AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills
Scott Wimmer has put the Holiday Inn Chevy in Victory Lane once this season already.
Daytona International Speedway may not be Scott Wimmer
's best track, but for a driver sharing a ride, any chance to get behind the wheel of a Richard Childress
Racing Chevrolet is a good one. Wimmer will be hoping for a breakthrough result Friday, not only on the track, but in the points standings.
No, not the drivers' standings, where Clint Bowyer
is the only RCR driver who can bring the team the most widely recognized Nationwide Series championship this season, but in the owners' championship battle.
While Carl Edwards
was claiming the crown last year, Wimmer and Jeff Burton
were earning the owners' championship for RCR, as the two combined for more points in the No. 29 Chevy than Edwards earned in his Roush Fenway Racing entry. This year, the season may once again feature split champions.
Bowyer is leading the drivers' standings, but Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 entry -- which is shared by Tony Stewart
, Kyle Busch
, Denny Hamlin
and Joey Logano
-- has a 173-point lead over Bowyer, with the defending championship team of Wimmer and Burton a sizable 328 points out of the lead.
It'll take better performances, and some luck, for the No. 29 team to close the gap, but that's clearly Wimmer's goal.
"We're going to have to gain a lot of speed to catch the 20 car as good as they're running, but we're definitely capable of it," Wimmer said. "Last year we made up a lot of ground on Carl and we have a lot of good racetracks coming up for us. I think Joey's going to be in the car quite a bit, which doesn't seem to matter, but at some of these tracks he probably doesn't have the experience that myself or Jeff has.
"We're trying to make our cars better
we're doing a lot of different things. I know Richard really wants to win another [championship] now with Nationwide aboard. Hopefully once we figure out what these cars need, we can get back [to form]."
There are plenty of times when sharing a ride leaves Wimmer questioning if he's made the right decision. Then he quickly realizes he'd rather run for wins in a competitive Nationwide Series entry than struggle just to make the field for Sprint Cup Series events with an underfunded team.
This week, he's just hoping for a solid showing at a track where he's never finished higher than 12th in nine Nationwide starts.
"I feel pretty good about this weekend. Pat [Smith, crew chief] and the RCR Nationwide shop have really been working hard on our superspeedway program over the offseason and throughout the year. Daytona is a totally different track than what we run in February. It is really slick and handling is [at] a premium, so if we have done our homework right and build a good car, we will have a competitive run."
The one thing Wimmer is confident of is that he can get the job done. Failing to win last year ate away at the Wisconsin native, but returning to Victory Lane at Nashville back in March has gone a long way to restoring his confidence -- and the driver doesn't think he was the only one helped by the win.
"Running part-time it's really tough to just jump in the car and go real fast every week," Wimmer said, "
It gave me a lot of confidence and I think it gave my guys a lot of confidence that I was driving the cars [hard] every race I was in, we just didn't have certain things [working] to win a race and we finally did that. We've been getting better because of that.
"We've been struggling, our cars haven't been quite as good as they need to be, but they've put a lot of trust into what I'm saying to make them faster
and I think we're definitely making gains."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com.