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XFINITY

Dylan Kwasniewski Wins Pole for ARCA Daytona Race

By Matt Weaver (DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — In his first start at Daytona International Speedway, Dylan Kwasniewski will start on the pole for Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil 200.

Kwasniewski is set to make his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series next weekend but must receive approval from the Sanctioning Body before he is eligible. The ARCA event will serve as his formal test. Kwasniewski believes he controls his own destiny by starting out front.

“Hopefully we can just stay out front,” Kwasniewski told Popular Speed after getting out of his car. “That would be ideal — staying out of trouble. Obviously we want to make all the laps so we can get approved for Nationwide. That’s our main goal but if we can win, that’s the best way to do it.”

Beyond the NASCAR drafting approval process, Kwasniewski is just honored to be sitting on the front row and is grateful for the support from his team at Turner Scott Motorsports.

“It’s awesome,” he added. “Sitting on the front row at Daytona is pretty awesome. Turner Scott Motorsports are all to thank here. All I have to do is press the gas down. They built an awesome car and I can’t thank everyone else enough.”

With his Nationwide Series approval on the line, Kwasniewski says he has to balance how aggressive he can be in pursuit of a victory while also impressing NASCAR officials.

“We want to get all the laps in and get approved for Daytona but if we can win, that becomes the best way to do that.”

This will be Kwasniewski’s second ARCA Racing Series start. He started from the pole in last year’s season finale at Kansas and finished fourth. He is the defending NASCAR Pro Series East champion after winning the Pro Series West championship in 2012.

Eight-time ARCA Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart sat on the provisional pole until he was disqualified in post-qualifying technical inspection.

The issue in the tech shed surrounded the car’s U-Bolt. His time was disallowed but he will make the field based on a provisional for championship points. He will start dead last in a scene reminiscent of 2012 when he was disqualified from qualifying, started at the rear and won the race anyway.

Chase Elliott will also need approval to run next week’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race. He qualified fifth. Neither Kwasniewski nor Elliott were told a number of laps they needed to complete to earn their superspeedway license.

“I’m not sure — they just told us to run the ARCA race,” Elliott said following his media center session.

“This drafting thing is pretty new to me,” Elliott said. “The car is good and drafts well but I’m coming into this completely new. I’m by no means a veteran drafter. But I hope to be around at the end, get approved, have fun and a chance to win on Saturday night.”

ARCA Racing Series at Daytona International Speedway Starting Lineup

1. Dylan Kwasniewski
2. Grant Enfinger
3. Buster Graham
4. Mark Thompson
5. Chase Elliott
6. Mason Mitchell
7. Tom Hessert
8. Will Kimmel
9. John Wes Townley
10. Terry Jones
11. Bryan Silas
12. Justin Allison
13. Brian Rose
14. Sean Corr
15. Clay Campbell
16. Frank Kimmel
17. Cole Powell
18. Matt Kurzejewski
19. Jared Marks
20. Scotty Hubler
21. Jeb Burton
22. Mario Gosselin
23. Benny Gordon
24. Derrick Lancaster
25. Tom Buzze
26. Bobby Grewohl
27. Scott Sheldon
28. Kody Weisner
29. Chris Bailey
30. Alx Danielsson
31. Justin Boston
32. Tyler Reddick
33. Leilani Munter
34. Thomas Praytor
35. Maryeve Dufault
36. Tim Viens
37. Ed Pompa
38. Barry Fitzgerald
39. Dick Doheny
40. Bobby Gerhart

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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XFINITY

Dale Jr., Chase Elliott Understand and Respect Each Other

By Matt Weaver (DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — Chase Elliott will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut next Saturday in the Drive4COPD 300 and may be the most-decorated rookie in that division since Dale Earnhardt Jr. — his car owner at JR Motorsports.

The two drivers share a lot of similarities starting with their respective famous last names, old-fashioned charms and now a relationship through Hendrick Motorsports.

Elliott is seemingly the future at Hendrick and carries a pedigree that includes prestigious victories in the Snowball Derby, All-American 400, ARCA and the Camping World Truck Series. In short, he’s the next big thing, a distinction that Earnhardt himself carried when he made his debut in the former Busch Series back in 1996.

