Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes - New Car’s Final Test

The Mustang will be Ford's new car model in the NASCAR Nationwide Series beginning with four races in 2010. (Photo Credit: Ford Racing) (Autostock/brian Czobat / The Spokesman-Review)
The Mustang will be Ford's new car model in the NASCAR Nationwide Series beginning with four races in 2010. (Photo Credit: Ford Racing) (Autostock/brian Czobat / The Spokesman-Review)

The NASCAR Nationwide Series may have a weekend off but there is still plenty of work for teams to do in preparation for Texas in two weeks and the debut of a new car for 2010.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

The Series That Never Rests – The NNS New Car’s Final Test

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 27, 2009) – The much-anticipated NASCAR Nationwide Series new car will be put to its final test this season on Monday, Nov. 2 at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. The new car has already been through two tests, both last year, at Richmond International Raceway (.75 mile) and Lowe’s Motor Speedway (1.5-mile). 

“This is another major step as we continue to give the series a unique look and enhance the competitive racing we already have on the track,” said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director.

The new car will compete in four points races during the 2010 season, beginning with the July 2 race at Daytona International Speedway followed by the Aug. 14 event at Michigan International Speedway, the Sept. 10 race at Richmond and at LMS on Oct. 15. Full integration of the new car into the NASCAR Nationwide schedule is targeted for the 2011 season.

Also this week at Talladega, Dodge will unveil its new car model, the Challenger, on Friday, Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m. in the Media Center. On Saturday, Oct. 30, the new car models from all four manufacturers will be on display outside the Media Center at Talladega from 9:15-10:15 a.m.

Kyle Channels Yogi: Championship Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

There’s no denying the numbers compiled by Kyle Busch, the series standings leader, have been impressive. He’s 215 points ahead of second-place Carl Edwards following his record-breaking 11th runner-up finish of the season last week at Memphis Motorsports Park. He boasts a series-leading seven wins and 23 top fives, and also is tied for the series lead with Edwards with 27 top-10 finishes in 32 races. 

He’s got a shot at the series record for most top fives in a season – 2000 champion Jeff Green had 25 that year. And wins in the last three races would equal the record-tying mark of 10 he matched last year.

While Busch has a firm grasp on the standings lead, Edwards and third-place driver Brad Keselowski still are mathematically eligible to catch him. Both drivers would have to produce the largest comeback in series history – (Rob Moroso, the 1989 champion, was 127 points behind leader Tommy Houston with three races to go) – but Busch knows the title isn’t a lock.

“Anything can happen in these final three races,” he said. “I could wreck or blow a motor or something like that and it could all (the lead) be whipped back to zero.” 

Edwards’ second-place advantage shrunk considerably after Keselowski won his fourth race of the year Saturday at Memphis. The gap is down to 42 points – the closest “BK” has been to second all season.

Edwards and Keselowski almost have mirrored each other’s performances this year. Both have four wins; Edwards has 21 top fives and 27 top 10s while Keselowski has 20 top fives and 26 top 10s.

After this final open week of the year, the next stop for the series is Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 7, and Edwards and Keselowski will have their work cut out for them there. In April, Busch started from the pole and led 178 laps on his way to his third consecutive win at the 1.5-mile speedway. Neither Edwards nor Keselowski has won at Texas; Edwards has four top fives and five top 10s in nine starts while Keselowski has three top 10s in six starts, including a third-place finish earlier this season. 

The Rookie Versus The Vet: Allgaier, Bliss Fighting For Fifth

The fresh-faced rookie, Justin Allgaier, and the seasoned veteran, Mike Bliss, are in the midst of a tight three-race push to see who can lock up the fifth spot in the standings by the end of the season. 

The reason the fifth position holds so much importance? The NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series banquets have been combined, and the top five drivers from each series will be recognized on stage at the Loews’ South Beach Hotel on Nov. 23.

With three races left, Allgaier is 59 points ahead of Bliss, but Bliss is coming off his seventh top-five finish this season. He was fourth at Memphis Motorsports Park last Saturday.

What’s most impressive, though, is they’ve both faced uncertainties this year and, thus far, have managed to overcome them.

