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Keeping Pace

NASCAR-Nationwide Series Nashville Preview

NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader, Carl Edwards. (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)
NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader, Carl Edwards. (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)

Check out the latest news and notes for the NASCAR Nationwide Series event to be held Saturday, April 11, 2009.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 7, 2009) - The first of two races at Nashville Superspeedway traditionally marks the start of “stand-alone” season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. That is, nine races on the 2009 schedule where the series has top billing.

This year, the first stand-alone event has a first-ever element attached to it: The “Dash 4 Cash” program, which puts a $25,000 bonus on the line for an eligible driver if he wins the race.

Translation: Tight racing gets tighter, especially during the final laps.

The Nationwide Insurance initiative was designed to  build more awareness around the stand-alone events and put a premium on series-only competition. 

“We wanted to provide some additional support for drivers on our series,” said John Aman, associate vice president of strategic sponsorships for Nationwide.

There are four “Dash 4 Cash” races this year — Nashville, Kentucky Speedway on June 13; Iowa Speedway on Aug. 1 and Memphis Motorsports Park on Oct. 24.

Here’s how the program works. It’s open to all NASCAR Nationwide Series-only regulars, up-and-comers and those series regulars who run limited schedules. Double-duty drivers must be full-time in both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to be eligible for the bonus.

That means current standings leader Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-a-Lot Ford) and second-place Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) are eligible since they’re the only full-time double-duty drivers in the top two national series. Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota; David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) and Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Best Western Toyota) aren’t in the mix since they’re full time on the NASCAR Sprint Cup side, but only compete on a limited basis as double-duty drivers in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Should a “Dash 4 Cash” race winner not be eligible, the $25,000 payout rolls over to the next Dash 4 Cash race at Kentucky.

At the end of the four-race Dash 4 Cash schedule, the eligible driver with the most cumulative points from the four events will be awarded an additional $50,000 at the season-ending awards banquet.

Keselowski Turns The Corner Just In Time For Nashville

That sigh of relief you heard following last Saturday’s race at Texas had been a long time coming for Brad Keselowski (No. 88 Chevrolet).

A pre-season favorite to challenge for the series championship, Keselowski hardly got out of the gate in sharp fashion. He constantly found himself in the middle of incidents, wiping out what had been solid runs up until those stages in the first four races of the season. His average finish was no beauty either — 22nd. And worse, the preseason hype was fading fast. He was 15th in the standings.

The pattern continued early at Texas. He wrecked during qualifying and had to move to the back of the field after unloading a backup car.

But unlike his previous four races — and very much like last season at this same point — Keselowski’s luck finally turned. He shot through the Texas field, stayed clean and finished third; his best finish since the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year where he also was third.

After four races last year, he found himself in a similar situation. He’d started off slowly with an average finish of 19.3 and an 11th-place ranking after those events, but a fourth-place finish at Nashville in Race No. 5 moved him to sixth in the standings and turned his season around. Nine weeks later when he returned to Nashville, he registered his first career win.

Nashville Hasn’t Been Music To Busch’s Ears

Kyle Busch added a few more lines to the NASCAR Nationwide Series record book following his win last week at Texas.

He became the first driver to win there from the pole, the first driver to win three consecutive races, and now he stands seventh on the all-time series win list with 23 in only 143 career races.

He’s also the first driver to post more than one win in 2009.

With that momentum on his side, one might think he’d be primed to get to Nashville.

But one might be wrong.

As dominant as Busch has been over the last couple of years in the NASCAR Nationwide Series — 16 wins in 54 races since 2007 — Nashville hasn’t been a track where he’s found much success. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

Since posting a sixth-place finish in his first race there in the spring of 2004, he’s yet to finish better than 16th.

It’s not that he hasn’t been strong. He led 60 laps in the second race in 2004 and after winning the pole, led a race-high 125 laps in this event last year before a self-inflicted wound — a spin on Lap 62 — relegated him to a 20th-place finish.

