* Andretti back home in Indiana; primed to overtake Raybestos Rookie lead * 25th anniversary gem: NASCAR Busch Series at ORP paved way for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup at Brickyard NEWS & NOTES Andretti back home in Indiana ... John Andretti's (No. 10...
* Andretti back home in Indiana; primed to overtake Raybestos Rookie lead
* 25th anniversary gem: NASCAR Busch Series at ORP paved way for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup at Brickyard
NEWS & NOTES
Andretti back home in Indiana ... John Andretti's (No. 10 Camping World RV's.com Ford) return to his hometown of Indianapolis will include a first this year as he makes his inaugural start in the NASCAR Busch Series at ORP. Andretti made 10 starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career, but in 2006, he's a Raybestos Rookie in the NASCAR Busch Series, competing in his first full season in the division. Prior to this season, Andretti had only one NASCAR Busch Series start, in 1998 at Daytona to kick off the season. He finished 13th. Andretti is 12th in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, 129 points behind 10th-place Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford). He has gained seven spots in the rankings in his last 12 races and had his career-best finish of seventh at Martinsville two weeks ago. And, Andretti is just one point behind Burney Lamar (No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet) in the Raybestos Rookie standings. On Tuesday, Andretti and WIBC/IMS radio broadcaster Dave Wilson joined forces for the 10th year in succession to raise money for Riley Hospital for Children through a dinner that has been one of the fundraising vehicles the duo has used for the last five years. All costs are absorbed by Andretti and Wilson, allowing all monies raised to go directly to Riley Hospital.
NASCAR Busch Series drivers pull "double-duty," too ... The three NASCAR Busch Series regulars who are ranked in the top 10 in the point standings will be pulling "double-duty" this weekend along with nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regulars at the famed Brickyard. Paul Menard (No. 11 Menards Chevrolet -- sixth in points), Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet -- ninth) and Kenny Wallace (10th) are entered at Indy. Also entered is 19-year-old Stephen Leicht, a developmental driver for Robert Yates Racing who has made 11 NASCAR Busch Series starts, nine this season. Leicht qualified for his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event two weeks ago at Pocono and finished 33rd. If he qualifies at the Brickyard, he would become the youngest driver to compete in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race there. All four drivers were among the top 17 fastest during the final day of testing at IMS on July 12, with Leicht (sixth -- 179.817) and Wallace (10th -- 178.692) in the top 10. David Gilliland (No. 90 Citifinancial Ford), who registered perhaps the most significant win in NASCAR Busch Series history at Kentucky in June driving for a part-time team, will step in for Leicht at ORP. Matt Crafton is standing by to sub for Menard during practice at ORP if necessary.
NASCAR Busch Series laid foundation for Brickyard ... 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 -- Bristol, Charlotte, Darlington, Daytona, Dover, ORP and Richmond. Vice Chairman Bill France Jr. noted that the NASCAR Busch Series' arrival at ORP back in 1982 -- a vision perpetuated by former track promoter Bob Daniels -- was the precursor to the arrival of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing at the Brickyard. "Bob brought NASCAR to Indianapolis for the first time," France said. "What he did at (then) IRP opened the door to what would become one of the biggest weeks in American motorsports each year." In addition, race sponsor Kroger has also been on board for the quarter-century of racing at the .686-mile track. This is the only race on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule that has had the same sponsor during that span.
IN THE LOOP: Despite layoff, Keller a threat ... ORP has been one of Jason Keller's favorite tracks, and a look at NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics shows why the veteran's return to the series could make a big splash. Last year, Keller finished fourth and ranked in the top five in 10 categories at ORP. He showed consistency throughout the 2005 event, ranking fifth in Driver Rating (114.3) and Average Running Position (5.824). He was second in Speed in Traffic at 104.094 mph, a culmination of his high standing in the Fastest Drivers by Turn Number (third in Turns 1 and 2 -- 95.253; fifth in Turns 3 and Four -- 93.924) and on Straightaways (third on the frontstretch -- 112.318; fifth on the backstretch -- 114.859) categories. He was among the Fastest Drivers on Restarts (fifth -- 103.710) and kept a grip on top track position by being listed among the Fastest Drivers Early (fifth -- 105.705) and Late in a Run (third -- 103.176). For the complete Loop Data statistics report and a glossary of category terms, go to www.nascarmedia.com.
Drivers on stand-by ... Even though ORP and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are just 20 minutes apart, Saturday's schedules for the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series are tight and may preclude the nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series "double-duty" drivers from practicing at ORP. In that case, the following drivers will be on stand-by at ORP: Randy LaJoie for Kevin Harvick (No. U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet); Brandon Miller for Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet); Dennis Setzer for Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's/Pella Chevrolet); Erik Darnell for Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford); Casey Atwood for J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet); David Ragan for Carl Edwards (No. 60 Ameriquest Ford); Kevin Hamlin for Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge); Kertus Davis for Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet). The sub for Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) will Mike Bliss.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
It's fitting that Jason Keller will reach 400 starts at ORP becoming the only driver other than Tommy Houston to have 400 starts; Keller is just behind Houston in some all-time marks at the track. Keller's start on Saturday will tie him with Elton Sawyer at 13, second to Houston's 15. Keller is second in top fives at ORP with seven (Houston is first with nine) and top 10s with nine (Houston has 10). He is also second to Morgan Shepherd (No. 0 RACE GIRL Chevrolet) in wins; Shepherd has three to Keller's two. ... David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) holds the qualifying record of 113.461 mph set in 1994.
