Recent changes in NASCAR have made the point system a bit more even handed. Now, a driver can only receive points in one of NASCAR’s marquee series, which has made the “spoilers” from the Cup Series less of a fixture in the Nationwide and Truck series. One of the benefactors of the new points system in the series is Timothy Peters.
Peters became the season’s eighth different winner in nine races on July 14 at Iowa Speedway. He finally made it to Victory Lane after posting second-place finishes at Daytona and Kansas. Peters has finished outside the top 10 just once – 11th – and carries a 5.4 average-finish into Saturday’s event at Chicagoland Speedway.
A year ago, Austin Dillon won the title by averaging a finish of 9.3. According to Peters, that won’t cut it.
“With 22 races, bonus points are going to be critical,” he said.
The point system also supports Peters’ thinking. A year ago, 15 of 25 races were won by drivers who were not points eligible in the NCWTS. They removed a significant number of bonus points from the equation, thus enabling Dillon and others to contend for the title with lesser finishes. So far, the landscape is different. Just two “outsiders” – Kevin Harvick at Martinsville and Kasey Kahne at Rockingham – have won in 2012. With the participation rate of NSCS and NNS competitors expected to be lower than a year ago, the trend of NCWTS points-eligible drivers occupying more Victory Lanes should continue. Brendan Gaughan and Mike Harmon are the only non-NCWTS points eligible drivers entered this week.
Ron Hornaday should also be a factor at this weekend’s race in Joliet, Illinois. The 54-year-old Hornaday came within a restart of winning the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway, ultimately finishing second. The drive was his best since winning his 51st series race last September in Las Vegas and the top finish for the sophomore team of Joe Denette Motorsports.
You might say Hornaday has “hung around” – finishing on the lead lap of eight of nine races. He has scored a top-10 finish in four of his last six starts and stands seventh in the standings.
“It’s a big leap and a big gain for a new operation team,” said Hornaday of his Iowa finish. “That shows a good sign we’re on the right track.”
Hornaday has run three times at Chicagoland Speedway, finishing 10th in September. His best finish, driving for the former Kevin Harvick Inc. organization, is a third in 2010.
Just about every start is some sort of milestone for Hornaday, who won the Keystone Light Pole for the series’ first race in Phoenix in 1995. The American Ethanol 225 at Chicagoland will mark his 310th start, third all-time to Rick Crawford (331) and Terry Cook (314). By completing 73 laps, the Palmdale, Calif., veteran will reach 50,000 laps run in the NCWTS. That works out to over 52,300 miles – or more than twice around the world.
Todd Bodine will make NASCAR history at Chicagoland, becoming the first driver to start at least 200 races in each of the sanctioning body’s three national series. By starting the American Ethanol 225, Bodine will have 766 NASCAR national series starts: 241 in NASCAR Sprint Cup, 321 in NASCAR Nationwide and 200 in trucks. He stands 20th on the all-time national starts list. Bodine’s truck series resume is full of impressive numbers:
- 2 championships
- 22 victories
- 7 poles
- 90 top-five finishes
- 121 top-10 finishes
Bodine finished second (2009-10) in three previous starts at Chicagoland.
When you’re talking about the truck series championship fight, one name that should be at the top of the list is Matt Crafton. After a slow start this season, Matt Crafton prefers to see himself as late-blooming title contender rather than spoiler but regardless, the ThorSport Racing driver continued his surge in the points with a third-place finish in Iowa. Crafton’s third consecutive top-five finish moves him to within one point of fifth in the standings (Parker Kligerman). Crafton’s teammate Johnny Sauter is within two points of the top 10 following a fourth in Iowa, his third straight top-10 effort.
Chicagoland’s Victory Lane will see a new face Saturday since its two previous NCWTS occupants – Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon – aren’t competing in the American Ethanol 225. Fans can catch the race at the Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. The event will be televised on SPEED, as well as being broadcast on MRN radio and Sirius XM Channel 90.
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