Blog: Time to get excited about the NNS

By Paul Corliss

Dale Earnhardt Jr

It's time to get excited about the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

For several years, NASCAR writers and media pundits have criticized NASCAR's second-tier for lacking identity and essentially serving as "Cup Lite" … a lesser version of the Sprint Cup Series. This negative stigma is rapidly changing before our eyes.

This weekend in Daytona, NASCAR debuts new Nationwide Series cars - including a Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger - that are designed to look and feel more like what you see on the showroom floor of your favorite auto dealership. It's a return to the roots of NASCAR and really … the cars look sweet.

"We're all anxiously anticipating a great first event," NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash said of the historic official points race for the new car, Friday night at Daytona International Speedway. "We've had numerous tests on various-sized tracks. We've had a lot of great participation from the teams and manufacturers. That tells us the project is headed in the right direction."

The new muscle cars aren't the only throwback item the Nationwide Series will debut at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will take fans back in time when he competes behind the wheel of a No. 3 Chevy Impala with a Wrangler Jeans paint scheme designed to look just like the ride his father made famous in the 1980s. The Wrangler ride - which will only run once before being retired - has set records for NASCAR Nationwide Series merchandise sales over the past few months and promises to be a highlight for Junior fans in Daytona this weekend.

But NASCAR isn't just bringing back oldies but goodies in the Nationwide Series, there's plenty of new blood - namely exciting new talent - in the series. Topping that list, of course, is the Valley's own Danica Patrick. The long-time IndyCar driver will race at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 13 in the Nationwide Series as part of a partial-season of stock car racing for her in 2010. Justin Allgaier is another fresh face to watch in NASCAR and he's the highest-ranked Nationwide Series driver that doesn't race in Sprint Cup events, sitting in third place behind Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

In Phoenix, the inaugural WYPALL* 200 on Nov. 13 at PIR promises to bring several new twists and promotions from one of the Nationwide Series' newest title sponsors. Local fans that visit the WYPALL* Wipers Facebook page can enter to win an all expenses paid trip to PIR and VIP experience at the event. Nationwide Series races - typically about 2/3 the distance of a Sprint Cup event - are also great introductory events for kids and NASCAR newbies. But perhaps best of all, Nationwide Series tickets at PIR start at just $15.

NASCAR's new Nationwide Series cars debut Friday in the SUBWAY Jalapeno 250, televised on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. in Arizona.

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