NASCAR Nationwide Series: 7 Regulars with Most Chase Potential
The NASCAR Nationwide Series is enjoying a revival of its brand over the last couple of years.
After Sprint Cup Series regulars won the Nationwide championship every year from 2006-2010, NASCAR implemented a rule that drivers could only race for one series championship.
The result has been a large decrease in Cup drivers running Nationwide races and a revival of the breeding ground for young talent that the Nationwide Series was known as in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Nationwide Series has seen a great influx of talent in the last few years and has multiple young stars who have shown the potential to blossom into Sprint Cup superstars.
Here's a look at seven of those young guns.
Do you agree with this list? Think someone should be on it that isn't? Think someone is on it that shouldn't be? Let us know in the comments below!
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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After fellow Roush Fenway Racing young gun Trevor Bayne rocketed to stardom following his 2011 Daytona 500 victory, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. appeared to be in danger of being left in the cold as Bayne took off toward the Sprint Cup Series.
How did he match that? All he did was coolly notch two victories and 16 top-five finishes on his way to the 2011 Nationwide Series championship.
In 2012, the 24-year-old Stenhouse already has three victories and sits third in the standings. Not to mention the fact that he was announced in June as Matt Kenseth's replacement in the Sprint Cup Series for the 2013 season (via Bob Pockrass at Sporting News).
Taking over a Cup ride that has won a title before and has led a large portion of the 2012 standings, coupled with his obvious talent, makes Stenhouse a prime candidate to be a Chase contender sooner rather than later.
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Watching Austin Dillon in the Nationwide Series this season, it's hard to believe the kid is still just a rookie.
He ranks second in the series in top-five finishes (11) and top-10 finishes (15) and dominated on his way to his first career victory at Kentucky Speedway in June.
The 22-year-old Dillon is already committed to a full Nationwide season in 2013 (via Seth Livingstone at NASCAR.com), but make no mistake—he is destined to become a star at the Sprint Cup level.
The question at this point isn't whether or not he'll be in the Chase in the next few years. It's whether or not he'll do it driving that famous number of his.
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Talk about a kid making the best of a bad situation.
Justin Allgaier spent 2009 and 2010 driving for Penske Racing, one of NASCAR's marquee teams.
The former ARCA Series champion cut his teeth at the Nationwide level, winning at Bristol in March 2010 and biding his time in anticipation of a Sprint Cup Series ride.
Instead, after primary sponsor Verizon Wireless ended its partnership with Penske, the team was shut down and Allgaier was left out in the cold.
But the 26-year-old native of Illinois found a new home at Turner Motorsports in 2011, where he earned the second win of his career at Chicago and finished third in the championship standings.
In 2012, he sits fifth in the standings and continues to await his big break at the Sprint Cup level, where he could no doubt make an impact if given the opportunity.
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Brian Scott's stint at Joe Gibbs Racing has been marred by underachievement and horrendous luck.
But his lackluster statistics (just five top-five finishes in 97 starts) should not undermine the fact that when everything has been put together, Scott has shown himself to be just as capable as any other driver on this list.
The 24-year-old Idaho native owns a 2009 Truck Series victory at Dover and won his first career Nationwide pole at Chicagoland in 2011.
Scott is ninth in the 2012 Nationwide points standings. He must pick up his performance in order to justify taking up a seat in a JGR car, but if he can turn things around and get the job done, he is young enough and talented enough to still work his way into the Sprint Cup Series.
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Perhaps no one has done more with less in 2012 than Michael Annett.
Driving for a Richard Petty Motorsports team that was formed less than a month before the season began, Annett has earned four top-five finishes and sits sixth in the points standings as one of the biggest surprises of the season.
Annett had points finishes of 10th, 13th and ninth in three full Nationwide seasons with Germain Racing and Rusty Wallace Racing, but he never posted a top-five finish, making his 2012 run with RPM all the more impressive.
While he has yet to find victory lane, Annett has shown a marked improvement this season, and the 26-year-old seems to be finding himself toward the front more and more as the season progresses.
With a strong finish to 2012, Annett could find himself in the running for a ride at the next level, which he has the talent to parlay into a successful career.
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If not for lapped traffic, Ryan Truex would have a trophy to show for his abbreviated 2012 Nationwide Series schedule.
But even though he had a potential victory at Dover taken from him by slower cars, the younger brother of Cup Series star Martin Truex Jr. has definitely turned some heads during his gradual acclimation to the Nationwide Series.
In eight starts, Truex has one pole, four top-10s and one top-five finish. He has just two finishes worse than 15th: a crash at Daytona and a blown engine at Texas.
When he has been around at the end of the day, Truex has shown that he has immense talent. The soft-spoken 20-year-old is under contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, and while his 2013 plans have not been announced, one can assume that we'll be seeing him racing for a Nationwide title soon.
Once he has a year or two of Nationwide experience under his belt, the Sprint Cup world better be on the lookout, because Ryan Truex is coming to put his stamp on the Chase.
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At the rate Ryan Blaney is moving up the ladder, fans may see him contending for the Chase much sooner than they expected.
The son of Cup driver Dave Blaney made his Nationwide Series debut at Richmond back in May, stunning everyone by turning in a seventh-place effort in a Tommy Baldwin Racing entry.
Even though he only logged one top-15 result in his next three starts, that was enough to sway Roger Penske, who scooped up the 19-year-old and dropped him into the seat of his No. 22 Nationwide Series ride that is just two years removed from winning a championship with Brad Keselowski.
Blaney's first start in that car resulted in a 10th-place finish at Iowa. He is scheduled to make at least two more starts for Penske and three more for Baldwin over the rest of the 2012 season.
The NASCAR world has yet to get the full view of what Blaney can do in a race car, but with Penske power behind him, he is a kid that could run through the Nationwide Series and into Chase contention in a hurry.