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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Dover

While Justin Allgaier and Steve Wallace play out their duel for the fifth position in the series standings, there are many storylines surrounding places 6-10 and beyond.


Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

Fall Drama In Full Swing At Dover

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 22, 2009) - Jeff Gordon spent two full seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series before moving on to stardom in NASCAR Sprint Cup. Now, he’s immersed in the ‘Drive for Five,’ his goal to capture the fifth premier series title of his career as one of the 12 drivers in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Almost 20 years later, Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) and Steve Wallace (No. 66 USFidelis Chevrolet) are waging their own version of the ‘Drive for Five’ as full-time regulars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

With eight races remaining in the season, the drivers are locked in a battle for the all-important fifth position in the final standings.

This year at the season-ending Awards Banquet at its new destination in Miami, Fla., drivers who finish in the top 10 in the standings will be honored, as always. However, it’s the top five who will be recognized on stage. The event will be held in conjunction with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series banquet.

Coming to Dover International Speedway following an off-week, it’s Allgaier who has the advantage. Barely.

He’s in fifth and leads sixth-place Wallace by 20 points. Allgaier had a solid run in his first series race at the ‘Monster Mile’ in May, finishing 10th in a field that included 11 double-duty drivers. He also posted his first top-10 finish in his last four races two weeks ago at Richmond International Raceway. Wallace, however, was caught up in an accident and finished 29th in May. In fact, in seven career races at Dover, Wallace has an average finish of 23rd.

Speaking of striking distance, Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet), who won at Dover in May, is in full coil. He’s in third place in the standings, 96 points behind second-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scott’s Wild Bird Food Ford). Despite Keselowski’s challenge, Edwards still has his sights set on Kyle Busch (No. 18 NOS Toyota), who leads the 2007 series champion by 201 points.

It’s a daunting deficit, but nothing that Edwards hasn’t faced before. With eight races left last year, he was 207 points behind Clint Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) before falling just 21 points shy of catching Bowyer for the title. Edwards is good on concrete – five of his 23 career wins are on that surface, including a 2006 win at Dover.

Saturday’s Race Has Added Incentive For JGR

When Brad Keselowski crossed the finish line at Dover in May, he knew he’d stolen a victory.

Four months later, the ‘victim’ hasn’t forgotten.

In May, the finish was shaping up as a duel between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. However, at the restart following a caution with just two laps left, second-place Logano inadvertently got into the back of Busch, who was leading, and put them both out of contention for the victory. Keselowski, in third, cruised on by for the win.

A win at Dover had basically been a given for JGR in the previous three races, going on four before the Busch-Logano stumble. Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Doosan Infracore Toyota) won this race in 2007, then repeated the following May.

The organization’s wins over the last two September races have come with two different drivers (Hamlin and Busch) and with two different manufacturers (Chevrolet and Toyota). Busch has led a staggering total of 333 laps over his last three races at Dover. Hamlin comes in off a win at Richmond.

Saturday’s race will be the first time Busch and Hamlin have competed together as teammates at Dover in a NASCAR Nationwide Series event.

Into The Great Wide Open At Dover

Talk about one of the most wide-open races of the year — looks like the ‘Miles the Monster’ may have it.

Dover International Speedway has hosted 51 NASCAR Nationwide Series races since the first event there in 1982. Joe Ruttman was the inaugural winner; it was his first win in his first series race. Overall, there have been 40 different winners and only four have won from the pole.

For the 2009 Dover fall edition, 12 of the 44 entries are former winners there (27%).

A little more intrigue for this one: Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) and Scott Speed (No. 99 Red Bull Toyota) are also Dover winners. Both captured their first NASCAR national series victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2003 and 2008, respectively. Busch (2005) also has a truck win there.

Hometown favorite and two-time series champion Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet) — competing in only his second series race of the season and just his 12th over the last four years — is entered at Dover for the first time since 2007. The native of Mayetta, N.J., won there twice and also made his series debut at the track in this race in 2001.