This is Allgaier’s first full NASCAR Nationwide Series season, having made four previous series starts in 2008. Recently, he battled Steve Wallace for fifth place and had put a comfortable cushion between him and Wallace before Bliss seemingly came out of nowhere to become Allagaier’s main foil.

While Bliss may have experience on his side, his season has been marred by a different unknown.

He lost his full-time ride with car owner James Finch following the July 30 race at Iowa Speedway and has since driven for five different owners/teams — Joe Nemechek, Bryan Mullet, Curtis Key, Pat MacDonald and MSRP Motorsports to       keep his top-five hopes alive.  Despite the lack of consistency behind the wheel from week to week, Bliss has continued to be a force. In fact, three of his six top-five finishes this year have come since his release from Phoenix Racing.

Rookie Annett Breaks Through; He’s 10th In Standings With Three To Go

In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. But with three races to go in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, should any of the three drivers vying for 10th place in the standings “swing       and miss,” their dream of scoring the final invitation to the NASCAR Nationwide Series Banquet could be gone. 

Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Annett is the man to catch, currently in 10th, 13 points ahead of fellow rookie candidate Michael McDowell and 49 points in front of veteran Tony Raines. 

Annett finished 16th last week at Memphis after running in the top 10 late in the race before an accident relegated him to a lower position. He has posted four top-10 finishes this season.

“I’m really proud of my team for giving me good cars week in and week out,” he said.  “They’ve done an awesome job getting us where we are. We’ve been pushing to get into the top 10 in points, and we’ve now achieved that goal. It feels really good to be able to say that.

“We’re very excited about this small victory, but are focused on working hard to finish these last three races strong and continue to gain valuable points.”

NASCAR’S Season-to-Date Loop Data shows Annett with a Driver Rating of (70.3) which is better than McDowell’s (69.4) and Raines’ (61.3).

White-Hot Keselowski Catching Up On Edwards

Brad Keselowski’s season could be split up into two parts – pre-Iowa and post-Iowa.

The statistics suggest Keselowski needed a bit of a kick-start before really going on a tear. That kick-start came at Iowa, where he collected his second win of the season.

Going into that race, Keselowski had solid statistics, but there was a running-in-place feeling to his season. He was third in the standings, 200 points behind second-place Carl Edwards. He had a Driver Rating of 101.7, an Average Running Position of 9.7, an average finish of 8.9, 216 Fastest Laps Run, 64 Laps Led and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 90.8%.

Then the victory at Iowa happened, his most dominating performance of the year. In that race, he scored a near-perfect Driver Rating of 149.0. There, his season took the turn he needed.

Keselowski’s stats over the last 12 races compared to the first 20 say it all. Over the last 12 races – a span that includes wins at Iowa, Michigan and last weekend at Memphis – Keselowski has a Driver Rating of 113.8, an Average Running Position of 6.8, an average finish of 3.8, 250 Fastest Laps Run and 313 Laps Led.

But maybe the most telling stat of them all, he’s lopped off 158 points from his deficit to Edwards. After his win at Memphis last Saturday, Keselowski now trails Edwards by 42 points for the runner-up standings position.

Overall, Keselowski’s statistics exactly match his current points standings position. He’s third in Driver Rating (106.2), third in Average Running Position (8.6), third in Fastest Laps Run (466) and third in Laps in the Top 15 (5,385/88.1%).

Just as Keselowski is chasing Edwards in the standings, he’s also chasing him on the stats sheet – and getting awfully close.

Though Edwards leads Keselowski in most categories, it’s not by much. Edwards has a Driver Rating of 112.8 (difference of 6.6), an Average Running Position of 7.7 (difference of 0.9), 520 Fastest Laps Run (difference of 54) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 88.3% (different of .2%).

NNS Etc: Off-Week Edition

  • Toyota Clinches Manufacturers’ Title With Three Races To Go

    When Kyle Busch finished second at Memphis last Saturday, it enabled Toyota to clinch its second consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series manufacturers’ championship in just its third year of series competition.

