NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes -- New Hampshire
Danica Patrick Returns To NASCAR Nationwide Series
One of the most recognizable faces in motorsports, Danica Patrick (No. 7 Go- Daddy.com Chevrolet), takes a brief respite from her IndyCar season and returns to the NASCAR Nationwide Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the New England 200. IndyCar is off this weekend and returns at Watkins Glen next week.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back to all the cool people I've met, my friends and the team," said Patrick.
Her last start in a 3,400-pound, 750-horsepower stock car was February 27 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In her first three starts earlier this season, Patrick posted a best start of 15th at Daytona International Speedway and a best finish of 31st at Auto Club Speedway. But will she be phased by the transition from open-wheel to a stock car?
"I think that back in the old days, drivers used to drive all kinds of cars all the time. So to just be going back between two I don't think is that big of a deal," she said. "And more racing can only make you better."
Another obstacle for Patrick -- this is the shortest track (1.058 miles) she will have competed on thus far in her NASCAR Nationwide Series career. "I love short ovals in an IndyCar," she said. "I'm excited to go there. I have always enjoyed short ovals."
Patrick's Remaining NASCAR Nationwide Series Schedule: New Hampshire (June 26); Chicago (July 9); Michigan (Aug. 14); Dover, Del. (Sept. 25); Fontana (Oct. 9); Charlotte (Oct. 15); Madison, Ill. (Oct. 23); Texas (Nov. 6); Phoenix (Nov. 13); and Homestead, Fla. (Nov. 20).
23 Different Winner Streak At NHMS Could Be At Risk
The longest active streak of different winners in NASCAR's national series belongs to New Hampshire Motor Speedway with 23 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. New Hampshire also has the current longest streak of different winners in NASCAR Sprint Cup (10), while Dover International Speedway holds the different winner streak in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (11).
This weekend may be the best chance in a while for the NASCAR Nationwide streak to come to an end.
Six of the 23 different winners are competing this weekend, including Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota), who won last year. The reigning series champion leads the series with five wins this year, and hasn't raced in three weeks thanks to a trio of consecutive stand-alone races.
Chomping at the bit for action, Busch also needs 91 laps led to break the all-time series record. He has 7,992 laps led while Mark Martin has 8,082. Also in Busch's favor, Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last two races at New Hampshire (Tony Stewart 2008, Busch 2009).
The other previous winners entered are two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Jimmy John's Chevrolet), 2007 series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 COPART Ford), Kenny Wallace (No. 28 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), the series' all-time starts leader, Jason Keller (No. 35 TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet), and 1992 series champion Joe Nemechek (No.87 NEMCO Chevrolet).
Harvick also is a strong choice to snap the streak this weekend having posted the series' most poles at New Hampshire with three, and the most top-five finishes with seven.
But one driver who could keep the streak alive is last season's returning pole winner and race runner-up, Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota). According to NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data, the New England native leads the series in Driver Rating (141.6) and Average Running Position (1.505).
New Hampshire Winners: The Same ... Only Different
The 23 different winners in 23 New Hampshire races stat is an unbelievable one.
Maybe more stunning: We might be talking about a 24-for-24 streak next season.
The list of drivers still awaiting their first New Hampshire victory is impressive. Consider these names, all of whom will attempt to nab their first NHMS win this Saturday: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Mike Bliss (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota) and Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) to name a few.
Logano seems most likely to continue a streak that reached the two-decade mark last season. He has the combination of momentum and past New Hampshire success.
Logano won his last race (Kentucky) from the pole, with a near-perfect Driver Rating of 148.9 (perfect is 150.0). In 10 series starts this year, he has finished outside the top 10 only once, and never scored lower than a 100.3 Driver Rating.
Logano's sample size at New Hampshire is small, but impressive. He has only raced once there in the series, last season. In that event, he finished second with a Driver Rating of 141.6 and Average Running Position of 1.5.
Standings leader Keselowski might be the second-best bet to continue the streak. He's enjoying a dream season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, finishing outside the top 10 only once (a 13th at Daytona) and outside the top five three times in the 15 events.
In two series starts at New Hampshire, Keselowski has two top 10s, an average finish of 6.5, a Driver Rating of 97.2, an Average Running Position of 9.7 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 90.8%. He finished third there last year, running all 200 laps in the top 15.
Sorenson is another strong candidate to become winner No. 24. He's run three series races a New Hampshire, but none since 2007. In that event, he finished ninth, with a Driver Rating of 93.6. Overall at New Hampshire, Sorenson has a Driver Rating of 91.9, an Average Running Position of 12.7 and a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-30.
Edwards' Late-Season Hot Streak Could Flame-Up In The Final 20 Races
This is the time of year Carl Edwards (No. 60 Copart. com Ford) finds another gear. In the last two years over the final 20 races of the season, Edwards has put up some impressive stats which could prove to be key in his efforts to catch series standings leader Brad Keselowski (No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge) and his 273-point lead heading into New Hampshire.
In the final 20 races of 2008. Edwards had seven wins, 13 top fives, 15 top 10s and two poles. At that time, he was fourth in the standings, 225 points behind Clint Bowyer. But Edwards closed the gap to 21 points and finished the season second to Bowyer in the title hunt.
In 2009, Edwards turned on the magic again in the final 20 races with four wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s and three poles. He finished second in the championship, this time to Kyle Busch.
Edwards may have the chance to make up some points this week on Keselowski, who has made two starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with one top five and two top 10s in two starts. Edwards' New Hampshire ledger reads one win, four top fives and five top 10s in five starts.
NASCAR's Pre-Race Loop Data shows Edwards may have the upper hand in his bid to draw closer to Keselowski this weekend.
Edwards has a higher Driver Rating (116.5) than Keselowski (97.2) in addition to a better Average Running Position, 5.626 to 9.715.
Keselowski has shown little weakness. He entered the first of the last three consecutive stand-alone races with a one-point lead over Busch, and extended that advantage to its current distance over Edwards over that span.
Series Regulars Riding Momentum To New Hampshire
The NASCAR Nationwide Series made its inaugural appearance at Road America last weekend, and four series regulars -- Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Casino and Hotel Toyota), Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota), Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) and Trevor Bayne (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) -- took the opportunity to show their left and right-turn skills. In doing so, they posted top-10 finishes.
This weekend, they look forward to carrying that momentum to New Hampshire.
Rusty Wallace Inc. teammates Gaughan and Wallace are seventh and eighth, respectively, in the standings. Gaughan has posted two consecutive top-five finishes while Wallace is right on Gaughan's heels, with three straight top 10s.
"Our third-place finish last weekend was a great day for points," Gaughan said. "Rusty Wallace Inc. had two cars in the top 10, so (we're) starting to turn it on."
Gaughan needs that momentum this weekend. He's made one series start at New Hampshire, starting 38th and finishing 21st.
Wallace has made three series starts in Loudon, posting his best finish there last season (11th).
Another top-10 driver who managed to secure a good finish last weekend was Leffler. He manged an eight-place result after a difficult overall day that included three pit road speeding penalties.
Leffler has had an up-and-down year, but is showing resilience by holding on to his top-10 standing. He's ninth, even with the most Did Not Finish (DNF) numbers among the top 10 (five).
Leffler has seven starts at New Hampshire with one top five and two top 10s, including last season's 10th-place finish.
The youngest of the four, Bayne, 19, finished 10th at Road America in his first attempt at a road course in series competition.
He's currently 11th in the standings, 27 points out of 10th, after rebounding with an 11th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway followed by his Road America effort. His average finish in the previous five races was 23rd with two DNFs.
NNS Etc.: New Hampshire Edition
Sadler Making Series Return
Elliott Sadler (No. 88 Realtree Outfitters Chevrolet) will debut for JR Motorsports at New Hampshire, kicking off a 10-race schedule for the Emporia, Va., native in the team's flagship car.
"Elliott is a really good buddy of mine, and I'm happy that he has agreed to race our cars on a limited basis this year," said team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
His other races include O'Reilly Raceway Park (July 24), Michigan International Speedway (Aug. 14), Richmond International Raceway (Sept. 10), Dover (Sept. 25), Kansas (Oct. 2), Auto Club Speedway (Oct. 9), Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 6), Phoenix International (Nov. 13) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 20.
Sadler is a five-time winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and three-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
His first full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1997 featured three victories and four poles. He responded a year later (1998) with two more wins and one pole.
Nationwide "McDriver of The Week"
Michael McDowell (No. 81 Mobile- Shop.com Dodge), aka "McDriver," will be the Nationwide Insurance "Driver of The Week" this week at New Hampshire.
The "Driver of the Week" program is a firstyear initiative by series sponsor Nationwide to increase awareness about the drivers in the series, with special focus on series-only regulars.
McDowell's first order of business is a live web chat with fans on Wednesday, June 23 at 12 p.m. ET on NASCARnationwideseries.com.
He'll also make some special appearances on behalf of Nationwide at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend.
McDowell is very active in social media. He can be followed on Twitter:
Coming Home: Sean Caisse
Sean Caisse (No. 09 RAB Racing Ford) will make his third start for RAB Racing in the New England 200 at Loudon.
What makes this start more special for Caisse is that he grew up just under 50 miles south of the track, in Pelham, N.H.
This weekend, Caisse will make his 10th start at his "home track." He has one NASCAR Nationwide Series start (2009) for Richard Childress Racing, in addition to seven starts in the NASCAR K & N Pro Series East (2004-07) and one in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (2004).
While Toyota has a firm grip on the lead in the Manufacturers' standings, the battle for second has heated up.
Dodge has moved into second, but is just one point ahead of third-place Chevrolet. However, Dodge has yet to post a victory at New Hampshire while Chevrolet leads there with eight wins.
Up Next: Daytona, New Car Debut
The debut of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' new car highlights its return to Daytona for the Subway Jalapeno 250 presented by Coke-Cola on Friday, July 2.
The historic race will be broadcast on ESPN beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the race at 8 p.m.
The debut of the new car has been years in the making. Four tests and numerous trips to the wind tunnel have produced very sporty looks for the new car models, which include the Impala, the Challenger, the Mustang and the Camry.
Last year, Clint Bowyer became just the third driver in series history to win the summer event from the pole, joining the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003) and Joe Nemechek (2002). Earnhardt will drive the No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet made famous by his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Next Race: New England 200
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1.058-mile)
The Date: Saturday, June 26
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 211.6 miles / 200 laps
TV: ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
2009 Winner: Kyle Busch
2009 Pole Winner: Joey Logano
Schedule prior to race day (times ET):
Friday: Practice, 10:30 a.m.-11:20 a.m.; Final Practice, 1:40 p.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 10:05 a.m.