Monday, Dec 04

Ryan Sieg is making noise. The driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series was praised by drivers throughout the sport on Friday evening after finishing a career-best third at the Daytona International Speedway.

Sieg was the man which pushed Kasey Kahne to victory on Friday evening, and it didn’t go unnoticed. The 27-year-old made his first appearance in Nationwide Series competition last season when Jeremy Clements was suspended for the second and third events of the year. He then ran two races with his family organization – RSS Racing.

“Hopefully, it will bring some more sponsors,” Sieg said. “We are getting better and better each week.”

After originally being scheduled to run the full schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, RSS Racing opted to race in the Nationwide Series on a full-time basis. Sieg was a late entry for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award, and currently sits 18th in points.

“What Ryan has been doing all year long, people have been noticing him. He has been doing a heck of a job,” Regan Smith said. “

And not only are drivers noticing, but owners are noticing as well. Dale Earnhardt Jr., owner of JR Motorsports, was ecstatic about Sieg’s performance as of late. Sieg gained noticed in the Truck Series as he finished inside of the top-15 in nearly every race in which his truck didn’t have any issues. Now, in a case similar to Brad Keselowski, the possibility of working his way to a larger team is possible.

Over the course of this season, he has earned nine top-20 finishes. It might not seem too impressive, but for a team with blank quarter-panels, it is not bad at all.

Sieg and the RSS Racing crew are now eligible for the Nationwide Dash For Cash award – opening up the possibility of being the ultimate underdog. 

JR Motorsports loves having a date on Friday evenings. The organization has now continued their streak of winning each race that has been held after the Sun has set. After Regan Smith led 47 laps, Kasey Kahne made a last second pass while entering the tri-oval during a green-white-checkered finish to capture the victory during the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona.

Making his second start of the year, Kahne had a quiet evening as he was running outside of the top-15 for the majority of the event. However, he came on strong after the final restart where teams were worrying whether or not they had enough fuel to make it to the finish. This is Kahne’s first victory since winning at Charlotte in 2007 with Evernham Motorsports, and it is his eighth career win in 204 Nationwide Series starts. The win marks JR Motorsports’ 18th victory since 2008 as well as their sixth triumph in 2014.

Ryan Sieg, who moved over to the NASCAR Nationwide Series after racing full-time in the Camping World Truck Series since 2010, pushed Kahne to victory lane on the high side. Conversation was sparked with the way Sieg pushed the No. 5 car, yet NASCAR did not unleash a penalty to either driver. The third-place finish is the best result the 27-year-old has recorded in his 20 career starts.

Kyle Larson was contending with Smith for the lead on the final restart, but he slipped back after the white flag came up when he began to receive pressure from several drivers. Larson finished fifth – his best finish at Daytona in his fourth start at the 2.5-mile track. Kyle Busch held the lead after the halfway mark, but his teammate, Elliott Sadler, had to pit due to a loose wheel. Busch caught up to Sadler’s No. 11 Toyota, but instead of going around him – the No. 54 slid behind Sadler and helped keep him as the first car one lap down. Sadler finished 21st after being involved in an accident with Trevor Bayne and David Ragan when Chase Elliott had a fuel issue while going back to the green flag late in the race.

Smith now holds a 12-point lead over Sadler in the championship standings. Elliott is 15 markers behind his teammate, Smith, with Richard Childress Racing drivers, Ty Dillon and Brian Scott rounding out the top-five.

Here are some notables from the Subway Firecracker 250:

-          Ryan Reed recorded a career-best fourth-place finish in the No. 16 car. ““That was what we needed right there. You know, we were trying to conserve all night but man it felt good to get our first top-five,” he said.

-          Jeremy Clements finished eighth on Friday evening – the second best finish he has recorded in his 150 career starts. Clements’ best result came at Road America – finishing sixth. This marked his seventh career top-10 finish in Nationwide Series competition.

-          Mike Wallace started his 10th race of the season for JGL Racing – recording his first top-10 this year. The 10th-place result is Wallace’s best since finishing seventh at Talladega for JD Motorsports at Talladega last year.