Despite their shared high profiles, Earnhardt and Elliott have yet to spend a lot of time together, something NASCAR’s most popular driver hopes to accomplish in the coming days.

“He’s real soft-spoken, seems to have a real good appreciation for his situation of who he is and who is father is,” Earnhardt said. “He has a real respect for everyone around him. He’s come ready to work. I haven’t heard one bad thing come out of his mouth about anything.”

Earnhardt would likely understand if the pressure had started to weigh on Elliott. Earnhardt himself shouldered the same burden during a successful Late Model Stock Car career and twice over when he made his Sprint Cup debut and having to follow in his father’s footsteps after the elder Earnhardt perished back in 2001.

Elliott says he believes he and Earnhardt can relate to each other right from the start, serving as the foundation of both their personal and professional relationship. While Elliott hasn’t asked Earnhardt about legacies or family heritage, the 18-year-old has started to bond with his new team owner.

“Dale is just an awesome guy,” Elliott said. “I know a lot of people don’t get to see that side of him on the media side but once you get to know him, he’s a good dude. I’m glad to be a part of his program and he can help me out a lot this year.”

More than anything else, Earnhardt respects the poise and maturity that Elliott has shown in dealing with the bright lights and pressure of being the son of the 1988 Winston Cup champion.

“A lot has been asked of him and he’s been thrust into this deal with photo shoots and the likes,” Earnhardt said. “But this is exciting for him I’m sure and he’s been both calm and quiet.

“I enjoy being around his personality and demeanor. I think the guy is a great race car driver, likable and hopefully we’re going to give him great race cars to try to win races.”

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XFINITY

Buescher Believes RAB Team Ready and Capable of Winning

By Kelly Crandall – The last Nationwide Series race at the Daytona International Speedway that James Buescher ran ended with an improbable trip to Victory Lane.

As the leaders crashed off turn four coming to the checkered flag, Buescher happened to be in the right place at the right time. On Thursday, the NNS driver was back at Daytona for media day, and recalled the victory he earned while running a limited schedule. This year, he’s a full-time member of the series with RAB Racing and has expectations being able to go back-to-back.

“It’s going really well. We’ve gotten to do a couple tests – we went to Nashville over the offseason and also the Daytona test and both went really well,” Buescher said about his transition to a new series and team.

“We were really fast down here at Daytona. I’m looking forward to getting down here for the race and really seeing what we have and hopefully getting a good, solid finish and maybe winning this thing again.”

The Daytona victory that year was the tip of the iceberg. One that moved Buescher front and center in the sport, into the headlines and eventually his new home, new series, as he prepares to chase another championship. In 2012 with Turner Scott Motorsports, owned by his father-in-law Steve Turner, Buescher won four races and the season championship.

Last season they won twice but were unable to defend their crown. He finished third and announced in December that not only was he moving full-time to the NNS, he was leaving the family team. Joining RAB and the Toyota brand.

“This year is definitely going to be different for me – finally full-time in the Nationwide Series after being in the Truck Series for a couple years. It’s going to be different from a lot of aspects,” Buescher said.

He’s looking forward to racing a longer season that what the CWTS does. Believing it will benefit him; keep him fresh instead of having constant off weeks.

“Also, change in manufacturers and change in teams – going to RAB Racing and changing everybody that’s on my team.”

Rheem, who sponsored Buescher during his 2013 CWTS season, followed him to RAB. They’ll be the primary sponsor on the No. 99 for 27 of the season’s 35 races. Chris Rice remains the team’s crew chief and he’ll work with Buescher for the very first time this season. The two getting off to a nice start the way testing unfolded last month.

For Buescher, it’s as if he hasn’t missed a beat going from one team to another. While 2014 will be his first full season he has 58 career starts under this belt. As well as a win that’s already on his resume. Giving the Texas native no shortage of confidence as well as big expectations for his young team.

“Winning races,” he said about the goals this year.

