Big opportunity for "other" drivers
A message for Nationwide Series competitors and Camping World Truck Series racers:
This weekend at Nashville Superspeedway is for you. It's all about you. No Sprint Cup race will get in the way and garner all the attention.
The Cup series is off for Easter, so the Nationwide drivers and CWTS folks have the show to themselves. It's the first stand-alone weekend of the season for the two feeder leagues, meaning they aren't the warm-up show for a Cup race at the same track.
And it's one of only three weekends all year when these two series race and the Cup series doesn't. So this weekend is a chance to shine in front of people who normally might not watch. The Truck series races Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the Nationwide Series ready to roll Saturday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).
"I've always found when you have the stand-alone races where there aren't as many Cup guys, the competition is really, really intense," Nationwide driver Justin Allgaier said. "The guys that you're racing with on a weekly basis really seem to step it up.
"It all comes down to the fact that we want to win races. It's not like we feel we can't when the Cup guys are racing with us, but when it's just the Nationwide regulars, you feel like you've got an even better chance."
Allgaier earned his first Nationwide victory in Bristol two weeks ago while racing against 10 Cup regulars.
Seven of those drivers are competing this weekend in Nashville -- Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Joe Nemechek and Brad Keselowski, Allgaier's teammate at Penske Racing.
Busch's victory at Nashville in the Nationwide race this past June will live in infamy for what happened in Victory Lane when he shattered his Gibson guitar trophy.
"I don't think I could smash the trophy like Kyle did last year," said Trevor Bayne, who's racing his first full Nationwide season. "The Gibson guitar is one of the coolest trophies that you can win.
"Sam Bass does such a great job painting the guitar. I just don't think I could see all that hard work go to waste. It's a one-of-a-kind trophy that I would really like to hang on my wall one day soon."
Busch, Harvick and Keselowski are racing in both Nashville events, the 200-mile truck race Friday night and the 300-mile Nationwide event Saturday afternoon on the 1-mile concrete oval.
"I love racing in the Truck series," Keselowski said. "The shorter races mean you have to race hard from the green flag to the checkered flag. That mentality fits my style perfectly.
"I have a lot of great memories of going to the track with my dad [Bob] when he was running in this series. It's a place where I cut my teeth in racing. My dad raced for his own team, and I'm proud to own this BKR [Brad Keselowski Racing] team today. We're trying to grow it to see what it can become."
Busch will drive for his truck team this weekend and hopes to earn the team's first victory.
"I haven't been in a truck there," Busch said. "But it's obviously a place where I have plenty of laps and some great runs. Kevin and his team are going to be tough to beat.
He's got the best truck team in the garage right now."
Harvick is trying to earn his third consecutive CWTS victory; he won at Atlanta on the first weekend in March and at Martinsville this past weekend. Ron Hornaday Jr., the defending series champion who drives for Kevin Harvick Inc., won at Nashville last year.
Hornaday may be looking for Johnny Sauter out his rearview mirror on Friday night. They had some heated words after the Martinsville race when Hornaday bumped Sauter and started a wreck.
"I think we'll be fine [at Nashville] as long as Johnny don't pay me back too bad," Hornaday said during a conference call. "He was pretty upset about it, and he's one of those drivers that will pay you back someday. But we still got to do what we've got to do."
That sounds like something Carl Edwards might say. Edwards, the favorite to win the Nationwide Series title this season, is looking for his first victory in 2010. He has finished in the top five in the first four events, but he's very familiar with Victory Lane in Nashville.
Edwards won three consecutive Nashville races starting with the second 2006 event and sweeping the 2007 races. He's the only driver with four Nashville victories, including a win in the 2003 truck race.
"Nashville is one of my favorite places to race," Edwards said. "The fans there really understand racing. And it's a great [Nationwide] points battle right now between Brad, Justin and myself."
Edwards has a 26-point lead over Keselowski, who is five points ahead of Allgaier.
The recent history between Keselowski and Edwards (with Edwards on probation for deliberately wrecking Keselowski in the Atlanta Cup race) certainly adds to the drama.
So soak up the attention, guys. This weekend has plenty or racing action to see, even without a Cup race on the docket.
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at email@example.com.
MORE RACING HEADLINES
- Phoenix Racing hires B. Labonte for Daytona
- Dillon to drive Dale Sr.'s No. 3 in Sprint Cup
- Kahne, Stewart will honor Leffler at Chili Bowl
- NASCAR runs simulations to set 2014 rules