Can Nationwide rookies tame the ‘Lady in Black’ tonight?
The youth movement is clearly here in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Young Chase Elliott scored his first series victory last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, and is the current points leader. Fellow rookie Ty Dillon currently sits third in the standings, just 10 points behind Elliott. In all, six of the nine Rookie of the Year contenders are in the top 13 in points.
However, headed to Darlington Raceway for Friday night’s VFW Help a Hero 200, the track ‘Too Tough to Tame’ will put forth one of the biggest challenges to the impressive rookie class.
One of the most challenging and demanding tracks on the schedule, Darlington demands the best out of each driver and few are immune from famous ‘Darlington stripe.’
Given the challenges the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval presents, it is no surprise the Sprint Cup Series regulars have dominated the win column over the past decade. In fact, since 2000 only two Nationwide Series regulars have won at Darlington – Jeff Green in 2001 and Todd Bodine in 2003.
Yet looking at Thursday’s practice sheets, the young guns were surprisingly fast. Chris Buescher led final practice, while Dillon was third and Elliott fifth. In the opening practice, four of the seven rookies were in the top 15 on the speed charts.
Perhaps more impressive, when it came to the best 10 consecutive lap average Dillon and Elliott were in the top three in opening practice, while Elliott, Buescher and Ryan Reed were among the top seven.
Now, will these fast practice speeds equate to a win in Friday night’s race? That is yet to be seen, but there is little doubt the rookies will have to contend with the likes of Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and the rest of the Sprint Cup regulars.