Race Weekend Central

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.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Zippo 200 at the Glen

Watkins Glen saw the return of Carl Edwards to the Nationwide Series after a 20-race hiatus that was designed so that Edwards could focus more on the Sprint Cup Series. Well, Edwards seemed to really miss spending his Saturday afternoons in the car; so, with support from Subway, Edwards returned to the No. 60 that had been parked due to lack of support since Las Vegas.

Despite almost no practice on Friday due to rain (he literally did the absolute minimum required in order to get a spot in the qualifying order), Edwards turned in the second fastest time in qualifying.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: U.S. Cellular 250

Oh, what a difference a week can make.

Following a late-race (and hotly-debated) black flag while leading at last weekend’s Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that relegated the championship points leader to 15th and a mere one-point standings lead over Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler took to Iowa Speedway Saturday, August 4, with a vengeance. After starting from the pole, Sadler took the race lead from Justin Allgaier late in the going, leading 60 laps en route to his third win of the 2012 season.

“They are not taking the championship from us!” cried Sadler after crossing the line by about a second over Allgaier. He should have plenty to cheer about — following his race win and a disappointing showing from Dillon, the Richard Childress Racing driver gave himself some much-needed breathing room in the points standings, increasing his lead to 18.

Nationwide Breakdown: Indiana 250

The Nationwide Series debuted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday as part of the track’s “Super Weekend.” The 100-lap race started out looking like it was going to be a Kyle Busch walkover, shifted into a Elliott Sadler points lead protector, then finished up with Roger Penske’s first ever stock car win at the fabled racetrack. Most importantly of all, there were actual people sitting there watching it all unfold. While the rumblings among some fans and most of the media was that the idea to move the Nationwide Series from Lucas Oil Raceway to the Speedway was a horrendous idea, attendees came out in some surprising numbers. While NASCAR’s overall estimate might be generous at 40,000 fans, it was, indeed a typical Nationwide crowd. Once the checkered flag flew, Brad Keselowski was in the Winner’s Circle celebrating the victory in the inaugural Nationwide race at the Brickyard.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: STP 300

The good news for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his No. 6 team on Sunday was that the event marked a return to championship form. For the first time this summer, the defending champions were the class of the field.

The bad news? That still wasn’t enough. Though Stenhouse was running down Elliott Sadler in the closing laps, a late-race yellow bunched up the field and left the event up to a final restart. On that restart, Justin Allgaier gave Sadler a huge shove down the frontstretch, which provided all the No. 2 team needed to score their third win of the 2012 season and first since Bristol way back in March. Stenhouse, Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, and Michael Annett rounded out the top 5. The late caution interrupted what had been a largely green event, one of only five yellows to fly Sunday afternoon.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: 23rd Annual F.W. Webb 200

*In A Nutshell:* Was it Saturday afternoon or Sunday? It could have been either after Sprint Cup regulars put on a dominating show that saw Brad Keselowski emerge victorious for the second time in 2012. Keselowski easily took the pole with Kasey Kahne beside him, and both led early. And even if Keselowski hadn’t made his race winning pass, the victory still would almost certainly have gone to Cup regular Kevin Harvick. In fact, with the exception of yellow flag laps, Nationwide regulars did not lead during the race. Nationwide regulars did comprise the rest of the top 5, with Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. filling those spots. Dillon, the top finishing NNS regular, took home a $100,000 bonus via the Dash for Cash program, which rewards series regulars in certain races.