast live by the ESPN Network beginning at 7 pm eastern time.