Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Dover

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

Kevin Harvick Inc. newcomer J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 4 KHI Chevrolet) will be looking to repeat what his boss accomplished in 2000 — win a pole, lead several laps and earn a top 10 finish in his first start at Dover. Fitzpatrick, who has competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, has only experienced Dover on racing simulators.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Earnhardt Family To Celebrate Fourth Generation At Dover

The fourth generation of one of NASCAR’s most popular families will be represented at Dover International Speedway.

Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 31 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet), the 19-year-old son of Kerry, great-grandson of Ralph, grandson of Dale Sr. and nephew of Dale Jr., will attempt his NASCAR national series debut. He’ll compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Rick Ware Racing and a progressive schedule from short to intermediate tracks, up to seven races in order to maintain his rookie status in preparation to race fulltime next year.

He was fifth in the 2007 NASCAR Camping World Series East standings as a rookie and finished 15th last year. Father and son will pair with former NASCAR champion crew chief Paul Andrews until they do battle at Atlanta this fall. Thereafter, Clyde McCloud will serve as crew chief for the younger Earnhardt.

Kerry made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in 1998 at Myrtle Beach Speedway, finishing 23rd, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. debuted in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1997 at Nashville Speedway USA, finishing 39th. Dale Earnhardt won his — and the first — NASCAR Nationwide race in 1982 at Daytona International Speedway.

A Year Later: Logano Returns To Site Of National Series Debut

Last spring, Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) was introduced to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. After celebrating his 18th birthday the week before, he started his first series race — among considerable hype — at Dover on May 31.

He delivered, finishing sixth — disappointing in his book. He won his first pole the following week, then captured his first win — from the pole —- in just his third event. Later in the year he was tabbed to begin his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.

Fast-forward to this season. Logano is settling in nicely, running fourth in points in his fulltime NASCAR Nationwide Series ride and also has solid showings in his main focus, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“There was a lot of hype surrounding my first Nationwide Series start,” Logano said. “I wasn’t immune to it, but pressure is something that has never bothered me. We are in a pressure sport and if you can’t take it you probably need to find something else to do. 

“I had raced in some Camping World East Series races at Dover, so I knew my way around the track. I was confident when I woke up that day and really thought we had a chance to win. In the end we were just a little bit off. As much as I want to win every race, I knew I was still learning and sixth was a solid finish for my first start.”

Seat time may be the main factor for Logano’s success so far. He is racing against several drivers in NASCAR Nationwide Series races with whom he also competes  in NASCAR Sprint Cup. That additional time allows him to learn more about the tracks, and he can gain confidence and experience as well.

David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) can relate. He started in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and after two seasons moved into NASCAR Sprint Cup. He finally broke through and won his first NASCAR Nationwide race last month at Talladega Superspeedway.

Will Bliss Victory Open The Floodgates?

Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet) finally broke through for NASCAR Nationwide Series-only regulars last Saturday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, scoring the first victory of the 2009 season for that group. Will that become a trend, and if so, who will continue it?

Six of the top 10 drivers in the point standings are NASCAR Nationwide-only drivers. Bliss’s victory moved him to ninth in the standings, and currently, he is only three points behind Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 US Fidelis Chevrolet), who finished second to Bliss at LMS. Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) is the highest- ranked of the NASCAR Nationwide-only competitors. He’s third behind leaders Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) and Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford), respectively.

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet) is still in search of that first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of 2009 and is currently fifth, 22 points behind Joey Logano.

Other series-only regulars in the top 10 are Jason Keller (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) — one of several former Dover winners in the field — and rookie Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge). Keller and Allgaier are currently ninth and 10th, respectively.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Car Owner Standings

Rk / Owner              No.    Points
1   Joe Gibbs            18       1714
2   Jack Roush          60       1641
3   Delena Harvick     33       1640
4   Joe Gibbs            20       1600
5   Jack Roush          6         1572
6   Jack Roush         16        1565
7   Ralph Braun         38        1541
8   Dale Earnhardt Jr. 88        1473
9   Richard Childress  29        1439
10 Todd Braun           32        1377

East Series Rivalries Renewed

Marc Davis (No. 10 The Word Network & WHUR Radio Toyota). 18, is the youngest owner/driver in series history. He’s entered at Dover to go up against his former NASCAR Camping World Series East rivals Joey Logano and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Davis was a teammate of Logano’s with Joe Gibbs Racing in the East series when he debuted last year at Memphis and started his last three NASCAR Nationwide races for Armando Fitz. His first two starts this year have been for his own Marc Davis Motorsports team. His best finish in his seven-race NASCAR Nationwide career is 23rd in his debut race.

