By Roger Faulkner
As the NASCAR Nationwide Series headed into a stand alone event at Nashville Superspeedway this weekend, the big news was the lack of double duty drivers. Missing from the field were Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. Kevin Harvick was skipping his first NNS race of the year, and JR Motorsports would not have Daytona 500 winner, Jamie McMurray behind the wheel of the 88 car.
As it turned out, only three full time Cup drivers were in the field, and two of those didn’t practice the car on Friday. Only Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski was in Nashville Friday for the final practice. When qualifying ended Saturday about 4:30pm, it was NNS regular Justin Allgaier on the pole with the nearest Double Duty driver, Carl Edwards starting 7th, while Paul Menard would start 10th and Brad Keselowski to start 24th. With the regular guys starting up front, it looked like it might just be a good day for one of them to win for the first time since Allgaier edged out his teammate at Bristol for the win.
The fans were rolling in all day long as the track had scheduled several pre and post race events for the day. Nearly all of the Nationwide regular drivers were in front of the grandstand early in the afternoon for a mass autograph session. Fans needed to arrive early as wristbands were distributed in advance as this program has been drawing larger crowds each race that Nashville. This time, fans were asked to either make a cash donation or canned goods to help the Second Harvest Food Bank. In addition to these donations, the track ran a Silent Auction of NASCAR related items to raise more money for the Race Fest for Flood Relief, an effort to aid victims of the recent flood in the Nashville area. Part of that effort includes an online auction that will be running through August. The auction is being conducted by the NASCAR Foundation. After qualifying, there was a free concert by Country Music star John Rich, best known as part of the group formerly known as Big & Rich.
As the green flag waved, it was a battle among series regulars Allgaier and Bayne, along with Brad Coleman in the JGR car. But it would not be long, before the three double duty guys would be up front. By lap 15, all three were within the top 13. By lap 70, it was Edwards first, Menard second and Keselowski fourth. As the continued after lap 100, it was Keselowski made his way to the front, and with the few exceptions of pits stops and cautions, where he relegated the lead for short runs, it was all his show. The telling sign of their dominance was the fact that after lap 60, these three remained in the top 10, and by lap 135, they continued to run in the top 5 for nearly all the remaining laps. In the end it was a 1,2,3 finish by the Cup guys with Keselowski taking home the Sam Bass Guitar, while Edwards finished second and Menard third. Pole sitter Allgaier had to settle for fourth.
The win added to Keselowski’s point lead in the series, while Edwards managed to climb one spot from fourth to third with Harvick missing the race. Kyle Busch, despite missing the race, remains second in the points 196 points behind Keselowski and 81 points ahead of Edwards.
Next race for the series will be Saturday June 12, the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Motor Speedway, where the seating capacity is about 75,000 and it has been reported that nearly 70,000 tickets have already been sold. That makes it a stark contrast to Nashville, where the official attendance was reported at about 17,500. From the infield it looked to be far fewer, but you be the judge. Check On Pit Road’s Nashville photos to see the fans during the race.