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Edwards, Busch headline Nationwide field

Clint Bowyer is not defending his title in NASCAR's Nationwide Series this year - and that's fine with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

Edwards, the 2007 Nationwide champion, and Busch, who won a record-tying ten races in the series in 2008, enter the season as the favourites to win the title, given that Bowyer will not run a full schedule this year.

Edwards and Busch hope to continue a trend that began with Kevin Harvick's championship in 2006, which began a three-year streak of the Nationwide title going to a full-time driver in the Sprint Cup Series. Martin Truex Jr., who went back-to-back in the series in 2004 and 2005, is the last non-Cup regular to win the Nationwide championship.

The presence of full-time Cup drivers, however, doesn't bother Braun Racing's Jason Leffler, a full-time Nationwide competitor who drives the #38 Toyota.

“I love the competition,” said Leffler, who gave Toyota its first win in the series, at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis in 2007. “I love beating some of those guys, and I love trying to keep up with some of them. At the end of the day, you can maybe take a satisfactory day and look at who you beat and take some positives from that. It makes you feel good.”

Leffler says he can return to victory lane this year after a winless 2008.

“We're looking to win races,” said Leffler, who finished ninth in the series standings last year. “We have a new crew chief in Scott Zipadelli and a lot of changes around Braun Racing that are all positive. The place looks totally different than it did last year, and we're just anxious to get on the racetrack to see if that all transfers. We're pretty confident it will. We look forward to going to victory lane, and as they say, you don't want to win all the races - just the ones you enter.”

Equally hungry is Nationwide driver Brad Keselowski, who finished third in the final standings behind Bowyer and Edwards. Keselowski says he can contend for the championship in the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

"My goal is to win the Nationwide Series championship,” Keselowski said. “I want to run well on a weekly basis and have the consistency that's necessary to be in the title picture.”

The Nationwide Series will have a strong rookie class this season, featuring truck series veteran Brendan Gaughan, Justin Allgaier, Michael McDowell (who competed in the Cup series in 2008), Scott Lagasse Jr., Michael Annett and John Wes Townley.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News


Related Pictures

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Carl Edwards - Roush Fenway Racing [Pic credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty for NASCAR]
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates with his son, Keelan, in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Jimmy John`s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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Johnny Sauter, driver of the #98 Nextant/Curb Records Toyota, leads the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, crosses the finishline to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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