When you look at high school and college sports, like football and volleyball, they have a junior varsity and varsity team. You have to prove you are worthy of playing varsity by competing at the junior varsity level first. NASCAR is a lot like that. The NASCAR Nationwide Series is the junior varsity to the Sprint Cup Series varsity. While there are many drivers who compete in one series full time and dabble in the other throughout the year. Sprint Cup drivers can find a Nationwide ride pretty easily; Nationwide drivers trying to find Cup rides? Now that is a different kind of battle.
Austin Dillon may have just come up to the Nationwide Series in 2012, but he has definitely proven that he can drive a race car. With multiple wins in 2012 and a third place finish in the series standings, this kid at least deserves a part time ride in Cup. Dillon will also be named the Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year at the banquet Monday, November 19th. Dillon won the 2011 Truck Series Championship before moving on to the Nationwide Series. His Grandfather, Richard Childress, owner of Richard Childress Racing, would be able to put him in a cup ride, but the real question is, what number would he drive, the three? Either way, Austin Dillon needs to be put in a Cup car, even if it is just a part time ride. Getting him that experience, seeing how he measures up to drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, will be a real test of his talent.
Elliott Sadler has been a driver in the NASCAR circuit for many seasons. He lost his Cup ride in 2009 when A.J. Allmendinger replaced him in the No. 19. Since then, he has been racing in the Nationwide Series, competing for the Championship. This season, he lost to Ricky Stenhouse Jr buy only 23 points. Sadler has proven that he can race with the Cup guys and he needs to get back in the Cup series. Sadler will not be returning to the Nationwide Series driving for Richard Childress Racing, instead he will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. I really hope he gets back into the Cup Series full time soon. He is a talented driver who really deserves to run with the big boys and girls.
When he was called on in the middle of the season to replace A.J. Allmendinger in the 22, he quickly came running. Sam Hornish Jr took over in the summer Daytona race after Allmendinger was suspended following a failed drug test. Hornish continued to drive the 12 car in the Nationwide Series as well as the 22 for the rest of the season. When Penske announced that they would be looking for a full time driver for the 22 in 2013, all eyes were on Hornish. He had performed well in the car in the 19 races he had run with the team and many thought he deserved to get back in the car that he had driven for the majority of the season. When it was announced that Joey Logano would be driving the 22 car, you could see Hornish was disappointed. Penske also announced that he wall looking at a fourth part-time car for Hornish for 2013. I think Sam Hornish Jr deserved to be in the 22 car for Penske Racing, but that is just my opinion. I hope someone can see the potential in the great driver and give him the chance at a full time Cup ride.
Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr are just three drivers in the Nationwide Series that deserve Cup rides, whether full or part time. Sponsorship is getting harder to come by with the slowing economy, leaving many drivers in both series looking for rides period. Look for these three drivers to be Cup Championship contenders in the next few years. Their talent is definitely some of the best on the track.