BUSCH: Daytona: Round one preview

NASCAR Busch Series begins 25th anniversary season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2006) -- The nation's No. 2 motorsports series is ready for a 35-week silver anniversary celebration. That's the NASCAR Busch Series mindset as drivers, teams...

NASCAR Busch Series begins 25th anniversary season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2006) -- The nation's No. 2 motorsports series is ready for a 35-week silver anniversary celebration.

That's the NASCAR Busch Series mindset as drivers, teams and officials anticipate the series' 25th season. The excitement begins with this Saturday's season-opening Hershey's Kissables 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

From its February 1982 debut at Daytona when Dale Earnhardt won the first series race, to Saturday's record $2.6 million purse, the NASCAR Busch Series has forged forward in a big way.

There have been 18 champions since Jack Ingram won the inaugural series title in 1982. Six drivers have earned two crowns while five, including last year's champion Martin Truex Jr., have won consecutive championships.

The series has grown from races held in seven states in 1982 to 21 states and one international venue -- Mexico City -- in 2006.

Over 2.7 million fans attended NASCAR Busch Series races last year, while the 2005 season was the highest-rated and most-viewed season on television in series history.

Many drivers have used the NASCAR Busch Series as a steppingstone to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. This year, Truex Jr. has joined former NASCAR Busch Series champions Brian Vickers (No. 57 Ore-Ida Chevrolet), Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Hershey's Kissables Chevrolet), Jeff Green, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Kraft Chevrolet), Joe Nemechek (No. 87 VFW Chevrolet) and Bobby Labonte as a fulltime driver in NASCAR's premier series.

Earnhardt Jr. is the only former NASCAR Busch Series champion to also claim a Daytona 500 victory, which he did in 2004. Labonte, the 1991 series champion, went on to win the 2000 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title.

The NASCAR Busch Series has been a solid career destination for many, including 1994 champion David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford), Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) and Jason Keller (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Dodge). The latter is on pace to become the series' all-time leader in starts this season.

Young drivers aiming for NASCAR's highest pinnacle continue to strengthen the series and challenge for their own championship, including Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet), Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet), Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox Ford) and Jason Leffler (No. 32 Lucas Oil Chevrolet). All are strong contenders for the 2006 title.

The 2006 NASCAR Busch Series title arguably will be the toughest in series history to claim. A strong field of regulars will mix with an equally-stout group of seven NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitors who are scheduled to compete fulltime in both series.

Harvick will be joined by Richard Childress Racing teammate and 2005 series runner-up Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet); Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet), the 2004 series runner-up; Carl Edwards (No. 60 Ameriquest Ford), the 2005 series Raybestos Rookie of the Year who finished third in the point standings last season; Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet), fifth in the standings last year; Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge), fourth in the rankings one year ago and J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet) who will team with Hamlin for Joe Gibbs Racing.

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bobby Labonte , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Jon Wood , David Green , Johnny Sauter , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing