Huffman makes debut in No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet for JR Motorsports
NEWS & NOTES
* Still plenty of points racing left ... Kevin Harvick's (No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet) lead in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings seems insurmountable -- to everyone but Harvick -- who steadfastly refuses to claim his second championship until the season is over. Plenty of jockeying remains throughout the top 10, however. Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) reclaimed second place for the first time in eight races thanks to his fifth top-10 finish in his last six events last week at Michigan. Carl Edwards (No. 60 Ameriquest Ford), bumped from a sure victory by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with two laps to go at Michigan, fell to third. Edwards is just two points behind Hamlin, while Paul Menard (No. 11 Menards Chevrolet) is in sixth; seventh-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) and eighth-place (Kyle Busch -- No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet) are separated by only 69 points. Johnny Sauter's (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) seven-race hold on ninth place is in danger as Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford), who runs well at Bristol, is one point behind in 10th. Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) and J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet) are in third and fourth for the third week in a row.
* Andretti using veteran savvy in rookie race ... The Raybestos Rookie race in the NASCAR Busch Series has picked up over the last two events as John Andretti now has a six-point lead over Burney Lamar in the standings. (Andretti had only one NASCAR Busch Series start prior to this season -- that to open the year at Daytona in 1998 -- thus his rookie status.) He overtook Lamar -- the first lead change since the start of this season -- after his fifth-place finish at Watkins Glen two weeks ago. That result was his first career top five in the NASCAR Busch Series. Andretti registered his first career top 10 at Bristol last March in his only series appearance at the track. As his rookie ranking has climbed, so has his place in the series point standings. Andretti was a season-high 11th in the points following Watkins Glen and enters Bristol in 12th.
* Huffman new JR Motorsports recruit ... Shane Huffman makes his debut this week as the new full-time driver for the No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet for JR Motorsports at Bristol. Huffman, a 32-year-old native of Hickory, N.C., has been competing in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series for the team this season, collecting four wins in the Southern Division's first 10 events and currently ranks second in points. He made one NASCAR Busch Series start for the JR Motorsports organization in the No. 83 Chevy at Gateway International Raceway last month, where he finished 27th. Huffman replaces Mark McFarland, who was released last week. Robby Gordon finished third at Michigan last Saturday in the No. 88 and is also scheduled to drive at California next week as Huffman awaits clearance by NASCAR to compete on tracks longer than 1.5 miles.
IN THE LOOP: Harvick then and now... Following the Bristol spring race, points leader Kevin Harvick compiled top numbers among all drivers in some Loop Data Statistics key to the half-mile track en route to his runner-up finish. He was first in Driver Rating (132.0), Quality Passes (24), Restarts (116.451 mph) Fastest Speed in Traffic (117.313 mph) and third in Average Running Position (9.384). Now heading back to Bristol 20 races later, his season Loop Data numbers are backing up his March finish there -- and almost everywhere else on the series for that matter. Harvick is ranked first in the aforementioned season categories as well.
* Kenny Wallace Bristol's "Mr. Consistent" ... The Wallace family -- from brothers Rusty, Kenny and Mike (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge) to Rusty's son Steve -- all have had success at Bristol. Rusty's record in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition there is unparalleled, while Kenny has a leg up on family bragging rights in NASCAR Busch Series races. Kenny has 18 top-10 finishes at Bristol to lead all NASCAR Busch Series drivers. He finished fifth in his April 1989 Bristol debut and backed it up with a ninth-place finish in August that year, then enjoyed a string of seven consecutive top 10s from April 1999 to March 2002. His most recent Bristol top 10 came this past March when he was eighth. He has eight top-five finishes at Bristol, tying him for fourth with Dale Earnhardt. He also won the 1994 Food City 250 and a Busch Pole for the 1992 August event. Steve -- who started third and finished 33rd in his series debut at Bristol last March -- will sit this race out in favor of teammate Jamie McMurray (No. 64 Top Flight Dodge).
BILL FRANCE PERFORMANCE CUP UPDATE
Chevrolet won its series-leading 16th race of the season last Saturday at Michigan compliments of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Menards Chevrolet). Chevy's 25 wins at Bristol lead all manufacturers in NASCAR Busch Series competition and its 16-race winning streak -- started by Jimmy Spencer in 1997 -- was broken by Ryan Newman (No. 39 Alltel Dodge) last year. Ford and Dodge continue to battle for second place in the Bill France Performance Cup standings. Ford is second with five wins and 147 points while Dodge is third with four wins and 140 points.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Kevin Harvick is tied with veteran Morgan Shepherd for the most wins in series history at Bristol with four. Harvick's wins have come in his last 10 races; his first two victories were in the Food City 250 in 2000 and '01, respectively with the last two coming in the spring race. Harvick has two Busch Poles at Bristol with his win in 2000 coming from the pole. He has six consecutive top-five finishes and eight top fives in 12 races. ... There are eight former Bristol winners entered in Friday night's field and three (including Harvick) are multiple winners. Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ameriquest Ford) won in 1999 and 2001 while Steve Grissom (No. 49 Speed Zone Energy Drink/Advil Ford), the 1993 series champion, is the only driver to sweep at Bristol, winning both races in 1995.
