DAYTONA BEACH, FL — official release — Will Schneekloth/Getty Images photo — Heading into an open week, series standings leader Regan Smith and second-place Elliott Sadler will have a chance to catch their breath before embarking on the longest stretch of the schedule.
After 12 races, Smith and Sadler are only separated by four points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship standings. Both drivers have been the class of the series, although Chase Elliott, a two-time winner, certainly warrants some discussion in this area.
Smith has a series-leading 12 top-10 finishes, including the season-opening win at Daytona. While Sadler has an average finish of 8.6 with five top-five finishes including a win at Talladega.
The series approaches a taxing 18-week stretch of consecutive races from Iowa (13th-race of the season) to Charlotte (30th-race of the season). Last season during that same stretch Sadler (10.5) and Smith (12.8) had similar average finishes.
This season, both drivers look poised to tie-up this long stretch of racing that unraveled their title hopes in 2013, and listening to Smith’s comments, it should come as no surprise.
“There is always pressure,” said point’s leader Regan Smith. “We want to win, we want to be up front and we want to win championships. That doesn’t change. All last season did was make me more experienced and knowledgeable as to how to go through the season when it gets down to crunch time and the points become pressure-packed.”
Smith’s 2014 season-to-date Driver Rating (99.8) and Average Running Position (8.8) has been the start he has needed to accomplish his goals this season. But with Sadler’s season-to-date Driver Rating (101.6) and Average Running Position (8.6) so similar to Smith’s, the championship race between these two should stay tight.