Barring a miracle, Carl Edwards will win the 2010 Nationwide Series championship. Much like 2007 when Carl won it all, there is hardly any full time competition that can hope to compete with him. Kevin Harvick with RCR, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch have all had the better of Carl whether they run full time or not over the last 5 seasons but with none of them doing double-duty this year it?s Carl championship to choke away.
That being said the owner?s championship will be hotly contested like it?s been the last few seasons as Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Junior Motorsports and KHI duel it out. So this preview will focus on the Nationwide organizations and their line ups.
Joe Gibbs Racing ? JGR will field two cars in 2010, their 2008 champion #20 Toyota and 2009 champion #18 Toyota teams.
The 18 will likely be only part time since Kyle is only planning on 22-24 races which leaves the #20 car as the only full time team. The #20 will field Joey Logano for most of the races with Cup driver Denny Hamlin and JGR developmental driver Matt DiBenedetto filling up the rest of the schedule.
Kyle could win in every start he makes while Logano, Hamlin and DiBenedetto are more than capable enough to lead JGR to a 3rd straight owners championship.
Roush Fenway Racing ? RFR will field 4 full time cars in 2010 with two rookies and two full time double duty drivers.
Carl is back in the #60 Ford for a 6th straight season and should probably win the driver?s championship this year so not much needs to be said about him.
Paul Menard will be driving the #98 Menards Ford for RFR in Nationwide and for Richard Petty Motorsports in Cup. Although Menard has struggled in Cup he has a pretty good track record in Nationwide with one career win and best finish of 6th in the standings in 2005 and 2006 and had 4 top ten?s and a 15.6 average finish in 16 starts for Yates Racing in NNS last season. Although he doesn?t stand a chance in the championship against teammate Carl Edwards, a win and top 10 in the standings is likely.
Colin Braun and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will drive the #16 and #6 Fords respectively and compete for ROTY honors. RFR?s Truck Series team which Colin Braun drove to a win and 5th in the standings last season shut down after 2009 and the crew was consolidated into their Nationwide efforts. Both have already had some success in NNS, Colin has 2 poles and a 2nd place finish in 7 starts while Stenhouse has a pole, 2 top ten?s and a best finish of 5th in 7 starts. Colin will be among the favourites to win at the three road course races thanks to his road racing background and has loads of potential to be a future Cup star and should also be the favourite for ROTY. Stenhouse has more question marks than Colin since he?s more inexperienced and has only competed as high as ARCA full time but both could get their first career win this season and finish in the top 10 in the driver?s standings.
As for the owner?s championship, the 60 will be one of the main contenders while the 6, 16 and 98 will be in a fight between themselves and other teams, especially those running Cup drivers, to finish in the top 10 in the standings.
Kevin Harvick Incorporated ? KHI will field just one full time team in 2010, the #33 Chevy. Kevin Harvick will drive all or most of the Cup companion events with Ron Hornaday and other drivers filling in when necessary. Last season Harvick finally won for his own NNS team as he collected two victories along with 14 top five?s in 22 starts to help the #33 finish 4th in the owners standings, even beating his Cup boss RC. With the 18 not running full time and the 88 having to get up to speed with a new driver it puts the #60 and #33 teams as the two to beat. Whether KHI can add a Nationwide trophy to its two Truck Series championships will depend on how the drivers running the non-companion events fare since Harvick can finish in the top five in every race he enters.
Braun Racing ? Regarded as one of the best Nationwide-only organizations, Braun will expand to 4 teams this year with the #10, #11, #32 and #38 Toyota?s.
Jason Leffler and rookie Brian Scott will be the team?s full time driver as Leffler drives most of the season in the #38 and the rest in the #10 while Scott will drive the #11 for the whole season. Leffler has been one of the better Nationwide regulars over the last 3 seasons finishing 3rd in 2007, 9th in 2008 and 4th in 2009 but hasn?t won a race since 2007. With the competition in the NNS regular ranks being better this year it?ll be tough for Leffler to finish top five in the standings again. As for Brian Scott there?ll be question marks as to whether Braun can keep all 4 teams at a high competitive level but he was able to get the #38, #32 and even sometimes-S&P #10 team to run in the top five so Scott will hang in there with Braun and Stenhouse in the ROTY battle.