Other two-time winners include Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford). A win by either of those three would tie for the most at Dover; Todd Bodine leads with three.

Scott Wimmer (No. 40 StopRepairBills.com Chevrolet) in 2002 and Mike Wallace (No. 01 sponsordavis.com Chevrolet) in June 1994, won their first career races in the series at Dover.

Ironman Jason Keller (No. 27 Depend-Rite Aid Ford) will make his series-leading 485th career start Saturday; 29 of those have come at Dover, the most of any driver. He won there in 2000 and also has the most top-10 finishes among all drivers (12).

Final Top 10 Looking Like A Final-Race Decision

While Justin Allgaier and Steve Wallace play out their duel for the fifth position in the series standings, there are many storylines surrounding places 6-10 and beyond.

Jason Keller, in seventh place, has a slim 34-point lead over eighth-place Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet).   But Gaughan also has to be concerned about Mike Bliss, who’s just seven points back. Bliss continues to hold on to his top-10 position despite not being in a full-time ride since Watkins Glen. However at Dover, he’s in arguably one of the strongest cars he’s driven since then, the No. 11 Ridemakerz Toyota.

Like Bliss, Michael McDowell (No. 96 Fischer Honda Dodge) has fought his way into the top 10 without having a consistent ride since the July race at Daytona. He’s in 10th, within 48 points of Bliss.

Michael Annett (No. 15 Germain Racing Toyota) is still in the hunt. He’s in 11th, 195 points behind McDowell. Annett, a rookie, has made good progress throughout the summer. He was 16th in the standings after the June race at Nashville and has steadily moved his way up to his current career-best ranking.

IN THE LOOP

Truex, Dover A Natural Fit

Martin Truex Jr. has run just 12 NASCAR Nationwide Series races since winning back-to-back championships in 2004-05.

So, it’s rare – to say the least – to see him around the NASCAR Nationwide garage these days. But there will be a Truex sighting this weekend at Dover, and there’s little wonder why.

He excels at the high-banked concrete track.

In his four Dover races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Truex has posted a Driver Rating of 122.1, an Average Running Position of 3.1, 90 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 99.

The statistics paint an interesting picture of Truex’s finishes and that his results were not always indicative of how he ran.

Even with a victory and a runner-up finish in those four races, his average finish is only 11.3, thanks to 12th-place and 30th-place finishes in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

Despite those two non-top 10s, Truex had one of the best cars. In the 12th-place run, he scored a Driver Rating of 114.5, an Average Running Position of 2.3 and had 18 Fastest Laps Run. In the 30th-place finish, he had a Driver Rating of 113.6, an Average Running Position of 4.3 and 25 Fastest Laps Run. He also led a race-high 77 laps.

The New Jersey native considers Dover his home track, and he’s run 11 series races there. That’s the most of any track for Truex by a wide margin. Daytona International Speedway is next on his list with seven starts.

As prolific as Truex has been at Dover, he has yet to score a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 there. The feat is a rare one – since 2005, there have only been 14 of them – but for whatever reason, the stat occurs somewhat regularly at Dover.

Of the 14 perfect ratings in the series, four have come at Dover. That’s tied with Auto Club Speedway for the most at any track. The four perfect races: Ryan Newman (No. 33 Copart Chevrolet) in 2005; Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin in 2007; and Kyle Busch last season.

NNS Etc: Dover Edition

  • In The Garage

    Northeast natives in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage this weekend at Dover include:

    Maryland 
    Brian Hennings (Bowie) – No. 16 front tire carrier  
    Justin Stambaugh (Taneytown) – No. 29 mechanic / front tire carrier

    New Jersey
    Martin Truex Jr. (Mayetta) – No. 1 driver

    Pennsylvania
    John Dabrowski (Allentown) – No. 40 mechanic / pit support

  • Drivers, Sponsor Give Back At Dover

    Martin Truex Jr. has always been a local fan favorite at Dover. The feeling is mutual as far as the driver is concerned.

