NASCAR’s Nationwide Series opens up its 2013 season at Daytona International Speedway with the DRIVE4COPD 300 on Saturday, February 23rd. Two of last year’s top 10 drivers in points, champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and 10th-place finisher Danica Patrick are moving up to the Sprint Cup Series, leaving the door open for a new champion in the series. Patrick will be one of many Cup Series stars attempting to make the Saturday race, along with her boss, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr., but they’re just a few of the drivers you’ll need to pay attention to – here are a few others.
- Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers – the two Sprint Cup Series veteran are now full-time drivers in the Nationwide Series for the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing program. Sadler, the runner-up to Stenhouse Jr. the past two seasons, is the heir-apparent for the title, but Vickers won the championship in 2003, the last time he raced in the series full-time.
- Austin Dillon – Dillon had a strong freshman year in the Nationwide Series, finishing third in points with two wins and 27 top 10 finishes in 33 races.
- Regan Smith – another Cup Series driver who’s taking a step back, Smith will drive for JR Motorsports in 2013, taking over the No. 7 driven by Patrick the past three seasons.
- Trevor Bayne and Travis Pastrana – Bayne finally gets a full-time Nationwide ride, replacing Stenhouse at Roush-Fenway, while Pastrana finally gets a full-time ride in the series.
- Brian Scott – Scott essentially swapped rides with Sadler, as Sadler is in the No. 11 that Scott drove for JGR and Scott jumps into the No. 2 vacated by Sadler at Richard Childress Racing.
- Nelson Piquet Jr. and Kyle Larson – joining Patrick (in 10 races) and full-time teammate Justin Allgaier are Piquet Jr., son of Brazilian Formula 1 star Nelson Piquet, and Larson, who will drive anything with wheels. Piquet Jr. moves up from Turner Scott Motorsports’ Truck Series program, while Larson moves up from the K&N Pro Series East, where he was the 2012 champion.
- Johanna Long – the other woman to watch this Saturday is Long, who becomes THE woman in the Nationwide Series in 2013. She’ll race a 21-race schedule this season for ML Motorsports.
The Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 takes the green flag on Saturday, February 23rd at 1:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. Stay up-to-date on the Nationwide Series at www.nascar.com.
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