Daytona Double: Does it Help Cup Drivers To Drive in Nationwide Races?
In social gatherings and parties, there's the phenomenon known as "double dipping," often defined as the act of an individual placing a snack (like a chip) into a container with saucer, only that that piece of food was eaten prior to the dip.
It's a surefire way to get the disapproval and looks from the passerby, family members, and friends—that means you, George Costanza.
NASCAR has a sort of equal to the practice of "double dipping." In this case, it is known as "double duty" racing. Although a common aspect of stock car racing's top two series for as long as there's been an Earnhardt behind the wheel, this particular dabbling of duality has been scrutinized over the years.
While some may argue that Sprint Cup racers competing in Nationwide Series events prevents the regulars from the other ranks' to compete for wins and championships, having Sunday's stars in Saturday matinees or night races only adds to the weekend at the track.
For less the price and arduous race distances, enthusiasts can see some of their Cup favorites in colors similar to their Sunday rides, or in machines that have some affiliation to the regular jobs. The question often raised with double duty racers is this:
Does racing in the Nationwide Series help a Sprint Cup racer compete at their best level on Sunday?
We'll examine seven of the sport's staying powers, as they've competed in a bulk of the Nationwide events along with their full commitments to the Cup Series. Based on the upcoming slides, the answer may be obvious—but the reasons are more than what the pictures depict.
As the saying goes, it's your call—however, at the end of the day, stats indeed do not lie.
Let's go racing!
(By the way, if you'd like to check out my works, as far as all racing goes, check out The Podium Finish, where I talk about all things racing as well as here!)
Joey Logano, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota (Cup)/No. 20 Toyota (Nationwide)
Aptly titled as "The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread" by former NASCAR Nationwide titlist Randy LaJoie, fellow Connecticut native Joey Logano has been the face of change in stock car racing for the past few years.
Highlighted as one of the future stars in racing by Sports Illustrtated in 2007, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has excelled since making his breakthrough debut in the Nationwide Series in '08, logging a victory during his 19 race rookie campaign.
Since then, he's found success in both series, compiling six additional wins in the NNS while triumphing at his "hometown" track last year in the June New Hampshire Sprint Cup race.
To say the least, his dabbling in the Nationwide Series has helped to hone the skills of this raw, talented Constitution State racer, polishing himself into a formidable contender in the most elite form of stock car action. Consider the stats:
Logano's not raced the entire 2010 NNS season, yet he's sitting ninth in points with a win, four poles, six top-fives and 10 top-10s through his 11 starts.
As for his regular Cup ride, he's doing a fine job, all things considered, with two top-fives, and seven top-10 finishes, all the while, placing 16th place through the first 17 races of the year.
At this time last year, Logano only had a single top-five, five top-10s, and he wasn't even in the top-20 in the points race for the Cup side. To say the least, the more seat time that he gets in either car, the better and stronger he becomes as a racer.
Logano is within striking distance of the top-12 in the Cup side, just 99 markers behind Carl Edwards for a seed in the playoffs. If he can keep up his efforts from the first half and perhaps grab a win or two in the summer stretch, "Sliced Bread's" season may be one of the greatest "home improvements" in recent memory.
Paul Menard, No. 98 Menards Ford (Cup)/No. 98 Menards Ford (Nationwide)
OK, so he's not exactly the most embraced racer on the circuit, as critics often say that he's only racing in NASCAR because of his family's business. Undoubtedly, the financial resources are there for the 29-year-old from Eau Claire, Wisc., who has been a part of the stock car scene for the past eight years.
Some say he lacks the talent to be a true star on the Cup side, as he's logged only two top-fives, four top-10's, and a pole through his first 128 races.
Those aren't exactly screaming star potential—but, his Cup numbers have improved this season, as he sits 23rd in points with one top-five and a pair of top-10 finishes.
Meanwhile, his Nationwide numbers look fairly respectable, with a win from the Milwaukee Mile race in 2006, two poles, 16 top-fives and 49 top-10 results in 146 events thus far.
