Captain Has Set Sail: Penske’s Tight Ship Is Title Bound
Four of the last six NASCAR Nationwide Series owner titles have been won by the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) organization. From 2008-12, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, week-in and week-out the JGR teams have been the ones to beat. But last season all that changed.
In 2012, Roger Penske, the owner of Team Penske, famously known as ‘The Captain,’ decided to create what he calls, ‘a farm team’ in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to groom young talent and further progress his whole organization’s NASCAR program. With the addition of young talented superstars like Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney his vision has become reality. Penske won the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner title in 2013 and is on pace to go back-to-back, effectively dethroning Gibbs from his owner title dominance.
Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang team guided by the tutelage of crew chief Jeremy Bullins has a 31 point lead over Gibb’s No. 54 Toyota Camry team. Penske’s No. 22 Ford team can clinch the series owner title by finishing in the next three races: sixth or better without leading any laps, seventh or better leading one lap or eighth or better having led the most laps in each event.
Penske sums it up best about their recent success.
“It's the human capital,” said Roger Penske. “It's the people that we've been able to attract as we got some speed and we got some success. We're able to bring people in, the key people on the team are folks who have come up through the organization, and I think that's been key.”
Dillon, Buescher Are Sunoco Rookies With Big Potential
Three Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates have won this season – Chase Elliott (Darlington, Texas, Chicago), Ty Dillon (Indianapolis) and Chris Buescher (Mid-Ohio). While the spotlight has mostly rested on Chase Elliott and his successes, below is a look at the other two rookies this season that have visited Victory Lane.
Ty Dillon – Is currently sixth in the series driver standings, and second in the Sunoco ROY standings. Dillon has had an outstanding season posting one win (Indianapolis), six top fives, 22 top 10s and three poles. His average finish this season in 30 starts is 9.6. Dillon’s season-to-date Loop Data stats also speak to his successful season. He ranks fifth in the series in Driver Rating (98.7), seventh in Average Running Position (9.580), and fifth in Laps in the Top 15 (4,898 laps; 89.9%). Dillon’s series career-best finishes at the three remaining tracks: Texas (ninth); Phoenix (10th) and Homestead-Miami (14th).
Chris Buescher – Is currently seventh in the series driver standings, and third in the Sunoco ROY standings. In Buescher’s 29 starts (missed Daytona in Feb.) he posted one win (Mid-Ohio), four top fives and 13 top 10s. His average finish this season in 29 starts is 12.9. Buescher’s season-to-date Loop Data stats have him ranked ninth in all three Loop categories: Driver Rating (88.4), Average Running Position (9.580), and Laps in the Top 15 (4,090 laps; 76.7%). Buescher’s series career-best finishes at the three remaining tracks: Texas (17th); Phoenix (15th) and he will make his series track debut at Homestead-Miami.
Battle For 10th: Former Truck Champ Buescher Tries To Hold Off Rookie Kwasneiwski
There are three races left for 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (2013) and West (2012) Series champion Dylan Kwasniewski to battle it out for the final top 10 spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver standings. Buescher, in 10th, holds a nine point lead on 11th-place Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Kwasniewski.
James Buescher, a NASCAR national series champion and former winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (Daytona-1; 2012), joined car owner Robby Benton and RAB Racing’s No. 99 Toyota team in 2014 with the opportunity to run a full schedule and compete for a championship. In 30 starts this season he has posted two top 10s and an average finish of 17.7. If Buescher can hold on to his 10th-place standings position this season, it will be RAB Racing’s second-best finish in the series standings in the organization’s history; behind Kenny Wallace’s seventh in 2011.
But Buescher will have his work cut out for him; Kwasniewski’s rookie season has produced three top 10s and an average finish of 17.9.
The drivers have produced similar performances this season, but the NASCAR season-to-date Loop Data points to Kwasniewski over Buescher in a few categories. For instance, Kwasniewski (79.3) ranks higher than Buescher (75.9) in driver rating. In average running position, the splits favor Kwasniewski (15.340) over Buescher (16.370).
These final three tracks will decide who grabs 10th in the standings this season. Buescher has made five starts at Texas posting a pole and an avg. finish of 19.0. He also has made seven series starts at Phoenix posting an average finish of 19.3 and he has just one start at Homestead where he finished 14th. Kwasniewski will be making his series debut at Homestead in the final race of the season and will be returning for just his second start at Texas and Phoenix where he finished 14th and 13th, respectively.
NASCAR Nationwide Series Etc.
Blake Koch will pilot the No. 44 Celsius Flo Fusion Camry at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Koch is teaming up with Grammy nominated and multi-award winning hip-hop artist, Flo Rida to promote Flo Rida's new workout powder, Celsius Flo Fusion. Flo Rida will serve as the Honorary Starter for the Ford EcoBoost 300. … Voting for the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver Awards kicked off Thursday, Oct. 9. This season, fans not only can vote for their favorite driver (www.NASCAR.com/mostpopulardriver ), but also their favorite moment at www.NASCAR.com/nnstopmoment until Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.