“I think we have what it takes to win races in the Nationwide Series. Toyota has been a lot of fun to work with over the offseason and I think it will only get better and better. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that helps out RAB Racing – it’s been fun over the offseason and I’m looking forward to getting the racing season started and seeing what we’re capable of.

“I think we’re capable of winning races and we’ll have to go out there and prove it.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

New Team, Special Paint Scheme for NNS Driver Blake Koch

By Stephanie Adair – NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Blake Koch will be running a special paint scheme on the No. 44 TriStar Motorsports Toyota Camry during the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway. On Monday, it was announced that the team would be sponsored by the upcoming movie Son of God which is set to premier at theaters nationwide on February 28th.

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the makers of the Emmy-nominated mini-series The Bible, produced the compelling film. It tells the captivating story of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Son of God stars Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey and Amber Rose Revah. It also features a powerful music score from Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer. This movie is the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since Passion of the Christ released a decade ago.

After attending a race at Martinsville Speedway the producers entertained the idea of sponsorship in the sport.

“Roma and I had such a great time at NASCAR last year that we wanted to find a way to engage the fans and community in an even bigger way,” said Burnett. “When we met Blake we thought it would be a great opportunity to have the Son of God as part of this race and couldn’t be happier that he is at the helm.”

As part of the promotion, Koch will be giving away an all-expense paid trip to Daytona International Speedway for a fan and guest. The VIP experience includes a tour of the garage, lunch in Koch’s hauler and viewing the race from the No. 44 pit box.

“Having the Son of God movie featured on my car for Daytona is so exciting,” Koch said. “Daytona is sentimental to me considering I was born there, and I am honored to be promoting Son of God to the NASCAR community and fans.”

This will be his first year with TriStar Motorsports, joining veteran drivers Eric McClure and Mike Bliss.

“I’m extremely excited, blessed and proud to join TriStar Motorsports,” Koch said. “Mark Smith (owner of TriStar Motorsports) has been in NASCAR for a long time and is respected by everyone in the garage. His team has evolved into a quality race team with continuous growth and a great reputation. There are talented people in place to build fast racecars and we will have strong Toyota engines supplied by his company, Pro Motor Engines.”

For Koch, who is outspoken about his Christian faith, this Daytona sponsorship gives a fitting start to his 2014 season.

“Mark and Roma’s vision for this movie is incredible, and for me personally, the movie was life changing. I want to encourage everyone to go experience the life-changing story of Jesus on the big screen and bring your family and friends.”

For more information about the movie, visit www.sonofgodmovie.com.

For a chance to win the all-expense paid Daytona trip, go to www.racingforsonofgod.com.

Stephanie Adair is a Popular Speed Development Journalist

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XFINITY

Dylan Kwasniewski Full-time with Turner Scott in Nationwide Series

By Kelly Crandall – Turner Scott Motorsports was able to announce some good news on Monday afternoon after a tough week in which two of their Camping World Truck Series teams were shut down.

Dylan Kwasniewski, a champion in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, has been signed to compete for the company full-time in the Nationwide Series. Kwasniewski will drive the No. 31 Rockstar Energy Drink Chevrolet Camaro with Pat Tryson serving as the team’s crew chief.

Tryson arrived at TSM in late 2013 and worked with Nelson Piquet Jr.

“I’m thankful for Harry Scott and Steve Turner for giving me this opportunity, as well as Rockstar for moving up with us,” Kwasniewski said. “The test session earlier this month at Daytona taught us a lot and it’s good to enter Daytona with a level of confidence not only for myself, but for Pat and all the guys.

“Racing in the Nationwide Series is going to present a lot of challenges and it won’t be easy, but I look forward to taking it all on, learning from the other competitors and hopefully winning some races.”

Kwasniewski is coming off a 2013 season in which he won the K&N Pro Series East championship after winning six of 14 races. While he has yet to run a single lap in the NNS, he tested for the TSM team last month in Daytona with teammate Kyle Larson, who will be running the majority of the NNS schedule.

Both Kwasniewski and Larson were among the fastest teams. In preparation for the start of his NNS career, Kwasniewski will also run the ARCA Series opener the week prior. He has one ARCA start on his resume, coming last season at Kansas when he started on the pole and finished fourth.

