Kyle Busch — who is going for his third consecutive series win at Auto Club Speedway as the winner of last year’s race in addition to his victory in February — has put his stamp on the 2009 season.
Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations
Dream Season Began For Busch In California
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 6, 2009) - Following the most recent visit by NASCAR’s three national series to Auto Club Speedway in February, we should have seen this coming.
After all, Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) did something that had never been done before by a national series driver when he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races on the same day.
Since Feb. 21, Busch has used that ‘two-fer’ as the springboard in his march toward his first NASCAR national series championship.
Upon his return this weekend to Auto Club, Busch — who is going for his third consecutive series win at the track as the winner of last year’s race in addition to his victory in February — has put his stamp on the 2009 season.
With six races left, Busch rides a 245-points standings lead over second-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 Valvoline Ford). His six wins, 21 top fives, 25 top 10s and new season-record 2,226 laps led are all series bests.
He’s still chasing two season marks: most wins (10, originally held by two-time series champion Sam Ard, which he matched last year) and most top fives (25 by Jeff Green during his 2000 championship season). He’s also equaled one that he’s not at all enamored with: two-time series champion Jack Ingram’s 1983 mark of 10 second-place finishes.
He doesn’t think he’ll get past the win mark this year, but that runner-up equalizer? To infinity and beyond, as they say.
“I’m looking for wins,” Busch said. “I’d love to break the win record, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year. I’m running out of races.”
As far as the runner-up numbers stacking up? “It ain’t the first time and it certainly ain’t going to be the last time,” he said after the Ingram equalizer at Kansas Speedway.
And for the record, Busch has finished second at Auto Club Speedway twice.
Top-Five Advantage: Now In Allgaier’s Court
The NASCAR Nationwide Series has its own take on the Abbot & Costello comedy set, ‘Who’s on first?’ We’ll call it ‘Who’s in fifth?’ But there’s nothing funny about it.
This is all business between the drivers who are digging for the coveted No. 5 position in the final series standings — Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) and Steve Wallace (No. 66 USFidelis Chevrolet).
Allgaier, in fifth, has the advantage heading to California; he’s 13 points ahead of Wallace, who’s sixth. The two drivers, ages 23 and 22, respectively, have traded those positions over the last three races.
Drivers who finish in the top 10 in the standings will be honored at the season-ending NASCAR Nationwide Series Awards Banquet on Nov. 23 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Those who finish in the top five will be recognized on stage.
There are a couple other interesting races inside the top 10 as the series’ 28th season winds down. Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet) hasn’t given up on catching Carl Edwards for second. Keselowski, in third, is 62 points behind Edwards. But Auto Club Speedway isn’t the best of tracks for Keselowski — in six starts there, his average finish is 32.7.
Mike Bliss (No. 81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge) isn’t only keeping his top-10 hopes alive, he’s applying major pressure to Jason Keller (No. 27 Cottonelle/Stater Bros. Ford). Bliss is eighth and trails seventh-place Keller by just 29 points.
Auto Club Speedway Is Home To Restless Natives Leffler, Harvick
Maybe it’s the perfect time for a little California redemption for Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips-Comcast Toyota).
Leffler, a native of Long Beach, has had so-so results at his home-state track. In this race last year, he was 26th, representing his worst finish in the six fall races he’s run there.
But better results may be in the offing. Leffler was 11th at Auto Club Speedway back in February, his best finish since 2005 when he was seventh, his top overall finish at the 2-mile track.
And although he’s had a solid season — he’s been ranked fourth in the series standings since placing 13th at the April race at Texas Motor Speedway — he’d fallen on hard times lately.
His 10th-place finish at Kansas last Saturday was his first top 10 since he was fifth at Gateway International Raceway in mid-July.
The season has been more consistent for Leffler’s fellow Californian, Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Rheem Tankless Chevrolet). The two-time series champion out of Bakersfield has averaged a top-10 finish each time out this year (9.3), and has a stellar record at Auto Club Speedway in series competition — a pole, seven top fives and 11 top-10 finishes in 13 races.
But his resume there lacks one item — a victory. Auto Club is one of only six active series tracks at which Harvick has yet to win in NASCAR national series competition. Representing the NASCAR Nationwide Series as its 2001 champion, he did win the IROC race — and the points title — at the track in 2002.
He was 11th in this race last year and finished second behind Kyle Busch in February.
He’s also one of the hottest drivers in the series, having registered his sixth consecutive top-five finish in his last six starts in his own KHI equipment.
Interesting “Chapters” Follow Golden State Trio Home
Brett Sumpter, 23, the mechanic/rear tire carrier for RAB Racing’s No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford, was born and raised in Monterey but currently resides in Mooresville, N.C.
His hobbies include mountain biking, snowboarding and on Oct. 4, he competed in his first triathlon, finishing fourth in his age group and 85th overall among more than 700 competitors.
Jerry Baxter, crew chief for the No. 99 Red Bull Toyota, hails from San Diego. The 52-year-old veteran mechanic began his career as a driver, racing throughout California from 1976-79 in Late Models against the likes of Ernie Irvan, Rusty Wallace and Dick Trickle.
Baxter joined Michael Waltrip Racing in 2000 and became crew chief of the No. 99 entry in 2006. He called the shots for David Reutimann’s first series victory in 2007 at Memphis Motorsports Park along with his poles at Texas and Chicagoland Speedway. Driver Stanton Barrett (No. 31 Circle K-Thirstbuster Chevrolet) is also headed back home. The native of Bishop will carry an associate sponsorship from Bantam Books’ ‘A Family Affair,’ a newly-released novel by Caprice Crane. Crane, the daughter of actress Tina Louise (who played Ginger on ‘Gilligan’s Island’) also is a TV writer for the re-released drama ‘Melrose Place.’ Shaun Sipos, a star of that show, will be a guest of Barrett at the race; Barrett also is known for his Hollywood ties due to his exploits as a stuntman.
“Recently it feels like my life reads like a novel,” Barrett said in reference to Crane’s book. “I raced in Japan a few weeks ago in IndyCar and now I’m back with the Nationwide car preparing for California.
“Right now it seems like every day is something new — a new page.”
IN THE LOOP
Auto Club Offers One Last 2009 NNS Run For Former Champ Biffle
As Greg Biffle (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford) prepares to run his final NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season, he hopes to have better luck at Auto Club Speedway than he had in the last few races there.
In three of his last four Auto Club races, Biffle, the 2002 series champion, has finished outside the top 20. But, the statistics show that he ran much stronger than his finishes would suggest.
In September of 2006, Biffle finished 23rd, but had strong statistics. His Driver Rating that race was 105.2, which ranked sixth in that event.
That same race a year later, Biffle finished 32nd. His Driver Rating was 88.1, which ranked 12th.
Then, earlier this season, Biffle finished 34th, but had a Driver Rating of 90.7, which ranked tied for 10th in the event.
Overall, his statistics just do not jibe with his results. In the last seven Auto Club Speedway races (which includes a victory in 2006), Biffle has an average finish of 19.6. But his in-race numbers are much stronger. He has a Driver Rating of 103.4, an Average Running Position of 11.8, 68 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 76.9%. That last number is especially telling. Over the last seven races, Biffle has run among the top 15 in over 75% of the laps. But he has finished in the top 15 in only 43% of the races.
Biffle’s looking to accomplish a feat that has happened four times before at Auto Club Speedway – perfection. A race winner has scored a perfect Driver Rating 14 times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series since the inception of the Loop Data statistic in 2005, four of them in Fontana. The first ever scored in the series was there, by Mark Martin in February of 2005. In that race, Martin had an Average Running Position of 1.7. Tony Stewart nabbed the second Auto Club perfect rating of 150.0, in 2008.
Kyle Busch owns the other two 150s, which are part of his series-high six perfect Driver Ratings. Busch was statistically perfect in his Auto Club Speedway wins in August of 2008 and February of this season.
NNS Etc: Auto Club Speedway Edition
- In The Garage: Auto Club
In addition to Stanton Barrett, Jerry Baxter, Kevin Harvick, Jason Leffler and Brett Sumpter, other California natives in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage this weekend include:
Robbie Allison (Oakland), No. 38 mechanic
Mikey Drake (Spring Valley), No. 32 front tire carrier
David Gilliland (Riverside), No. 1 driver
Daniel Mondragon (Monterey), No. 32 front tire changer
Scott Myers (Modesto), No. 11 shock specialist
Brad Rothlin (Fortune), No. 18 gas man
- Bowyer Reaches For 300 Plateau
Two weeks ago, reigning series champion Clint Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet), collected his 100th top-10 series finish.
This weekend, he reaches another career milestone as his 300th NASCAR national series start comes compliments of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“The two biggest things that stick out in my mind are winning the Nationwide Series championship last season and my first Sprint Cup Series win at New Hampshire in 2007,” he said.
“Taking the title last year was awesome and it was a lot of fun. It’s amazing to think that just a few years ago I was dirt racing, back in Kansas, to be where I’m at today. Richard Childress believed in me and I owe most of my success to him and everyone back at RCR.”
- They Sign Fast, Too
Fans can get autographs from some of their favorite series drivers at Auto Club Speedway on Friday, Oct. 9.
Michael Annett (No. 15 Germain Racing Toyota), Trevor Bayne (No. 11 Ridemakerz Toyota), Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Lagina Plumbing/Eldora Speedway Chevrolet), John Wes Townley (No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford), Mike Wallace (No. 01 JDM Chevrolet) and Scott Wimmer (No. 40 StopRepairBills.com Chevrolet) are among those drivers who will be participating in the autograph session from 5-6 p.m., located at the NASCAR Official Merchandise Trailer in the California Fan Zone.
- Braun Racing: Proud In Pink
The three-car Braun Racing organization will ‘go pink’ for the Oct. 16 Dollar General 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in support of Dollar General-sponsored, IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher and Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.
Brian Vickers, the 2003 series champion, and Reed Sorenson will trade in their traditional black-and-yellow No. 32 and No. 10 Dollar General Toyotas for a special pink paint scheme in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Charlotte.
Their teammate Jason Leffler and his primary sponsor, Great Clips, will also support the cause with a specially-designed pink No. 38 Camry next weekend. Leffler normally carries a black-and-red scheme.
- NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings
Driver Team Points
1. Justin Allgaier Penske 223
2. Brendan Gaughan RWR 201
3. Michael McDowell K-A 188
4. Michael Annett Germain 173
5. Scott Lagasse Jr. N/A 154
6. Erik Darnell RFR 143
7. John Wes Townley RAB 120
‘JWT’ has put together the best consecutive finishes of his brief NNS career. He was 18th at Dover International Speedway and tied his best finish with a 16th-place result last week at Kansas. He was 22nd in his series debut at Auto Club in February.
8. Ken Butler III R3 82
- Manufacturers’ Standings
Although Toyota has claimed the last three victories at Auto Club Speedway, it’s Ford that has the most wins overall in series competition, winning the first of seven consecutive races in 2003. Dodge stepped up for the victory in 2004 before Ford won again in 2007, its last win at the track. Chevrolet has five wins in California.
2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings
Following Race 29 of 35 at Kansas Speedway
Up Next: Series “Homecoming” At Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Fall is in the air and that means homecoming festivities are taking place across the country.
Most homecomings are associated with high school and college football, but in NASCAR, the truest of homecomings takes place for the majority of drivers and teams at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, where most have their home bases.
A win in Charlotte is a big one, and no driver has collected more than Mark Martin, the series’ all-time leader in wins (48) and poles (30), who has six victories at the 1.5-mile track.
However, Martin’s record could be in jeopardy. Kyle Busch has four wins at LMS, including this race last year from the pole. Busch looked like he’d have three in a row in the bag in this year’s May race. He led the most laps but lost out to Mike Bliss, who took advantage of a late caution and the impending rain that shortened that event to 170 laps.
Matt Kenseth leads all drivers with four poles at LMS.
The Race: Copart 300
The Place: Auto Club Speedway (2-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, Oct. 10
The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 150 laps
TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Polesitter: Kyle Busch
Event Schedule (all times CT): Friday – Practice, 1:05-3:25 p.m.; Saturday – Qualifying, 9 a.m.
1 Kyle Busch 4,729
2 Carl Edwards 4,484
3 Brad Keselowski 4,422
4 Jason Leffler 3,879
5 Justin Allgaier 3,390
6 Steve Wallace 3,377
7 Jason Keller 3,249
8 Mike Bliss 3,322
9 Brendan Gaughan 3,139
10 Michael McDowell 3,024