After a week where no full-time Nationwide driver finished inside the top four, the series is now heading in the opposite direction of the Sprint Cup.
Paul Menard saw his luck turn in the final laps at Michigan as Joey Logano cut a tire and was forced to go to the pits after holding the lead. The 33-year-old then drove to victory and ended a long-standing drought, as NASCAR points out:
Not much of a shakeup occurred at the top of the standings, with Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler and Chase Elliott still keeping a stranglehold over the top three. Even with the 17th-place finish, Sadler still sits six points ahead of Elliott in second.
That could all change this weekend as the drivers head to the first road course of the season at Road America. Unlike several tracks on the circuit thus far, Elliott actually comes into the course with experience in a stock car.
Before the Nationwide drivers take to the track, here's a look at the schedule, standings and a full preview for the Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville.
Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville
Where: Road America, Plymouth, Wisconsin
When: Saturday, June 21, 2:45 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|2014 Nationwide Standings|
|Pos.||Name||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
After seeing what Elliott can do on a track that he's never competed on, it's tough to pick against him on a course where he has a top-five finish.
The 18-year-old did just that last year in an ARCA race at Road America, finishing fourth in the SCOTT 160 following a Pocono win in the series. Elliott spoke about the chance to return to the road course, per the Sheboygan Press:
I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I had a really good time in the ARCA race last year. I thought it was a really good race track for the ARCA cars and for the Nationwide cars, too. I’ve always enjoyed road racing and I’m excited to get going. I’m looking forward to the race. …
I just love having a chance to go road course racing in a stock car. I’ve always enjoyed doing it. Road course racing in a stock car is a blast. It really is a lot of fun. We don’t get to do it much. We just want to make the most of it and have a good time.
Following a race where he led six laps and finished just ahead of Smith for sixth place, anything is possible for Elliott at the road course.
Outside of the potential for a young driver like Elliott or Ty Dillon to emerge, another crucial component to watch will be the pole-sitter. In three of the last four races at the course, the winner led from wire-to-wire.
A.J. Allmendinger accomplished the feat last year, with Carl Edwards doing the same in 2010. Given the experience in the field including Smith, Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr., any of the three drivers could take the top spot.
Hornish, who finished fifth in last season's race at Road America, heads to the course after a strong showing at Michigan, as Jordan Strack of WTOL points out:
With Hornish looking for a full-time ride, look for him to do whatever it takes to continue racking up top-five results.
Whether it's a wily veteran or a relative newbie taking the checkered flag, they'll have to master the twists and turns of the tricky track. In a points race that's separated by 50 points from first to fifth, this one will be crucial to every driver in the running.
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