The #32 team will be driven by Cup driver Brian Vickers for 10 races and former Cup driver Reed Sorenson for at least 23 races. Sorenson joins Braun Racing after struggling in Cup the last two seasons but has a solid record in Nationwide and will help the 32 compete towards the top of the owners standings while Vickers will run in the top 5 in most of his races. Sorenson will also drive some Cup races for Braun as the team looks towards running full time in Cup in 2011.
The #10 will probably operate like it did in 2009 where it S&P?d half the races but ran well in the races they intended to finish. Leffler will drive the #10 when Kasey Kahne is driving the #38 while David Reutimann will run some races for the team. The rest of the driver line-up is unknown at this time.
Penske Racing ? After competing full time for the first time in Nationwide in 2009, Penske will be expanding to two full time teams in 2010. 2009 ROTY and 2008 ARCA champion Justin Allgaier will return to the #12 Dodge for a 2nd straight season as he continues to develop towards a future Cup ride. He finished 6th in the driver?s standings with 12 top ten?s, a pole and a best finish of 5th three times and almost finished in the top five. Although there will be more competition for top 10 points positions this year with the 2010 rookie crop, a year of experience under Allgaier?s belt will help him finish top 10 in the standings again and possibly get his first career win.
New Penske driver Brad Keselowski will drive the #22 Dodge has he does full-time double duty between Nationwide and Cup. Keselowski almost singlehandedly brought some respect back to the Nationwide series the last two seasons, competing as a Nationwide regular for Junior Motorsports and collecting 6 wins while finishing 3rd in the driver?s standings both seasons. While Keselowski is more than capable as a driver of winning the Nationwide championship, the equipment is another matter. The #12 team only finished 12th in the owner?s standings last year, albeit with a rookie driver and the #22 will be a brand new team. If Keselowski can gel with the team early then he might have a chance against Carl Edwards but otherwise he?ll fall short of his performance the last two seasons.
Rusty Wallce Incorporated ? RWI will field two Toyotas for a 2nd straight season, the #66 with Steven Wallace and the #62 with Brendan Gaughan.
Coming off of his best Nationwide season to date with a 7th place finish in the standings and a career high 9 top tens, Steven Wallace will look towards becoming even more consistent and finally getting his first career Nationwide win. Wallace has suffered his fair share of struggles in his first 4 seasons in Nationwide, not getting his first top ten until his 61st start and being the butt of jokes for his constant wrecks and mistakes. The good news is that he?s still only 22 years old and has made significant progress as a driver and will likely continue to make progress in 2010. Finishing top 10 in points again will be tough but the switch to Toyota could be a big help for both teams.
Long-time Truck Series driver and former Cup driver Brendan Gaughan finished runner-up in the ROTY standings last year and ended up 9th in the driver standings with 3 top fives, 8 top ten?s, a pole and a best finish of 2nd. Gaughan was the better of the RWI teammates in the first half of 2009 before a CC switch in the #66 camp improved Wallace?s performance. Like Wallace it?ll be tough to finish top 10 in points again but his experience will give him an advantage over the younger drivers he?ll compete against and his first career Nationwide win is a possibility.
Baker-Curb Racing ? BCR will have two teams in 2010, the #27 Ford part time with Greg Biffle as the driver and the #43 with Scott Lagasse Jr. full time.
Greg Biffle will run at least 10-12 races in the #27 with more added if they can find sponsorship. Biffle?s driven for Baker-Curb Racing in the past when they were Brewco. Biffle will probably be wishing he could still drive for Roush in NNS though.
Lagasse Jr. drove the first half of the season for CJM as a rookie in 2009 before being let go. He had 4 top ten?s in the first 21 races and probably would?ve finished top 10 in the standings if he?d stayed the whole season. Last year the #27 with Jason Keller finished 14th in the owner?s standings but it?ll be tough for Lagasse to match it. He?ll get some top ten?s here and there.