He's having one of his better campaigns in the No. 2 series, driving his No. 98 Menards Ford to a sixth place seed thus far in the 2010 NNS title race.
Perhaps, although not completely, his success in the Nationwide Series this year has translated into better efforts on Sunday afternoon with his Sprint Cup ride.
While driving for one of the more unstable organizations in the sport at Richard Petty Motorsports, there's no doubt that Menard is making the most out of very little resources with the fledgling Ford collective.
Brad Keselowski, No. 12 Dodge (Cup)/No. 22 Dodge (NW)
Last year's 200 miles per hour bullseye hasn't exactly compiled a memorable Cup freshman campaign, with Brad Keselowski's biggest moment being the controversial Atlanta race in March.
The story was told repeatedly, but basically put, it somewhat put a lid on BK's ways of the past three years.
A hard charging and aggressive racer, the 26-year-old Rochester Hills, Mich. native has put together a solid Nationwide season, winning a trio of races and poles, all the while compiling 13 top-fives and 15 top-10 results in the first 16 NNS events of 2010.
Dodge has had reasons to smile, with their Cup efforts looking solid thanks to BK's teammate Kurt Busch's spectacular season, as well as their fantastic year in the Nationwide ranks with the No. 22 team. Keselowski looks on pace to grab the title in the NW division, as long as he and his team remain steadfast on one thing— that killer instinct for wins.
Undoubtedly, BK will emerge as a true threat on the Cup circuit in the years ahead, although this season may not be the most memorable for he and his No. 12 team.
However, his success in the Nationwide Series, most notably with JR Motorsports, has translated to his rides and opportunities as one of the more talented youths in motorsports.
Greg Biffle, No. 16 3M Ford (Cup)/No. 27 Red Man Ford (Nationwide)
This one's a bit difficult, seeing as Greg Biffle is just an all-around talented racer in any NASCAR division.
Put him in a truck, and he'll most likely beat and bang his way to the front for an incredible win. Seat him in the Nationwide Series, and he'll win you a title, as he did for car owner Jack Roush in 2002.
Have "The Biff" compete full-time in the Cup ranks and you'll witness a race in which the driver absolutely gives 100 percent every lap, driving the wheels off the No. 16 Ford until the checkered flag unfurls. Even then, it's hard to stop the Vancouver, Wash. hero, especially when he's leading the field.
While racing in the Nationwide Series doesn't exactly "benefit" Biffle unlike the previous three racers, it doesn't hurt for him to be on the track, in terms of feeling out the racing grooves or variables that he can take into account with his Cup ride.
As you'll see with some of the next few racers, it's more than just racing a car for associate or other sponsors to get some spotlight from Cup drivers—rather, it's for that precious time on the track that even "Happy Hour" cannot address.
Carl Edwards, No. 99 Aflac Ford (Cup)/No. 60 Ford (Nationwide)
Talk about a strange phenomenon—here's one of stock car's most exciting talents in recent years, hoisting a trophy from his win at Road America's NASCAR Nationwide Series race in late June.
Praised and touted as one of the next and highly skilled Cup racers, Carl Edwards hasn't exactly lit the torch in the Sprint Cup division, at least in the past few years. In fact, he's almost been quietly making his presence known, rather than doing his trademark flip when he triumphs after a 500-mile event.
However, his Nationwide numbers remain quite as steady as ever, having been the series' runner-up for the past two years. His other full-time season numbers note a series title in 2007, a runner-up result in '06, and a third-place finish in '05, the same year he made his full-time Cup efforts.
On the flip side, his Cup numbers have been maddeningly inconsistent. Edwards has placed third, 12th, ninth, second, and 11th in the points race.
Currently, he sits 12th in points, barely holding on to his coveted playoff spot with the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano breathing closely behind his neck for that final postseason position.
Could it be that Edwards' time in the Nationwide cars hurts his efforts with the Cup ride? Perhaps, although this is a guy who absolutely just loves to race, all the time, in any vehicle.
