Quartet of new drivers bring vigor to Nationwide Series

Travis Pastrana will compete full-time in NASCAR's Nationwide Series in 2013. Credits: Getty Images
Travis Pastrana will compete full-time in NASCAR's Nationwide Series in 2013. Credits:  Getty Images
Travis Pastrana will compete full-time in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2013. Credits: Getty Images

As the 2013 season dawns, many changes are in the air. One of the most notable being the arrival of a new crop of drivers to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Among the solid rookie class are four drivers that bring a profusion of promise and talent to the series: Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson, Travis Pastrana and Nelson Piquet Jr.

While none of them have a tremendous amount of experience in NASCAR’s secondary series (Kligerman is the veteran of the group with 18 starts), they are all eager to start the season.

Kligerman, who will drive the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, has five top-10 finishes and one pole in 18 starts. His best finish was a seventh that came last summer at Chicagoland. His only pole came in his first series start, at Kansas in 2009.

The 22-year-old from Westport, Conn., moves up from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he won the fall Talladega race last year. His victory, along with eight top fives and 15 top 10s netted him a fifth-place finish in the overall points standings.

Kyle Larson already has a championship trophy in his collection after winning the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title; however, he would love to add another one in the near future.

He finds himself at the helm of the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet for the 2013 season without a single start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. That alone speaks to his talent and the potential TSM sees in the 20-year-old driver from Elk Grove, Calif.

In the truck series, Larson had only four starts, but he’s been impressive in those races notching three top-10 finishes, including a runner-up performance at Phoenix in the penultimate race last year.

On Monday night, he won the first race of the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach in a somewhat controversial last-lap finish on the .4-mile track situated on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway.

However, racing on the shortened track is a lot different than going full throttle around the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

“It’s hard to plan a strategy when it comes to these restrictor-plate races because things change so quickly every lap,” said Larson.

Probably the most popular driver, with the Twitter followers to prove it, to step full-time into NASCAR Nationwide action this season is Travis Pastrana. Of course, his popularity comes primarily from his days as an extreme sports star and as producer of the popular MTV show, “Nitro Circus.”

Pastrana will drive the No. 60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013. In nine starts, his best performance was a 13th-place finish last season at Indianapolis.

In July 2011, he was scheduled to make his series debut at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, but he broke his right foot and ankle a couple days prior to the race. He ended up delaying his debut until April 2012 at Richmond International Raceway. He finished 22nd in the race.

Saturday’s race will be his first series race at Daytona International Speedway, but not his first competition on the track. His first win in the Pro Ranks was at Daytona in the AMA Supercross Series 125 East Class.

Although Pastrana is extremely competitive, he’s going into the year with realistic goals and hoping to learn from his experiences.

“The NASCAR Nationwide Series is the most competitive series I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of,” Pastrana said. “This year I’m going in with open expectations. My goals this season are to do the best I can every race and to learn every race.”

Nelson Piquet Jr. might only have four starts to his credit in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but he’s the most accomplished out of the four drivers in their new home series.

In only four starts, the 27-year-old from Brazil already has one NASCAR Nationwide win, which came at Road America last season.

In 2012, he competed in the truck series where he won twice (Michigan, Las Vegas) and captured three poles before being named the series’ Most Popular Driver at season’s end.

He is the first Brazilian to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race, and the first to run a full-time NASCAR Nationwide schedule, driving the No. 30 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet.

“I’m so ready for this season to finally start,” Piquet said. “Running full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a dream come true for me.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.