Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Watkins Glen

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

Unfortunately for Carl Edwards, Watkins Glen is by far his worst road course. In four NASCAR Nationwide Series races there, his best finish was 11th in 2005, and he has an average finish of 23.8.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Ace Up The Sleeve? Not Likely In NNS At The Glen

The bulk of NASCAR Nationwide Series stand-alone season has now passed, with six of the last nine races having been run separately from tracks where NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races took place.

The series returns to companion events this weekend at Watkins Glen International, the first of two road course races on the schedule. The other will be at the end of the month at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal (the eighth of nine 2009 stand-alone races).

And just as stand-alone season brings the opportunity for series-only regulars to shine, road-course racing season allows the pure stock-car driver to show off left and right-turn skills.

You read that right. Stock-car racers. Not necessarily the road-course aces that make their annual appearances at these events.

Take a look at the NASCAR Nationwide record book at The Glen since the series began running there from 1991-2001 and after a three-year hiatus, returned in 2005. In 12 of the 15 races, full-time NASCAR drivers have won at the 2.45-mile road course, and some of those names may be surprising.

Terry Labonte is the all-time leader with four wins, including the inaugural race followed by three in succession from 1994-96. The road-course prowess of the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion made him the logical choice in 2007 to serve as the test driver prior to the series’ inaugural race in Montreal.

Ernie Irvan collected one of his three NASCAR Nationwide Series wins at The Glen (1992). Bill Elliott’s lone series victory came there in 1993.  Two-time NASCAR Nationwide champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in 1999, to date his only road course win in NASCAR national series competition.

Ron Fellows (No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet) carries the banner for road course aces — he’s second to Labonte with three wins — two consecutive in 2000-01 — and also is tied for the series lead with two poles. One could argue that defending race winner Marcos Ambrose (No. 47 STP Toyota), who earned his road-course stripes while racing in Australia, is another in the ace category. But Ambrose is now a member of the stock-car community, having climbed the NASCAR ladder through the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2006), the NASCAR Nationwide Series (2007-08) and now in NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Plenty of road-course experts are entered, including Boris Said (No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford), Robby Gordon (No. 55 Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota), J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 4 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet), Scott Speed (No. 99 Red Bull Toyota) and Justin Marks (No. 10 Braun Racing Toyota).

Road Course Test Ahead For Allgaier

Perhaps it’s fitting that the NASCAR Nationwide Series comes to a road course this weekend in the hills of the Finger Lakes area, because Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) keeps rolling along.

Nothing seems to faze the 22-year-old. Not his first full year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he’s moved to a season-high fifth-place ranking. Not competing against one of the strongest crops of series-only regulars in recent memory. Not a competitive group of Raybestos Rookies (he’s the standings leader) and not the double-duty drivers who dot the entry lists.

And certainly not the variety of tracks he’s tackled thus far in 2009.

“I’m really looking forward to getting my first Nationwide road-course start,” Allgaier said. “Unfortunately my background doesn’t involve much turning right, unless it’s to counter-steer on dirt, so hopefully I can rely on the team to help me with my shortcomings.”

Shortcomings? He won the ARCA race last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park, his only other road-course start.

Allgaier started the first four races of his series career last year and after last week’s race at Iowa Speedway, has reached the 25-race mark. Despite two DNFs — including the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway where he finished 40th — he’s collected three top-five finishes, all fifths, to go along with nine top 10s. He led a season-best 35 laps at Iowa before a late-race incident erased a chance at a victory, but he salvaged a 15th-place finish.

Allgaier is one of two rookies and seven series-only regulars ranked in the top 10 in the driver standings this week.

Getting The Last Laugh? Kenny Wallace In Midst Of Solid Season

It’s hard to miss the distinctive laugh of Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet).

And this year, he may have a chance at getting the last laugh, too.

Wallace is in the midst of his best NASCAR Nationwide Series season since 2006, when he finished 11th in the driver standings.

Currently 13th in the rankings, he comes to Watkins Glen riding a modest two-race streak of top-10 finishes, including a seventh-place result last week at Iowa.

He was 10th at O’Reilly Raceway Park on July 25.

The Iowa finish was his best outing since he finished third last year at Memphis Motorsports Park. His consecutive top 10s are the first he’s collected since 2005 when he was eighth and fourth at The Milwaukee Mile and Daytona, respectively.

Wallace has a good resume at Watkins Glen. He had top-five in starts in four races (not consecutive entries, however) in 1991 and 1992 (started first due to inclement weather), 1994 and 1996. He has two top-10 finishes among his eight races including his best, sixth place, in 1992.