“Dylan is a great kid and has unbelievable talent,” said co-owner at TSM Harry Scott Jr. “Steve and I are thrilled that he is taking the next step in his career with us here at TSM. The sky is the limit for Dylan and this Rockstar team. He showed us what he’s capable of last year and while he’s making a big step, we know Dylan can achieve great things this year.”

Rockstar, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, has been backing Kwasniewski, a Las Vegas native, since 2009.

“Everyone at Rockstar is proud of the investment we have made in Dylan Kwasniewski,” said Jason May the executive vice president marketing for Rockstar Energy. “He has demonstrated that he has the potential to become one of the best drivers on the planet and his transition into the NASCAR Nationwide Series at such a young age is proof of that. Rockstar is fortunate to be aligned with such a strong brand ambassador with an incredibly bright career in front of him.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

Regan Smith with ‘Sky High Confidence’ for 2014 Season

By Kelly Crandall – Regan Smith knew he wasn’t going to win the Nationwide Series championship a few races before the 2013 season was over.

But he hasn’t gotten over the fact he had a 58-point lead on the competition after just 13 races. A lead big enough to have carried him through the summer and into a final charge for the championship in the fall. Instead, the team stumbled the week following their Michigan win in June and gave away 30 points.

It was the beginning of the end for Smith. By August he was no longer the point leader, a position he never regained. Finishing third in the final point standings, 72 points behind champion Austin Dillon.

Smith acknowledged Monday night during the NNS media stop that he and his no. 7 team were too far behind by the time they started to make changes. Having not listened sooner to those who were offering advice, such as team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Smith’s new crew chief entering 2014, Ryan Pemberton.

“I think it’s just going to come natural. First and foremost, having Ryan Pemberton as the crew chief this year,” Smith said about how his team will better handle the seasons challenges.

“He’s experienced that for a lot of years but he also watched what happened to our team last year from afar as a competitor director and him and Dale and a lot of people gave advice and said this is how you do it. But until you go through it and experience it yourself you don’t always know how it’s going to play out. I think with him being the crew chief now, he’ll be able to see that sooner and be able to predict that sooner. And we’ll be able to have a plan from the start. It just comes with experience.”

Pemberton is apart of the few changes JR Motorsports made during the offseason. Greg Ives, who had worked with Smith last season, moves over to the new team of Chase Elliott. He’ll run full-time along with Smith in 2014 and the elder driver couldn’t be happier to have a consistent teammate.

There’s also the addition of Ernie Cope and Kevin Harvick. All of which Smith is pleased to see, calling it happy and confident times at the shop where he said great thing are happening. Embarking on a season with high expectations.

Yet if there was a takeaway of 2013 for all involved, it was the lessons learned. How getting off track and the subsequent moves that never panned out, cost the team dearly. There was however, much success with three wins and the potential of a championship run.

Not surprisingly, putting Smith in the right frame of mind heading into a new season. A season of two goals: winning the championship and showing the right team owner he’s ready and deserving to go race again on Sunday’s.

“Confidence is sky high. We’ve got the same cars, the same key people, if anything faster cars because we’ve learned a lot since this time last year,” he said.

“I think from that standpoint I go into the season as confident as ever, as motivated as ever. This is a year where I’m disappointed we didn’t get the title last year but since I knew we weren’t going to get it before the end of year, I was able to get over it pretty quick and turn my focus to getting better for this year.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

Has It Become Now or Never for Elliott Sadler?

By Kelly Crandall – The NASCAR hot seat has a new occupant.

Entering his fourth consecutive full season in the Nationwide Series, Elliott Sadler is still trying to prove the point he set out to in 2011. When Sadler returned to the series after a declining Cup career in hopes of rebuilding his image, confidence and resume.

A clean slate and different scenery was supposed to be rejuvenating for the then 36-year-old. Yet, as the 2014 season looms on the horizon the question arises, has Sadler done enough to earn job security?