-          Darrell Wallace Jr. earned his first top-10 this season – finishing seventh. The results ties his best career finish (Iowa 2012).

-          Derrike Cope finished 13th on Friday evening. This is his best finish since finishing 17th at Road America in 2011 and 13th at Daytona in 2003.

-          Johnny Sauter finished 15th in the No. 80 car for Hattori Racing Enterprises.

-          There were 11 different leaders with 14 different lead changes.

-          The race also averaged a record 157.012 mph with just three cautions totaling 12 laps. 

Making his 23rd career NASCAR Nationwide Series start this weekend, Dakoda Armstrong has won his first career pole, and it is the first pole for Richard Petty Motorsports in 84 starts since 2011. During group qualifying at Daytona, Armstrong and the Roush Fenway Racing cars have swept the front two rows with speeds exceeding 191.5 mph.

In his Nationwide Series career, Armstrong has never recorded a top-10 finish. Entering Daytona, the 22-year-old sits 13th in points with an average finish of 20.3. Trevor Bayne enters this event sixth in points, and he will start on the outside pole in the No.  6 car.

Only one round of qualifying was recorded as rain approached the Daytona International Speedway. As a pack of underfunded cars were roaring down the backstretch, a patch of rain was on the pavement – right near the end of the grandstands. Nine of those vehicles spun out after Mike Bliss was the first driver to go off track. The wreck caused the first session to be shortened by approximately seven minutes. After not being able to return to the track, Matt DiBenedetto, Tommy Joe Martins, Bobby Gerhart and Benny Gordon missed the event.

Points leader, Elliott Sadler, will start in the sixth position. Sadler won at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this year, and he will start alongside his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch. JR Motorsports teammates, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith proceed Sadler on the starting grid as each of them are looking to take advantage of their opponent’s misfortune this weekend.

Here are some notables in the starting lineup for the Subway Firecracker 250:

-Darrell Wallace Jr. will start in the ninth position in his second Nationwide Series race this year.

-Chad Boat will start 12th on Friday evening.

-Johnny Sauter qualified in the 20th position for Hattori Racing Enterprises.

-Mike Harmon will start 22nd in the No. 74 car.

-Former Daytona 500 winner, Derrike Cope, qualified 23rd in the No. 70 car.

-Dylan Kwasniewski, who won the pole to start the season at Daytona, will start 26th on Friday evening. 

It had been since Oct. 11, 2003. It had been 294 starts across NASCAR’s top-three divisions. However, after more than 10 years of heart break, Brendan Gaughan finally got what he deserved – a win.

Gaughan, whose family owns the South Point casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, has been racing in NASCAR’s top-three divisions since he was 21-years-old. Now, 39, Gaughan ended up in the winner’s circle at Road America last weekend.

In an emotional victory, Gaughan expressed his sincere gratitude for those that have stuck by his side since that 2003 win at Texas. Since that time, he has bounced around from team to team. He ran one full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2004, but that didn’t work out. He bounced around the Truck Series, yet after a long journey – Gaughan’s dedication has paid off.

After interviewing him last November, I learned more about Gaughan than I ever thought. Not only did he explain why he still wants to race, but he explained why he wants to end his career with Richard Childress Racing.

“I’m just thankful. I don’t questions why’s or how’s, I just know that I appreciate what Richard has given me. My performance on the track this year (and last year) has at least proven that I can be up front every week and I can go win races in this series and that series (Nationwide). That’s what I’m thankful for. If I can’t win races, I don’t want to be here. We should have won two or three this year, and we will win one. We will go out there and win races next year,” Gaughan told me in our interview.

He had doubts. Why wouldn’t he? When a driver goes through a 10 year win-less streak, they question themselves. However, Gaughan worked through the pain. He did more than beat his competitors on that rainy day at Road America. That day, Gaughan was on top, and all of his doubts went away.