He finished 21st last year; this will be the first time he’s competed in consecutive series events at The Glen since 2005-06.

Wallace’s start will be the 440th of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career, second only to Jason Keller’s (No. 27 Cottonelle Ford) 478.  The countdown is on for Wallace to reach the 800-start plateau in his NASCAR national series career; he should get there at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 11.

Wallace has 794 combined starts in NASCAR Nationwide (439), NASCAR Sprint Cup (344) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (11) competition since making his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Martinsville Speedway in 1998. He finished 11th there for owner Dale Earnhardt.

Familiar Names, Not-So-Familiar Seats

There will be a few new faces behind the wheel of full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series cars beginning this weekend at Watkins Glen.

Boris Said stands in for John Wes Townley, a Raybestos Rookie who will step back to watch and learn from the road-course specialist. Said won the pole in 1998 at The Glen.

Said mentored Townley at Road Atlanta last month, helping the 19-year-old with his technique. Townley is scheduled to be back in the No. 09 Ford at Montreal later this month.

Denny Hamlin will take over the duties of the No. 11 RIDEMAKERZ Toyota this weekend and next at Michigan International Speedway. Hamlin, who won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Monday, won his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the road course in Mexico City in 2006. He replaces Scott Lagasse Jr.; a driver announcement is expected next week regarding the remainder of the year.

Ryan Newman, a NASCAR Nationwide Series winner at The Glen in 2005, will be in the No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet for this event. Mike Bliss and Phoenix Racing parted ways earlier this week.

Jeffrey Earnhardt will make his second attempt at his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut. He’ll drive the No. 40 StopRepairBills.com Chevrolet at The Glen; Scott Wimmer has the majority of the starts in that car this year (14). Wimmer will be at the track this weekend serving as a coach and offering technical support to Earnhardt. Wimmer has other Earnhardt connections, having driven the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in four races this year, including last week at Iowa (31st-engine failure).

Earnhardt also is scheduled to compete in the No. 40 at Montreal.

And a familiar face returns as Joey Logano gets back in the No. 20 GameStop Toyota after a three-race absence. Brad Coleman handled duties in that car over the last three stand-alone events.

Despite missing six starts this year, Logano (three wins, three poles, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s) is ranked eighth in the driver standings. He was seventh in his series debut at The Glen last year.

IN THE LOOP

Three For The Road: Ambrose Back To Defend NNS Glen Victory

There was little Marcos Ambrose could do wrong during last year’s three NASCAR Nationwide Series road-course races.  

His first resulted in a runner-up finish at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.  His second was a third-place run at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, where he led a race-high 27 laps.

To cap them all off — as if a second- and third-place finish weren’t enough — Ambrose nabbed his first career NASCAR national series win at Watkins Glen.

The three finishes put Ambrose at the top of every key 2008 statistical road course category. In those three starts, he had a Driver Rating of 124.2, 32 Laps Led, 23 Fastest Laps Run and an Average Running Position of 7.7.

He’ll have to qualify on time this weekend in his season debut in order to defend his win.

Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford), statistically the second-best driver on the road courses last year, is known more for his wide-open style on ovals.

Though failing to visit Victory Lane after a road-course race in 2008 Edwards, currently second in the standings, did collect a top five and two top 10s in those events.

Out of those three — of which his best finish was fourth in Mexico City — Edwards had a Driver Rating of 102.6, an Average Running Position of 10.9, five Laps Led and 16 Fastest Laps Run.

Unfortunately for Edwards, Watkins Glen is by far his worst road course. In four series races there, his best finish was 11th in 2005, and he has an average finish of 23.8. In his career at The Glen, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 76.7, an Average Running Position of 17.0, no Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 52.

Perhaps the biggest road-course surprise was Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet), who needed little time to adapt to the tricky layouts last season.

In the three 2008 road course races, last week’s winner at Iowa had two top 10s, a Driver Rating of 88.4, an Average Running Position of 16.9 and two Fastest Laps Run.

