Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes - Charlotte

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

Kyle Busch lost 90 points to Edwards following last Saturday’s race at Auto Club Speedway. Leading the race at the time, he was forced to turn the No. 18 Toyota over to Denny Hamlin due to illness.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Friday Night High-Fives In Charlotte

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2009) - Seems like five is the operative number as NASCAR Nationwide Series teams head to ’homecoming’ weekend in Charlotte – home base for the majority of series teams – to defend their turf.

Here’s the lowdown on the countdown: There have been 55 series races at LMS. There are five races left in the season. Kyle Busch’s (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) standings lead is at 155 points over second-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 Ortho Ford). Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) and Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet) are still locked in the competition for the prized fifth position in the final points standings. Fifth-place Allgaier’s lead? Fifty-two points over sixth-place Wallace.

Busch lost 90 points to Edwards following last Saturday’s race at Auto Club Speedway. Leading the race at the time, he was forced to turn the No. 18 Toyota over to Denny Hamlin due to illness. But an accident with 10 laps to go wiped out a chance for Hamlin to bring home a win for Busch. Edwards finished third while Busch/Hamlin was relegated to 31st, thus the second-largest points pick-up on the lead this year for Edwards. He gained 91 on Busch following the August race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The gain makes for a great storyline and a closer championship battle, but bear in mind Busch is the defending winner of this race and has won three of the last four events overall at LMS.

Meanwhile, Allgaier put some breathing room between him and Wallace for fifth, adding 39 points to what was a 13-point advantage heading to California. The two young drivers were three positions apart in their last outing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway – Allgaier finished 14th while Wallace was 17th in May.

The race will be the last for the series under the lights this season.

Rookies, Veteran Making Late Bids For Top-10 Positions

Justin Allgaier has been the highest-ranking Raybestos Rookie in the series standings for the last 14 races, and is one of four rookies who have been ranked in the top 10 during the year.

Now, a fifth rookie is looking to join the group. Michael Annett (No. 15 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) posted his career-best finish of sixth last Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. He’s now 37 points behind fellow rookie Michael McDowell (No. 96 K-Automotive Dodge), who currently resides in 10th.

Annett, who was 33rd in the standings following the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, has shown steady improvement, especially in the late summer and through early fall.

“I owe this season-best finish to (my team),” Annett said. “As a whole, we keep getting better and better, so these last five races should be an exciting finish to my first full season in the Nationwide Series.”

Allgaier, Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 USFidelis Chevrolet), ninth, and McDowell are the three rookies currently in the top 10 in the standings. Only twice in series history have three rookies finished in the top 10. In 2000, Kevin Harvick was third, Ron Hornaday Jr., fifth and Jimmy Johnson was 10th. In 2005, Carl Edwards was third, Reed Sorenson (No. 10 Dollar General Toyota) fourth and Denny Hamlin was fifth.

Conversely, Jason Keller (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) is no rookie. As a matter of fact he never competed as a Raybestos Rookie in the series since he ran too many races (12) in 1993 in order to hold rookie status in his first full-time season in 1994. But, the series’ all-time starts leader (going for No. 487 Friday night) belongs in this standings discussion.

By finishing ahead of Steve Wallace in each of the last three races, Keller, currently seventh, has cut the deficit for sixth place in the standings in half. After trailing Wallace by 141 points prior to the Sept. 26 race at Dover International Speedway, Keller now finds himself 70 behind Wallace with five races remaining. Keller, who trails fifth-place Allgaier by 122 points, has finished ahead of Allgaier in two of the last three races and gained 39 points on the rookie in the process.

Ford, Roush Fenway Racing To Unveil 2010 Mustang

The first computer rendering released last July by Ford caused quite a stir.

Now, media and fans will finally get their chance to see the new 2010 Mustang, Ford’s NASCAR Nationwide Series new car entry.

Ford and Roush Fenway Racing will unveil the new Mustang on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. at Roush Fenway Racing headquarters in Concord, N.C.

Late last week, NASCAR announced the 2010 rollout schedule for the NASCAR Nationwide Series new car beginning with the July 2 race at Daytona followed by the Aug. 14 event at Michigan International Speedway, the Sept. 10 race at Richmond International Raceway and at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Oct. 15.  

