The NASCAR Nationwide series is off this week as the teams get ready for the final five-race push to the finish. The top three drivers seem to be the same three who are constantly near or at the top, with Elliott Sadler, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon.
Sadler drives the #2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing (RCR); Stenhouse drives the #6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing and Dillon drives the #3 Chevrolet for RCR.
If the last five tracks on the Nationwide schedule look similar to you, well, they are. Charlotte is next, followed by Kansas, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead with only Phoenix not being a mile-and-a-half track. Phoenix is a D-shaped one mile oval.
Sadler leads the points and essentially has led the entire season, although he's never really been able to pull away despite the fact that Sadler has won four times in 2012.
The fact that Sadler hasn't been able to pull away is partly because of the second place and defending Nationwide champion Stenhouse. Only nine points back, Stenhouse has a series leading five wins this season and the only reason he isn't leading in points probably comes back to a few bad races.
But third place Dillon has excelled at staying out of trouble and being near the front every race. At only 25 markers back of Sadler, Dillon has raced every lap this season and has a series leading 22 Top 10s this year.
What keeps this set of drivers ahead of the rest of the regular series teams is wins. Between these three, they've won all but one race that wasn't won by a Cup or Truck regular.
Yes, I omitted Sam Hornish Jr. who is certainly mathematically in the running and only 60 points back but unlike the top three, he hasn't shown the ability to win races or even get top fives consistently. Something keeps Hornish from catching the front-runners and I believe winning or lack thereof is a key to that circumstance.
So who looks best with the remaining races on the schedule? Ricky Stenhouse has done very well at Homestead and Kansas, plus he isn't too bad at Phoenix or Texas. Dillon has been very strong at Texas and pretty good at Charlotte as well. Sadler has a win at Phoenix from earlier this year plus a top five at Charlotte. What does this all mean?
This will be a very close battle that just may come down to Homestead Miami Speedway, less than a week before Thanksgiving. And gosh, they have all this intrigue and excitement without a reset for a Chase playoff like the Cup cars do. Hmmm.
Sources - Racing Reference, NASCAR
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Elliott Sadler
- Roush Fenway Racing
- NASCAR Nationwide series
- Austin Dillon