Five questions for the 2013 Nationwide season

The upcoming Nationwide Series season may be one of the most anticipated ones in recent memory. With many proven race winners in competitive rides, many see the 2013 season being one of the best in the history of the Nationwide Series in terms of on-track competition.

With so much hype and anticipation leads to questions that will be answered throughout the season.

Here’s five of the questions I have for the 2013 Nationwide season.

1: Will JR Motorsports turn into a formidable championship contender? 

–  With the recent additions to this team over the past six months, many expect to see them go from a team that was barely able to have one of their two cars finish inside the top-10 each week, much less multiple cars finishing well. In order to be more competitive, the team hired veteran Sprint Cup crew chief Ryan Pemberton and also wanted to increase their relationship with Hendrick Motorsports which ultimately led to Greg Ives (engineer for Jimmie Johnson) coming over to the team for 2013

For the 2012 season, JR Motorsports welcomes Regan Smith to the fold to compete for the 2013 driver’s championship. Smith, who made his first start with the team at Homestead-Miami Speedway marking the first time he had gotten behind the wheel of a Nationwide Series car since 2007, won his first race with the team.

In addition to Smith, JRM has added veteran Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet who have both competed for Tuner Motorsports (now Tuner Scott Motorsports) over the past two seasons to split the No.5 Chevrolet for 27 of the 33 races. It goes without saying, but team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will compete for his team in a select number of races as well, starting with the season-opener at Daytona.

Certainly the effort has been made to increase performance and if all goes right, things will work out with JRM seeing victory lane on multiple occasions and competing for the championship with Smith. However, this is racing, and we know having big names don’t always equal big results.

It’s going to take until at least the middle of the season to see what this team is really made of.

2: Joe Gibbs Racing is the favorite, but will they get the results? 

– There’s probably no driver lineup loaded with more talent in all of NASCAR as Joe Gibbs Racing’s NNS lineup. With Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth splitting a fair amount of time in the JGR Toyota’s, that already makes for a potent combination.

Add to that, their two full-time drivers Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler both drivers with a proven track record in the Nationwide Series.

However, we’ve seen it in the past that having the best drivers in arguably the best cars in the series doesn’t always mean that the results will play out the way everyone expects them to.

Surely, JGR is going to reach victory lane. But will it be as much as many expect them to? We won’t know that until the bread-and-butter of the schedule is reached after the first few races of the season.

3: Can Travis Pastrana find success with Roush Fenway Racing? 

– Yes, you heard right. X-Games star Travis Pastrana is racing full-time in the Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway Racing.

Pastrana has been involved in NASCAR for the past two seasons running races in the K&N Pro Series West as well as a part-time schedule in the Nationwide Series last year in which his best finish was 13th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In his one start for RFR, Pastrana showed speed as he qualified on the outside of the front row at Richmond International Raceway in September. Now that he’s in the same equipment that won the past two NNS championships with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the pressure is on Pastrana to perform.

Pastrana has shown talent in every from of motor sports he has attempted, even his newest venture in NASCAR. But, NASCAR is arguably the toughest challenge he has had yet and like any new drive, it won’t be easy from the start.

4: Who will be the new champion? 

– There’s only one guarantee for the Nationwide Series in 2013. There will be a different champion with 2011 and 2012 champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moving full-time to the Sprint Cup Series.

Typically, one could point to a driver from the season past and place him/her as the favorite for the championship for the upcoming season. That’s not necessarily the case for this year. Many are calling the lineup of drivers across the board in NNS this season as one of the deepest in recent times with many race-winning drivers in top-quality rides.

From Joe Gibbs Racing’s All-Star-style lineup with Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler leading the charge for the championship, Roush Fenway’s unique blend of Trevor Bayne and Travis Pastrana, as well as Turner Scott Motorsports’s young, relatively unproven group of drivers, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be hoisting the trophy come seasons end in Miami.

5: Will Turner Scott Motorsports become a consistent, race winning team? 

– No, this is not a new team. It’s the same team that won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway last February as well as the team which guided James Buescher to the 2012 Camping World Truck championship.

TSM has won races in the past, three just last season with Buescher at Daytona, Nelson Piquet Jr.’s dominating performance at Road America in Wisconsin and  Justin Allgaier at Montreal  However, the wins have been sporadic at best and the team really hasn’t contended for them on a regular basis even when Sprint Cup Series drivers step behind the wheel.

For the 2013 season, TSM will once again feature a variety of drivers with Allgaier and Piquet Jr. competing for the championship. Both drivers have shown flashes that they’re ones that can contend for a win on any style of track, but showing the potential and realizing the potential are different animals.

Seeing how TSM found success in the Truck Series, you have to think it’s just a matter of time before they translate that success into the Nationwide Series.

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