Hood: Nationwide Drivers Reap Their Awards
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
I wound up attending 33 of this year’s 35 NASCAR Nationwide Series races.
A brief back injury forced me to skip the circuit’s lone stop in, of all places, Las Vegas in February.
I intentionally passed on going across the border later in the year for the road course race in Montreal. I had a feeling it was going to be a long weekend. Did I ever nail that one!
After replaying a season’s worth of action in NASCAR’s junior circuit in my mind, here are a few moments that stood above the rest:
Put it in perspective award: Nationwide Series champion Kyle Busch notched an impressive nine victories over the course of the season during his title run. But just how dominant was the driver of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota? Consider that Busch outscored Jason Leffler by a whopping 1,142 points. And Leffler finished fourth in the championship driver standings.
Best finish award: Unadilla, Ga. native David Ragan captured his first Nationwide Series race victory in dramatic fasion when he drove past Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman in the tri-oval on the last lap to win the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway in April. Ragan led just one lap in the event.
Nearly perfect award: Marcos Ambrose came within one turn of making it a clean sweep in this year’s two Nationwide Series road course events. The Aussie led a race-high 26 laps en route to victory in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen in August. But a slip on the final turn on the last lap while leading in Montreal later that month opened the door for Carl Edwards to slide by for the victory.
So that’s what it feels like award: Kevin Harvick led the final 45 laps to win the Scott’s Turf Builder 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway in March. The victory snapped a winless streak that stretched to Harvick’s triumph at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2007. Perhaps more importantly, it was Harvick’s first win in the Nationwide Series behind the wheel of a car owned by Kevin Harvick Inc.
Smashing success award: It appeared to be another night at the office for Kyle Busch at Nashville Superspeedway in June when he led 173 of 225 laps during his victory in the Federal Auto Parts 300. But Busch shocked onlookers in attendance and an ESPN2 audience when he destroyed the Sam Bass-designed trophy guitar in victory lane.
And you thought Pocono was a long race award: With precipitation in the forecast, teams were prepared to bolt on rain tires when the series visited Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The final 14 laps of the marathon event were contested on a wet surface. The race wound up being the longest in series history. It took 3 hours, 49 minutes, 19 seconds to complete 76 laps on the 2.71-mile road course.
We’ll miss you award: Memphis Motorsports Park isn’t one of the Nationwide Series’ marquee stops. But the track’s worn out pavement produced one of the best races of the season during the Kroger On Track for the Cure 250 in October. Brad Keselowski endured a last lap bump from Busch to win what was likely NASCAR’s final race at the .75-mile oval. Slumping ticket sales forced the facility’s parent company to move next year’s Nationwide race to Gateway International Speedway near St. Louis.
– Jeff Hood can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment