* Truex's lead dwindles; Bowyer, Sorenson poised for charge * Gateway race most-viewed series event in history of track NEWS & NOTES Truex's lead getting pressure from Bowyer, Sorenson ... Following 22 of the NASCAR Busch Series' 35 races...
* Truex's lead dwindles; Bowyer, Sorenson poised for charge
* Gateway race most-viewed series event in history of track
NEWS & NOTES
Truex's lead getting pressure from Bowyer, Sorenson ... Following 22 of the NASCAR Busch Series' 35 races this season, the championship rankings are as close as they've been since Milwaukee, where only 41 points separated leader Martin Truex Jr. and third-place Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet). Truex took his first points lead of the season following that race. He remains in first place heading to IRP, but Bowyer, now in second, and Reed Sorenson in third, are only 70 and 84 points behind the defending series champion, respectively. Truex was 142 points in front of Bowyer -- his biggest lead of the season -- after his win at New Hampshire three weeks ago. Sorenson led the points for two weeks earlier this season, and closed the gap on Truex considerably following his second win of the year last week at Gateway. The top three haven't been this close at this stage of the season since 2003 when only 35 points stood between first-place Scott Riggs and third-place Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford). Already this year, first through third places have been separated by 94 points or less eight times. Stremme hopes for hometown success ... David Stremme (No. 14 U.S. NAVY Dodge) returns to his home state for this weekend's race at IRP, and looks to capitalize on one of the strongest runs of his career in front of family and friends. Stremme, from South Bend, Ind., led 54 laps last Saturday at Gateway in perhaps the strongest car in the field before tire issues forced him out of the lead on Lap 138 and a disappointing 19th-place finish.
Currently ninth in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, the 28-year-old has experience at IRP, having won ASA and late-model races at the track earlier in his career. His father, Lou and mother, Cindy, were both racers and Stremme won his first race in 1993 in his mother's Street Stock car. "I'm really excited to be racing at home this weekend," he said. "I have a pretty big fan base in that area and all those people as well as my family and friends will be at the track to cheer me on. Anytime you can race in front of your hometown crowd you push yourself to do better. Indianapolis has such a rich racing history of its own and for me, IRP has been good luck. I'm very comfortable with the track. Winning this weekend near my hometown, where it all started for me, would be really special. "
Others back home in Indiana, too ... NASCAR Busch Series director Joe Balash is a native of Hobart, Ind., and grew up watching races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IRP. Tony Stewart (No. 33 James Dean Chevrolet) was born in Rushville and now resides in Columbus, Ind. He is entered in his first NASCAR Busch Series race since Charlotte. Logansport, Ind., native Boston Reid (No. 57 Hitachi Power Tools Chevrolet), 22, looks to make his seventh start of the season. And 19-year-old Joel Kaufman (No. 12 Supercuts Dodge) will attempt to make his NASCAR Busch Series debut at IRP. Kaufman grew up in LaGrange, Ind., and was 16 years old in 2002 when he won the Sunoco Super Series Championship at IRP. Now 19, the Indiana native is currently sixth in the Hooters Pro Cup Northern Division standings.
Green continues standings climb ... David Green remains on a second-half hot streak. Green won at Pikes Peak two weeks ago, and posted a fourth-place finish at Gateway last Saturday. He has picked up four places in the NASCAR Busch Series standings in that span, from 11th to seventh, his highest ranking in the points since he finished seventh overall last season. Green has been in the Top 10 in the championship standings in seven of his nine fulltime seasons. "We've had a few awesome weekends in a row," he said. "I feel like we're really picking up some momentum in the second half of the season. We're taking the same car that we've used for the past two races. It brought us two top-fives, so hopefully we can keep that streak alive at IRP."
Keller a quiet contender ... Jason Keller has had two of this three worst finishes of the season in his last two races -- 36th at Pikes Peak and 33rd at Gateway. Those results have caused the 34-year-old native of Greenville, S.C., to fall out of the NASCAR Busch Series Top 10, where he was a fixture for seven consecutive weeks before his result at Pikes Peak. Currently 11th, Keller might not seem poised for a rebound, but IRP may just be the place for the series' all-time money-winner ($9,933,180) to regroup. Keller has won twice at IRP, tied with Randy LaJoie (No. 34 Dollar General Chevrolet) for second in all-time wins behind Morgan Shepherd's three. The track is the only NASCAR Busch Series venue where Keller has more than one win among his 10 career victories. He also captured a Busch Pole at IRP in 1999, also his most recent victory from the pole. Keller is second in IRP annals with six top fives and is tied for second all-time with eight top 10s in 11 races. Keller is the "Ironman" of the NASCAR Busch Series, looking to compete in his 258th consecutive race. He has been running at the finish for 18 races in succession, most in the series to date.
Tim Sauter readies for pro baseball debut ... Tim Sauter (No. 56 Lester Buildings Chevrolet), signed a professional baseball contract with the SouthShore RailCats of the independent Northern League last week, and is scheduled to lead off the home half of the first inning as designated hitter this Thursday night at the RailCats' home park, U.S. Steel Yard. The RailCats play the Kansas City T-Bones beginning at 7:00 p.m. CT. Sauter, 41, will admit that he has no organized baseball experience to speak of, but is a big fan of the game and is excited about his chance. In order to prepare for his professional baseball debut, Sauter and members of the No. 56 team took batting practice and participated in simulated game situations during a workout with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League last week in St. Louis. Media Members wishing to attend the game should contact Jay Baldacci for credential information at (704) 969-2504 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A high-resolution photo of Sauter during his workout is available on nascarmedia.com.
