The 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season is over and oh what a season it was. For this column we are going to take a look back at what was an incredible season as well as quickly look forward to what should be an even better 2013 season.
We will start where the season started: Daytona. The 2012 NNS race at Daytona was as wild as they come. The Nationwide Series proved that the two-car tango draft can be exciting. They ran in tandem, and they ran in huge packs all race long. They chose to tandem draft on the final lap and the top 10 cars all had a shot at the win. The Busch Brothers were locked together racing against Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne when suddenly Tony Stewart went to the outside and made it three-wide. That triggered a massive wreck that took out everybody in the top-10. James Buescher went from 11th to first in one corner to win.
Everybody complains about Cup guys taking all the wins away from the NNS regulars, but the thing about Buescher winning was that he wasn’t even a NNS regular. He was a Truck Series regular (he went on to win the Camping World Truck Series championship) who at that point had never won any race in NASCAR. But there he was in victory lane at Daytona.
There were moments like that all season long on all different kinds of tracks. But the road courses were where a lot of the action was this season.
Think back to Road America. Truck Series regular and former Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. did exactly what Buescher did at Daytona. He went to Road America without a Truck Series win and won a Nationwide Series race (Piquet eventually did win a Truck Series event at Michigan this year and at Las Vegas). However, this race will long be remembered for when Jacques Villeneuve dumped Danica Patrick for fifth place and then got into a shouting match with Patrick’s then-crew chief Tony Eury Jr. It wasn’t the first time Villeneuve spun somebody and it wouldn’t be the last. He would do the same thing eight weeks later but this time to fellow Canadian Alex Tagliani in Montreal. It looked like after he spun Tagliani that nobody would get to Villeneuve, but that wasn’t the case. This time somebody returned the favor. Justin Allgaier chased down Villeneuve with the help of a few cautions and put the bumper to Villeneuve. He didn’t spin him out, but just moved him out of the way and went on to the win. To say that Villeneuve wasn’t happy would be an understatement.
This season will also be remembered for a Cup driver winning. A LOT. Joey Logano won nine races this season. The amazing part about that was he only raced 22 times this year. He also won six poles. He won on short tracks, intermediates, super-speedways, high banks, flat tracks. You name it, he won there.
2012 also saw a fantastic battle for the championship for the second year in a row. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler went at it for the second straight year. Sadler led for most of the season, but faltered near the end. Sadler and Stenhouse went to Phoenix tied for the points lead. They went to Homestead with Sadler behind by 20 points. For the second straight season Sadler crashed at Phoenix International Raceway. And for the second straight season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Nationwide Series championship.
As the 2012 season drew to a close, we learned what drivers will race for what teams and what tracks will be on the schedule.
Elliott Sadler will move to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2013 and the rumor is he’s bringing sponsor One Main Financial with him.
Sadler’s teammate will be 2003 Nationwide Series champion Brian Vickers. Vickers raced part-time in Cup in 2012 for Michael Waltrip Racing. He turned a lot of heads with his great runs this year after a terrible 2011 season with Red Bull Racing.
Danica Patrick is moving up to the Sprint Cup Series full-time and will be replaced by Regan Smith. Smith has been full-time in Cup for the last few years for Furniture Row Racing. He made his first start for JRM in the Nationwide Series this past weekend at Homestead and won.
The two-time defending champion Stenhouse is moving up to Cup to replace Matt Kenseth. The rumor is that Travis Pastrana is going to take Stenhouse’s NNS ride and will be teammates with 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.
There will be a new venue on the schedule for next season. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will visit Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time ever next August. Unfortunately the addition comes at the cost of another fan-favorite venue. After some controversy, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal will not be on the schedule. It’s been a fixture on the schedule since 2007.
The Nationwide Series will also feature a new car next year. Chevrolet is replacing the Impala with the Camaro. Many have wanted the Camaro in NASCAR for a long time and it is finally going to happen.
As good as the 2012 season was, the 2013 season promises to be even better. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will go green for the first time in 2013 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23rd. You better be watching.