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2013 Nationwide Series Preview: Talent, funding fuel competition

A preview of the upcoming NASCAR Nationwide Series season with Utter’s Top 10 picks and observations.

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013

Preseason Top 10


1 . Elliott Sadler

Joe Gibbs Racing

He has a pair of runner-up finishes in the series standings. Will the third time be the charm?


2. Austin Dillon

Richard Childress Racing

He won a Truck title (2011) and would like a Nationwide title before he moves on to the Sprint Cup Series.


3. Brian Vickers

JGR

One of the best battles in 2013 may be between JGR teammates Vickers and Sadler.


4. Trevor Bayne

Roush Fenway Racing

He's waited two years for his chance to compete for a championship. He won't let it slip away without a fight.


5. Regan Smith

JR Motorsports

If you think Smith won't be a series contender, please see last season's Homestead race.


6. Justin Allgaier

Turner Scott Motorsports

Continues to show he has what it takes. More consistency and he'll battle for a title.


7. Kyle Larson

TSM

He's already shown he'll do anything to win, and he definitely has the talent to feed that approach.


8. Nelson Piquet Jr.

TSM

Has a chance to make this a big impact year for his young NASCAR career. Needs more wins.


9. Sam Hornish Jr.

Penske Racing

This could be Hornish's final chance to earn another full-time shot in the Cup series.


10. Brian Scott

RCR

A move to another organization may be just what Scott needs to get back on the winning track.

Observations

• Winning the Nationwide championship this season will be nothing to sneeze at considering the talented crop of contenders. They range from former Sprint Cup Series regulars like Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler to up-and-comers like Kyle Larson and Parker Kligerman to former Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne. All of the top contenders are with well-funded teams as well which will make the battle even more entertaining.

• In 2011, the year Bayne won the season-opening Daytona 500, he was only running a part-time Cup schedule. His main job that year was to run for the Nationwide title, but he never got the chance. Bayne was sidelined for several weeks for what was later diagnosed as Lyme disease. This season will be the first since then he's had the chance to run a full schedule. Expect him to take full advantage of the opportunity.

What they're saying

• "I think it's going to be a very competitive year. There's a lot of good drivers - some Cup experience and some not. A lot of the guys in the Nationwide Series are going to be racing for the championship. It's their second or third year in the series. There's a lot of well-funded teams." - Brian Vickers

• "You have got guys that are going to want to prove themselves, and I have seen back in the Truck Series when I raced that you have guys that make big mistakes trying to make that move. Instead of trying to take a top-five, you are taking more than what the car can give you at that time. You will see some of that this year." - Austin Dillon

• "It's going to be hard to win races this year, but I think we can. After I've hung out with (crew chief) Mike Kelley and those guys, it's no wonder to me why they've won championships and why they've won so many races. I think those guys have something special there, and I'm glad to be a part of it with him." - Trevor Bayne

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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