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Could Nationwide Championship Go Down to Same Two Drivers? – Fan’s Take
We're only five races into the Nationwide series but with quite a bit of time between events, this is as good a time as any to examine how the top drivers are doing and just who might be the frontrunners for the 2012 title. Here's a quick look at the Top 10 and a couple of others who might be in the running for the championship (listed 10th through 1st below by their current point standings).
10. Mike Bliss - This veteran driver drives for TriStar Motorsports and is competitive in every race, qualifying in the top half of the field each event. They had a set-back due to a crash at Daytona but have worked their way into the Top 10 - whether they have what it takes to win it all remains questionable.
9. Justin Allgaier - Driving for Turner Motorsports, he's done a very credible job and if not for a mechanical issue and a crash, he most likely would be in the top five and a serious contender for the championship. If the problems can be averted, this is someone to watch.
8. Tayler Malsam - This youngster just may be quietly making a name for himself this season with all Top 20s so far. A relative unknown, he's been a surprising Top 10 contender for the first five races, driving for TriStar Motorsports. If he remains in the Top 10 all year, it would be amazing.
7. Michael Annett - In his fourth full-time Nationwide season, if not for a crash at Daytona (yes, a recurring theme amongst many of the drivers listed) he would be in the top five and a real threat to compete for the championship. As it is, driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, he will likely stay in the Top 10 but bagging first in points … ?
6. Cole Whitt - The 20 year old has shown some signs of being highly competitive. Driving for JR Motorsports, he had been in the top five through the first four races but a crash at Fontana set him back a little. He can stay where he's at but a championship might be another year away.
5. Sam Hornish Jr. - He can flat out drive and with Penske's equipment, Hornish should challenge for a championship but for sure will stay with the top tier all year.
4. Trevor Bayne - He's been in the top 15 all year and the very young veteran wheelman has proven he can drive with the best of them and absolutely, he will challenge for the championship. But, will he be allowed to? Sponsorship issues (see related articles) at Roush Fenway may sideline his ability to win a championship.
3. Austin Dillon - Here's a driver with everything he needs to win a championship, including talent and the best equipment at Richard Childress Racing (RCR). Last year's Truck champion, he might be a year away but if the top two guys should struggle, he's more than capable of grabbing the title.
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - The reigning Nationwide champion has basically started where he left off in 2011. A crash at Daytona set him back temporarily but a win, a second and a third has his Roush Fenway Ford right there competing for first in points and putting him at or near the top all season.
1. Elliott Sadler - The veteran driver has once again proved that he has what it takes to win a championship. He's led the point standings since the first race and tacked on a couple of wins just to make the point that you're going to have to beat him if you want the championship. He's had nothing but top 10s and up until this past week's Fontana race, his RCR #2 had all top five's.
Also, I wouldn't take my eyes off of veterans Joe Nemechek and Kenny Wallace. Both of them are more than capable drivers. An excellent longshot choice at this point would be Brian Scott who's more than skilled enough to take his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the front. I'll say that I'm surprised Danica Patrick hasn't done a little better - she did get the pole for Daytona but has done little else to inspire any chance of seeing her in the Top 10, let alone challenge for a win or championship.
So the answer to the title question is yes, more than likely Sadler and Stenhouse will battle for the championship in 2012.
Source - NASCAR, Racing Reference
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.
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