Race Weekend Central

Eric McClure Seeks Return to Normalcy After Trying Start to 2012

Sitting down to do my first interview with Eric McClure in nearly a year, there was no avoiding an elephant in the room; namely, the harrowing wreck that McClure endured at Talladega the end of April, one that sidelined the Virginia-native until just a few weekends ago at Road America.

“I thought this was it” said McClure when asked if he had time to even think before his Camry nearly knocked down the interior retaining wall on Talladega’s backstretch, hitting headfirst at 185 mph. Asked whether his long-time family background in racing was of any benefit in dealing with arguably the scariest crash the Nationwide Series has seen in the COT era, the answer was blunt: “You think you’re prepared for something like that and you’re not. No one is. Anyone that says they are is lying.”

Truck Series Contenders Set to Invade Nationwide Series Race at Dover

While the Chase is doing NASCAR fans everywhere a favor by making the points race irrelevant for another three months, the Nationwide Series has a repeat of their Stenhouse vs. Sadler battle from a year ago brewing, with the standings tighter than they were a season ago and both teams combining for five race wins already in 2012. But even as that series heads to Dover to tackle the high banks of the Monster Mile, it’s also going to play host to another championship battle…even if it’s not for points. Because when the green flag drops on Saturday, positions three, four and five in the Truck Series standings will be taking it alongside the Nationwide Series regulars.

Nationwide Series Flashbacks for Biagi’s Return to Racing

_Whoever said you can’t go home again obviously didn’t write the NASCAR schedule, as the circuit currently has returned for the first of two weekends spent in the Charlotte area. And the same can be said for Biagi-DenBeste Racing, returning to Nationwide competition after a four-year hiatus. It’s a rare example of a team falling away only to return to the Nationwide Series, and a welcome addition back to the fold._

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Nationwide Tackles Darlington

It’s not quite time for this week’s Nationwide Series Breakdown, but here’s a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly facing the Nationwide Series heading into Darlington tonight.

*The Good*

Just as was the case with Richard Childress Racing and Turner Motorsports at Richmond, NASCAR did nothing more than slap Penske Racing on the wrist after they were found to have modified front bumpers at Talladega. The crew chiefs of the Nos. 12 and 22 cars were fined and placed on probation without any points penalties or suspensions, meaning for the well-endowed operation at Penske, life will simply go on.

Four Nationwide Regulars Aiming To End Cup Dominance At Richmond

One year ago, a simple change to the points system gave the Nationwide Series its first series regular champion since 2005. And though Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored two wins and was a top-10 fixture in 2011, it was still a year that saw Sprint Cup drivers utterly dominating the season stat sheet, even if that didn’t equal points.

Not so in 2012. Between red-hot starts for title contenders Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler, Nationwide regulars have won all but one of the season’s first six races. Now, the point leaders actually have further legitimacy to their spots atop the standings. They’re a threat to win wherever the race is being run and able to run with any part-time all-star that chooses to double dip.

The Non-Sensical Risk and Stalls of the Nationwide Series Schedule

Fans would be forgiven if they mistakenly believed that a Nationwide Series race was on the docket for the upcoming weekend at Kansas Speedway; in the short history of the track, the Cup Series has never contested a race at the cookie-cutter facility without the Nationwide stable in tandem. But alas, while the Truck Series are getting the companion billing this coming Saturday, the same can’t be said for NASCAR’s AAA, who, only one event off their first two-week break from competition since 1996…are off again.

Three Years Later, TV Coverage Still Strangling the Nationwide Series

On the other side of the tracks, er, garage, though, life is nowhere near so promising. Sponsorship is still sorely lacking for just about every independent operation on the circuit (and even for the big guns, remember that Trevor Bayne still doesn’t have a ride for Texas). Start-and-parks are still able to make the field on a regular basis. The teams that are racing are doing so on scuffed tires with used engines and limited car stables. For as much as the competitiveness has been flourishing on track, the overall health of the series… and the business model that keeps its teams on track, is no better off than a season ago.

Old Bristol Threatens New Problems for Nationwide Series Racing

Bruton Smith has spoken. Embarrassed by a second consecutive springtime of seeing his motorsports coliseum in Bristol, Tennessee dogged by attendance that made the grandstands look comparable to an XFL game, the man responsible for effectively killing North Wilkesboro, levigating Charlotte and effectively starting a war with the Kentucky Department of Transportation last summer has now announced that Bristol’s being reconfigured for the second time in five years. Come summer, Bristol will be back to being a one-grooved race track. Goodbye side-by-side racing, hello crashfest. Anyone that read 5 Points earlier this week knows full well this is not a move this writer is pleased about.

Subtraction by Addition for JR Motorsports’ No. 88 Team

For just about every organization out there, there’s a magic number of cars that just seems to work. For all its tradition and talent, Richard Childress Racing has never been able to make a four-car stable work as well as it has with three teams. Penske Racing dropped Sam Hornish’s Cup team last season, and ended up batting a thousand in terms of putting cars in the Chase.

And over in the Nationwide Series, that magic number for JR Motorsports is apparently one. Because 2012 has perpetuated a stretch going on for years now, one that has seen the de facto Hendrick Motorsports Nationwide program struggle even to be a consistent top 10 presence in NASCAR’s AAA. Ever since bringing the No. 7 car back unexpectedly to full-timer status in the spring of 2010, JR Motorsports has gone from title contender to series regular.

More of the Same for Jeremy Clements, No. 51 Team in 2012

There are few drivers in the Nationwide Series garage that can stake more claim to the title “hard luck driver” than Jeremy Clements. The driver who for a brief moment in time was a Joe Gibbs Racing driver to support Kyle Busch was one of many development drivers whose big ride never came. Instead, Clements has spent the last few seasons behind the wheel of the family ride, living the life of a NASCAR underdog.

The hard luck continued into Daytona. Clements started off strong in the 300-mile season opener, hooking up with Josh Wise in what proved to be a successful tandem, as the two managed to crack the top 10 under green and ran inside the top 20 for much of the afternoon.

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