What We Learned: Camping World 300 at Daytona

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IFebruary 14, 2009

OK, so one race is in the books and we've already learned a lot about the upcoming Nationwide Series.

As the 2009 season kicks off, one thing seems clear: a Cup regular will win the championship. We all knew this one was coming.

With the likes of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch visiting the track each weekend, there is a good chance one of them will hoist the championship trophy at the end of the year.

Last year, the series saw Cup regular Clint Bowyer hold off a hard charging Edwards to take home his first championship. Bowyer was the third Cup regular in three seasons to "beat" out the competition. Here is a look at the last three points championships:

• 2008: Bowyer beats out Edwards by 21 points to win the championship. So this one may have been a close one and down to the wire, but third-place Keselowski was 338 back.
• 2007: Edwards blows away the competition and finishes the season 618 points ahead of second place David Reutimann. This was pitiful, he had it locked up with what, four or five races to go?
• 2006: Kevin Harvick dominates the entire season and finishes 824 points ahead of Edwards. Nobody had a chance from the mid-point of the season on, and nobody wanted to watch it either.
• 2005: Truex beat out Bowyer (the year before he moved to Cup) by 68 points. Possibly one of the best seasons of racing I can remember.
So with the exception of last year, the past three championships have been bore-fests.
Last year looked like it was going to be a runaway by Bowyer, before Edwards hit a hot streak and nearly caught him.

After one race is already in the books, another thing we've learned is that Cup regulars will win a lot of races in 2009. Again, it doesn't take a genius to figure this one out. Who visited Victory Lane Saturday afternoon? Tony Stewart.

To take it even further, out of the top 13 finishers in Saturday's race, only one was a Nationwide Series-only driver—Jason Keller in ninth.

Besides, all you have to do is look at last year's numbers to know the Cup guys will dominate:

• Cup drivers won 29 of the 36 races
• Of the six races won, Brad Keselowski won twice (Nashville and Bristol), Scott Wimmer won once (Nashville), Joey Logano won once (Kentucky), Ron Fellows won once (Montreal) and Marcos Ambrose won once (Watkins Glen).
• Average number of Cup guys in those six races: 7 (10 in Bristol and 12 at Watkins Glen threw the average higher, by the way)
• Average number of Cup guys in the other 29 races: 11

While the Cup guys plan to crash the Nationwide Series a lot this year, Keselowski has proven he's not scared and will win some races this year in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevy.

Keselowski ran up front a good portion of the race and led six laps before hitting the wall and limping his way to a 22nd-place finish. The bad news for him is that now he is light years behind Edwards and Busch in the championship hunt.

On Sunday, Stewart attempts to win his first Daytona 500, and he is doing so in new—and better—equipment than he's ever had before.

One thing is for sure. Stewart knows his way around the 2.5-mile oval, especially in a Nationwide Series car. In his last five races in the Nationwide Series season opener, Stewart has fared—rather well.

He has collected four wins, five top-fives, averaged a finish of 2.4, and led 128 laps. Though Stewart has now won the event four seasons in a row, he'd give them all up to visit Victory Lane on Sunday in the Grand Daddy of 'em all—the Daytona 500.

Stewart's win Saturday wasn't easy, as he had to hold off a hard-charging Busch. Busch got to his bumper in the final lap and gave him a nudge. Stewart's car wobbled a bit, but he managed to maintain the lead.

When it comes to manufactures on the high-banked oval, Ford has struggled in recent years at Daytona. In the Nationwide Series, however, the manufacture took five of the top-10 finish positions, proving it can hang with the Chevys and Toyotas on restrictor plate tracks.

Now, we might add that four of those five cars belong to Cup regulars, all of whom drive for Roush Fenway Racing, but still, they proved they could run up front.

OK, one race is in the books. Now it's onto Auto Club Speedway in California for the NNS at California Presented by GoDaddy.com next Saturday night. The green flag waves at 7:45.

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