Last year's race winner, Ryan Newman, is back to defend. Newman has started no lower than sixth in each of his previous five NASCAR Busch Series races this season but has yet to win. In 2005, he tied for the series lead with six wins -- five of those came in five straight races in which he entered, but weren't consecutive. He's bringing the same car he finished second in at California back in February. ... Former series champion David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford), who was 37th in the point standings following the season-opener at Daytona, has climbed to a season-high 15th entering Bristol. ... The Food City 250 marks the 10-races-to-go mark in the NASCAR Busch Series season. In the first 25 races of 2006, there have been 14 different winners (Kevin Harvick leads with five wins) and 12 different Busch Pole winners (Denny Hamlin -- six). Mark Martin, the series' all-time wins leader (47) added to that record with his 29th career pole at Michigan last Saturday, breaking his first-place tie with Tommy Ellis (28). ... Three of Kyle Busch's seven career NASCAR Busch Series victories have come on short tracks. He won at Bristol in March, at ORP in August 2004 and at Richmond International Raceway in May 2004. The Richmond victory marked his first in the series. Busch is entered in Wednesday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and Saturday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Sharpie 500. ... After using unleaded fuel for the last four races, the NASCAR Busch Series will return to the use of leaded fuel for the next three races beginning at Bristol so that NASCAR, Sunoco and team engine builders can evaluate the effects of unleaded fuel. The series moves back to unleaded fuel at Dover on Sept. 23 for the remainder of the season. After the season, a decision will be made on the future of unleaded fuel.
* "At least there is no snow predicted this weekend so that is an improvement right off the bat." -- Todd Kluever (No. 06 3M Ford).
* "That race in March was just kind of crazy because of the snow, but we had a good time with it. Some of the guys on my team built a snowman that was pretty famous by the end of the night." -- Reed Sorenson (No. 41 NicoDerm CQ Smart Control Dodge).
* "[Winning is] as hard as it's ever been. We've been fortunate this year to capitalize on cars that have been running good and put ourselves in position to win some races that we shouldn't have won and win some of the races that we should have. It's not easy by any means and I can't do it in my own [KHI] car yet." -- Kevin Harvick.
FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" ARCHIVES
The 2006 season is the 25th anniversary of the NASCAR Busch Series and its association with series sponsor Anheuser-Busch. There are seven tracks that have hosted races since the series inception in 1982, and Bristol is a member of that select group. Darlington Raceway, Daytona, Dover International Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway, ORP and Richmond are the others. Jack Ingram, the first NASCAR Busch Series champion, won the first August race at Bristol. Ingram's win -- the fifth of seven in his title season -- came on August 27, 1982. The last-place finisher in that race? Dale Earnhardt. He was 30th after an accident took him out of contention on Lap 73 of the 150-lap event.
ON DECK: CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY
Roush Racing looks for its fifth NASCAR Busch Series win in succession at California Speedway next Saturday. Carl Edwards is the defending race winner and Greg Biffle, who won last February, has three victories in that five-race span for owner Jack Roush. Mark Martin claimed the other win in the streak. Clint Bowyer won the Busch Pole one year ago.
What: Food City 250.
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.
When: 7:50 p.m. ET, Fri., Aug. 25.
Track Layout: .533-mile banked oval.
Race Length: 250 laps/133.25 miles.
Posted Awards: $1,370,781
TV: TNT, 7:45 p.m. ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.
2005 Winner: Ryan Newman.
2005 Polesitter: Kyle Busch.
2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 3,920. 2. Denny Hamlin 3,436. 3. Carl Edwards 3,434. 4. Clint Bowyer 3,335. 5. J.J. Yeley 3264. 6. Paul Menard 2,898. 7. Greg Biffle 2,869. 8. Kyle Busch 2,829. 9. Johnny Sauter 2,685. 10. Kenny Wallace 2,684.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday, Aug. 25 -- Practice, 8:30-9:45 a.m. Rookie Practice, 9:45-10:15 a.m. Final Practice, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Qualifying 5:05 p.m. (Impound).