Currently, Davis is 10th in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.

Leffler: 200 Series Starts

Jason Leffler will make his 200th career seires start at Dover. The Long Beach, Calif. native made his series debut in 1999 at  O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. He spent several years racing partial schedules in all three of NASCAR’s top series before joining Braun Racing midway through the 2005 season. En route to his 200th start, Leffler has two wins (Nashville Superspeedway, 2004; ORP, 2007), 29 top-five and 67 top-10 finishes, eight poles.

In 11 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Dover, Leffler has three top-five and five top-10 finishes. His best performance at the one-mile track came in 2005 when he started 12th and finished third in Braun’s No. 32 entry.

Raybestos Rookie Standings

Rk / Driver                  Team        Points
1   Brendan Gaughan     RWR          115
2   Justin Allgaier           Penske       112
3   Michael McDowell    JTG-D          103
4   Scott Lagasse Jr.     CJM            101
5   Michael Annett         Germain       81
6   John Wes Townley    RAB            64 
7   Ken Butler III            R3               30
8   Erik Darnell              RFR            28
9   Peyton Sellers         CM              23
10 Marc Davis               MDM           13

In the Loop

Newman Seeks Perfection At Dover — Again

They say nobody’s perfect. However, Ryan Newman (No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet), owner of an engineering degree from Purdue University, begs to differ.

Newman was perfect, at least once in his racing career. That was back in 2005 at Dover, when he scored a win and posted a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. In that race, Newman had an Average Running Position of 1.1, 42 Fastest laps Run, led 193 of the 200 laps and was in the top 15 for each lap.

He’s also perfect when the series qualifies at Dover. In both of his Dover races – in 2001 and 2005 – Newman won the pole. He makes his NASCAR Nationwide Series return to Dover driving for JR Motorsports, his first run for the team.

Mike Bliss’ victory in Saturday night’s rain-shortened race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway may be the start of something big for the veteran driver.

Bliss now heads to a track at which he has enjoyed immense success – but no wins.

Last year he came close — as much as a driver can without winning. Bliss’ runner-up finish in the series’ last visit to Dover was his third top-10 finish in the last four races at the Monster Mile.

His Loop Data statistics there since the statistics’ inception in 2005 are among the best in the series. In his four Dover races over the last two seasons, Bliss has a Driver Rating of 105.2, an Average Running Position of 8.9, 48 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 82.5.

Also watch for 2007 series champion Carl Edwards to chip away Kyle Busch’s points lead. “Concrete Carl” loves the Dover track, winning there in 2007 and finishing in the top 10 in six of the last seven Dover races.

At Dover, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 113.0, an Average Running Position of 6.0 and 149 Fastest laps Run.

Seeking More Victories At Dover

Greg Biffle (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford) already has two victories this season, and a third at Dover would put him in elite company.

Already a two-time winner at The Monster Mile, Biffle would tie Todd Bodine if he wins Saturday. Of the 10 drivers who have two Dover victories, Biffle is the only driver entered this weekend. Biffle’s wins came in 2002 and 2004.

Ryan Newman will be back in the series weekend at Dover. It marks Newman’s first race with JR Motorsports and he joins the 2009 lineup of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Scott Wimmer. Newman made his first start of the season driving for Kevin Harvick Inc. in the No. 33 Chevrolet at Talladega.

In addition to Biffle and Newman, other former race winners entered this weekend include Clint Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet), Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jason Keller, Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Chevrolet), Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Eldora Speedway Chevrolet), Brian Vickers (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota), Wimmer (No. 40 StopRepairBills.com Chevrolet) and Casey Atwood (No. 05 31W Insulation Chevrolet).

