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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Iowa

Race fans in Iowa are expected to turn out in record numbers on Saturday when the NASCAR Nationwide Series runs its debut race at Iowa Speedway.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 28, 2009) - Inauguration Day is filled with expectations. High drama, large crowds, great excitement.

Race fans in Iowa are expected to turn out in record numbers on Saturday when the NASCAR Nationwide Series runs its debut race at Iowa Speedway. An additional 25,000 temporary seats have been installed at the track, bringing the seating capacity to 55,000, which would make the crowd the largest in Iowa racing history.

The opportunity to win the first NASCAR national series race at the track is incentive enough. But to add to the intrigue, there’s a $75,000 “Dash 4 Cash” bonus on the line to the winner if he’s an eligible driver in the program installed this year by Nationwide Insurance.

This may be the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa, but it won’t be the first time NASCAR has raced at the .875-mile oval located in the farming community of Newton.

The NASCAR Camping World Series East and West have raced there over the last three years, and many of the drivers entered have competed in those combination series races — with outstanding results.

NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader Kyle Busch (No. 18 Pizza Ranch Toyota) won from the pole in May. His protégé, Brain Ickler (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota) was second and Trevor Bayne (No. 99 Aarons Dream Machine Toyota), who won his first NASCAR Nationwide pole last week at O’Reilly Raceway Park, was third. In 2008, Ickler beat Kasey Kahne; Austin Dillon (No. 2 High Point University Chevrolet) won the pole and finished sixth. In the first NASCAR race held at the track in 2007, Joey Logano held off two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet) for the win; Harvick captured the pole.

Some have put up strong finishes at Iowa in other series — Steve Wallace (No. 66 USFidelis Chevrolet) won from the ARCA pole in 2006, the first race at the track designed by his father, Rusty. Michael Annett (No. 15 Northland Toyota), the hometown favorite from Des Moines, won the pole there in his first ARCA race in 2007 and finished third. Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) was second in the 2008 ARCA event while Matt Carter (No. 61 Specialty Racing Ford) won the pole and finished fourth.

Not to be forgotten among the pomp and circumstance of this event, though, is the true inaugural NASCAR national series race in the Hawkeye State. In 1953, Herb Thomas won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Davenport Speedway.

$75,000 “Dash 4 Cash” Bonus Ready For Taking At Iowa

It’s still sitting there, waiting.

It hasn’t been dormant, though. It’s been growing at a rate of $25,000 at a time while it waits.

“It” is the “Dash 4 Cash” bonus that series sponsor Nationwide Insurance offers to the winner in one of the four designated “Dash 4 Cash” races this season.

Eligible drivers are those who run full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (including full-time double-duty drivers) and series-only drivers who compete in partial and limited schedules in the series.

Joey Logano spoiled the opportunities for eligible drivers in the first two events — at Nashville Superspeedway in April and at Kentucky Speedway in June. Each time Logano won, the bonus added $25,000 from its original $25,000 starting point.

Kevin Harvick is the fly in the ointment at Iowa. Like Logano, he’s not running a full-time schedule in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year. He wins, the bonus rolls to $100,000 in the final “Dash 4 Cash” event at Memphis Motorsports Park in October.

Harvick has a chip on his shoulder, too. He was in contention for the win in 2007 in the first NASCAR race at Iowa Speedway in the combined Camping World Series East/West race, but an engine issue thwarted his ability to catch Logano, who won. Harvick finished second.

From Hockey To Horsepower: Iowa Native Annett In The Hometown Spotlight

It’s tough to find two more different sports than hockey and auto racing.

The only real connection for Michael Annett is he has excelled at both.

Annett, a native of Des Monies, located a half-hour from Iowa Speedway, was born into a racing family — literally. He was born on a Tuesday and the following Saturday, he was taken along to his first race track.

His mom, Deborah, hesitated at the youngest of her seven children pursuing a racing career, so he turned to hockey. He played from age 8-17 in the high school ranks and also for Team Illinois, a tournament squad.

He also played for a few years 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 back to the “family business,” racing.

His tours through USAC, ASA and ARCA led to some races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and eventually his full-time ride this year with Germain Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Annett, 23, is comfortable at Iowa Speedway, a track where he secured the pole in his first ARCA start in 2007. He holds the track record for most competitive laps there and will get back to his roots Friday night when he competes in the Silver Crown event.

Annett is 15th in the driver standings in his first year in the series. He’s fifth in the Raybestos Rookie rankings among one of the strongest groups in recent years. He posted his career-best finishes of seventh at Kentucky and Gateway International Raceway but is looking for redemption after an accident dropped him to a 35th-place finish last Saturday at ORP.

Despite the hectic week leading up to his big race, Annett has organized a raffle to assist a family friend who has been diagnosed with leukemia. The winner will receive a helmet signed by the NASCAR Nationwide drivers in the race.