MWR will field one full time team, the #99 Toyota, for developmental driver Trevor Bayne. Bayne was impressive in running almost half the 2009 season, collecting a pole and 2 top ten?s in 15 starts while averaging a 10.1 starting position and all as an 18 year old. Expect him to get even better as the year goes along although it?ll be tough to crack the top 10 in points. MWR will likely field a 2nd car for 2009 East Series champion Ryan Truex later in the year after Truex turns 18 and become eligible to compete in Nationwide. Truex will be competing full time in the East Series again this season.
Phoenix Racing expected to run the full season with rookie James Buescher in the #1 Chevy but with long time sponsor Miccosukee pulling out just before the start of the season the entire organization?s plans for 2010 are in doubt. The #1 team won a race last year with Mike Bliss before they fired him and subbed in various Cup and Nationwide drivers for the rest of the season and ended up 11th in the owners standings. Buescher was a rookie in the Trucks last year, finishing 14th in the standings. If the team can make it through the whole year then the question will be whether Buescher can make it; owner James Finch has a penchant for firing drivers mid-season no matter how good or bad they are. BTW I'd put Buescher in the good category. If it all works out then Buescher will get some good results but will be hard pressed to finish top 10 in the standings or win a race.
The #15 Germain Toyota and driver Michael Annett will return for 2010. Annett finished 10th in the driver?s standings and 3rd in the ROTY standings behind Allgaier and Gaughan. Although an increase in competition for the top 10 will hurt this team?s chances, Annett?s got potential and will continue to develop and have some good results here and there.
RCR will have just one team in 2010, the #21 Chevy with John Wes Townley. Holiday Inn left RCR after 2009 which meant the demise of the #29 team so a driver with sponsorship was the only way for RCR to field a team this season. JWT is as ridiculed as any driver in NASCAR today after major struggles last season as a rookie, missing races and being a hazard on the track at times. His sponsor Zaxby?s was the main reason he got his ride so it?s going to be really interesting to see how he does with a team like RCR. He could bomb horribly or do surprisingly well but I?ll put it somewhere in between and call it mediocre.
Michael McDowell is a surprising double duty driver this season as he not only competes full time for Prism Motorsports in Cup but full time for MacDonald Motorsports in the #81 Dodge. The team ran 10 different drivers in 2009 but still ended up a career best 25th in the owners standings. McDowell will be the team?s first full time driver as he?ll race all 35 races (DJ Kennington ran 26 races in the #81 in 2008). Getting a quality driver like McDowell will assure the team of an even better result in the owner?s standings as they?ll get a few top ten?s and crack the top 20.
Eric McClure will drive the #24 Rensi Ford again this season. McClure was the worst of the drivers to run all 35 races last season and the team finished 26th in the owners standings so the same can be expected this season.
Brian Keselowski will compete for his family-owned #26 Dodge. He attempted most of the races and ran 18 for Dusty Whitney last year for the #26. Unknown if this team will have the 2009 28th place owners points from the Whitney #26.
Kenny Wallace and Jay Robinson Racing will be back together in the #28 Chevy for 2010. Kenny finished 11th in the driver standings and the team finished 19th in the owners standings last season. Sponsorship was an issue in the off season but they?re expected to make through the full season. Kenny?s always been good in Nationwide and even in the dusk of his racing career he?ll give Jay Robinson decent results throughout the season. It?ll be really hard to repeat 11th in the standings though.
Rick Ware Racing will field the #31 full time along with the #41 in an unknown schedule. Stanton Barrett will race the #31 at Daytona and Chrissy Wallace, DJ Kennington, Donnie Neuenberger and Tim Andrews will share the #41.
Key Motorsports and the #40 Chevy intends to run the full season pending sponsorship. Mike Bliss will run the first 3 races. They finished 21st in the owners standings last season.
Former MWR developmental driver Josh Wise will drive the #61 Specialty Racing Ford full time in 2010. They finished 29th in the owners standings last season. Wise has 1 top ten in 21 career Nationwide starts, a 5th, along with 2 top tens in 9 career Truck starts. Wise will be an improvement over the team?s previous drivers and as such they should probably do better.
Joe Nemechek will race in Nationwide full time for his own #87 Chevy team for a 2nd straight season. Whether they?ll S&P or compete will depend on sponsorship although they?re less likely to do so in Nationwide than they will be in Cup.
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