Full integration of the new car into the NASCAR Nationwide schedule is targeted for the 2011 season.

Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors, Ford Motor Co., Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North America Motorsports, Jack Roush, owner, Roush Fenway Racing and Colin Braun, driver, Roush Fenway Racing, will be among those in attendance.

The unveiling will also be available via a webcast. Log on to www.fordracing.com to see the program on your computer.

Braun Racing Team Has Personal Stake In Breast Cancer Awareness Cause

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the trio of Braun Racing cars – driven by 2003 series champion Brian Vickers (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota), Reed Sorenson and Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota, currently fourth in the standings) – will feature pink paint schemes for Friday night’s race.

The cause is close to the hearts of the entire Braun organization, but several team members have had important women in their lives affected by the disease.

Leffler lost his older sister to breast cancer. Sorenson has four great aunts that were affected by the disease; one fought successfully and lived to be 100 years old.

The mother of Mark Durgin, car chief on the No. 32, is a breast cancer survivor.  Through self-examination her cancer was detected early and treated. Also, the grandmother and aunt of Chris Haymaker, interior specialist of the No. 32 car, also are breast cancer survivors.

Additionally, Dollar General is making a $25,000 donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure while Sorenson is donating 10 percent of his race earnings as well as an additional $10,000 if he wins the race to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

LOOP DATA

Three’s Company For Logano, Bliss

This weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) looks to accomplish a feat that has happened only eight other times — three consecutive victories.

After wins at Kansas Speedway and Auto Club Speedway, Logano could join some of the series greats this weekend, a list that includes Sam Ard, Mark Martin, Harry Gant and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch.

Though the exclusive list is tough to crack, the statistics suggest that there’s certainly a chance. Logano has been strong at LMS in his young NASCAR national series career.

In two races at the 1.5-mile track, Logano has an average finish of 9.5, a Driver Rating of 106.8, an Average Running Position of 8.0, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 75.4%, 13 Fastest Laps Run and 32 Laps Led.

Logano’s best run at LMS came earlier this season, in the rain-shortened May event. He finished fifth that race, posting a Driver Rating of 112.1 and an Average Running Position of 5.2.

Near the top of a stout list of favorites to keep Logano from Victory Lane is Mike Bliss (No. 11 Ridemakerz Toyota), winner of this season’s May race. Bliss has two career NASCAR Nationwide  victories, both coming at LMS.

Bliss will need a near-identical run to the May event if he wants to register a third win in Charlotte. In the May race, Bliss posted a Driver Rating of 78.4, an Average Running Position 8.3, 19 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 87.6.

There are a couple of reasons to believe Bliss will indeed have as good – if not better – run on Friday night. One, in each race Bliss has run in Charlotte since Loop Data’s inception, he has improved his Driver Rating. In May of 2007, he had a 41.4 rating in a 39th place finish. Since then, he has racked up ratings of 58.2, 86.9, 94.6 and 110.7.

Second, Bliss is back in the No. 11 Toyota, the same ride he took to a runner-up finish at Dover three races ago. In that event, he posted his season-best Driver Rating of 117.9 and his season-best Average Running Position of 4.6.

NNS Etc: Lowe’s Motor Speedway Edition

  • Rick Ware Racing Helps Keeps Search Alive

    Rick Ware Racing, along with sponsors Liberty Port and Circle K, have merged together in the search for Kyle Fleischmann. A native of Charlotte and 2006 graduate of Elon University, he went missing in November 2007.

    His story has been featured on the television show ‘America's Most Wanted’ twice since his disappearance and has been a main story in the North Carolina media. Lately, new leads are starting to come into place.

    A picture of Kyle will be featured on the hood of Tim Andrews’ No. 31 Liberty Port Chevrolet and also will display the Kyle Fleischmann Foundation logo on the sides of the car. Circle K, primary sponsor for several races for RWR, has also joined by displaying Kyle's information at over 3,000 locations across the U.S.

    "Our top priority is to find out what happened to Kyle", stated Dave Mitchell, Marketing Manager for Rick Ware Racing. “Races will come and go, but family and friends should not. It is our goal to help find out what actually happened to our beloved friend."

