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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Newcomers Prove They Have What It Takes At Daytona


Newcomers Prove They Have What It Takes At Daytona
On Saturday during the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway, the gauntlet was thrown down.  Many drivers new to the NASCAR Nationwide Series or with limited experience wanted to prove they could hang with the big boys. And hang they did.
Action sports star Travis Pastrana gave his multitude of fans a little preview of what they could expect throughout the season with a career-best 10th-place finish in only his second start in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford. In 10 career starts in the series, his previous best was 17th (three times in 2012). He’s never competed in a NASCAR national series race at Phoenix, the site of this weekend’s NNS Dollar General 200.
In his first eight races, Pastrana piloted the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota, which is now driven by 19-year-old Alex Bowman. In only his fifth start, Bowman turned in a solid, third-place performance at Daytona after running near the front for most of the race. His previous career high was in last year’s fall Phoenix race where he finished a respectable 15th. This weekend, Bowman looks to build upon his Daytona success and improve upon his past Phoenix performance.
Although Parker Kligerman has performed well in the NNS before, he enters 2013 with his first full-time ride, driving the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. He started the season on a high note leading 10 laps at Daytona before finishing fifth. In 19 starts, Kligerman has six top 10s and a pole.
This weekend’s race in Phoenix will be his first NNS appearance at the one-mile oval. However, in two NCWTS starts at the track, Kligerman finished 32nd and 27th.   
Nelson Piquet Jr., who moved up to a full-time NNS ride this season, continues to prove he has the chops to compete in the series. In only five starts, Piquet has one win, two top 10s and a pole. While he didn’t finish in the top 10 at Daytona, Piquet did finish 11th. He’s visited the Phoenix track twice before, with the NCWTS, where he had 13th- and 8th-place showings.

Hornish Hoping To Duplicate Past Phoenix Success To Remain Atop Standings
For the first time in his NASCAR career, driver Sam Hornish Jr. finds himself on top of the world – more accurately, the standings.
After six years on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit and six years in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (his first full-time season in 2012), Hornish finally made his way to the top. To begin his seventh season of NNS competition, Hornish took runner-up in the season-opening Daytona race and the lead in the standings. NSCS regular Tony Stewart won the DRIVE4COPD 300 and is not eligible for championship points in the NNS.   
Hornish looks to maintain his lead and extend his one-point advantage over Alex Bowman as the series heads to Phoenix, the site of Hornish’s only series win. In the fall 2011 race at Phoenix, he outpaced Brad Keselowski to win the WYPALL 200 by 0.553 seconds.

Championship Favorites Need Shot Of Good Luck
After less-than-stellar performances in the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona, a quartet of drivers is hoping to reverse their fortunes in Saturday’s Dollar General 200.
After finishing the previous two seasons as runner-up in the standings to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Elliott Sadler headed into 2013 as a favorite to claim the title at season’s end. A strong outing in Daytona would put him on the right path. However, after finishing 15th, he’s looking to finish better in Phoenix and work his way back into contention. In eight NNS appearances at the track, he has one win and two top 10s.
Former NASCAR Nationwide champion (2003) Brian Vickers returned to the series in 2013, his first full-time season since 2003, looking for his second championship. In order to accomplish that feat, he’ll need to finish better than 19th. Perhaps his fortunes will turn at Phoenix, a track at which he’s never won in four attempts.
Austin Dillon, who finished third in the 2012 standings, is also considered a contender for the crown. Unfortunately, his season also didn’t start as well as he had hoped. After finishing 21st, he needs a strong performance at Phoenix, where he has sixth- and fourth-place finishes in his two most recent trips.
After getting caught up in a late-race accident and finishing 26th at Daytona, Michael Annett, last year’s fifth-place finisher in the standings, needs a reversal of fortune this weekend at Phoenix, where he has never won in eight attempts.

NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
Hometown favorites Michael McDowell (Glendale) and Alex Bowman (Tucson) return to Arizona, where they both hope to win the Dollar General 200 in front of family and friends. … 2013 Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson suits up for the NNS race at the helm of the JR Motorsports No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet. It’s Johnson’s first competition in the series since the 2011 Watkins Glen race, where he finished second. … NNS regular Austin Dillon will visit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, to help raise awareness for pediatric trauma.

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