But Busch, who leads all series drivers with six perfect Driver Ratings (150.0), the most recent coming last Saturday — is at his best when coming off disappointment.

Two weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway, Busch again had the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to beat, but a late-race penalty cost him a win. He paired that with a 24th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Prior to that race, he’d managed at least one win in one of the national series races being contested up to that point.

He responded with a dominating NASCAR Nationwide win at Texas and will certainly use his record at Nashville as a rallying point this weekend.

Rookie Drivers Still In The Top-10 Mix

For the second consecutive week — with both races in that span averaging 10 double-duty NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers — three Raybestos Rookies remain in the top 10 in the standings.

Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) leads the way in fourth. He also leads the rookie standings. Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet) is eighth while Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 11 America’s Incredible Pizza Co. Toyota) is 10th.

The trio is among six series-only regulars in the top 10 this week. Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) is third. His first career win came at Nashville in 2004. Brad Keselowski is seventh and Jason Keller (No. 27 Scott Tissue Ford), whose Baker Curb Racing team is based in Nashville, is 10th. Keller will build on his all-time series starts record Saturday with No. 462.

No one should feel comfortable, though. Only 32 points separate positions nine through 15.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie Standings

Rk / Driver                     Team         Points
1     Justin Allgaier           Penske         57
2     Brendan Gaughan     RWR            49
3     Scott Lagasse Jr.     CJM              45
4     Michael McDowell    JTG-D            45
5     Michael Annett         Germain        40
6     John West Townley  RAB              35 
7     Ken Butler III            R3                14
8     Peyton Sellers         CM                7
9     Marc Davis              MDM              6
10   Erik Darnell*            RFR               0
*First race not until Richmond 5/1

In The Loop: Nashville Time Warp For Keselowski And Wimmer

What a difference a team – and some seat time – makes.

Brad Keselowski’s success curve at Nashville Superspeedway took a Everest-like jump once he landed in the No. 88 Chevrolet owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

His Nashville statistics between his two 2007 races with Keith Coleman Racing are indistinguishable from his two 2008 races with JR Motorsports.

In 2007, Keselowski ran 49 of the 450 laps and had an Average Running Position of 38.7 and a Driver Rating of 38.1. His finishes in the two events were 38th and 40th.

In 2008, he completed all 450 laps and had an Average Running Position of 5.7 and a Driver Rating of 117.6. His finishes in last season’s two races were fourth and first – his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. In the two races, he led 35 laps and had 32 Fastest Laps Run.

Expect more of the same from Keselowski, who finally found his rhythm after a rough start to this season. He started the year off with four consecutive finishes outside the top 10 before a third-place run at Texas. In that race, Keselowski had a Driver Rating of 103.7, an Average Running Position of 10.6 and 22 Fastest Laps Run.

Last season’s other Nashville winner was Scott Wimmer, who swapped teams in the offseason. Last year, Wimmer ran for Richard Childress Racing. This season, he is with Key Motorsports driving the No. 40 Chevrolet.

It should be interesting to watch how he fares. In the No. 29 at Nashville Wimmer excelled, posting a Driver Rating of 117.5, an Average Running Position of 5.6, 134 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 97.7.

His performance in the No. 40 this season hasn’t compared to those numbers. His best race was at Las Vegas, where he finished 11th and had a Driver Rating of 70.7.

Stephen Leicht will make his season debut in the No. 29 Chevy at Nashville.

“Volunteers” In The Garage

Tennessee natives will be working throughout the garage and on the track this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway.