Tables Are Turned At Iowa

When asked about racing at Iowa Speedway, Trevor Bayne said it was good to finally be in a position where he has an advantage, thanks to being a driver who has competed there prior to Saturday’s race.

At most of the tracks on the NASCAR Nationwide schedule Bayne, and many young drivers, have limited or no seat time prior to practice or qualifying, unlike their veteran series counterparts.

Not the case at Iowa. 

Bayne and some of his peers are the ones with the experience. It’s the veterans who are scrambling for information.

“You can’t really compare this track to anywhere else we go throughout the year,” said Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota), who participated in a Goodyear tire test at Iowa in May.  “I thought it would be like Richmond but it’s a lot bigger and has a different surface. 

“With only four cars on the track (during the test) there was only about a lane and a half of a groove but once we have 43 cars out there, it’s going to get a nice second groove built in. The racing should be pretty exciting.”

“If I was going to build a track I would probably design it very similar to what they have done in Iowa,” said Jason Keller (No. 27 Cottonelle Ford), the series all-time leader in starts who is aiming at No. 478 on Saturday. “From what I’m hearing it’s very similar to Richmond and that’s my favorite track on the series.

“With the six-hour practice on Thursday, not only will we be able to learn about the track but we’ll be able to try a lot of things in our short-track program that we would’ve liked to already tried but haven’t had the opportunity,” Keller said.

“If I had to compare this track to another, I would say it’s like a smaller version of Kentucky Speedway,” said Leffler’s crew chief, Scott Zipadelli. “Turns 1 and 2 are pretty bumpy so that’s one thing that everyone is going to have to deal with.

“Nobody has previous notes to go by and not a lot of the drivers have raced here before. There’s $75,000 up for grabs with this being a ‘Dash 4 Cash’ race and I’d say it’s up for anyone to take.”

In The Loop

Previous Short-Track Stats May Give Busch, Edwards Leg Up At Iowa

This weekend’s race at Iowa Speedway is a great unknown for most drivers – and all drivers where NASCAR Nationwide Series competition is concerned.

This is the series’ first visit to the short track, so no past track-specific statistics can be used to analyze the race.

The series has run two short track races this season – at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway – and statistics gleaned from those two events (and short-track events last season) could help pick some favorites.

The first names that jump out are the two at the top of the points standings: Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.

In the two short-track races this season, Busch has a Driver Rating of 139.6, an Average Running Position of 2.2, 271 Laps Led and 124 Fastest Laps Run.

Edwards is close behind. He has a Driver Rating of 130.7, an Average Running Position of 2.6, 146 Laps Led and 69 Fastest Laps Run.

But watch for two other drivers to stand out this weekend, both of whom have been strong on short tracks this year, and last: Jason Leffler and Steve Wallace.

This season, Leffler has posted a Driver Rating of 99.2 and an Average Running Position of 7.7. In last season’s six short-track races, he also ranked in the top 10 in short track Driver Rating with a solid 89.4.

Wallace joins Leffler in the short track Driver Rating top 10 with an 85.3. He also has an Average Running Position of 16.6. Last season, Wallace had a Driver Rating of 86.8 and an Average Running Position of 14.4.

A wild card for this weekend could be Scott Wimmer who finished 22nd at Bristol and 16th at Richmond. He will be in the No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet (he drove the No. 40 Chevy at Bristol and Richmond).

Though Wimmer’s short-track numbers this season don’t rank among the best in the series, his stats last season did. In short-track events in 2008, he posted a Driver Rating of 99.7 and an Average Running Position of 9.6.

NNS Etc: Iowa Speedway Edition

  • NNS New Car Rollout Update:

    On Tuesday, NASCAR Nationwide Series team owners met with NASCAR competition officials at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., to discuss rollout plans for the series’ new car.

    Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, said there was good dialogue throughout.

    “We had a very productive meeting (Tuesday morning) with the team owners from the NASCAR Nationwide Series about the rollout schedule for that series’ new race car,” Pemberton said.

    “In the days ahead, we will digest what was discussed and make a final decision on the rollout for next season with full anticipation of integrating the new car for the entire 2011 schedule.”

    Also on Tuesday, Ford announced the Mustang will be its new vehicle when the new car rollout begins.

  • Substitue Drivers On Hand:

    Three drivers will pull double duty this weekend between Iowa Speedway and Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

    Series standings leader Kyle Busch, second-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 CitiFinancial Ford) and Kevin Harvick will be at Iowa for Thursday’s test session before traveling to and from Iowa and Pocono for the races at each track.

    Standing by to practice and/or qualify if necessary are Jeremy Clements for Busch, Auggie Vidovich for Edwards and Cale Gale for Harvick.