Once, that seemed like an easy answer. In his two seasons at Richard Childress Racing the fit appeared perfect. That perhaps it really was the beginning of a great relationship. In that first season, 2011, while Sadler didn’t win a race, he nearly became the first before Austin Dillon to go winless but capture the championship. Ending up second best to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The following year, this time a four-time winner, he again came up short in the big picture. Yet it was something to work on and Sadler seemed quite content back in the NNS but announced he was jumping ship for Joe Gibbs Racing.

From one premier organization to another, and one that certainly has no problems winning in the series. Basically swapping seats with Brian Scott, who left JGR for RCR. And while Sadler would finish higher in points by the end of 2013, it was Scott who had his best career year. Even leading more laps than the veteran driver.

Exactly what was expected from Sadler, who was driving one of the best-prepared cars on the track. Along with his talent and bitter defeats the previous two seasons, Sadler was predicted to run wild on the series. Instead he struggled to find consistency and comfort, a top 10 one weekend and not the next. Adding insult to injury, the team he left won the championship with Austin Dillon.

So here comes 2014, and the best to hope for is that history repeats itself. That year two at JGR will be an improvement from the first, verbatim as with Sadler’s RCR performance. If not, should he, and others, be wondering if a replacement is coming?

The NASCAR veteran is well respected and liked around the garage; he’s gone from a lovable loser to potential champion. The problem is that time might be running out. With the amount of young talent that is quickly rising through the ranks, it might not be long before Sadler’s seat becomes one that’s needed.

The Virginian isn’t ready to go down just yet however, and is well aware that many are looking to see what’s in store for him. Admitting at the season ending awards banquet that he would rate himself a C for the 2013 season. It was a tough year and there were things he needed to do better.

Perhaps why sponsors OneMain Financial and Great Clips extended their deals for the new season, eager to see the results. Something Sadler is both grateful for but feels the pressure to perform. Noting that in this sport if the ball is dropped someone else will come along and pick it up.

Unmet expectations in 2014 could be the start of the ball rolling away from him.

Right now Sadler is relevant in the series, he’s a contender but the point has come that he needs to be a consistent winner. JGR breeds winners and there’s no doubt they’ll be in Victory Lane this coming season.

As will all the drivers looking to bust into the series in the coming year. Consider that Darrell Wallace Jr., a new winner in the Camping World Truck Series, is practically in the JGR family already. He’s running under the Kyle Busch Motorsports banner, but Busch’s paycheck comes from JGR.

Should Wallace be ready to move to the NNS within the next year or so, a decision will have to be made about where he lands. And don’t forget the news that JGR recently announced. Sam Hornish Jr. is now one of their drivers, as he’ll split time with Busch in the No. 54.

Hornish is also a proven winner in the series and the hot topic lately as he lost his full-time ride at Penske. Last year he was practically the NNS champion until an ill-time caution and ending of the season finale. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be without a full-time ride for long.

They’re just two of the many drivers out there looking for somewhere to land. Leaving teams unlikely to sit on their hands long.

A NASCAR weathered Elliott Sadler is well aware of every situation a driver can go through in a career. Now, he might be faced with another one should 2014 end with more disappointment.

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

Black Flagging the Laws of Physics

By Matt Weaver —  NASCAR has seemingly threatened to throw the black flag on the law of physics in relation to racing at Daytona International Speedway during the month of February.

The Sanctioning Body has issued a strict edict banning the tandem draft for both the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide events during Speedweeks. It is NASCAR’s hope that the rulings will avoid a repeat of the violent accidents that marred the ending of races at both Daytona and Talladega last season.

While competition changes and the Gen-6 have made the ‘two-car tango’ a virtual impossibility in the Sprint Cup Series, it has still been prevalent in the Trucks and Nationwide Series in recent seasons.

NASCAR has attempted to curb the discipline by introducing a new cooling system for the Nationwide machines while also decreasing the spoilers on the back of the car. But despite NASCAR’s best efforts, the cars were still linking up over the weekend during a test at the World Center of Racing.

The new rules state that two cars may not link up for any longer than a single lap at the risk of getting disqualified, even if it is on the last lap and racing to the checkered flag.