Some of them include:

  • Bobby Hamilton Jr. (Nashville) – No. 24 co-owner
  • Jeff White (Nashville) – No. 27 engineer
  • Stewart Cooper (Mt. Juliet) — No. 10 crew chief
  • John Reese (Mt. Juliet) – No. 27 car chief
  • Butch Waugh (Smyrna) – No. 27 rear tire carrier
  • Brad Teague (Johnson City) – No. 52 driver
  • Casey Atwood (Antioch) —  No. 05 driver
  • Burney Lamar (West Sacramento, Calif. native; Brentwood resident) — No. 32 driver
  • Rocky Ryan (former Nashville resident) — No. 29 spotter. Ryan played hockey while attending Vanderbilt University before entering the hotel management industry in Nashville, specializing in music entertainment. Last season, he spotted for defending race winner Scott Wimmer.

Back To School For Lamar

Burney Lamar (No. 32 Dollar General Stores Toyota) and crew chief Trent Owens will visit the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering on Thursday from 1-3 p.m. and tour the department’s motorsports facility, offering advice to students as they prepare their formula-style race car for upcoming collegiate competition 

The visit is part of a unique program developed by Braun Racing and Dollar General Corporation with the School of Engineering.

The program, announced in January, includes campus visits by Braun team engineers, mechanics, crew chiefs and drivers in an effort to provide personal hands-on training.

Nashville Superspeedway is the home track for Lamar, a Brentwood, Tenn., resident. His sponsor, Dollar General, is headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tenn.

Local History At Baker Curb

Baker Curb Racing has added a new museum area within the team’s 75,000-square foot facility which will showcase cars for the Kleenex Racing team as well as cars previously owned by Gary Baker and Mike Curb.

Included in the display is the 1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Dale Earnhardt, which ties the racing history of co-owners Baker and Curb. Earnhardt drove the Curb-owned No. 2 to Victory Lane that season at Bristol and Nashville en route to the first of his seven NASCAR Sprint Cup championships. Both tracks were owned by Baker,

Baker, Jason Keller, driver of the No. 27 Kleenex Racing Ford and Cliff Hawks, Vice President and General Manager of the Nashville Superspeedway will be in attendance at the event. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. followed by a brief press conference and a tour of the race shop led by Keller.

Media interested in attending can contact Sean Dozier, director of public relations for the Nashville Superspeedway, at or (615) 547-7210.

Manufacturer’s Standings

Chevrolet     34
Toyota         31
Ford            29
Dodge         16

A three-way battle in the Bill France Performance Cup standings makes its way to Nashville.

Chevrolet has been the season-long leader ,but Toyota and Ford are closing in.

Chevy is the leader at Nashville with seven wins including a season sweep in 2008 by Scott Wimmer and Brad Keselowski.

Ford has six wins while Dodge has one. Toyota is looking for its first Nashville victory to further close the gap on the leader.

Drivers Seek Debuts At Nashville

Three more up-and-coming NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers will be on display at Nashville Superspeedway.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford), a 21-year-old native of Olive Branch, Miss., who has his background in USAC and ARCA, will debut for Roush Fenway Racing.

Another ARCA alum, Tim Andrews (No. 31 Zona Health Chevrolet), 26, looks to do the same for Rick Ware Racing. Andrews’ father, long-time NASCAR crew chief Paul Andrews, will be atop the pit box for his son.

Brian Scott (No. 10 Dollar General Toyota), who drives full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Xpress Motorsports, hopes to make his NASCAR Nationwide debut in Braun Racing’s third entry.

Another 21-year-old, Scott got his start racing sprint cars in his hometown of Boise, Idaho.

Up Next: Phoenix International Raceway

Kyle Busch will be the defending winner of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 next Friday night, April 18, at Phoenix International Raceway.

Busch won the race from the pole a year ago. Carl Edwards, the man Busch is chasing for the series championship, won the 2008 fall race.

ESPN2 will carry the race beginning at 9 p.m. ET.


The Race: Nashville 300
The Place: Nashville Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, April 11
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 225 laps
TV: ESPN, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Race Winner: Scott Wimmer
2008 Polesitter: Kyle Busch
Event Schedule (all times CT): Friday-Practice 3:30-5:00 p.m.; Final Practice 5:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday-Qualifying 10:05 a.m

Keeping Pace

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