More Of This Weekend’s Entry List

  • Bobby Hamilton Jr. has a new gig this year in an ownership capacity with Eric McClure’s No. 24 Hefty Ford. Hamilton moved into that role with his former owner Ed Rensi to form Rernsi-Hamilton Racing for McClure’s ride. But Bobby Jr. rides again – making his season debut at Dover in the No. 81 AA Auto Warranty Dodge for MacDonald Motorsports. Hamilton’s last series start was at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2008.

  • Forty-nine cars are vying for 43 spots this weekend. Among those running 31st through 35th respectively — and looking to make the field on speed — are Ken Butler III (No. 23 Aaron’s Chevrolet), Scott Wimmer,  Morgan Shepherd, the No. 42 Eddie Smith-Evander Holifield-owned Dodge) and Casey Atwood.

  • Safe this week but on the bubble are Brian Keselowski (No. 26 Schweitzer Title Dodge; 29th in points) and Brandon Whitt (No. 61 Charlie Shoffner-owned Ford; 30th in points).

Etc.

  • In 13 previous NNS starts at Dover International Speedway, Kevin Harvick holds a record of three poles, two top five and seven top 10 finishes and has led 290 laps. As he makes his 14th series start there, the two-time series champion will aim to get his first win at the track and the second in the No. 33.

  • KHI newcomer J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 4 KHI Chevrolet) will be looking to repeat what his boss accomplished in 2000 — win a pole, lead several laps and earn a top 10 finish in his first start at Dover. Fitzpatrick, who has competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, has only experienced Dover on racing simulators.

  • Veteran Jason Keller will make his 469th career start, and his car will sport a unique paint scheme. The new scheme will help K-C’s Montvale, N.J., based retail partner, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), celebrate its 150th anniversary and support the grocer’s more than 20-year partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Manufacturers’ Standings

2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings

Toyota      71
Ford          70
Chevrolet  66
Dodge       35
Following Race 11 of 35 Lowe's Motor Speedway

Toyota moved back in front in the manufacturer standings and leads Ford by one point heading to Dover.

Toyota swept both races in 2008 and currently is tied with Ford with four victories this season.

Chevrolet, which has three wins in 2009, is only five points out of the lead.

Chevy does have an advantage at Dover. It owns a track-record 26 NASCAR Nationwide Series wins.

Quick Stats For Dover

  • This will be the 51st NASCAR Nationwide Series at The Monster Mile.

  • Drivers will be aiming to break the qualifying mark of 157.916 mph, set in 2004 by former series champion David Green (No. 04 Gene Vess-owned Chevrolet).

  • Starting up front doesn’t necessarily mean finishing up front. In 50 previous races, only Morgan Shepherd in 1995, Joe Nemechek in 2003, Ryan Newman in 2005 and Kyle Busch last season have won from the pole; Nemechek the only driver to accomplish the feat in the spring. However, starting up front has been key, as more than half of all races (32 of 50) have been won from inside the top 10. The furthest back any driver has come from is 36th (Jeff Burton, 2006).

  • Six drivers have won multiple poles in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition at Dover. Series great Harry Gant leads all drivers with five.

Up Next: Nashville Superspeedway

Nashville Superspeedway will be the first track to host the series twice this season with next week’s Federated Auto Parts 300.

In the first race, Joey Logano rocked the guitar trophy for his first victory of 2009. Logano will try to match two-time series champion Martin Truex Jr. and become the second driver to win both Nashville races in one season. Truex did so in 2004.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Heluva Good! 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 30
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200 miles / 200 laps
TV: ABC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
2008 Polesitter: Carl Edwards

Event Schedule (all times CT):
Friday—Practice 1:10-3 p.m.; Saturday—Qualifying 10:05 a.m.

 

Rk Driver                  Points
1   Kyle Busch            1714
2   Carl Edwards          1641
3   Jason Leffler           1541
4   Joey Logano           1459
5   Brad Keselowski     1473
6   Jason Keller            1296
7   David Ragan            1285
8   Brendan Gaughan    1237
9   Mike Bliss               1234
10 Justin Allgaier          1210

 




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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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