17 February 2012

2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series Season Preview

For the first time since Martin Truex, Jr. went back-to-back in 2004-2005, there was a champion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series that was not competing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series and that was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Thanks to the new rules saying that drivers can only compile points in one series, it allowed the Nationwide-only drivers to own the spotlight. In fact, this season as of right now there will be no Sprint Cup regulars driving full-time in the Nationwide Series. So how do I see the season going down? Here's the B-FLO 360 2012 Nationwide Series season preview.

Sprint Cup Preview
Truck Series Preview


1. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., #6 Blackwell Angus Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
Stenhouse had an awesome season last year en route to the series championship, two victories, sixteen top fives, twenty-six top tens with only two races in which he did not finish. That's remarkable consistency and really shows the talent that Stenhouse has as a future star in the sport. The only thing that could slow him down is if he does not run the full season due to sponsorship woes but don't bank on it.

2. Elliott Sadler, #2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Sadler resurrected his career after being an also-ran in the Cup Series with a very strong return to the Nationwide Series, his first full slate since 1998. Although he did not find victory lane, he had twelve top fives and twenty-four top tens with only one DNF. He will give Stenhouse a run for his money yet again and should find victory lane.

3. Justin Allgaier, #31 Brandt Chevrolet, Turner Motorsports
I know, same top three as last year but regardless. Allgaier, in his first year with this team, had another tremendous season and is getting better every year. Look for Allgaier to bag multiple victories and there is no reason why he should not be a championship contender once again.

4. Austin Dillon, #3 AdvoCare Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Dillon is a budding star. He was fantastic last season in the Camping World Truck Series en route to a championship and there is no reason why he cannot be a contender right away in his first full season in the Nationwide Series. He ran well in the four Nationwide races he ran last year with a top five and three top tens and with a veteran teammate like Elliott Sadler to work with, sky's the limit.

5. Brian Scott, #11 Dollar General Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Scott disappointed a little in 2011 in his first year for JGR but still had a solid season nonetheless and improved as the season went on. He will be a strong contender for victories at multiple tracks and the Gibbs equipment is just too good for him to underperform. He's got the talent and the two will come together for a strong 2012.

6. Cole Whitt, #88 Tax Slayer Chevrolet, JR Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a firm believer of putting talented young drivers in his rides and Whitt is more like Brad Keselowski than Shane Huffman. This kid is a talent and a star in the making. Whitt really raised some eyebrows with how well he ran in the Truck Series last season and coming close to victories at Dover and Charlotte and leading in the points in one point. He's got good equipment and he'll run well.

7. Danica Patrick, #7 GoDaddy Chevrolet, JR Motorsports
I know you think this must be a joke or something but hear me out. I've been a Danica hater over the years but I think she will have a nice season now that she is committed fully to NASCAR and not splitting with IndyCar. Patrick really improved last season in the Nationwide Series and it's not crazy to see her winning at the one of the plate tracks potentially.

8. Kenny Wallace, #09 American Ethanol Toyota, RAB Racing
Herman had a very good season last year in his first season with RAB Racing and had his best finish in points since 2005 and had a top five at Richmond with eleven top tens. Wallace is about in the twilight of his career but this seems to be a pairing that really works and it is not that crazy that he could find victory line at somewhere like Richmond, his best track.

9. Sam Hornish, Jr., #12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge, Penske Racing
Hornish resurrected his career in NASCAR in a limited schedule in the Nationwide Series last year and finally flashed some of the talent he showed while being one of the elite drivers in the IndyCar series. He had a top ten in almost half of the races he ran and even bagged a victory at PIR in the second to last race in the season. He should have another good season as he runs full time.

10. Michael Annett, #43 Pilot Travel Centers, Richard Petty Motorsports
Annett had a tumultuous start of his season last year after he was arrested in early February for DWI. But he rebounded and put together a solid season for Rusty Wallace's team with seven top tens, a career high. After Wallace's team was shut down, he moved over to a newly formed Petty Nationwide team and should run well for them.

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