NASCAR: Tough Kentucky track awaits Regan Smith this evening

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Seven races remain in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, including tonight’s 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

And at 18 points behind championship leader and JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, the title is still a distinct possibility for one Regan Smith.

But much like Kyle Busch’s well-documented troubles at Kansas Speedway in Sprint Cup, Smith has a similarly rocky relationship with Kentucky on the Nationwide side.

As we mentioned yesterday, Smith has never finished higher than 12th (September 2013) in eight career Nationwide starts at the 1.5-mile oval between Cincinnati and Louisville. His average finish there: An anemic 26th.

Smith finished 28th in the Nationwide Series’ visit to Kentucky this past June after getting caught in a late-race crash. If he wants to have a chance at overtaking Elliott and winning this year’s championship, he cannot afford a calamity like that in tonight’s race.

Throughout the season, both JRM men have been steady in their performance. But while each of them have at least 20 Top-10 finishes in 2014 – Smith with 22, Elliott with 20 – it’s been Elliott that had claimed the bigger results with three wins to Smith’s one and 12 Top-5 finishes to Smith’s six.

That difference has added up to the 18-point cushion Elliott enjoys now as the championship has become a two-horse race (although tonight’s pole sitter, Ty Dillon, may have something to say about that).

Tonight, Elliott and Smith will start together in Row 5. With time running out, Smith has to start banking finishes ahead of his rookie counterpart to cut into his deficit.

And it has to start tonight on a track that has never been kind to him.

“It’s so tough without somebody having a problem to make points up the way the structure is, and the way the races play out in the Nationwide Series,” Smith said earlier this week. “If you’re making up three or four points a week, that’s been a good day. And that’s the way you have to look at it.

“I would say there is probably four or five of us that still have a shot at [the championship]. Realistically, maybe a couple of those guys need some bad luck from cars ahead of them. If somebody rolls off three or four wins in a row, those bonus points are huge and you’re going to jump right back up into it pretty quickly.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.