Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Richmond

Kenny Wallace (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)
Kenny Wallace (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)

Kenny Wallace will become the 17th driver in NASCAR history to start at least 800 races. The distinguished list includes names such as Richard Petty, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt and fellow NASCAR Nationwide driver Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Lagina Plumbing/Eldora Speedway Dodge).

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Wallace’s Well-Traveled Road Hits No. 800

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2009) - Twenty years ago, Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) had no idea his racing career would carry him this far.

More than 210,400 miles through NASCAR’s three national series that culminate in 800 starts Friday night at Richmond International Raceway. Three of his nine NASCAR Nationwide Series wins have come at the track.

Wallace will become the 17th driver in NASCAR history to start at least 800 races. The distinguished list includes names such as Richard Petty, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt and fellow NASCAR Nationwide driver Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Lagina Plumbing/Eldora Speedway Dodge).

“What really caught me off guard is that I’m 17th all-time in the history of NASCAR of starts,” Wallace said. “That humbles me. It almost makes me shy and everyone knows I’m not shy.”

Last year at The Milwaukee Mile, Wallace became only the third driver in NASCAR Nationwide history to start 400 races. The normally outgoing, boisterous driver nicknamed ‘Herman’ was far overwhelmed that day. That same demeanor may return Friday at Richmond.

“I’m at a point in my career where I understand there’s a generation gap,” Wallace, 46, said. “Now there are so many people who don’t know that I’m the three-time Most Popular Driver in the Nationwide Series. They don’t know my stats. If I finished outside top 10 in the final points, I was devastated.

Wallace finished in the top 10 in the standings in 10 of the 11 years he’s run full-time in the series. He has nine wins, 10 poles, 159 top 10s and 64 top fives in 444 NASCAR Nationwide Series races.

“(In Milwaukee) it was hard for me thinking back. Some people think I’m just a TV guy. But my heart and soul goes into the race car. Seven days a week I work to come to the race track to do business Thursday through Saturday. To be known for TV, it definitely shocks me to not be known for what I wanted to be known for. Guys like Kyle (Busch) might not remember the Kenny Wallace who was a winner.”

But Wallace and his Jay Robinson Racing team are having the type of season where people are taking notice. He captured consecutive top 10s for the independent team earlier this summer and “If not for three motor failures, we’d be in the top 10 in points,” he said. Currently, he’s 12th, 179 points out of 10th.

“Any athlete who does something for 20 years, it’s amazing,” he said. “I’m really proud of it and I can’t thank NASCAR enough for giving me the platform to do this and the fans who also support me.”

Gordon’s Team Commemorates 9/11 Anniversary

Friday marks the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and one NASCAR Nationwide Series team has worked in conjunction with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to provide a tribute to those whose lives were lost – and changed – that day.

Benny Gordon (No. 72 VSI and Samuel & Sons Ford) will carry a 9/11 Memorial paint scheme. He approached the 9/11 Memorial committee earlier this year and the result was an Aug. 31 trip by Gordon and his team to Manhattan, near Ground Zero, to unveil the car to a group of World Trade Center first responders. They signed the car, which will be displayed this weekend on the RIR midway.

Gordon returned with a flag that flew over Ground Zero. He and the retired Lt. Mickey Kross, a New York fireman who was trapped in the North Tower for 48 hours after its collapse, and RIR President Doug Fritz, will raise the flag on the infield flagpole at 2 p.m. Thursday. It will fly until Saturday after the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Joe Daniels, the president of the 9/11 Memorial, also will be a guest of Gordon’s team at Friday night’s race along with Kross.

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum has launched a ‘Text-to-Donate’ program based around the Richmond race. Cellular users can text ‘WTC’ to 25383 to arrange a $5 donation to support the project.

Edwards’ Injury Makes It A Real ‘Foot-Race’ To The Finish With Busch

Last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series championship battle between Clint Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) and Carl Edwards (No. 60  Scotts Wild Bird Food Ford) came down to 21 points.

This year, the title chase between Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) and Edwards may come down to a foot.

Edwards suffered two fractures in his right foot in a non-racing incident early last week. Although he was able to compete in last Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway – he finished seventh – his recent charge toward Busch may be in jeopardy depending on his ability to race with the injury down the stretch.

Busch led Edwards by season-high 339 points following last month’s race at Michigan International Speedway. But Edwards’ runner-up result at Bristol Motor Speedway and a win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, coupled with Busch’s 28th- and 10th-place finishes, respectively, in those races closed the gap to 192 points prior to Atlanta.

