(Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

‘Consistency’ is becoming NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott’s middle name

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If things continue the way they have been thus far this season, Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott may soon change his middle name from Joseph to “Consistency.”

In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Scott’s picture next to the word “consistency” in the dictionary, he’s been so unwavering in what to date has been a very solid season for the Idaho native.

Scott currently leads all NNS regulars in highest average running position (7.683), highest average starting position (7.3) and the most laps in the top-15 (2,198 or 95.4 percent).

In 12 starts thus far this season, Scott has two top-fives, five top-10s, 10 overall top-15 finishes, a 17th-place finish and his one off-race, a 33rd at Talladega (the only DNF he’s earned in 2014).

What’s more, his average start is outstanding (7.2) and average finish is almost as good (11.7).

This season in NNS has 12 starts, including two top-five and five top-10 finishes. Average start is 7.2 and average finish is 11.7.

Wait, there’s more:

He’s qualified 10 times in the top-10 (and an 11th time he was 13th), including earning the pole at Richmond and the outside pole at Phoenix.

Add all those things together and Scott could be primed to finally earn the first NNS victory of his career on Saturday at MIS, where he finished fifth in last year’s race on the wide and fast two-mile track.

“I think the only thing we’ve missed is we need to be a little bit better on restarts and have a little good luck,” Scott said Friday. “I feel like we’ve got the speed and are competitive enough to win races.

“We’ve gotta improve in just a little tiny area like restarts and the first lap after restarts on speed. If a couple of races had just gone a little differently and been more of a long run to the end, things of that nature, I think we would have had a couple of victories instead of a couple (close) finishes.”

And if Scott can get what has proven to be an elusive first win, it could be the final piece to the puzzle of potentially winning the NNS championship this season.

But at the same time, Scott’s uncanny consistency could also carry him to the championship, just like it did for Austin Dillon, who went winless in 2013 yet still took home the NNS title at season’s end.

“NASCAR has always rewarded consistency,” Scott said. “They’ve done a lot of changing of formats in the Cup Series and the Chase to try and put more emphasis on winning, but the format for our championship in Nationwide has never changed.

“It’s more of the old-school format, consistency is more important than winning races and then also having DNFs. It’s just the way the sport is. It doesn’t matter how you get there or how you win the championship, the most important thing is you won (the title).

“I wouldn’t feel the least bit upset if I won (the championship) without winning (a race). Of course, you always want to win, you always want to just not even have that conversation, but consistency is every bit as important in victory lane. It just feels a lot better and everybody wants to get to victory lane.”

Scott has even been consistent in the NNS standings: he’s remained in sixth place for the last six weeks, and is only 57 points behind series leader Regan Smith. Of course, it helps greatly that he’s running for Richard Childress Racing, which has surrounded Scott this season with solid motors, fast chassis and a team that is as hungry for success as its driver is — and will do everything it can to help him reach that championship goal.

“This No. 2 team, we’ve strengthened some positions as a group, but really more than anything, we have notes from all these tracks that we’ve been to now, we have a good database of knowing what I like and what I don’t like,” Scott said. “We’ve gone on some science experiments the wrong way and we’ve figured out directions not to go and not to shoot ourselves in the foot. … All those things together have really contributed to our strong start.”

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Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway