Nationwide Title Race Wide Open

Nationwide Series

There’s a common theme when you talk to the drivers in the NASCAR Nationwide Series about the season ahead and that's 2013 will see one of the most competitive field in years. (Photo: Getty Images)

You hear a common theme when talking to the drivers in the NASCAR Nationwide Series about the season ahead. They clearly believe that 2013 will see one of the most competitive fields in years.

A number of drivers made moves to new teams in the off-season, creating a very strong field of full-time Nationwide Series teams. Elliott Sadler, who won four races and finished second in the standings last year, will drive the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing after spending the last two seasons with Kevin Harvick, Inc. and Richard Childress Racing.

Elliott Sadler“This year is definitely going to be tough,” Sadler said. “Hendrick (Motorsports) is getting more involved, with Regan Smith. We know Childress is going to be strong. I think Brian Vickers, my teammate, is going to be the biggest threat I have in racing for the championship.”

Vickers will drive the No. 20 JGR Toyota in what will be his first full season in the Nationwide Series since winning the championship in 2003 with Hendrick Motorsports.

“I feel confident in where we are as a team,” Vickers said, “but I also know it’s going to be a competitive field. It's not going to be a cakewalk. There are a lot of great drivers and great teams this year so it's going to take a big effort on everyone's part.”

Smith is the most recent Nationwide Series race winner, claiming the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his first start with JR Motorsports. After spending the last three seasons racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series, Smith will return to the Nationwide Series to drive the No. 7 for JRM and compete for the championship for the first time since 2006.

“This is the best situation I've had in my career,” said Smith, who's made 103 NNS starts over the last seven years. “This is the most confidence I've had going into a season, rightfully so coming off a win.”

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon finished third in the standings last year and will return for another shot at the Nationwide Series title. He'll be teamed with Brian Scott, who joined the organization after spending two seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I'm going to have to work a lot with Brian this year and our other teammates in the '33' car to be able to compete with the Gibbs guys,” Dillon said. “I was able to learn a lot about Elliott (Sadler) last year and hopefully, that will help me going against him. Brian (Vickers) and Regan (Smith) will definitely throw us some curveballs because I haven’t been able to race with them in a lot of places.”

Nationwide SeriesSam Hornish Jr., Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier finished fourth through sixth, respectively, in the final 2012 standings. They'll all be back for another run at the title this season.

"I want to win a championship and I feel like we have a great opportunity this year,” said Hornish, who drives the No. 12 Ford for Penske Racing. “But I also know that this is one of the most competitive fields we've seen in many, many years. I know we're going to have to beat all the usual suspects and some new ones."

This year will mark the third season for NASCAR's “pick your series” rule, which allows only drivers who are competing for a championship to receive points in their chosen series. Although they won’t record points, a number of Cup drivers will be in the mix for Nationwide Series wins in 2013 including Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano - who had a series-leading nine victories in 2012.

“The competition level is definitely better going into this year,” Dillon said. “Points-wise, it’s going to be a lot tougher.”

Busch, who is the Nationwide Series all-time leader in wins (51), will be back racing for JGR in 25 events this season. Last year, he ran for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports team. For 2013, Busch has tabbed Parker Kligerman to drive that car and compete for the championship.

“We're going for it and giving it all we’ve got,” Kligerman said. “We need to be consistent and come out with realistic expectations. We need to understand that as an independent team - with what the field looks like in terms of competition, if we can go out there and be a top-five points team at the end of the year, we’ve really succeeded.”

Nationwide SeriesAfter winning the last two Nationwide Series championships, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will graduate to Sprint Cup - paving the way for Trevor Bayne to take over behind the wheel of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

“We would be crazy to think it’s going to be an easy walk, but I think it's something we can do,” Bayne said, eyeing a third straight crown for the No. 6 team.

That's the same sentiment shared by a number of drivers heading into the new campaign.

Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of the Nationwide Series season opener ... the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway ... on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 12:45 p.m. (ET) with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Nationwide Series

Race Center

Food City 300

@ Bristol Motor Speedway
Friday, August 22, 2014
Radio Start:
PRN
TV Start:
ESPN, 7 p.m. (ET)

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