    This weekend, he’s giving back to fans who’ve supported him during his rise thorugh NASCAR’s national series ranks. He’s purchased 100 tickets to Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race to give to select fans who were unable to renew their fall race tickets due to economic hardship or other unforseen circumstances.

    Meanwhile, CitiFinancial’s “Racing Kids” program will host a special event at a Boys & Girls Club location in Dover on Thursday where it will reach out to the community and offer financial education materials to upwards of 100 children from area clubs and other affiliated school sites. The company is headquartered in Baltimore.

    Greg Biffle, the 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, will be on hand to talk to the kids. The No. 16 CitiFinancial show car also will be on display and CitiFinancial will distribute tickets to the club members for Saturday’s race.

    Matt Kenseth will drive the No. 16 Ford at Dover; the car has four wins this year by Biffle (two), Kenseth (one) and Carl Edwards (one).

  • NNS Raybestos Rookie Standings

    Driver                      Team      Points
1. Justin Allgaier          Penske   215
Following his worst three-race stretch of the season (26.7 average finish), Allgaier rebounded with an eighth-place finish at Richmond, his first top 10 in four races.
2. Brendan Gaughan    RWR      199
3. Michael McDowell    K-A        186
4. Michael Annett        Germain  168
5. Scott Lagasse Jr.     N/A        154
6. Erik Darnell              RFR       123
7. John Wes Townley   RAB        110
8. Ken Butler III            R3           75

  • Busch, Bowyer Target 100th Top 10

    Reigning series champion Clint Bowyer and current standings leader Kyle Busch are closing in on a career milestone: the next top-10 finish for either driver will be the 100th of his series career. Saturday, Bowyer will start his 153rd series race, Busch his 165th.

    Only one other time have two drivers earned their 100th NASCAR Nationwide top 10 in the same race. In 2006 at Darlington Raceway, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick simultaneously reached the milestone.

    Chances are pretty good both will reach the mark this weekend. In seven races at Dover, Bowyer has one win, four top fives and six top 10s. In addition to being the defending winner, Busch has two top fives and five top-10 finishes in 10 career races there.

  • MANUFACTURERS’ STANDINGS

2009 Manufacturers’ Championship Standings
Toyota          181
Chevrolet      167
Ford              162
Dodge           84
Following Race 27 of 35 at Richmond International Raceway

Chevrolet leads with 26 wins at Dover

Up Next: Kansas Speedway

The month of October begins at Kansas Speedway for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The 1.5-mile track plays host to the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday, Oct. 3. ESPN2 will have the race broadcast live beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Denny Hamlin was the eighth different driver to win at Kansas in eight races. Only New Hampshire (23) and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (three) are active tracks on the series schedule that boast different winners in each race.

Eight different car owners have also gone to Victory Lane at Kansas. Matt Kenseth won consecutive poles in 2006-07. Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick won the pole last year.

Each manufacturer has won at least once at Kansas; Chevrolet is the leader with three victories.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Dover 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway (1-mile concrete oval)
The Date: Saturday, Sept. 26
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200 laps / 200 miles
TV: ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / MRN (Local WDOV-AM 1410)
2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Polesitter: Kyle Busch

Event Schedule (all times ET): Friday – Practice, 9:30-10:50 a.m.; Final Practice, 1:50-3 p.m.; Saturday – Qualifying, 10:35 a.m.

2009 STANDINGS

     Driver                   Points
1   Kyle Busch            4,379
2   Carl Edwards         4,178
3   Brad Keselowski    4,082
4   Jason Leffler          3,599
5   Justin Allgaier        3,152
6   Steve Wallace       3,132
7   Jason Keller          2,991
8   Brendan Gaughan  2,957
9   Mike Bliss             2,950
10 Michael McDowell  2,902


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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