Busch finished second at Atlanta – his ninth second-place finish of the season, one off the series record set by two-time champion Jack Ingram in 1983 – and upped his lead to 221 points coming to Richmond.     Now things are getting interesting. Edwards is the defending winner of this race while Busch won at RIR earlier this year. He also won this event in 2007 and his first career series win was at Richmond in 2004.

Edwards not only has to keep running down Busch, but also fend off Brad Keselowski (No. 88 Lipton Chevrolet), who is 71 points back in third place. ‘BK’ was fourth at RIR this spring.

Then there’s another foot – the hot one of Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet), who comes off a win at Atlanta.

Harvick has four wins at Richmond, including two in this race. His KHI team is fourth in the owner standings, 250 points behind Keselowski’s JR Motorsports outfit.

September Brings Special Awareness To NASCAR And Its Fans

This week marks the NASCAR Foundation’s Fourth Annual Blood Drive presented by Nationwide Insurance at 28 NASCAR-sanctioned tracks across the nation, 22 of which host NASCAR Nationwide Series races.

Those tracks include eight of the final nine venues on the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide schedule and Richmond International Raceway is among them, holding its ‘Drive for Life’ Thursday, Sept. 10 from noon-5 p.m. in the historic Old Dominion Building. Donors can enter at Gate 4 off Laburnum Avenue.

Kyle Petty will be on hand for autographs at noon while Rusty Wallace Racing teammates Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 USFidelis Chevrolet) and Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet) take over at 2:30. Greg Biffle (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford), the 2003 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, follows at 4:30.

Continuing the awareness theme, series ‘Ironman’ Jason Keller (No. 27 Depends/Family Dollar Ford) is helping to promote September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The series’ all-time starts leader (483), his car sponsors and ZERO – The Project to End Prostate Cancer – are teaming together to urge NASCAR fans across the nation to be aware of and proactive about their prostate health.

Keller’s car will have a special paint scheme featuring a blue ribbon, which signifies prostate cancer awareness. Additionally the slogan, “Help End Prostate Cancer” will be displayed across the hood.

Keller and the car will be at the Family Dollar store at 6508 Hull Street Road from 3–6 p.m. Thursday. During his appearance, Keller will participate in a special check presentation of $20,000 on behalf of Depend and Family Dollar to ZERO for the battle against prostate cancer.

Go Big At Home Is Hamlin’s Mantra

Denny Hamlin’s (No. 20 JGR Toyota) success is all across the board at Richmond International Raceway and makes little sense.

The Chesterfield, Va., native consistently shrugs off any pressure – self-imposed or otherwise – that comes with racing at a home track.  He wants to succeed there more than any other track, every time out. And he does. He nabbed his first NASCAR national series win there last season, winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in May.

He has yet to win at Richmond in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, but he has come extremely close.

In fact, his NASCAR Sprint Cup statistics at Richmond are stronger than his NASCAR Nationwide stats – despite the win.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, Hamlin has a Driver Rating of 116.9, an Average Running Position of 5.1, 244 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 98.0 and 600 Laps Led in his seven Richmond races.

In NASCAR Nationwide competition, Hamlin has a Driver Rating of 93.8, an Average Running Position of 13.7, 64 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 73.2 and 32 Laps Led in his eight Richmond races.

The difference lies in a couple of poor finishes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In May of 2007, Hamlin finished 41st at Richmond, posting a Driver Rating of 58.9. In September of 2005, he had a 34th-place run, which looks worse than it actually was – he had a solid Driver Rating of 76.1 that race.

By contrast, Hamlin’s worst finish at Richmond in NASCAR Sprint Cup action is 24th in May of 2008, a race in which he led an unbelievable 381 laps and posted a race-best 129.1 Driver Rating. Hamlin’s lowest Driver Rating at Richmond was an impressive 97.1 in September 2006, a 15th-place finish.

