By Jordan Luchkiw
If you happened to miss any of the racing this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway, you missed some of the most exciting and costly racing we will see all year. Not only am I talking about the now infamous 54th Daytona 500, but also the Nationwide Series race. The Drive 4 COPD 300. Much of the hype leading up to the Nationwide series opener centered around Danica Patrick starting her first full season in the series, and Tony Stewart going for 5 in a row in the February event.
The weekend got off to a great start for Danica as she claimed her first pole in the Nationwide series. Her pole was the first for a female in the series since Shanua Robinson did so at Atlanta in 1994. While Danica was all the rage she wasn’t the main storyline leaving the event.
Most of the drama centered around the mass amounts of cautions that took place, highlighted by a last lap last turn 4 crash taking out much of the top ten and allowing Camping World Truck series regular James Buescher, to come from 11th out of turn 4 to go on and win the race his first in the Nationwide series race.
Danica was able to lead the first two laps of the season. However, she was unable to complete the race on the lead lap after getting involved in a two car incident with teammate Cole Whitt out of the JR Motorsports stable. Whitt who was trying to orchestrate the two car tandem with Danica, got her loose as she lost control of her #7 Go Daddy Chevrolet, sending it into the outside wall. Danica, who seemed to have trouble keeping any cars out of incidents, ended the day finishing 38th. “Danicamania” is sure to be a hot topic throughout the rest of the 2012 season.
Tony Stewart was another big storyline going in. He nearly kept his Nationwide winning ways alive at the Daytona International Speedway by pulling a daring move on the outside of 2 other two car tandems on the last lap. Only to see the major seemingly 10 car pack wreck with the checkered flag in sight his day would be relegated to an 8th place finish.
Buescher meanwhile was able to capitalize in all the mayhem that ensured, and locked up his first ever Nationwide win in dramatic fashion. Buescher who lead the one and only lap that mattered will not be entering this upcoming weekend’s race. As the series points leader is going to be competing for the Truck series title in 2012. Thus thrusting Elliott Sadler in the #2 RCR Chevrolet into the points lead heading into phoenix coming off his 3rd place run Saturday. The rest of the top 5 in points going into phoenix look as follows; Whitt sits in 2nd in the standings followed by Austin Dillon in the #3 RCR Chevy with Trevor Bayne 2011 Daytona 500 winner and Benny Gordon rounding out the top 5. Absent from the top 5 in points is 2011 series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who was as well caught up in the last lap wreck in turn 4 he had to settle for a 19th place finish in the event.
All in all it was an action packed weekend of racing at the Daytona International Speedway and the upcoming weekend at phoenix is sure to be promising. Sam Hornish Jr. who will be competing full-time in the series this season, was able to get the first Nationwide series win of his career the last time the series visited Phoenix back in November. If you thought the series opener was a thriller stayed tuned. This season promises to be exciting and full of drama and it all continues this weekend in Phoenix.
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