By: Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
- Keselowski & Edwards take on NNS drivers
- Sadler looks to improve on Nashville oval
- Sorenson has the best stats for victory
Spotlight on Nationwide Series seasonal drivers in Nashville
The competitors of the NASCAR Nationwide Series are used to having to contend with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who also compete at the Nationwide level, but not this weekend, at least not to the usual extent. The series heads to Nashville Superspeedway this weekend to run the Federated Auto Parts 300 on Saturday night. With the Sprint Cup Series taking the weekend off, the only Cup regulars expected to be on the starting grid for the Nationwide race on Saturday are Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge.
I’m really looking forward to it.
With Sprint Cup representation being minimal in Nashville, the spotlight will shine on drivers going after the Nationwide Series championship. Three drivers have made a strong case for this year’s title: Elliott Sadler in the No. 2 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet, Reed Sorenson in the No. 32 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Series points leader Sadler may be a racing veteran has returned to Nationwide competition after a 12-year stint in the Sprint Cup Series, but he’s a relative newcomer to Nashville Superspeedway. He finished 13th in his series debut at the track earlier this season. Sadler will try to cram in a little extra Nashville seat time by competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the track in a KHI entry Friday night.
“Now that we race at the new track and I have one race under my belt there after competing there in April, I’m really looking forward to it,” Sadler said.
Of the three drivers within 20 points of the lead, Sorenson, who is in second-place and seven points behind Sadler, is the only one who has visited the Nashville Superspeedway victory lane in Nationwide Series competition.
It just so happens that Sorenson’s first win in a NASCAR national series came in the Nationwide race at Nashville Superspeedway in 2005. At the same venue earlier this year, he finished eighth. Sorenson comes into the weekend with the highest pre-race driver rating among himself, Sadler and Stenhouse at 108.2.
“I always look forward to returning to Nashville,” Sorenson said. It is a special place for me. Nashville is the spot of my first Nationwide Series win.”
Of the three championship contenders, Stenhouse is 18 points behind Sadler in third. He was the only one to finish in the top-five in the series’ April visit to Nashville. Last season, Stenhouse ended 31st in the April race at Nashville, and he did not run in the 2010 Nashville July event.
“We’ve kind of struggled at Nashville in the past,” Stenhouse said. We had a really good Mustang there last time, ran fifth and had some speed to maybe be a little bit better than that. We’re pretty optimistic going back.”
Over the last couple of months, the championship points lead has, for the most part, been swapped back and forth between Sadler and Sorenson, with Stenhouse Jr. making a brief appearance at the top of the chart. With the series heading to Nashville, Sorenson stands a good shot of taking the lead from Sadler again. Only seven points out, the series is heading to one of Sorenson’s best tracks, a track he has the most experience at among his toughest title competition.
The Federated Auto Parts 300 is slated to take the green flag at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The race will air live on ESPN.