    In addition to the NASCAR races this weekend, Harvick will head to Wisconsin to run in the Dixieland 150 at Wisconsin International Raceway on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

  • Dillon Sports School Colors:

    Despite the fact that he doesn’t start his freshman year at High Point University, located in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, for four weeks, Austin Dillon can’t wait to show off his school pride.

    His No. 2 Chevrolet will carry the purple-and-black colors of the school. He’s planning on studying at the Nido R. Quebin School of Communications.

    I’m not necessarily a typical ‘student-athlete,’ but it’s an honor to show off my Panther pride this way,” Dillon said. “I can’t wait to head to college in four weeks to start classes.”

  • Drivers Assist With “DWD” Initiative:

    Local favorite Michael Annett, top series-only regular Brad Keselowski and former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty will participate in Nationwide Insurance’s “Driving While Distracted” informational program Wednesday, July 29 at Nationwide’s downtown Des Moines campus.

    The trio of drivers will speak to race fans about the dangers of driving while distracted; for example, while using a cell phone, text messaging, etc.

    Nationwide’s racing simulator will be on hand so fans and media can test their skills against the NASCAR drivers.

    The event will start at 11 a.m. CT on the south side of the 1100 Locust St. building.

    Keselowski’s sponsor, GoDaddy.com, has marketing headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

    Driver                   Team           Points
1. Justin Allgaier         Penske           191
2. Brendan Gaughan   RWR              182
3. Michael McDowell   MMS              163
4. Scott Lagasse Jr.   CJM                147
5. Michael Annett       Germain          139
6. Jon Wes Townley   RAB                102
7. Erik Darnell            RFR                90
8. Ken Butler III          R3                   63

NNS Manufacturer Standings

2009 Manufacturers’ Championship Standings

Toyota        140
Chevrolet    120
Ford            117
Dodge         63
Following Race 20 of 35 O’Reilly Raceway Park

Up Next: Watkins Glen

The first road course race of the season is next for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, Aug. 8.

Marcos Ambrose won his first NASCAR national series race at this event last year.

ESPN2 will carry the Zippo 200 at The Glen beginning with pre-race coverage at 2:30 p.m. ET Aug. 8; the race broadcast starts at 3 p.m. ET.

Roasting Rusty

NASCAR and Iowa Speedway will roll out the red carpet this weekend to celebrate NASCAR racing legend Rusty Wallace.

On Thursday, July 30, NASCAR will put on “Rusty’s Roast presented by Musco Lighting,” a night of revelry and reflection on the life and career of the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Some of Wallace’s closest friends and newly-minted antagonists, including ESPN sportscaster Marty Reid, Rusty’s younger brother and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Kenny Wallace, NASCAR President Mike Helton and NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, will honor and “roast” one of the legendary drivers in NASCAR.

The event will highlight key moments from this former NASCAR champion’s career, and point out some of those moments he would rather forget.

Additionally on race day, NASCAR fans can join Wallace for the NASCAR Foundation Track Walk at Iowa Speedway. The walk begins at 8:45 a.m. on August 1.

NASCAR and Iowa Speedway will roll out the red carpet this weekend to celebrate NASCAR racing legend Rusty Wallace.

On Thursday, July 30, NASCAR will put on “Rusty’s Roast presented by Musco Lighting,” a night of revelry and reflection on the life and career of the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Some of Wallace’s closest friends and newly-minted antagonists, including ESPN sportscaster Marty Reid, Rusty’s younger brother and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Kenny Wallace, NASCAR President Mike Helton and NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, will honor and “roast” one of the legendary drivers in NASCAR.

The event will highlight key moments from this former NASCAR champion’s career, and point out some of those moments he would rather forget.

Additionally on race day, NASCAR fans can join Wallace for the NASCAR Foundation Track Walk at Iowa Speedway. The walk begins at 8:45 a.m. on August 1.

FAST FACTS

The Race: U.S. Cellular 250 presented by Northland Oil and TMC Trucking
The Place: Iowa Speedway
The Date: Saturday, August 1
The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 250 laps / 218.751 miles
TV: ESPN, 4:00 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Race Winner: Inaugural Event
2008 Polesitter: Inaugural Event

Event Schedule (all times ET):
Thursday – Practice 12:30-6:30 p.m.; Friday – Practice 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Final Practice – 5-6 p.m.; Saturday –  Qualifying 1:05 p.m.

Track Contact:
Mike Beecher, (641) 791-8035,
mbeecher@iowaspeedway.com

NASCAR PR Contact:
Tracey Judd, (386) 947-6733,
tjudd@nascar.com

2009 STANDINGS

    Driver                    Points
1   Kyle Busch            3,296
2   Carl Edwards          3,104
3   Brad Keselowski     2,904
4   Jason Leffler           2,790
5   Joey Logano           2,395
6   Justin Allgaier         2,370
7   Mike Bliss              2,353
8   Steve Wallace        2,311
9   Brendan Gaughan   2,277
10 Jason Keller           2,244


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

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