ETC. Ford has opened up some distance between third-place Dodge in the Bill France Performance Cup standings following Carl Edwards' win at Gateway last Saturday. Ford has five wins and 135 points to Dodge's two victories and 119 points. Chevrolet remains in the lead among NASCAR Busch Series manufacturers with 14 wins and 164 points. Chevy has been the big winner at ORP in series competition with 13 first-place finishes. Streaks of 10 (1992-2001) and its current three victories in succession (2003-05) were broken only by Biffle's win in a Ford in 2002 -- Ford's only win at ORP to date. ... Following its roll-out at Gateway International Raceway last week, unleaded fuel will again be utilized by NASCAR Bush Series teams this week; the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will also use unleaded fuel at ORP. ... Three drivers are entered in both the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck races at ORP -- Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Outdoor Channel Chevrolet), Aric Almirola (No. 19 Banquet Chevrolet) and Erin Crocker (No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge). Hornaday and Greg Biffle have won at ORP in both the NASCAR Busch Series and in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. ... Kenny and Mike Wallace (No.1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge) will reach milestones this weekend; Kenny is expected to start his 370th career series race while Mike hits the 250-start mark. ... Todd Braun, owner of the No. 38 Great Clips Chevrolet driven by Jason Leffler, is a native of Winamac, Ind., about two hours from ORP. For further information on home states and hometowns of NASCAR Busch Series drivers, teams and crews, log on to www.nascarmedia.com and click on the "Crew Members Roster" link on the home page.
"ORP is really cool because of the history. It's always a great race to watch. It's a good ol' Saturday night race under the lights. You're going to see a lot of beating and banging. I just love racing at short tracks." -- NASCAR Busch Series points leader Kevin Harvick.
"A win Saturday would be really special for us, one being the fact Chip's [Ganassi, team owner] history in Indy and just the history of motorsports altogether that the whole Indianapolis area possesses." -- Reed Sorenson, who made his NASCAR Busch Series debut at ORP in 2004.
FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" ARCHIVES
The 1982 Kroger 200 held at then-Indianapolis Raceway Park was the first move into America's Midwest for the new NASCAR Busch Series. The field of 30 cars included not only the best of NASCAR's short-track specialists, but also a group of Midwestern stars. Scott Stovall, Bobby Jacks and Bob Dotter were among the non-traditional NASCAR competitors to enter the event. Newcomers Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin made the field along with NASCAR veterans Kyle Petty, Bobby Allison and the wily David Pearson.
Future series champion Sam Ard set the fastest time for the event with a speed of 104.436 mph but dropped out of the event after only 12 laps completed.
Morgan Shepherd held on for the win with Tommy Ellis and Tommy Houston finishing second and third, respectively. Jimmy Hensley and inaugural series champion Jack Ingram rounded out the top five.
NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" QUOTABLES
"Tommy [Ellis] kind of roughed me up with about eight or nine laps to go from the end of the race and got by me. That's the only way he got the lead, so I got the payback there on the white flag lap. What goes around, comes around." -- Tommy Houston on his last-lap win over Tommy Ellis at ORP in 1983 after the two got together on the last lap. Ellis finished fifth.
ON DECK: WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
The second and final road course of the season awaits the drivers of the NASCAR Busch Series next Saturday, Aug. 12 at Watkins Glen International. Following a three-year hiatus, the series returned to The Glen last year; Ryan Newman posted the victory while Tony Stewart sat on the Busch Pole. Terry Labonte is the all-time series winner at the 2.45-mile road course with four, including three in a row from 1994-96. Ron Fellows is next on the list with three wins and has two straight from 2000-01. Open-wheel stars Max Papis and Adrian Fernandez are scheduled to compete.
What: Kroger 200 benefiting Riley Hospital for Children (Race No. 23 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Ind.
When: 9 p.m. EDT, Sat., Aug. 5.
Track Layout: .686-mile oval.
Race Length: 200 laps/137.2 miles.
Posted Awards: $1,012,137.
TV: TNT, 9:05 p.m., EDT.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2005 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
2005 Polesitter: Reed Sorenson.
2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 3,437. 2. Carl Edwards 3,119. 3. Clint Bowyer 3,050. 4. Denny Hamlin 3,007. 5. J.J. Yeley 2,826. 6. Paul Menard 2,563. 7. Kyle Busch 2,556. 8. Greg Biffle 2,510. 9. Johnny Sauter 2,484. 10. Kenny Wallace 2,402.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., Aug. 6 -- Practice, 10-11:00 a.m. Rookie Practice, 11:30-Noon. Final Practice, Noon-1:00 p.m. Qualifying 6;05 p.m. (Impound).