KHI Finally Atop Driver And Owner Standings Kelly Bires Starts The Season On The Right Foot Mike Wallace Set For 300th Career Start Model Organization: KHI Success Built From Ground Up Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Road Loans Chevrolet) finds himself...
KHI Finally Atop Driver And Owner Standings
Kelly Bires Starts The Season On The Right Foot
Mike Wallace Set For 300th Career Start
Model Organization: KHI Success Built From Ground Up
Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Road Loans Chevrolet) finds himself in a familiar place, in an unfamiliar situation. Four races into the NASCAR Nationwide Series Harvick, a two-time series champion, is leading the standings. Only this time he is doing it for his own team -- Kevin Harvick Inc.
Harvick has long had success in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driving for Richard Childress Racing. The duo have accounted for 32 victories and two championships together over nine years.
This season, however, Harvick plans to run 22 races, all for KHI.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of running my own cars and creating a little bit different challenge from all aspects," Harvick said. "I know what it's been like the last few years to be winning races and being competitive week-in and week-out and that's what we are shooting for."
This isn't the first time KHI is on top of the owners' point standings. Tony Stewart drove the No. 33 Chevrolet to Victory Lane in the 2005 and 2006 season openers at Daytona. However, this is the first time that Harvick sits in first as both driver and owner.
"We are certainly very proud of where our Nationwide Series program is headed," said DeLana Harvick, Kevin's wife and team co-owner. "We have been very fortunate to have some veteran drivers to help us along the way, but ultimately we knew that making the step toward week-in and week-out consistency, we needed Kevin.
"We took similar steps getting our Truck program up and running, and we feel like we have built a good foundation there, so our approach to our Nationwide program naturally would follow that model."
On The Right Track: Bires Shows Improvement In Year Two
One year ago, Kelly Bires (No. 47 Clorox Ford) was starting his NASCAR career in the Craftsman Truck Series under the tutelage of veteran Mark Martin. After just seven races, plans were accelerated as Bires was called upon to step into the NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 47 Ford for JTG Racing.
After a strong start, including a seventh-place finish in his second NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Bires cooled off. He finished inside the top 15 in only four of 19 starts.
The new season brought a fresh start and improved results. Bires has three finishes in the top 15 this year and is currently 10th in the standings.
"We're competitive -- we've been bringing top-10 cars to the track every week, and we easily could have had four top-10 finishes," Bires said. "Since we don't, that's what we're continuing to shoot for. It's going to be a lot of fun Saturday."
Mike Joins Wallace Clan As Latest With Bristol Milestone
Bristol Motor Speedway has always held special meaning for the Wallace family. Rusty Wallace retired with nine career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at the track, his son Steve (No. 66 Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches) earned his first career pole during last year's Sharpie Mini 300 and youngest brother Kenny (No. 36 Shark Energy Drink Dodge) earned the fourth of nine career NASCAR Nationwide Series wins at Bristol in 1994.
While middle-brother Mike Wallace (No. 7 Geico Toyota) has yet to win at the track, he will make his 300th career start this weekend, becoming only the 12th driver in series' history to hit that milestone.
Mike Wallace, who has four career victories, is appreciative of how his career has played out.
"It's great to think that I've been able to win races and have longevity that has brought me to this point," Wallace said. "There aren't that many drivers that make it this far in their driving careers, and I'm excited to make my 300th start."
"If it can't be Daytona, then it's got to be Bristol," Wallace said about the track at which he'll hit the 300-race mark. "My brothers have both won at Bristol, and I'd like to join that list."
In The Loop: Braun Duo Of Leffler/Busch Should Contend For Victory
Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) has to feel like Bristol Motor Speedway owes him one.
Leffler was strong the last time the NASCAR Nationwide Series visited Bristol Motor Speedway (August), finishing second with a car that looked like a winner.
His stats last race were tops in most categories -- Driver Rating (131.7), Average Running Position (4.3), Fastest Laps Run (55), Laps in the Top 15 (245) and Laps Led (81).
Another notable August achievement: Leffler never fell lower than 17th the entire race, which was also a race-best figure.
In other words, bet on Leffler -- who has an average Bristol Driver Rating of 87.1 -- to make a charge to the front this Saturday.
But if Leffler wants to take the checkered, he'll have to contend with Kyle Busch (No. 32 Hass Avocados from Mexico Toyota), who is also driving a Braun Racing car. Busch, who has been Mr. Everywhere this season, needs only a NASCAR Nationwide Series win to complete the season "cycle" -- a win in all three series in the same season -- a feat he's accomplished the last three years.
It looks like Bristol might be the place to do it. Busch's series numbers are remarkable at the bruising short track. He won this race in 2006, and has finished in the top 10 in the last four Bristol races. In his last five Bristol races, Busch has a Driver Rating of 110.9, an Average Running Position of 10.1, 119 Fastest Laps Run, 174 Green Flag Passes and 109 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green). All those stats rank first in the series since the inception of Loop Data in 2005.
Whoever does win, expect them to overcome heated competition. Between Bristol races last season, the track was repaved -- and the resulting boost in passing was staggering. The August Bristol race saw 1,400 Green Flag Passes, compared to 470 in the spring Bristol race.
The Director's Take: Bristol Takes Racing Back To Basics
The first short track on the 2008 schedule doesn't provide for a lot of technology according to NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash.
"Bristol is one of the most physically and mentally demanding tracks on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule," Balash said. "On most of our larger tracks, drivers get a few seconds to wiggle their fingers before entering the next turn. But at Bristol, there is really never time to relax with 43 cars nose to tail.
"Passing starts on the second or third lap of the race. The extreme banking and side force puts a lot of strain on the cars' suspension as well. Aerodynamics isn't really in play here. Plain and simple, Bristol is just classic racing -- exactly what our series was built on."
NNS, Etc: Bristol Race Brings Out Former Champions
Tale of Two Juniors ... Two-time series champion Martin Truex Jr. will drive the No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet for JR Motorsports on Saturday, the first time he is behind the wheel for his former boss since 2006. Truex won 12 races during his 2004 and 2005 championship seasons for owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I'm really excited about driving Junior's Nationwide car at Bristol," Truex said. "We were talking on the Internet at the beginning of the year, and he said he was looking for someone to drive his car in a couple of Nationwide races. I told him I'd do it, and he said, 'Are you kidding?' I told him I was being serious, but we didn't talk about it again for a while, and I had kind of forgotten about it. He brought it up again a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I was still interested, and I told him I was. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Champion's Playground ... Seven defending and former series champions representing seven victories dot the Bristol entry list this week. Defending driver champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) and Scott Wimmer, representing the 2007 owner champion No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet of Richard Childress Racing are joined by Kevin Harvick (2001, '06); Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05); Greg Biffle (No. 16 Citifinancial Ford) (2002) and Bobby Labonte (No. 21 RCR Chevrolet) (1991), while Harvick and Johnny Sauter (No. 1 Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Chevrolet) gave RCR the first driver -- owner championship split in series history in 2003. Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings
Bill France Performance Cup Standings
Matt Kenseth's Atlanta win broke a 22-race winless streak for Ford. Stephen Leicht won the last race for the manufacturer at Kentucky Speedway in June 2007.
Up Next: Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be highlighted next weekend as the Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway is the only national series seeing action.
The race is the first of nine stand-alone events for the series. David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Community Chevrolet) sat on the pole for last year's event which was won by Carl Edwards, his third straight at the concrete track.