NNS Etc: Richmond Edition

  • In The Garage

    Virginia natives in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage at Richmond International Raceway this weekend include:

    P.J. Bryant (Dale City) – No. 29 shock specialist  
    Joey Cohen (Chesapeake) – No. 16  engineer
    Brad Donagy (Orange County) – No. 18 front tire carrier
    Denny Hamlin (Chesterfield) – No. 20 driver
    Chris Haymaker (Moneta) – No. 32 mechanic/interior specialist
    Eddie Pardue (Hampton) – No. 16 crew chief
    Billy Sutphin (Leesburg) – No. 11 front tire carrier
    Tommy Wallace (Richmond) – No. 29 pit support
    Jason Watkins (Ridgeway) – No. 32 engine tuner

  • 9/11 Is Personal For Crew Member

    The 9/11 anniversary has hands-on meaning for James Davis, the jackman/mechanic for the No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota. Davis served – literally – in another capacity before coming into the NASCAR fold.

    Following the events of September 11, 2001, Davis, then a member of the U.S. Air Force, was deployed with his unit to Qatar. His was one of the first Air Force units sent to the Middle East after the terrorist attacks.

NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

Driver                       Team        Points
1. Justin Allgaier         Penske      209
2. Brendan Gaughan   RWR         198
3. Michael McDowell   N/A            185
4. Michael Annett       Germain      167
    (Annett has moved up to 11th in the driver standings following his sixth consecutive top-20 finish)
5. Scott Lagasse Jr.    N/A            154
6. Erik Darnell             RFR           113
7. John Wes Townley  RAB           110
8. Ken Butler III           R3              75

  • 100 Series Starts For McClure

He made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at North Carolina Speedway in 2003 and on Friday night, Eric McClure (No. 24 Hefty Ford) reaches his milestone 100th start.

McClure, 30, is currently 18th in the driver standings. His career best points finish was 21st last year.

“I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to stick around long enough to make it to 100 starts,” he said. “I’m grateful (to everyone) who allows me to chase this dream.”

  • Versatility A Key For Owens

    Trent Owens, crew chief of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota, will be working with his third different driver in the last three weeks – with the emphasis on different.

    Friday night, he’ll be with David Reutimann, who has run in the No. 32 just twice in 2009, at O’Reilly Raceway Park in July and most recently three weeks ago at Bristol. Reutimann made his first NASCAR Nationwide start at RIR in 2002.

    Last Saturday in Atlanta, Owens was on top of the pit box with Brian Vickers, the 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and the driver who’s been in the car the most this year.

    And on Aug. 30, Owens worked with former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve – on the track named after his father – in Montreal, coaching the hometown favorite to a fourth-place finish.

    In total, Owens has had six different drivers in the No. 32 this season.

  • Manufacturers’ Standings

Toyota       177
Chevrolet    161
Ford           153
Dodge         81
Following Race 26 of 35 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Up Next: Dover International Speedway

Following an open week Saturday, Sept. 26, marks the second and final trip of the season for the NASCAR Nationwide Series to Dover International Speedway.

The Dover 200 is set for a 3:30 p.m. ET start, and ESPN2 will begin its pre-race broadcast at 3 p.m.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Dover have a thing going lately in the fall event.

The organization has won the last two September races with two different drivers and manufacturers, and also has victories in three of the last four races there overall.

JGR was seemingly on its way to four consecutive wins at the one-mile concrete oval in May, but teammates Joey Logano and Kyle Busch tangled late, giving Brad Keselowski an opening to the finish line.

JGR looks to have the upper hand regardless of which set of teammates run this time around. Busch is the defending winner, but Denny Hamlin has won the last two races he’s entered at Dover – this race in 2007 and the spring event last year. Logano, the local favorite from Middletown, Conn., made his NASCAR national series debut at Dover in last year’s spring event. He has a pole, a top-five and two top 10s in his three races at the track.

Todd Bodine leads all drivers with three wins at Dover. Hamlin leads a parade of 10 drivers who have two wins.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Virginia 529 College Savings  250
The Place: Richmond International Raceway (0.75-mile oval)
The Date: Friday, Sept. 11
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Distance: 250 laps / 187.5 miles
TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Winner: Carl Edwards
2008 Polesitter: N/A – Inclement Weather

Event Schedule (all times ET): Friday – Practice, 9-11:45 a.m.; Qualifying, 4:05 p.m.

2009 STANDINGS

      Driver                  Points
1    Kyle Busch           4,209
2    Carl Edwards         3,988
3    Brad Keselowski    3,917
4    Jason Leffler          3,532
5    Justin Allgaier        3,010
6    Steve Wallace        2,994
7    Jason Keller           2,873
8    Brendan Gaughan   2,857
9    Mike Bliss              2,835
10  Michael McDowell   2,796




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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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