    For more information on Kyle Fleischmann, visit www.helpfindkyle.com

  • Stewart Back In NNS Field

    Tony Stewart (No. 5 Delphi Chevrolet) returns to the NASCAR Nationwide Series Friday in Charlotte and will make his first and only appearance for JR Motorsports.

    The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion won the season-opener at Daytona driving for Rick Hendrick and also finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in April for KHI. He has eight wins in 88 series starts; his best finish at LMS was fifth in 2004.

  • NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

    Driver                       Team             Points
1. Justin Allgaier             Penske           224
2. Brendan Gaughan       RWR               207
3. Michael McDowell       K-A                 189
4. Michael Annett           Germain           182
What a comeback for Annett. Not only is he challenging McDowell for third in the rookie rankings, he’s also within 37 points of 10th-place ‘McDriver’ in the points standings.
5. Scott Lagasse Jr.        N/A                  154
6. Erik Darnell                 RFR                 143
7. John Wes Townley      RAB                 124
8. Ken Butler III               R3                     82

  • Ice Racing Of A Different Kind

    Tuesday at noon ET, officials of Nashville, Tenn.-based Baker Curb Racing and the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League will hold a press conference at the Preds’ home arena, the Sommet Center, to announce a strategic marketing partnership between the two franchises.

    Team owner Mike Curb and its president, Matt Crews, will represent Baker Curb at the press conference.

    “Partnering with another locally-owned and operated professional sports franchise whose fan base has similar demographics to those of NASCAR allows us to provide current and prospective marketing partners year-round exposure both locally and nationally," Crews said.

  • Manufacturers’ Standings

    Joey Logano’s (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) consecutive wins – a first for him in NASCAR national series competition, a first for any driver this year (consecutive wins happened three times last year including Kyle Busch’s three in a row) – moved Toyota closer to its second consecutive Bill France Performance Cup title.

    As teams head ‘home’ to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for Friday night’s race, Toyota remains in the lead among the series manufacturers with 205 points, followed by Chevrolet with 186, Ford at 176 and Dodge wtih 93 points.

    But Chevrolet has been the series leader at Lowe’s Motor Speedway with 16 wins, including Mike Bliss’ victory back in May.

    Toyota, Chevy and Dodge each have at least one win in this event over the last four years while Ford won the May race once in that time frame.

  • Charlotte Celebrations For Shepherd, Keselowski

    Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Lagina Plumbing-Eldora Speedway Chevrolet) and Brad Keselowski (No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet) each have numbers to celebrate during Charlotte race week.

    Shepherd celebrated his 68th birthday on Monday, Oct. 12. Keselowski, 43 years Shepherd’s junior, will make his 100th NASCAR Nationwide Series start on Friday night.

    Neither Shepherd (who has 15 wins in 259 NASCAR Nationwide starts) nor Keselowski (who counts five wins in his career to date) have won at LMS. Shepherd has a pole (1983) and was third in 1982; Keselowski’s best finish also was third (2008).

Up Next: Memphis Motorsports Park

The final stand-alone race of the season also rounds out the month of October for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Memphis Motorsports Park will host for the Kroger On Track For The Cure 250 on Saturday, Oct. 24. ESPN2 will televise the race beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Carl Edwards is the defending race winner. Only one driver – two-time series champion Kevin Harvick – has won more than once at Memphis (2000, ‘06).

Two drivers have captured multiple poles at the 0.75-mile oval – Jeff Green and Martin Truex Jr., also both former series champions – with two each.

Last year, James Buescher won his first career series pole, the second consecutive driver to do so. Marcos Ambrose won his first in 2007.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Dollar General 300
The Place: Lowe’s Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
The Date: Friday, Oct. 16
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps
TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / PRN
2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Polesitter: Jamie McMurray

Event Schedule (all times ET): Thursday – Practice, 1:15-2:50 p.m., Final Practice 6-7 p.m.; Friday – Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.

2009 STANDINGS

     Driver                    Points
1   Kyle Busch             4,809
2   Carl Edwards           4,654
3   Brad Keselowski      4,582
4   Jason Leffler            3,952
5   Justin Allgaier          3,505
6   Steve Wallace          3,453
7   Jason Keller             3,383
8   Mike Bliss                3,344
9   Brendan Gaughan     3,285
10 Michael McDowell     3,091




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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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