Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Top Four Drivers Finding Success With New Crew Chiefs


Top Four Drivers Finding Success With New Crew Chiefs
Through all the shuffling that took place in the offseason, NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Justin Allgaier, Brian Scott and Elliott Sadler all found themselves with new crew chiefs – changes that have paid off so far. After two races, all four drivers sit atop or near the crest of the standings.
As the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300, three of the drivers finished in the top 10 in last year’s visit to the track: Sadler (third), Allgaier (eighth) and Hornish (ninth).
Hornish, tied atop the points lead with Allgaier, welcomes veteran crew chief Greg Erwin to the No. 12 Penske Racing team. Most recently, Erwin sat atop Aric Almirola’s No. 43 NSCS war wagon for nine races in 2012. In 252 races between the NSCS and NNS, Erwin’s drivers have accumulated five wins and 41 top fives, the most recent a second-place finish in the 2013 season opener at Daytona with Hornish. Hornish placed seventh last weekend in Phoenix.
Heading into the season, Allgaier and his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports team were paired with veteran crew chief, Scott Zipadelli. In 2012, Zipadelli worked with eight drivers in the NNS. In seven seasons, his drivers have racked up 48 top-10 finishes in 187 races. After only two races, the pairing already has two top-seven finishes.
During the offseason, Scott moved to the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, where he teamed up with Phil Gould, a rookie crew chief in NASCAR’s national series. Through two races, the Scott-Gould combination, currently third in the standings (-8), has two top-10 finishes.
While Sadler, fourth in points (-10), certainly has the experience that comes with success, the runner-up the past two seasons enters the season working with first-time crew chief Chris Gayle. Already the collaboration is paying off with a top-five finish in last weekend’s race.

Dillon, Bayne Need Rebound To Return To Title Conversation
Heading into the new season, many pundits pointed to Austin Dillon and Trevor Bayne as possible heirs to the NASCAR Nationwide throne, vacated by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who left for the NSCS. However, after the first two races, Dillon and Bayne need a lucky roll of the dice in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to get back into contention.
Although both drivers had solid finishes in last week’s Phoenix race, where Dillon and Bayne finished sixth and fourth, respectively, poor performances at Daytona left both drivers scrambling for much-needed points. Dillon finished the race 21st, while Bayne came in 31st.
Dillon, who finished third in last year’s standings and seventh in his most recent visit to the 1.5-mile track, is hoping for another strong performance to boost him from ninth place in the current standings back into championship contention.  
Bayne looks to improve upon his 11th-place position in the standings by wheeling the No. 6 Ford to Victory Lane at Las Vegas – a place the race car is familiar with after Stenhouse piloted it to a victory in last year’s NNS race.

With Winless Skid Gone, Can Busch Start New Streak?
Kyle Busch has returned to his winning ways and could begin a new streak in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 – a streak that is more befitting of the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and career race wins leader.
By winning last Saturday’s Dollar General 200 Fueled by AmeriGas at Phoenix, Busch put an end to his 24-race winless streak in the NNS. The win, his first in the series since the 2011 Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond, increased his wins total to 52, three more than Mark Martin (49).
As the series heads to Las Vegas, his hometown, Busch wants to win again and start a new streak of consecutive race wins. In 11 seasons of competing in NASCAR’s secondary series, Busch’s longest winning streak is three and came in April 2008, when he won at Texas, Phoenix and Mexico City in back-to-back-to-back weekends. He also had three consecutive wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011 (Nashville, Dover, Charlotte).
Although Busch considers Las Vegas his home track, it hasn’t always been the most kind to him. In nine NNS visits to the "Diamond in the Desert," he’s never won and has only finished on the lead lap four times. His average finishing position at Vegas is 21.8, second lowest among NNS tracks.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Etc.
Hometown favorite Brendan Gaughan returns to the series in Las Vegas, where he has one top-five finish in three starts. … Other non-NNS regulars slated to take qualifying runs include Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. … On Saturday morning, Scott Lagasse Jr. will host 50 Las Vegas-area Boy Scouts on garage tours. Lagasse will drive the No. 8 HybridLight/Boy Scouts of America Chevrolet in the race later that afternoon. … Reed Sorenson will fill in for the injured Michael Annett behind the wheel of the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports at Las Vegas. … Milestone Watch: Elliott Sadler will make his 200th career NNS start in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300. … Earnhardt will make his 125th start in the NNS this weekend.

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