However, it may be noteworthy and something to keep an eye on with the 30-year-old from Columbia, MO, who is one of the sport's more physically fit competitors on the circuit. It may not also be his fault with his struggles in the Cup ranks, considering how Ford has been lukewarm at best in that division.
Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's/Interstate Toyota (Cup)/No. 18 NOS Toyota (NW)
It's not a question of whether or not racing in the Nationwide Series helps 25-year-old Kyle Busch, but if he's having a fun time competing in both divisions.
A modern day Ken Schrader with the NASCAR talent of a Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon all wrapped into one, the Las Vegas sensation enjoys racing in the Nationwide ranks like a particular writer enjoys some freshly baked Boston Chipyard chocolate chip cookies from Faneuil Hall. Wins come by for Busch like Lady Gaga's time on the airwaves (again, sorry for the reference, Rowdy).
He absolutely relishes the moment of being in a race car, thus explaining his passion on raceday, be it in the battlefields in which sheet metal meets the rubber, or in Victory Lane, where he often celebrates on any given weekend.
While he has cut down on his Nationwide efforts, electing to miss some of the races this season, his numbers on the Cup side are looking about as strong as they did in 2008, which was one of his better efforts despite his collapse down the stretch.
Busch possesses 36 victories in the NW division, while he's captured about half as many wins in the Sprint Cup series. Keep in mind, his numbers have soared since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, in which his aggressive style has been laced with that Toyota power and Gibbs factor for wins.
It's not exactly foolish or brilliant to say that double duty action helps Busch, but if it does help with anything in terms of preparation and confidence, you bet your bottom dollar that he enjoys double dipping his chips, so to speak.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell Chevrolet (Cup)/No. 33 Chevrolet (NW)
Meet NASCAR's "Renaissance Man"—no, it's not Danny DeVito, but Bakersfield, Calif.'s Kevin Harvick, who has truly emerged as a breakout star in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide divisions in 2010, with consistency being the name of his game.
While he is not competing full time in the NW rank (missing three of the 16 races thus far run), his numbers are strong, sitting fifth in points with a win, seven top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes logged in.
Usually piloting the No. 33 Chevrolet from his Kevin Harvick Racing shop, it's his stats on the Cup side that are worth the look, especially with this season's efforts.
Leading the points in the top level of NASCAR, he has duplicated his numbers from the Nationwide ranks, again with a win, seven top-fives and 12-top 10 efforts. Talk about spooky or sheer coincidence, but "Happy Harvick" has resorted back to his old ways, at least in terms of the individual painted from those ominous days after Dale Earnhardt's passing in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Regarded as a fierce and tenacious driver on the circuit, his anger sometimes gets the best of him.
However, a more subdued (dare I say) Harvick has emerged in 2010, focused on the task at hand rather than which driver to wreck for any wrong committed against him. This change has translated into a driver who appears to have fun again rather than bemoaning a rule change, or a competitor who's irked him after a long day.
While it's not certain that he can keep his points lead in the Cup series, there's no doubt that his confidence is back, thanks to his success in both divisions, as well as the fact that Kevin Harvick has not forgotten how to drive a race car.
Best Double Duty Racer: Mark Martin
When it comes down to it, if I personally had to pick a driver who could give me 110 percent in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, it'd have to be Mark Martin.
Often regarded as one of racing's nicest guys off the track, the Batesville, Ark. native is one of the hardest charging drivers on the asphalt arena, willing to trade paint and make some crazy moves to maneuver his machine around to the lead.
That can be said with his Cup and Nationwide careers, in which he's compiled 40 and 48 victories respectively. From 1992-2000, Martin had a David Pearson-like streak in the NW series, winning 39 times in 129 starts.
In other words, the chances of Martin going into Victory Lane were about 30 percent. For a driver who never competed in the Nationwide ranks full-time during his tenure at Roush-Fenway Racing, there's no doubt that Martin would deliver a stellar race, most likely telling you his thoughts on the race with confetti falling from Victory Lane.
Better than Harry Gant. Even Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon. Yep, when the money's on the line and a driver has to be picked to compete in both series in a season, Mark Martin's your man to beat.