NNS Etc: Watkins Glen Edition

  • Native New Yorker State Of Mind
    New York natives in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage this weekend include:
    Pete Bejte (Scio) – No. 38 car chief
    Pete Brower (Lindenhurst) – No. 38 shock specialist
    Vaughn Dunn (Watertown) – No. 11 tire specialist
    Ryan Fugle (Livonia) – No. 15 engineer
    Todd Gordon (Camden) – No. 27 crew chief
    Mike Hillman (Lockport) – No. 15 general manager
    Shayna Keller (Mohawk) – No. 11 media relations
    Josh Koch (Springville) – No. 18 mechanic
    Scott McDougall (Syracuse) – No. 11 engineer
    Nate McGuire (Palymyra) – No. 89 catch can
    Chris Miko (Bronx) – No. 11 transporter  driver
    Boris Said (New York) – No. 09 driver
    Rich Ohlhorst (Centereach) – No. 15 mechanic
    Craig Partee (Seneca Falls) – No. 89 front tire carrier
    Bobby Sada (Long Island) – No. 16 pit support
    Jessica Trippy (Grand Island) – No. 40 media relations
    Chad Walter (Albion) – No. 12 crew chief (graduated from and played football at Cornell)
    Paul Wolfe (Milford) – No. 11 crew chief

  • Hockey Talk

    It’s from one big weekend to another for Michael Annett (No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota).

    Last week, the native of Des Monies, Iowa, competed at his home track during the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway where he finished 11th.

    This weekend, it’s off to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series road-course event. And, the hockey player turned racer will have the chance to meet Buffalo Sabres goalkeeper Ryan Miller.

    He began playing at age 8, through high school and also for Team Illinois, a tournament squad. He also played in a league that served as a feeder series for colleges but as a small defenseman (5-9, 170), he figured pro hockey wasn’t in his future, so he turned to racing.

    Miller will be featured at a press conference in the Watkins Glen media center at noon Friday; afterwards, Annett will meet Miller.

  • Busch Says “Bonjour” To Montreal

    Series standings leader Kyle Busch (No. 18 NOS Toyota) will make a trip to Montreal on Thursday to meet with media members in preparation for the series’ NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Aug. 30.

    This weekend at The Glen, Busch will look to break the mark he equaled last Saturday at Iowa where he registered his ninth consecutive first or second-place finish. Jack Ingram, the first NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, originally set the mark in 1983. Busch finished second in this race last year.

    Additionally this weekend, eight Montreal media outlets will make the trip to Watkins Glen to gather advance information for the race.

  • Rookie Stripes At The Glen

    The four NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookies entered in Saturday’s race aren’t the only first-timers who will be on the course at Watkins Glen in series competition.

    Among others who will be making their track and/or series debuts is Eric McClure (No. 24 Hefty Ford).

    Despite making his 95th NASCAR Nationwide Series start, it will be the first for McClure, 30, on a road course.

    Last week, Chris Cook (No. 90 MSRP Motorsports Chevrolet), a renowned driver/instructor, worked with McClure at Virginia International Raceway.

NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

    Driver                   Team       Points
1. Justin Allgaier         Penske      193
2. Brendan Gaughan   RWR          183
3. Michael McDowell   MMS          172
4. Scott Lagasse Jr.   CJM            153
5. Michael Annett       Germain      143
6. Jon Wes Townley   RAB            105
7. Erik Darnell            RFR            104
8. Ken Butler III          R3               67

Up Next: Michigan International Speedway

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will make its first and only trip this season to Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 15 for the CARFAX 250.

Last year, Carl Edwards won from the pole, only the second driver to do so. Ten years earlier, Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) — at the time also driving for Roush Fenway Racing — won from the pole position.

Four drivers have two wins at Michigan, while none has yet to repeat as a pole winner in 17 races at the 2-mile track.

ESPN2 will have pre-race coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Manufacturers' Standings

2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings

Toyota          146
Chevrolet      129
Ford              121
Dodge           66
Following Race 21 of 35 at Iowa Speedway

FAST FACTS

The Race: ZIPPO 200 At The Glen
The Place: Watkins Glen International
The Date: Saturday, August 8
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200.9 miles / 82 laps
TV: ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Race Winner: Marcos Ambrose
2008 Polesitter: Dario Franchitti

Event Schedule (all times ET): Friday – Practice 1:30-3 p.m.; Final Practice 5:30 p.m.; Saturday – Qualifying 10:10 a.m.

2009 STANDINGS

      Driver  Points
1    Kyle Busch 3,471
2    Carl Edwards 3,264
3    Brad Keselowski 3,099
4    Jason Leffler 2,955
5    Justin Allgaier 2,493
6    Mike Bliss  2,479
7    Steve Wallace 2,423
8    Joey Logano 2,395
9    Jason Keller 2,394
10  Brendan Gaughan 2,365




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.




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