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NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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

Seven gentlemen have a shot to become the first NASCAR Nationwide Series driver to repeat at Loudon —  Jason Keller (No. 27 Kleenex Ford), Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Chevrolet), Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts/Ortho Ford), Derrike Cope (No. 73 Derrike Cope Inc. Dodge), Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge) and Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet).

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Catch 22: Is This The Year For A Repeat Winner At NHMS?

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 22, 2009) — Some might call it an anomaly, but the string of 22 different winners in 22 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway stands as the longest such streak at active tracks in each of NASCAR’s national series.

When the 2009 season started, four NASCAR Nationwide tracks had no multiple winners — Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (two); Kansas Speedway (eight); Kentucky Speedway (eight) and New Hampshire. But Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) knocked Kentucky off the list earlier this month with his second consecutive win at the 1.5-mile track.

There has been at least one repeat winner in each of the races on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. There are four tracks on this year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule where there has yet to be a repeat winner, but the longest streak at any of them is 10 races.

Seven drivers have a shot to become the first to repeat at Loudon —  Jason Keller (No. 27 Kleenex Ford), Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Chevrolet), Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts/Ortho Ford), Derrike Cope (No. 73 Derrike Cope Inc. Dodge), Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge) and Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet).

Technically, there is one repeat winner at New Hampshire — Roush Fenway Racing team owner Jack Roush. His victories came in 2004 with drivers Matt Kenseth and ‘06 with Edwards.

Six former series champions are also entered for this event — Harvick, Edwards, Nemechek, Greg Biffle (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford), Brian Vickers (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota) and Clint Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet).

Former NCWSE Rivals Caisse, Logano Return Home To Battle

Athletes relish competing — and winning — in front of family and friends and this weekend, New Englanders Joey Logano and Sean Caisse (No. 2 Richard Childress Chevrolet) are no exception.

Logano is a native of Middletown, Conn., and has long considered NHMS his home track. Caisse, however, can truly lay claim. He’s from Pelham, N.H., 55 miles south of Loudon.

The two met for the first time in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition at the track where they last battled in the NASCAR Camping World Series East in 2007.

They raced against each other twice that season. In the first event, Logano started on the pole while Caisse started second. Logano went on to win; Caisse finished 24th due to a cut tire. They met again six races later with Caisse in the third starting position, Logano sixth. Caisse led 31 laps and was chasing Logano during the final 10 laps, but Logano won again. Caisse settled for runner-up.

Logano’s quick trek up the NASCAR ladder is well-documented. Caisse, on the other hand, has had a steeper climb. In 2005, he put his New Hampshire Technical Institute education on hold and moved to Charlotte to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Series East where he won series rookie of the year honors and finished seventh in the standings. He was runner-up in the rankings in 2006-07, with seven wins and 10 poles during that span. He made his NASCAR Nationwide debut in 2006 for Kevin Harvick Inc. and was signed by RCR last May. He made his 2009 season debut at Nashville Superspeedway earlier this month.

“It gives me confidence heading back home to a track that I’m familiar with and have had some success,” said Caisse. “I think I’m the only New Hampshire driver in the field, so we’ll have the fans on our side for sure.”

“It’s funny that I have a NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Loudon, but this will be my first NASCAR Nationwide race,” his counterpart, Logano, said. “It’s a little bit of a homecoming for me. Loudon is the only race in the New England area and it would be cool to get a win up there because they have great fans that have supported me for a long time.” Logano has won twice this year in NASCAR Nationwide competition — at Nashville Superspeedway in April and three weeks ago at Kentucky.

Nemechek, Harvick Also Shining As Owner/Drivers

As an owner/driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Tony Stewart has made headlines this season due to the impressive showing by his teams.

A couple of owner/drivers in the NASCAR Nationwide Series have been plugging along well past the time frame Stewart has served in that capacity, and also have successful resumes to show for it.

 Former series champions — and New Hampshire winners — Joe Nemechek and Kevin Harvick, have served as owner/drivers for their teams for 20 and six years, respectively.  Nemechek earned the 1992 series championship under his own banner. He has 16 wins and 18 poles with NEMCO Motorsports, and all but two of the 289 races the team has run have been with NEMCO.

Nemechek will be back in the No. 87 Chevrolet at New Hampshire after a three-week absence that saw Kevin Conway and Chad Blount share the load while the boss was doing double duty on the NASCAR Sprint Cup side where he also is an owner/driver. Nemechek’s team is 23rd in the NASCAR Nationwide owner standings.