“Well, we have the ability to just not score the lap or time penalty post‑race,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition said. “That’s been there all along…

“But we expect teams that get the black flag to immediately obey the order from the tower, and we do have the ability to fix the scoring when it’s over with.”

While NASCAR must be applauded for making safety the number one priority, the most recent decision-making feels like a case of forcing the square peg into the round hole. NASCAR made it clear following ‘Richmond Spingate’ that teams were expected to compete within 100 percent of his or her best ability.

But now, during Speedweeks, teams will be expected to race for the win but not employ the strategy that has been most effective since both restrictor plate tracks were repaved over the past decade. The cars seemingly want to link up by force of nature and black flagging the laws of physics may be too much for NASCAR to police.

With that said, it could be argued that banning the tandem is no different than outlawing passes below the yellow lines at both Daytona and Talladega. Regan Smith found out the hard way in 2008 when his Sprint Cup victory in the fall race in Alabama was taken away for dropping out of bounds.

If nothing else, that memory should serve as reason enough for teams to avoid the tandem late in a race. But at 200 mph and with more than a single lap remaining is NASCAR placing a restrictor plate on the 100 percent rule for the Trucks and Nationwide drivers?

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XFINITY

Sam Hornish Jr. Gets the Good and Bad with Move to JGR

By Kelly Crandall – For Sam Hornish Jr., something is better than nothing.

Earlier this week it was announced that he would split time in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota with Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing. After finishing second last year in the Nationwide Series championship, Hornish was left without a ride when Penske Racing failed to secure him sponsorship.

He lands on his feet however, at JGR. Now in the best seat the series has to offer. While many are quick to point out all the positives of Hornish’s new home, there are also a few glaring setbacks.

Related: Sam Hornish Will be Part-Time but Full Focus in 2014

The positives are obvious; he remains in NASCAR and the NNS where he’s made himself quite comfortable. He’s also becoming quite the driver in the series and remaining behind the wheel will only help him continue to develop. And of course, there’s also the fact that he gets to drive the car that won 12 times last season.

Add in Hornish’s talent and ability, it’d be imprudent to think he’s not going to succeed. As well as the fact that the races he’ll be competing in are ones he’s performed well at in the past. So, yes, while Hornish remains in the series and will now work for its superior team, that doesn’t make it good enough.

The credentials Hornish carries should be enough for teams to come calling. The fact that he, not the driver who won the NNS championship, won a race last year should be another notch in his favor. And don’t forget, Hornish finished second in points – after a fantastic battle down to Homestead – in just his second full season.

Oh, he was also one of the few NNS regular drivers that could hang with the Sprint Cup drivers and give them a run for their money. It’s pretty ironic that the driver who kept him from winning a few more races in 2013, will now be the one he shares a car with.

But, only seven races?

It should go without saying that Hornish deserves a full-time ride. The commitment and learning curve he’s gone through to get to this point should count for something, yet it was almost unbelievable when he stated back in September that he was searching for a sponsor and was probably going to leave Penske. Now that it’s happened, it’s still a little incomprehensible.

Seven races is really nothing when broken down. For those thinking of it in a selfish manner and just in Hornish’s favor, fact that Kyle Busch already has a full-time Cup ride brings feelings he should spread the love by giving up seat time in Nationwide.

However, everyone understands it’s the sponsors who want Busch in the car, and he deserves to be, while being a shame that they and JGR couldn’t work out something to give Hornish as much seat time as possible.

It’s also a shame in general that JGR couldn’t attract any sponsor to give Hornish a full-time ride in the 18 car that they had to shut down after the 2013 season. Of course, the same could be said about Penske.

But, such is the life and Hornish will take what’s given to him. The question is where does he go from here?

If we’re getting into the speculation of it all, some will say that it sets him up for the future to return to the NSCS. In ways such as through testing and/or becoming a substitute driver when needed. Both of which are foolish and inconsiderate to Hornish to associate him with being in such a role as he’s proven as well as earned the right to be given the best to chase a championship.

