On Saturday during the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway, the gauntlet was thrown down. Many drivers new to the NASCAR Nationwide Series or with limited experience wanted to prove they could hang with the big boys. And hang they did.
Action sports star Travis Pastrana gave his multitude of fans a little preview of what they could expect throughout the season with a career-best 10th-place finish in only his second start in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford. In 10 career starts in the series, his previous best was 17th (three times in 2012). He’s never competed in a NASCAR national series race at Phoenix, the site of this weekend’s NNS Dollar General 200.
In his first eight races, Pastrana piloted the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota, which is now driven by 19-year-old Alex Bowman. In only his fifth start, Bowman turned in a solid, third-place performance at Daytona after running near the front for most of the race. His previous career high was in last year’s fall Phoenix race where he finished a respectable 15th. This weekend, Bowman looks to build upon his Daytona success and improve upon his past Phoenix performance.
Although Parker Kligerman has performed well in the NNS before, he enters 2013 with his first full-time ride, driving the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. He started the season on a high note leading 10 laps at Daytona before finishing fifth. In 19 starts, Kligerman has six top 10s and a pole.
This weekend’s race in Phoenix will be his first NNS appearance at the one-mile oval. However, in two NCWTS starts at the track, Kligerman finished 32nd and 27th.
Nelson Piquet Jr., who moved up to a full-time NNS ride this season, continues to prove he has the chops to compete in the series. In only five starts, Piquet has one win, two top 10s and a pole. While he didn’t finish in the top 10 at Daytona, Piquet did finish 11th. He’s visited the Phoenix track twice before, with the NCWTS, where he had 13th- and 8th-place showings.