Harvick’s No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet is sixth in the owner standings with six different drivers contributing to its success — Harvick, Kelly Bires, Ron Hornaday Jr., Stewart, Ryan Newman and Cale Gale.

Entering 2009, KHI had three wins and four poles in NASCAR Nationwide competition, all earned by drivers other than Harvick. But he’s gotten into the act this year by winning his first pole (Daytona International Speedway) and race (Bristol Motor Speedway) for KHI.  The team as a whole has seven top fives and 10 top 10s in the first 15 races this year. Harvick, who has the most starts for the team this year (eight), leads all series drivers with three poles at New Hampshire.

Harvick also is a champion owner, winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title with driver Ron Hornaday Jr. in 2007.

Nemechek has the most starts this year in the No. 87 with 11. His best finishes have been at the superspeedways, where he was 11th at Daytona and 13th at Talladega.

Independence Day Comes Early For Series Organizations

Independent teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series are not only holding their own this year; some are expanding.

For example, Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet), who won earlier this year at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, is the biggest mover in the driver standings this week from ninth to sixth and has his Phoenix Racing team 11th in the owner standings.

Jason Keller, the series’ all-time leader in starts (he’ll rack up No. 472 this weekend), is ninth in the driver rankings, while his Baker Curb Racing organization is 14th in the car owner standings.

This weekend at New Hampshire, J-D Motorsports, which has run three cars twice this year — at Talladega in April and last week at The Milwaukee Mile — unveils what owner Johnny Davis hopes to have as his set trio of drivers for the bulk of the remaining season.

Danny O’Quinn Jr., the 2006 series Raybestos Rookie of the Year, drives the flagship No. 01 Chevrolet. Davis’ son, Kertus, returned to the team last week at Milwaukee after a one-year hiatus to manage and drive the No. 04 Chevrolet.

Last week, veteran Mike Wallace — who has driven twice for J-DM this year (Daytona and Talladega) was announced as the driver of the No. 0 Chevy beginning this weekend at New Hampshire and also for the July 3 event at Daytona. More races are expected to be scheduled for Wallace under the J-DM umbrella.

In The Loop

Stats: Continued Streak Seems Possible

The unbelievable stretch of 22 different winners in the 22 different New Hampshire Motor Speedway races could certainly become 23-out-of-23.

In fact, the statistics suggest it’s likely.

A number of non-NHMS winners are statistically strong at Loudon. Chief among them is series points leader Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota).

Busch finished third last year, leading 63 laps and posting a superb Driver Rating of 131.1.  In his last two New Hampshire races — in 2006 and 2008 — Busch has combined for a Driver Rating 117.5, an Average Running Position of 5.2, 52 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 86.8.

Then there’s 2008 series champion Clint Bowyer, who will run in the No. 29 Chevrolet this weekend. Bowyer won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire (and scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 in the process), but his best NASCAR Nationwide Series finish there is fifth (2006).

Bowyer, who has three consecutive top 10s at New Hampshire, has strong stats there. In his four-race NHMS career, he has a Driver Rating of 112.1, an Average Running Position of 6.4, 125 Fastest Laps Run, 163 Laps Led and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 96.6.

Another threat to continue the unique winners streak is series-only veteran Mike Bliss, who finished eighth last season and in the top 15 the last two years.

Over that two-race span, Bliss posted a Driver Rating of 91.2, an Average Running Position of 12.0, four Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 84.8.

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 Chevrolet) has only one New Hampshire series start, but it was a good one. Last season, he finished ninth.

Keselowski, who has proven he can run well when competing with double-duty drivers (see Bristol and Dover International Speedway victories), had a Driver Rating of 87.5, an Average Running Position of 13.1 and a laps in the Top 15 percentage of 81.5 last year.

NNS Etc.

  • Keselowski, Leffler Maintain Strong Runs

    Brad Keselowski and Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) continue nipping at the heels of leader Kyle Busch and second-place Carl Edwards in the standings.

    Keselowski has hit his stride, posting one win, eight top fives and 10 top 10s in his last 11 races.  He’s  third in the standings for the second consecutive week, 91 points behind Edwards and still within range of Busch, 218 points back.

    Leffler registered his 10th consecutive top-10 finish of the year last Saturday at Milwaukee. He’s fourth, 46 points behind Keselowski.

    Keselowski was ninth in his series track debut at NHMS last year. Leffler — and Scott Zipadelli, his crew chief who hails from Framingham, Mass. — will need to pick up his Loudon performance if he expects to keep his top-10 streak going. He has an average finish there of 19.0 in six career races.