    This marks the fifth time Toyota has earned a NASCAR manufacturers’ title since its entry into national series competition in 2004. Last year, Toyota captured its first NASCAR Nationwide  championship; in each of the past three years (2006-08), Toyota has won the manufacturers’ crown in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

    NASCAR Nationwide Series
    2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings

Toyota          220
Chevrolet      199
Ford              186
Dodge           99
Following Race 32 of 35 at Memphis Motorsports Park

The performance of six full-time teams fielding eight Toyotas – Braun Racing, CJM Racing, Germain Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG/ Daugherty Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing  – all contributed to the 2009 title.

“Toyota’s accomplishments are the result of hard work and achievement by all of our race teams working in conjunction with TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development),” said Lee White, TRD’s president and general manager.  “All the tireless efforts during the off-season and throughout the season, in combination with a talented driver line-up, have produced the exceptional results that yielded this championship.”

Since joining the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2007, Toyota drivers have won 35 races and captured 30 poles.

  • Talladega Walk of Fame To Induct Morgan Shepherd This Week

    The fans have spoken.

    Morgan Shepherd, who celebrated his 68th birthday on Oct. 21, will be inducted into the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame on Saturday along with Jack Smith. NASCAR fans were the deciding factors as far as the voting.

    Shepherd won the active driver nomination over Michael Waltrip and Kasey Kahne, who both have stout NASCAR Nationwide credentials.

    The Walk of Fame in downtown Talladega is a focal point saluting NASCAR’s greatest names and a tribute to one of racing’s brightest stars – the late Davey Allison. Developed in 1994, the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame has inducted one active driver and up to two inactive drivers since 1995 based on the fans’ vote chosen from a ballot of nominees selected by strict guidelines.

    Shepherd made his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in 1970 at Hickory Motor Speedway.  And, for nearly 40 years since, has competed in one of NASCAR’s top divisions.

    He is a four-time winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup and has 15 wins in the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he currently competes on a full-time basis.

  • NNS Double-Duty Drivers Compete This Week At Talladega

    While most of the series will be enjoying the last week off before the final three races of the season, some drivers will be pulling doule-duty competing in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega Superspeedway.

    Most notably is last week’s Memphis winner, Brad Keselowski, who scored his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in just his fifth series start there in April.

    Joining Keselowski this weekend at Talladega will be full-time double-duty drivers Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, along with NNS series-only regulars Michael McDowell, Tony Raines, Robert Richardson Jr., and Erik Darnell.

  • NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

        Driver                    Team         Points
    1. Justin Allgaier          Penske       227
    Allgaier stood pat as rookie leader despite a scare from Brendan Gaughan, who seemed destined to win last week at Memphis. Leading late, he was doomed by a late caution but finished fifth while Allgaier, who claimed his first series pole and withstood a late-race race mishap, finished 19th.
    2. Brendan Gaughan     RWR          217
    3. Michael McDowell     K-A            191
    4. Michael Annett         Germain      188
    5. Erik Darnell              RFR            156


Up Next: Texas Motor Speedway

Following the last open week of the 2009 season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will head west to Ft. Worth, Texas, home of Texas Motor Speedway, for the O’Reilly Challenge on Saturday, Nov. 7.

ESPN2 will carry the telecast beginning with the pre-race show at 12 p.m. ET. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 12:45 p.m. ET.

Kyle Busch swept both Texas events last season and also won in the spring race earlier this year. He could become the first driver to win four consecutive races at TMS.

Runner-up in the standings, Carl Edwards, sat on the pole for this event last season.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: O’Reilly Challenge
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, Nov. 7
The Time: 12:45 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles/200 laps
TV: ESPN2, 12 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio/PRN
2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Polesitter: Carl Edwards

Event Schedule (all times CT): Friday – Practice, 9-10:15 a.m., Final Practice 10:40-11:55 a.m.; Qualifying, 5:35 p.m.

2009 STANDINGS

    Driver                    Points
1   Kyle Busch            5,179
2   Carl Edwards          4,964
3   Brad Keselowski     4,922
4   Jason Leffler           4,184
5   Justin Allgaier        3,743
6   Mike Bliss             3,684
7   Steve Wallace        3,626
8   Jason Keller           3,574
9   Brendan Gaughan  3,563
10 Michael Annett       3,298




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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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