Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Great Clips 200

If Joey Logano has taught the Nationwide Series anything in 2012, it’s that there is still no contest: Joe Gibbs Racing still has the strongest cars in the game. Though he was challenged late following a lap 198 crash triggered by championship contender Elliott Sadler, Logano was able to hold off JGR teammate Brian Vickers to score his ninth win of the 2012 season. Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-5 finishers.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: O’Reilly Challenge

Although Kyle Busch showed flashes of his past dominance in NNS competition early at Texas, Kevin Harvick cruised to a relatively easy win in his final start of the season on Saturday, leading 127 of the 200 laps run. Ryan Blaney trimmed the margin of victory by more than two seconds during the final green-flag run but was unable to catch the No. 33, settling for a career-best runner-up finish. Polesitter Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5 in this event dominated by Sprint Cup regulars.

Nationwide Breakdown: Kansas Lottery 300

A championship comeback if there ever was one, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. saw his championship hopes vanish then reappear again over the course of a race due to some patience, strategy, and a little bit of luck. Around lap 100, Stenhouse made contact with Joey Logano and in the process severely damaged his No. 6 machine. After getting trapped a few laps down to repair the damage, Stenhouse fought tooth and nail to get back on the lead lap and finally received the free pass on lap 163. From there, Stenhouse worked his way up through the field and on the final caution found himself right back in contention.

Nationwide Breakdown: Dollar General 300

Joey Logano proved once again that the Nationwide series is his world and the rest of the Nationwide drivers are just squirrels trying to get a nut. Logano led a race high six times for 62 laps. Logano beat Kevin Harvick to the line for the win. Elliott Sadler, the series point leader came home in third. Kyle Busch drove the No. 54 to a fourth place finish with Denny Hamlin finishing up the top 5.

Logano has not run all of the races on the Nationwide schedule this season but, when he has climbed behind the wheel in the junior series, he’s won almost half of the races. This victory is number eight for the year for Logano in Nationwide competition, far and away the most in the series. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is second in season wins with five while Sadler has four. The race was slowed by five cautions, four of them for on track incidents. There were nine leaders who participated in a total of 21 lead changes. Sadler played it conservatively because he is the leader in the point battle, and in the end added to his point lead by not opening himself up to potential pit road pitfalls.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: OneMain Financial 200

Just like the spring, Joey Logano emerged victorious in Nationwide competition at Dover. The only difference was this race was devoid of the close battle to the finish between he and teammate Ryan Truex. This one was never in doubt, with the No. 18 team leading 184 of the 200 laps run en route to his seventh victory of the 2012 season. Paul Menard, Michael Annett, Elliott Sadler, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.

Title Fight Better the Second Time Between Stenhouse, Sadler

Last year’s battle between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler was about as much entertainment as Nationwide Series fans had gotten in a decade. After five consecutive years of having the trophy bestowed upon a double dipping all-star with premier equipment, Cup pit crews and talent that had long proven ready to graduate to the Sprint Cup Series, finally the points battle had some suspense…and some fresh blood to boot.

This year, it’s only gotten better. With Cup involvement down, leading title contenders Stenhouse and Sadler have combined for nine race wins and proven among the class of the field for the vast majority of the season’s 27 events thus far. Not only is the battle for top of the charts close, it’s among drivers that are viable threats to win every weekend.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kentucky 300

Austin Dillon must wish the Nationwide Series tackled the Kentucky Speedway 30 times a season after Saturday. Cruising unmolested in the latter parts of the race, Dillon had no trouble scoring his second win of the 2012 season and sweeping the 2012 campaign’s races in Sparta, KY. Sam Hornish Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Drew Herring and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 5.

The championship chase took a dramatic turn in this one after a red-hot start by incoming points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Having led the first 32 laps, a trip down pit road turned treacherous for the No. 6, which had its right front fender caved in after contact with Eric McClure’s car exiting his stall. Ensuing work to repair the damage mired Stenhouse in traffic, and led to handling woes that saw the defending champ pound the turn 4 wall on lap 48. Cutting down a tire, the No. 6 team was forced down pit road under green and limped around the rest of the afternoon, eventually coming home 17th, three laps down.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Dollar General 300

It’s hard to believe that Roush Fenway Racing entered the weekend without a win to their credit at the Chicagoland Speedway, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took care of that on Saturday. Running down Kyle Busch in the closing laps with a car that was unstoppable on the high side of the track, the defending Nationwide Series champion scored his fifth win of the 2012 season… and took the points lead back for his troubles. Busch, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, and Paul Menard rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250

Although Friday’s event was largely uneventful at the front, the same could not be said for the title contenders that endured a wild 250 laps. Sam Hornish Jr. cut a tire down after contact with teammate Ryan Blaney on lap 156, spinning into the turn 1 wall and eventually backing down directly into Timmy Hill’s path. The resulting wreckage left both ends of Hornish’s Dodge crunched and the fourth title contender with an ugly 30th place result. Even more notable was both the wreck and recovery of Elliott Sadler, who spun himself out trying to pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but rebounded with crash damage to salvage a 13th place result.

Nationwide Breakdown: NRA American Warrior 300

Kevin Harvick ran away and hid from the field for 157 of 195 laps on Saturday night. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get to lead the last lap. After a late-race caution for debris, then a wreck that resulted in a red flag, Harvick had to withstand the onslaught of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. with the help of Brad Keselowski in order to win the NRA American Warrior 300.

That’s when dominance turned to disaster. Taking advantage of the short run, Stenhouse made a pass on the outside of turns one and two and held onto the lead for the last ¾ of a lap to score his fourth win of the season. Brad Keselowski, who pushed Stenhouse past Harvick on the final lap was able to hold off Harvick to come home in second. Harvick was forced to settle for third while Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Food City 250

Joey Logano emerged victorious yet again in Nationwide Series competition Friday night, capitalizing on a strong qualifying effort and off-sequence pit strategy en route to score his sixth trophy of 2012 and his first at Bristol. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 5.

The story of the night emerged with less than 10 laps to go after a lap 242 caution that saw Austin Dillon slip up and slam polesitter Trevor Bayne into the fence. With points leader Sadler in position to challenge for the victory, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. executed a textbook bump and run on the lap 249 restart, driving off to a runner-up finish. Stenhouse went to Sadler’s car immediately post-race to try and clear the air, but Sadler in his post-race remarks noted that the move would open the door for the rest of the season in terms of racing aggressively with the championship on the line.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: NAPA 200

It took more than a year, but Justin Allgaier finally found redemption for his fuel mileage shortcomings at Road America a season ago. In yet another Montreal race dotted with late-race yellows, Allgaier capitalized when leader Jacques Villeneuve got complacent in turn 6 trying to save fuel, bumped the No. 22, and took the lead for good. It was his third career Nationwide Series win, scoring a Sunday sweep for Turner Motorsports (Nelson Piquet Jr. had scored the Truck win at Michigan earlier in the day). Sam Hornish Jr., Villeneuve, Elliott Sadler, and Ron Fellows rounded out the top 5.