One could also argue however, that just because he’s signed with a great team that has a great Cup program, that’s no guarantee he’ll end up there. Or that he should.

The rocky Cup road Hornish traveled is well documented. While that’s not to say he should never go back, he certainly wants to, the hope is that this time around it’d be in the right circumstances. Circumstances that would allow success for all involved because the worst thing to watch is a driver’s talent and career suffer by participating in a series they aren’t getting anything from.

Except the NNS is a home that Hornish could potentially have for a while. Compare it to the careers of a Ron Hornaday or Johnny Sauter in the Camping World Truck Series. They’ve built long last relationships and successful careers there. Sometimes it’s not all about Cup and Hornish, since returning the NNS, has gone about that thinking the right way.

It wouldn’t hurt anyone if he built on what he’s started in the NNS by continuing to win races and compete for a championship there for years to come. Yet, what he’s been presented for 2014 won’t allow him to do that, and it’s a loss for both Hornish and the series.

Having to go from a full-time ride with a premier organization, nearly winning the championship, to only finding a part-time ride with another premier organization shows the difficult and unfairness of the times. It’s no fault of Hornish, Penske or JGR.

But it still isn’t right either and while Hornish gets the goods of a great car, he becomes another driver that suffers from a bad set of racing circumstances that give him a bad 2014 race schedule.

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

Chase Elliott Graduates to Nationwide with JR Motorsports, NAPA

By Matt Weaver — JR Motorsports announced on Monday afternoon that Hendrick Motorsports development driver Chase Elliott will compete full-time for the team in the Nationwide Series in 2014, driving a No. 9 Chevrolet sponsored by NAPA Auto Parts.

Elliott is the son of 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill and one of the more-hyped NASCAR prospects in recent memory. He backed-up that status with victories last season in both the ARCA Racing Series (Pocono) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (Bowmanville) in a part-time effort. He turned 18 in November, making him eligible for the Nationwide Series.

Read More: Chase Elliott leads NASCAR national touring top prospects list

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Elliott said in a news release. “My family and I are still trying to believe it all. I couldn’t ask to be partnered with anyone better than Dale Jr., Kelley and Mr. Hendrick, along with all of the people at their organizations who have put in countless hours to pull this together.

“Working with NAPA will be an honor. They’ve had a tremendous impact in NASCAR, and I’m proud to represent their brand, on and off the track, to race fans. I’m extremely pumped to get to work in 2014 with that first trip to Daytona and make the most of this opportunity.”

In a unique twist of fate, Elliott parted ways with long-time sponsor Aaron’s at the end of the year as they committed to Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip Racing for the Sprint Cup Series through 2015. But NAPA left MWR (and driver Martin Truex Jr.) in the wake of the Richmond race-fixing scandal, ultimately joining up with Elliott in his debut Nationwide attempt.

9NW14_Napa_FNL_2D_Pass-Side

His new boss, Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes his stay in Nationwide could be both brief and highly decorated.

“Chase has been extremely successful, and I think the Nationwide Series is only a short step for him,” Earnhardt said. “With the infrastructure we have at JR Motorsports and our close-working partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, we have every opportunity to continue Chase’s development as a driver while contending for a championship.

“He’s that good.”

Elliott will be paired with crew chief Greg Ives next season, the former Jimmie Johnson car chief that helped orchestrate five consecutive Sprint Cup championships from 2006-2010. He served as the crew chief for Regan Smith’s full-time return to the Nationwide Series last year, guiding him to two victories and third place in the final standings.

Ryan Pemberton will head up Smith’s program in 2014.

In addition to his brief NASCAR and ARCA success, Elliott also has an extensive short track background. Competing in Late Models since he was 13-years-old, Elliott has spent the past five seasons building up the most impressive resume in Super Late Model history.

He is the only driver to win all four of the ‘Grand Slam’ Super Late Model events, having captured victories in the Snowball Derby, All-American 400, Winchester 400 and World Crown 300. He’s also a former champion of the now defunct Georgia Asphalt Series, a tour that spanned over 10 races and three states at one point.

And now he’s arrived to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.