Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2010 O’Reilly 300 at Texas

It was business as usual at Texas Motor Speedway Monday. Despite Joey Logano‘s best efforts, Kyle Busch was able to charge to the lead on a late-race restart after dominating the late afternoon, scoring his third Nationwide Series win of 2010 and his fifth at Texas. Busch was unchallenged for much of the event, with only teammate Logano providing any serious chase; the two JGR drivers led all but 14 of the laps run.

Despite having run 500 miles in their Cup cars less than an hour prior to the drop of the green Monday, “Buschwhackers” dominated Monday’s show, scoring eight of the top-10 starting positions. Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard, who are both running for the 2010 NNS crown, each notched top-10 finishes of fourth and 10th, respectively. The only two Nationwide regulars to crack the top 10 were Reed Sorenson and Steve Wallace, who snapped a streak of three consecutive wrecks with a much-needed ninth-place result that moved him up four spots in the points standings.

With the win, Busch unofficially took the Nationwide Series points lead by 20 markers over Keselowski. Busch, however, has yet to declare that he will run for a second consecutive Nationwide crown in 2010. Kevin Harvick scored another top-five finish, overcoming damage from a collision with Clint Bowyer to stay with 65 points of the lead – though he, too, has also yet to announce whether he’ll run for the title. Carl Edwards slid back to fifth in points after running in the top-five, but breaking an axle during a late pit stop; he finished 36 laps down in 30th.

Worth Noting

The Good

Brian Vickers set the bar really high with the No. 32 Toyota, scoring three consecutive top-10 finishes to start the 2010 season. Well, Sorenson has not only lived up to those standards, he’s topped them.

Two weeks off a runner-up finish at Nashville that saw Sorenson within a lap or two of his first Nationwide triumph since 2005, the former Cup regular shook off the disappointment of suffering an engine failure in the Cup race earlier Monday to score a third-place run in the Nationwide Series event, the highest finish earned by a non-Cup driver and the fourth top five of the season for the No. 32 squad.

Dollar General may want to look at finding another car for Sorenson, because between he and Vickers they’ve got two threats knocking on the door of victory lane.

In fact, Braun Racing had a strong day as an organization, with Jason Leffler finishing 12th and Brian Scott 15th. The finishes both came after each driver posted top-10 qualifying efforts.

Another driver shaking off a lot of recent bad luck was Wallace, who’s had the highs and lows of an entire season in the first seven races. Wallace started the year with three top 10s, then followed it up with three consecutive crashes, falling from sixth to 16th in points. Texas marked the start of a comeback; while teammate Brendan Gaughan struggled all day to a 21st-place finish, Wallace manhandled a loose racecar to ninth, moving to 12th in the points, only 13 markers out of the top 10.

The Bad

What began as a stellar start to the 2010 campaign for Mike Wallace has gone sour; after having a streak of four consecutive top-20 finishes snapped at Phoenix, Wallace suffered engine failure after completing 129 laps at Texas. His 32nd place-finish was the worst of 2010 for he and the No. 01 team, a result that dropped Wallace five spots to 14th in points.

Justin Lofton was well on track to making his first Nationwide Series start of 2010 a memorable one; driving his family-owned car from the back of the field, the 2009 ARCA champion was knocking on the door of the top 15 in a battle with Trevor Bayne when disaster struck on lap 67. Coming off turn 2, Lofton’s Toyota was running tight towards the wall, right alongside Bayne’s No. 99 Toyota, when the Diamond-Waltrip Racing driver got tight on exit. A correction sent the No. 99 into Lofton, whose Toyota then hit hard into the interior backstretch retaining wall.

Lofton stood outside his wrecked machine, helmet and HANS device in hand, to express his displeasure to Bayne as he passed by under caution. What appeared to be a simple racing incident nonetheless left Lofton with an ugly 37th-place finish in his home-track race.

The ugliest of all the incidents on track, though, occurred between teammates and involved another Texas driver. Battling for position, Colin Braun got hard into the side of fellow Roush Fenway Racing development driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., sending the No. 6 Ford into the interior backstretch wall and leaving Stenhouse with a 29th-place finish that dropped him to 35th in owner points, well outside the cutoff for a locked-in spot in the field.

Braun went on to finish 13th but still remains outside the Top 30 in owner points himself. The inexplicable contact with his teammate ruined what otherwise was a solid accounting by the Plano, Texas native of himself on his home track.

The Ugly

The start-and-park brigade this weekend did perhaps the most damage they have to the Nationwide Series field all season long, as full-time racers Jason Keller and his new TriStar Motorsports team, Josh Wise and the Specialty Racing team, and Derrike Cope and the Stratus Racing Group all were sent home while six cars that took the green flag all failed to complete even a quarter of the laps run on Monday.

And don’t even try to use that “they need to be at the racetrack to get noticed” crap to justify this practice. The former MSRP Motorsports operation (now Humphrey-D’Hondt Motorsports) has been at this joke for over two years now… it’s time for some other race teams out there to have a shot at getting noticed. Say, a race team that actually shows up to race. What a concept.

The Final Word

  • How, exactly, does it work out that Braun causes the caution on lap 169 when he gave teammate Stenhouse Jr. the boot, and then he gets the Lucky Dog for it? Obviously, it was a rough birthday for Jack Roush between Stenhouse being wrecked and Edwards suffering a broken axle, but really? A Lucky Dog after blatantly causing a caution? NASCAR must be trying to draw fans back into the sport by making conspiracy theories ridiculously obvious.
  • Landon Cassill finished 18th at Texas in his first run of 2010 with JR Motorsports. Take away Kelly Bires‘s blown motor at Las Vegas and that 18th equals his worst run of the season. And he got fired. How long before JRM is calling up Boston Reid and Blake Feese to fill the seat? ‘Till hell freezes over… Junior will find another Cup driver to keep the No. 7 warm for NASCAR’s favorite pole-dancer.
  • Speaking of Jr.’s Cup drivers in his Nationwide cars, shame that Jamie McMurray couldn’t keep his car off of Justin Allgaier‘s… if not for late-race contact between the two that damaged the driver’s side of the No. 12 Dodge, Allgaier would have scored top-10 finish number six of the year and maybe more. Still, at only 101 markers back, it’s nice to still have a Nationwide regular within striking distance of the title nearly a quarter of the way into the season. That’s a rarity in today’s Nationwide Series; a Nationwide regular hasn’t been that close to the points lead seven races in since Sorenson trailed Edwards by 81 points after the Bristol race in 2005.
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