2014 Nationwide Series Predictions and Power Rankings: Race 30: The 2014 Nationwide Series season is 30 races old, and before the final stretch of the season begins at Texas Motor Speedway, the drivers and teams will get a two-week break to rest and refocus. The time off is also the perfect time to take a closer look at the championship battle, and while Chase Elliott currently owns a 42-point lead on second-place Regan Smith, there are still five drivers within striking distance. Within that in mind, here is a closer look at how the championship contenders stack up heading into the home stretch of the 2014 Nationwide Series season.
- Chase Elliott: The rookie continues to stretch out his lead in the standings, and at this point, he will hard to catch if he simply avoids mistakes. The difference between Elliott and the rest of the title contenders has been his ability to contender for wins on a regular basis. His three victories are the most of any series regular, and his 14 top-five finishes are twice as many as any other championship-eligible driver. Elliott is also tied for the series lead with 24 top-10s so it’s not like consistency has been an issue either.
- Regan Smith: Finishes of 22nd and 11th in his last two starts have caused Smith to lose some major ground in the standings, but he remains the only driver with in one race of point leader Chase Elliott. Smith’s strength all year has been consistency, and his 24 top-10s are currently tied for the most in the series. However, consistency alone might not be enough to win him a title at this point. At any rate, Smith will have to be flawless from here on out.
- Ty Dillon: Dillon appeared to be working his way into the thick of the title hunt, but a crash at Charlotte last weekend dealt him a major blow and snapped a seven-race streak of top-10 finishes. Still, Dillon has probably been the second-best driver in the series in the second half, picking up a win and six top-five finishes since July. The fact that Dillon improved throughout the year is encouraging, but he will have to take his performance to another level to have a chance at erasing the 64-point deficit between himself and the point leader.
- Elliott Sadler: He has been posting rock solid finishes all year, and in 30 starts, he has 22 top-10s and 26 top-15 finishes. Sadler also has a win, but he just hasn’t been able to take his performance to an elite level on a regular basis. Still, he is driving for the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing organization so Sadler has the equipment to go on a tear at any moment. His combination of experience, talent and equipment gives Sadler a chance to go on the special type of run it will take to climb from fourth to first in the standings in the final weeks.
- Brian Scott: Although he remains winless, Scott has quietly climbed to third in the standings thanks to a great stretch of racing. For the year, he owns a 9.5 average finish, but that mark improves to 7.9 over the past 20 races. During the stretch, he has notched 17 top-10s. He will need the top two divers in the standings to falter a bit, but if Scott continues to improve over the final weeks of the season, he has the smallest deficit to erase among drivers ranked third through fifth in the points.
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