  • Petty Makes Return To Series

    After an eight-year absence, the Petty name will return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

    Richard Petty Motorsports recenlty announced a limited five-race partnership with Braun Racing, which will begin at New Hampshire with Elliott Sadler behind the wheel of the No. 10 Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Toyota.

    The last time a Petty-owned car ran in the NASCAR Nationwide Series was in 2001 when Steve Grissom, the 1993 series champion, competed at Daytona.

    Kasey Kahne, who took “The King” to victory lane at Infineon Raceway last Sunday for the first time since 1999, will drive the remaining four races beginning July 3 at Daytona.

    In other Braun Racing-related news, the team announced that Burney Lamar would no longer compete in the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota, a ride he shared this year with Brian Vickers, the 2003 series champion.

    Vickers will continue with his partial schedule, which includes Saturday’s race at New Hampshire. Other drivers will be named later.

  • Wallace Keeps Career-Building

    Steve Wallace (No. 66 USFidelis Chevrolet) posted his best finish of the season (sixth) last Saturday at Milwaukee. That also was his best result since back-to-back fifths last year at Richmond International Raceway and Darlington Raceway, his career bests.

    He’s 10th in the standings and is aiming for a career-best third consecutive week in the top 10. He also could venture into new territory – he’s within 23 points of ninth-place Jason Keller and is 51 points behind his Rusty Wallace Racing teammate Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet), who’s seventh.

    Wallace has made two starts at New Hampshire, finishing 15th in 2007 and 21st last year.

  • In The Garage: New England Natives

    New Hampshire
    Sean Caisse (Pelham)  - No. 2 driver
    Matt Weaver (Keene) – No. 38 transporter driver
    Mark “Doc” Durgin (Lynn) – No. 32 car chief
    Chris Letourneau
    (Freedom) – No. 16 front tire changer
    John Kowalski (Framingham) – No. 27 catch can
    Wade Luxton (Bethel) – No. 11 jack man
    Kyle Coolidge (Poland) – No. 32 rear tire carrier
    Richard “Slugger” Labbe (Biddeford) – No. 15 spotter
    Joey Logano
    (Middletown) - No. 20 driver
    Scott Zipadelli (East Haddam) – No. 38 crew chief
    Matt Rawling (Seymour) – No. 16 rear tire carrier

Manufacturers’ Standings

Toyota        101
Chevrolet     91
Ford            90
Dodge         48
Following Race 15 of 35 - The Milwaukee Mile

Carl Edwards’ win at Milwaukee tightened the race for second place in the Bill France Performance Cup standings between Chevrolet and Ford.

Despite five Chevys finishing in the top 10 at Milwaukee, only one point separates the two manufacturers. Toyota expanded its lead to 10 points with Kyle Busch’s second-place finish at Milwaukee.

Toyota is the defending winner at New Hampshire, but Chevrolet’s eight wins there lead all manufacturers.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie Standings

Rk /  Driver                    Team Points
1      Brendan Gaughan    RWR 159
2      Justin Allgaier          Penske 154
3      Michael McDowell    JTG-D 141
4      Scott Lagasse Jr.     CJM  131
5      Michael Annett        Germain 111
6      Jon Wes Townley    RAB   76
7      Erik Darnell             RFR   66
8      Ken Butler III           R3   45
9      Peyton Sellers        CM   37
10    Marc Davis              MDM  24
11    Terry Cook              MSRP  16

Up Next: Summer In Daytona

The final restrictor-plate race of the season is on deck next Friday, July 3, at Daytona International Speedway. The track will host the Subway Jalapeño 250 powered by Coca-Cola, its 35th NASCAR Nationwide Series event. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 8 p.m. ET; ESPN will carry the broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Last year, Denny Hamlin won after starting in the 17th position. It was his third of four wins in 2008.


The Race: Camping World RV Sales 200 presented by Turtle Wax
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, June 27
The Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
The Distance: 211.6 miles / 200 laps
TV: ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio/PRN
2008 Race Winner: Tony Stewart
2008 Polesitter: Landon Cassill

Event Schedule (all times CT):
Friday—Practice 10:30-11:50 a.m., Final Practice—1:45-3 p.m. Saturday—Qualifying 10:05 a.m.

Driver Standings

Pos. Driver                     Points
1      Kyle Busch              2,391
2      Carl Edwards           2,264
3      Brad Keselowski      2,173
4      Jason Leffler             2,127
5      Joey Logano            1,860
6      Mike Bliss               1,745
7      Brendan Gaughan    1,744
8      Justin Allgaier          1,740
9      Jason Keller            1,716
10    Steve Wallace          1,693

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Keeping Pace

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