When we spoke on that day in November, Gaughan admitted that he wants to continue to race. He joked about how even though he hadn’t won in 10 years, he was always competing for wins – and that was true. Whether it was in a Nationwide Series car, a truck or in the Cup Series, Gaughan didn’t go a full season without recording a top-five finish. Although he wasn’t always the most competitive driver due to the equipment he was in, Gaughan has always been able to get the most out of his vehicles.

“As soon as it’s proven to me at RCR that I can’t win races, I’m done. Until then, we’re going to keep on driving. It takes a lot to make the series work. I respect the guys that race their heart out and work hard on their race cars day-in and day-out when some days they race and some they park for money,” he said about the possibility of retiring. “I respect them a lot, and it’s hard work doing that. It’s not that they’re any less of a driver or not, they just don’t have the opportunity. I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity, and if I can’t win, I’ll just go ride off in the sunset.”

Joining RCR has been the blessing he has been looking for. Gaughan dedicated the win to his grandfather, Jackie Gaughan, who passed away at the age of 93 in March – adding to the emotions which were spinning through his head. The father of two boys, he even raced part-time in order to have a better opportunity to raise them – similar to what Sam Hornish Jr. did several years ago and is doing now.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve got a win and it’s been documented greatly by many, many places. It’s one of those things where I always said when I got back to victory lane, I understood the difference between when I was 28-years-old and when I’m 38-years-old, but I appreciate it very much, I appreciate all the words and all the support that fans, friends, people you didn’t know were friends, people that hated you,” he said after his win. “All the kind words have been really over whelming, I’ve taken it all in and appreciate every bit of it. I think the best congratulations I got [though] was from my father [Michael] who reminded me that ‘even a blind squirrel finds a nut some days.”

For a driver with his amazing personality, a victory is nothing shy of bitter sweet.

It started out as an abysmal season for one of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. However, Chris Buescher has learned from mistakes made early in the season, and now he is inside of the top-10 in Nationwide Series points.

Buescher, 21, is racing for Roush-Fenway Racing this year, but there is an open seat available in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His teammate, Trevor Bayne, has been racing full-time on the Nationwide Series circuit for RFR while running part-time at NASCAR’s highest level for the Wood Brothers for the past several seasons. Now, Bayne is taking his Advocare sponsorship to the Sprint Cup Series with RFR in the No. 6 Ford – leaving an open seat available with the Wood Brothers.

Rumors have been swirling around the NASCAR garage area that although Sam Hornish Jr. is the leading candidate for the ride, Buescher also has a strong chance to drive the famous No. 21 car.

“There have been no discussions as far as that goes,” Buescher said. “They are still focusing on the rest of this season and getting Trevor some more good runs in for the rest of the year.”

However, even though he has not started to talk to the Wood Brothers, Buescher has not completely closed the door on the possibility of racing for them in 2015.

“I’m sure we’ll start talking to them about where they are headed next year, but there is not a whole lot to talk about at the moment.”

Even if he races with the Wood Brothers next year on a part-time basis, Buescher will continue to pilot a car for Roush on a full-time basis in the Nationwide Series – similar to the process which the team had to develop Stenhouse.

Since 2011, the No. 21 car has not been on the track at more than 16 events in a single season. Besides their Daytona 500 victory, Bayne and the Wood Brothers have seen limited success with just two top-10s after that race (both of which came in 2012). However, the team has a strong relationship with RFR, whom of which influenced the team to sign Bayne to replace Bill Elliott after the 2010 season.

“Trevor is very helpful with us every weekend, but it is not like he’s going to be far away. He’s going to be right next door in the Cup Series garage. Any help we can get from him is always appreciated as well as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It is tough going to some of these places for the first time,” Buescher said on what his perspective would be after Bayne leaves RFR.

Buescher missed the season-opener at Daytona when qualifying rained out after the first session. Since then, he has six straight finishes of 13th or better. The 2012 ARCA Series champion is looking to record his second top-five finish of his rookie season as he sits eighth in the Nationwide Series points standings.

“We’ve been coming on pretty strong here lately. Our Roush-Fenway Racing cars are getting better as we go through the season. We ran really well at Michigan. We’re definitely making progress and I’m looking forward to where we are headed,” he said.

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