As a new season dawns, high expectations and title aspirations abound throughout the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage.
With Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s ascension to a full-time ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the reigning two-time series champion has left the door of opportunity open for a handful of series hopefuls.
Of the drivers looking to capitalize on the title race, Elliott Sadler is considered one of the early favorites. Sadler, who finished runner-up to Stenhouse the past two years, moves from the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. In 2012, he finished with four wins, just 23 points behind Stenhouse.
Last year, his first in the series, Austin Dillon won both events at Kentucky Speedway, finished third in the overall points standings and captured Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. This year, he returns in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet looking to celebrate more than just two victories.
Sam Hornish Jr. finds himself once again piloting the No. 12 for Penske Racing. However, this year he’ll be in a Ford instead of a Dodge. Last year he finished fourth in the points, but failed to find Victory Lane. In 2013, he could find himself more of a player in the title hunt and add more victories to his only series win, which came in 2011 at Phoenix.
After winning the championship in 2003 with Hendrick Motorsports, Brian Vickers returns to the series at the helm of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. In 11 seasons in the series, only one of those full-time, he won three times, all coming in 2003. In his time away, he competed in the premier series, where he won twice.
Other full-time drivers that could be in the conversation come November are Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Trevor Bayne and Brian Scott.