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Motorsports 101 Debate: Who Will Win the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship?

February 12th, 2014 at 10:30 AM
By Mark Eddinger

The green flag will drop on the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season in 10 days when the cars hit the track for the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 22nd. Motorsports 101's writers make their picks on who they think will win the championship come November after the 33 race schedule is complete.

 
The NASCAR Nationwide Series has several championship contenders ready for next season. While a couple of rookies throw a monkey wrench into things there is a driver who I believe will come out above the rest.
 
'Road America 2013 Nationwide 6 Trevor Bayne' photo (c) 2013, Royal Broil - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
 
To me there are about seven or eight teams in the Nationwide Series that can win a championship. I do not believe in picking a rookie driver to win the championship. That eliminates four big named drivers like Ty Dillon, Dylan Kwasniewski, and Chase Elliott. Also James Buescher will be in his first full season.

Several championship contenders from the 2013 season are no longer running full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr and Justin Allgaier are all no longer running the Nationwide Series full-time in 2014. 
 
That makes for a new interesting class in the series in 2014. Drivers like Elliott Sadler, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and Brian Scott all have a shot at the championship. I don’t like the way Sadler ran with his crew chief Kevin Kidd in 2013 and I believe that we could see more of the same. With Regan Smith having success in 2013 he seems like a favorite. However, I believe JR Motorsports has stretched itself thin and the No. 7 team will see the results of that. The team expanded and while NAPA Auto Parts will pay a ton of money to sponsor Chase Elliott, the old saying goes “two is like having two and three is like having 15.” If that’s the case there could be a learning curve for that race team. 
 
That leaves Brian Scott and Trevor Bayne. I believe we’ll see a nice year from Bayne. Scott still hasn’t won a Nationwide Series race in his career and I believe Bayne will just have more success. I love the fact that Bayne is desperate and I think he will have a very good season in the No. 6 for Roush Fenway Racing and win his first Nationwide Series championship in his career.
 
It’s going to be an interesting year for the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2014 and it should be really interesting to see who comes out with the championship.
 
Regan Smith – By Mark Eddinger
 
The NASCAR Nationwide Series had a terrific championship battle all season long in 2013 with it ultimately coming down to the final laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Austin Dillon to edge out Sam Hornish Jr for the title. Austin Dillon is now racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series and won't run for the Nationwide title and Hornish has left Team Penske and will only run a select few races for Joe Gibbs Racing.
 
That leaves the door wide open for new faces to fight for the championship. The series will most likely be dominated by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and other moonlighting Cup drivers as far as wins go just like in 2013 but that doesn't mean the championship battle will be dulled. Like last year at the seasons start there are numerous drivers that seem to have a shot based on their talent and the team they are driving for.
 
'Road America 2013 Nationwide 7 Regan Smith' photo (c) 2013, Royal Broil - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
 
Regan Smith will drive again in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet that he finished third in points in last season. He is certainly a favorite. Elliott Sadler will be back in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 Toyota that he finished fourth in last season. It was not a very good season for Sadler and he still finished fourth. Trevor Bayne is back in Roush Fenway Racing's No. 6 Ford that he finished sixth in last year. That is also the car that won the 2011 and 2012 championships with Ricky Stenhouse Jr driving. Brian Scott had a career year in 2013 and will be back in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet that he finished seventh in last year. Kyle Larson will also be back for what is said to be a full Nationwide slate in the No. 32 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports even though he will race full time in Cup also. He finished eighth in points last year and is going to be ineligible for the Nationwide title since he will declare for Cup points.
 
Those four contenders will be joined by new faces. Ty Dillon will take over the No. 3 championship ride that his brother Austin drove for Richard Childress Racing. Chase Elliott will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports and in every level he has raced at he has been a front runner and nothing should change even in his Nationwide rookie campaign. Dylan Kwasniewski has been a NASCAR champion the past two seasons and takes over in the No. 31 Chevrolet at Turner Scott Motorsports that Justin Allgaier drove to a fifth place points finish in 2013. James Buescher will drive the RAB Racing No. 99 Toyota and if things click quickly for him in his new situation he could contend. Brendan Gaughan will be driving the No. 62 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing so in that equipment and with his experience he has a shot. Dakoda Armstrong will drive for Richard Petty Motorsports in the No. 43 Ford and while a title would be a long shot the team could impress. Roush Fenway Racing will have a pair of rookie drivers with little experience with Ryan Reed in the No. 16 and Chris Buescher in the No. 60 Fords.
 
Of those 12 drivers it seems more likely that the champion for 2014 will come from one of last years contenders and it is tough to pick from those five. We can rule out Larson because of his Cup focus and points going there. Next I'll rule out Scott since he has never actually found victory lane in the Nationwide Series to date. Next I'll rule out Bayne based on how Roush Fenway Racing looked in 2013. Finally I'll rule out Sadler since he seems to have bad luck follow him a lot in championship battles just look at 2011 and 2012.
 
That leaves Regan Smith as my pick to win the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. He was the points leader from race 8 to race 17 last season and the two guys he finished behind are gone. It is time for JR Motorsports to take its first championship and for Smith to propel himself back into the Sprint Cup Series.
Tags: Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Clayton Caldwell, Dylan Kwasniewski, Elliott Sadler, James Buescher, JR Motorsports, Kyle Larson, Mark Eddinger, Motorsports, NASCAR Nationwide Series, Regan Smith, roush fenway racing, Trevor Bayne, Ty Dillon

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