Gateway race most-viewed series event in track history ... The Wallace Family Tribute 250 last Saturday night at Gateway International Raceway was the most-viewed NASCAR Busch Series event in the history of the track. The race, aired on TNT, produced a 62% increase in viewers (2,144,000 -- 1,324,000) over the 2004 race at Pikes Peak, which aired on the same weekend also on TNT. Households were also up significantly from one year ago, registering an increase of 53% (1,530,000 -- 999,000). The race was broadcast directly against Major League Baseball, tennis, the American LeMans Series and NHRA qualifying.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Jason Keller has the best average finish at IRP (8.6). ... Randy LaJoie is the only driver to win consecutive races at IRP, having done so in his series championship seasons in 1996-97. LaJoie won both races from the Busch Pole, and remains the only driver to capture successive poles at the track. He has also led the most laps there with 313, and is tied for third in average finishes (10.3). ... David Green won the IRP pole in 1994, is fifth among all drivers with seven top-10 finishes, and is fifth all-time with an 11.1 average finish. ... Other former race winners at IRP who are entered in this weekend's field are Steve Grissom (No. 49 Advil Ford -- 1990), Mike Wallace (No. 64 Miller High Life Dodge -- 1994), Ron Hornaday Jr. (2000) and Kevin Harvick (2001). ... Other former pole winners entered are Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford -- 2001) and Johnny Sauter (No. 1 Miccosukee Dodge -- 2004).
Reed Sorenson's win at Gateway gave Dodge its fourth victory of the season and its first since Johnny Sauter won at Milwaukee. Dodge, still third in the Bill France Performance Cup standings, now has 120 points. Chevrolet continues to lead the standings with 10 wins and 152 points while Ford is second with eight victories and 146 points. Chevy is the win leader at IRP with 12. ... Boston Reid will be joined by Tyler Walker (No. 38 Great Clips Dodge) and Edwards in the USAC Silver Crown race at IRP on Thursday night. Kasey Kahne, who shares the No. 38 with Walker in addition to his fulltime NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series duties in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, is also entered in the event. Walker and Kahne will be driving Kasey Kahne, Inc. cars. Walker is also scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Indianapolis Indians game on Friday at 7 p.m. ... Johnny Sauter is scheduled to do double-duty this weekend at IRP. In addition to the Kroger 200 on Saturday night, Sauter is entered in the Power Stroke Diesel 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event on Friday night. He was second in both races last year. ... Brandon Miller (No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet) posted his second consecutive top-10 finish last week at Gateway. Miller was 10th at Pikes Peak, then registered a career-best sixth-place finish last Saturday.
"Top-10 finishes are nice, but at this point in the season we have got to knock off more top-fives, maybe even top-three finishes and another win or two, to really close in on Truex and possibly get a good grasp on the lead. Truex is a great driver and is behind the wheel of a great car and team. He is going to be tough to beat. But it can be done." -- Clint Bowyer
"It's what I grew up doing, so, of course, I'm really comfortable racing at all of the short tracks. We've had so much success with our short track cars this season, so there's a lot to look forward to at IRP." -- Johnny Sauter
FROM THE ARCHIVES
One of the longest-standing event speed records in the NASCAR Busch Series was set 20 years ago at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Jimmy Hensley turned a record speed of 96.923 mph with his win in the 1985 edition of this race.
Hensley had taken over the seat of the famous Thomas Brothers Country Ham #00 Olds, led by crew chief Gere Kennon, for two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Sam Ard. Ard retired following the 1984 season after becoming the first driver in series history to capture back-to-back championships. Hensley started the 1985 Kroger 200 in the second spot beside pole winner Brett Bodine and stayed near the front of the field for most of the race. Hensley took the lead on Lap 181 of the caution-free 200-lap event and held on for his third win of the season.
ON DECK: WATKINS GLEN
The NASCAR Busch Series makes its return to Watkins Glen International for the first time since 2001 on August 13. Ron Fellows was the first to win the event, the third of three victories for the Canadian driver at The Glen in NASCAR Busch Series competition. Terry Labonte, winner of the first NASCAR Busch Series race at the venue in 1991, also captured three series victories there. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the 1999 event. This will be the first time the series has competed on road courses twice in one season -- Martin Truex Jr. won the historic race in Mexico City this past March 6. Mexico natives Carlos Contreras and Jorge Goeters are entered in the field. Both competed in Mexico City, with Goeters winning the Busch Pole there.
What: Kroger 200 (Race No. 23 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Indianapolis Raceway Park, Indianapolis, Ind.
When: 8:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 6.
Track Layout: .686-mile oval.
Race Length: 200 laps/137.2 miles.
Posted Awards: $946,176.
TV: TNT, 8:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 Winner: Kyle Busch.
2004 Polesitter: Johnny Sauter.
NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Martin Truex Jr. 3,096. 2. Clint Bowyer 3,026. 3. Reed Sorenson 3,012. 4. Carl Edwards 2,852. 5. Kenny Wallace 2,760. 6. Denny Hamlin 2,697. 7. David Green 2,487. 8. Ashton Lewis Jr. 2,450. 9. David Stremme 2,438. 10. Paul Menard 2,404.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., Aug. 6: Practice -- 10-11:30 a.m.; Noon- 1:00 p.m. Qualifying -- 5:05 p.m. Impound on pit road after qualifying.