Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Daytona International Speedway

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

Toyota’s third win in the last four races has pushed its lead in the manufacturers race to 13 points over the second-place Chevrolet.

Double-File Fireworks At Daytona For NNS

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 29, 2009) - It’s appropriate that a format change as exciting as this one makes its NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Daytona International Speedway on July 4 weekend. “Double-File Restarts — Shootout Style” are sure to create a display as electrifying as the annual post-race fireworks extravaganza.

Beginning Friday night and throughout each race, the first- and second-place cars will line up side-by-side as the green flag is waved on each restart.

Double-file restarts were introduced in May at the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the change was fully instituted June 7 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway. Under the previous format, lead-lap cars restarted in a single-file line while lapped cars would start in a line next to them.

“Since NASCAR made the decision to implement the double-file restarts in Sprint Cup, it’s been a huge hit with fans and competitors alike,” said DIS president Robin Braig. “Race fans have seen first-hand the thrilling racing that double-file restarts produce at Daytona in the Bud Shootout, and we’re glad to see the format instituted in the NASCAR Nationwide Series beginning with the Subway Jalapeño 250.”

NASCAR officials chose to gauge the format on various configurations before instituting double-file restarts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The format in NASCAR Nationwide will be the same as in NASCAR Sprint Cup where the race leader has the option to restart on the inside or outside lane. The second-place car then restarts next to the leader. Regardless of the leader’s starting position, cars in odd-number positions (3rd, 5th, 7th places, etc.) will restart on the inside lane, while those in even-number positions (4th, 6th, 8th places, etc.) will restart on the outside. All restarts will use the same format regardless of the number of laps remaining in the race. Also, the “free pass” will remain in effect the entire race instead of being eliminated with 10 or fewer laps to go in the event.

"Double-file restarts in Cup have proven to be exciting for the fans as well as the drivers and I'm looking forward to this being implemented on our series,” said Jason Keller (No. 27 Scott Products/Walmart Ford). “Starting double file rewards drivers that have raced hard to be in the back half of the top 10 to race for position without having to contend with lapped traffic.

"The wave-around (lapped cars passing the caution car to take their respective positions on the track and picking up a lap on the leader providing he also pits) will take some getting used to and brings some additional strategy into play. A big track like Daytona with plenty of room to sort things out is definitely a good place to implement this new format and get some of the kinks out."

NASCAR Nationwide Season Shifts Into Second Half

In February, as Tony Stewart crossed the Daytona finish line .068 seconds ahead of 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-a-Lot Ford) and reigning title-holder Clint Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet), the frenetic tone was set for the 2009 season:

The competition continues to showcase trademark NASCAR Nationwide Series racing. Ten of the first 16 races have had finishes of less than one second, while seven have been under a half-second.

Ten different winners and nine different pole winners. Kyle Busch (No. 18 NOS Toyota), the standings leader, has five wins while his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano (No. 20 SportClips Toyota) has two. David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) won his first career race at Talladega Superspeedway while two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) won for the first time in his own equipment at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Edwards, second in the standings, leads the series in poles with four, tying his career high.

Two series-only regulars have posted wins – Brad Keselowski (No. 88 Klondike Chevrolet) and Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet) – and they did so in consecutive races. Keselowski (third) leads seven series-only regulars who are ranked in the top 10 while the 2009 rookie class is one of the strongest in history — two are currently ranked in the top 10.

The second half of the year will be highlighted by five remaining stand-alone events beginning July 18 at Gateway International Raceway; the inaugural series race — and the third of four “Dash 4 Cash” events — Aug. 1 at Iowa Speedway, the road-course race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal Aug. 30 and the crowning of the 2009 series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21.

Busch, Logano Combining To Fortify JGR

The good news is defending Daytona race winner Denny Hamlin isn’t entered in Friday night’s event.

The bad news?  His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are.

Kyle Busch and Joey Logano have been wreaking havoc in the NASCAR Nationwide Series through the first half of the 2009 season. Busch continues to lead the standings, a position he’s held for the last 10 races. His current 162-point advantage over Carl Edwards is the largest he’s enjoyed this year.

JGR has won two of the last three NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Daytona; Tony Stewart (season-opener) and Hamlin (July) swept the 2008 races there.

Busch and Logano have finished 1-2 three times this year; one other team has done that just once — 2002 series champion Greg Biffle (first) and Edwards (second) for Roush Fenway Racing in February at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Bugano” also has combined to win three of the last four races and four of the last five pole positions. Busch is running full-time double-duty while Logano, in his rookie season in NASCAR Sprint Cup, is scheduled for 22 NASCAR Nationwide events in 2009. Despite having missed three races, Logano ranks fifth in the points.

“It’s good to bring home another Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2,” Busch said after his win at New Hampshire, his first victory after two consecutive second-place finishes. “Joey’s a great racer and really has a lot of potential, and he’s showing it for sure in the Nationwide Series as well as what he’s been able to do in the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup Series. We’re proud of him, and he’ll be here a long time at Joe Gibbs Racing.”

Those words were spoken before Logano became the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, which he did Sunday at NHMS, eclipsing the previous mark held by Busch. Logano is also the youngest driver to win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, having done so at 18 years, 21 days when he posted his first national series win at Kentucky Speedway in 2008.

Restrictor-Plate Specialists Get One Last Chance

If the first two events of the season are any indication, the final restrictor-plate race of the year for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Friday night at Daytona should be a memorable one.

The 2009 season-opener at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, won by Tony Stewart, was determined by less than a second. Who can forget Kyle Busch dogging Stewart through Turn 4 — would they wreck or not?

At Talladega in April, David Ragan took advantage of a last-lap frontstretch scuffle between Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet) and Ryan Newman — along with a friendly push from Joey Logano — to win his first career race by .030 seconds.

Earnhardt Jr., the 1998-99 series champion, has two wins in this event. Kerry Earnhardt (No. 31 LibertyPort.com Chevrolet) is back at Daytona for the first time since last year when he finished 17th in this race. Mike Wallace (No. 0 JD-Motorsports Chevrolet) won in a wild finish in 2004; Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Chevrolet), the 1992 series champion, won in 2002 and also leads all drivers with five poles at DIS.

Some would now argue Brad Keselowski falls into the “specialist” category thanks to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Talladega the day after Ragan’s NASCAR Nationwide victory.  Additionally, Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota), the two-time Daytona 500 winner, is also entered. He has three NASCAR Nationwide poles at Daytona, second to Nemechek.

In The Loop

Harvick Looking For A Happy Ending At Daytona

Kevin Harvick enjoyed immediate success in 2009.

On the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series side, Harvick won the preseason Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. On the NASCAR Nationwide side, he won the season’s first pole there.

Those two results were not a sign of things to come, to say the least.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, Harvick is mired in a career-worst season, sitting 27th in points and having suffered 13 consecutive finishes without a top 10.

His NASCAR Nationwide season has been a bit better. Harvick notched his first series victory in his own equipment earlier this season at Bristol. But success has eluded him recently, with finishes outside the top 10 in two of the last three races.

So, a race at Daytona International Speedway comes at the perfect time for a driver who swept the Daytona 500 and NASCAR Nationwide event in February of 2007.

Harvick opened up his NASCAR Nationwide Daytona career with 11 consecutive top-10 finishes (10 of which were in the top five), and has tremendous statistics at Daytona in the series.  Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Harvick has a Driver Rating of 104.9, an Average Running Position of 10.2, a series-high 957 Green Flag Passes, 33 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 75.5.

Matt Kenseth (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford) has traveled a similar road in 2009. He started the season off with a bang, winning the first two NASCAR Sprint Cup races. In the following 15 events, though, he has just four top 10s. But his NASCAR Nationwide season has been strong. In just six races run in the series this season, Kenseth has five top-10 finishes – including a victory at Darlington Raceway, the last time he ran a series race.

Kenseth, who’s sixth on the all-time series win list with 25, has finished in the top 10 at Daytona in nine of his 10 career series races there. Over the last three, he has a Driver Rating of 96.3, an Average Running Position of 10.3, 11 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 85.0.

NNS Etc.

  • Leffler Looks For Fewer Fireworks This Time Around At Daytona

    Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) has probably had this race circled on his calander for a while.

    Back in February at the season-opener, Leffler was running  16th when he tangled with Steve Wallace (No. 66 USFidelis Chevrolet) in between Turns 3 and 4. Leffler was held five laps by NASCAR for aggressive driving.

    In 11 career series races at Daytona, Leffler had completed every lap but two before sitting out those five. And he’s finsihed every lap this year — again, except those five.

    His resulting 33rd-place finish stands as his worst of the year. Since then, he’s logged 12 top-10 finishes — 11 consecutive — along with three top fives including two runner-up finishes.

    Leffler is currently fourth in the standings and needs a solid finish to whittle into the 158-point advantage third-place Brad Keselowski holds over him. Wallace, meanwhile, recovered nicely and is now a career-best ninth in the top-10 rankings.

  • Special Media Opportunities During Daytona Week

    Brad Keselowski will join Grand-Am drivers Joao Barbosa and Darren Law Wednesday, July 2 at the ESPN Club on Disney’s BoardWalk in Lake Buena Vista.

    The drivers will be available to the media beginning at 11 a.m. RSVP to Andrew Booth, abooth@daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

    Friday, July 3 also at 11 a.m., Carl Edwards, Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) and Patrick Carpentier will join event promoter Francios Dumontier to preview the NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge event weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. Carpentier will drive the No. 99 NAPA Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in the Aug. 30 race.

    The press conference will be in the DIS deadline media room and will also be streamed live on NASCARMedia.com. Visit the website for the streaming link and video download information.

  • Bown, Carelli Ready For West Coast Stock Car Hall Of Fame Induction

    Chuck Bown, the 1990 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, will be among 10 new members inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.  Ceremonies are set for Friday, July 3 at Irwindale Speedway.

    Also included in Bown’s class is Rick Carelli, who now serves as general manager of Kevin Harvick, Inc.

    Bown, a native of Portland, Ore., won three races in the NASCAR Camping World Series West before heading across country and winning the NASCAR North Series title.

    Carelli, from Denver, Colo., won the NASCAR Southwest Tour title in 1991 and the NASCAR Camping World Series West championship in 1993.

  • Baker Curb Salutes Golden Anniversary Of The King’s 200th Win

    Jason Keller’s No. 27 Ford will carry the familiar “Grabber Blue” and “Orange Neon” color scheme Friday night at Daytona to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Richard Petty’s 200th — and final — win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

    Keller’s current team co-owner, Mike Curb, was the owner of Petty’s famous No. 43 STP Pontiac for that win.

    Keller finished ninth at Daytona in February and is the lone series-only regular among four drivers — Keller, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan and Kyle Busch — to finish in the top 10 in both superspeedway races this year.

  • In The Garage: Florida Natives

    P
    aul Flury (Hollywood) - No. 29 engineer
    Kenny Oates (Miami) - No. 38 engineer
    Thomas Costello (St. Petersburg) - No. 29 Mechanic
    Kevin Bellicourt (Daytona Beach) - No. 38 tire specialist
    Scott Lagasse Jr. (St. Augustine) - No. 11 driver
    Patrick Sheltra (Indiantown) - No. 81 driver

Manufacturers’ Standings

2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings
Toyota       110
Chevrolet      97
Ford             94
Dodge          51
Following Race 16 of 35, New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Toyota’s third win in the last four races has pushed its lead in the manufacturers race to 13 points over the second-place Chevrolet.

Toyota swept last year’s races at Daytona, but Chevrolet came back to win a close race at the superspeedway to start the 2009 season. Chevy has a series-leading 22 wins at the track.

Third-place Ford has won three times at Daytona, most recently in 2004. Dodge is looking for its first Daytona win and first overall since August 2007 at Bristol. Kasey Kahne was the driver then — he’s entered Friday night in the No. 9 McDonald’s McCafé Toyota.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie Standings

Rk / Driver                     Team      Points
1     Brendan Gaughan     RWR         165
2     Justin Allgaier           Penske      164
3     Michael McDowell    JTG-D         150
4     Scott Lagasse Jr.     CJM            139
5     Michael Annett        Germain       118
6     Jon Wes Townley    RAB             80
7     Erik Darnell             RFR             79
8     Ken Butler III           R3                50
9     Peyton Sellers        CM               37
10   Marc Davis             MDM             24
11  Terry Cook              MSRP           16

Up Next: Chicagoland Speedway

A second Friday night race under the lights is in store for the NASCAR Nationwide Series next week in Chicago.

The Dollar General 300 powered by Coca-Cola at Chicagoland Speedway gets underway at  8 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will have coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 10.

Kyle Busch won last year’s race; David Reutimann captured the pole.

There have been only two multiple winners at the 1.5-mile track located in Joliet, Ill. — Kevin Harvick won in 2005 and ‘07 while Ryan Newman won the pole for the inaugural event in 2001 (Jimmie Johnson won the race) and  in 2005.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Subway Jalapeño 250 powered by Coca-Cola
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Friday, July 3
The Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
The Distance: 250 miles / 100 laps
TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio/MRN (local WNDB-AM 1150/WKRO-FM 93.1)
2008 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
2008 Polesitter: Bryan Clauson

Event Schedule (all times ET): Thursday—Practice 2-3:50 p.m. Final Practice—5:30-6:25 p.m. Friday—Qualifying 1:05 p.m.

Driver Standings
Pos.  Driver                      Points
1       Kyle Busch               2,581
2       Carl Edwards            2,419
3       Brad Keselowski       2,338
4       Jason Leffler             2,261
5       Joey Logano             2,040
6       Mike Bliss                1,910
7       Justin Allgaier           1,864
8       Brendan Gaughan     1,844
9       Steve Wallace          1,823
10     Jason Keller             1,810




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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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