* Quieting critics: David Green collects first win in two years; back in Top 10 * Tim Sauter steps up to the plate; signs pro baseball contract for Aug. 4 at-bat NEWS & NOTES Welcome mat: Green, Menard climb back into Top 10 ... David ...
* Quieting critics: David Green collects first win in two years; back in Top 10
* Tim Sauter steps up to the plate; signs pro baseball contract for Aug. 4 at-bat
NEWS & NOTES
Welcome mat: Green, Menard climb back into Top 10 ... David Green's (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) thrilling victory at Pikes Peak last Saturday not only was his first win since October 2003, but it vaulted him into ninth place in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings, his highest ranking since finishing seventh in last season's final standings. Green has been in the Top 10 three other times this season -- following California in February and again after Milwaukee and Daytona earlier this month. Likewise, Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet) has re-emerged in the Top 10 in the 10th position, his first foray into the rankings since Las Vegas, when he was ninth. That appearance was Menard's first Top-10 ranking of his NASCAR Busch Series career, and since then, he has battled back from 18th following the second race at Nashville. Menard is one of the hottest drivers in the series behind points leader Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Chevrolet), who has a 2.8 average finish in his last six races. Menard and Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) are behind Truex in that category, averaging finishes of 7.0 in their last six events. Bowyer, who won the pole at Pikes Peak and finished second in the standings, is 122 points behind Truex.
FitzBradshaw makes changes in No. 12 ... FitzBradshaw Racing announced this week that Tim Fedewa has been relieved of his duties driving the No. 12 Dodge effective immediately. Sterling Marlin will drive the No. 12 this weekend at Gateway, and is scheduled to compete in the car again at Michigan in three weeks. Additionally, the team announced that director of competition Scott Eggleston will take over as crew chief, replacing Mike Greci. Team owner Armando Fitz is evaluating naming a driver or drivers to finish out the season in the No. 12. Fedewa was 21st in the points, with no top-10 finishes this season. He had been with the team just over two years. "After four years running the No. 12 car, we need to find the right combination to run competitively," Fitz said. "We can't sit idle. We've got to do something." Marlin will carry the Jani-King sponsorship on the car this weekend, while Scott Lagasse Jr. is slated to run the Cottman Transmission sponsorship on the No. 40 Dodge. David Stremme (No. 14 U.S. Navy Dodge), currently in eighth place in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings, remains in the team's flagship car.
Tim Sauter signs pro baseball contract ... Instead of "Start your engines," Tim Sauter (No. 56 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) will hear "Batter up" on Thursday, Aug. 4. Sauter has signed a contract with the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats of the Northern League of Professional Baseball. Sauter is scheduled to serve as designated hitter and leadoff batter for the RailCats, in the bottom of the first inning of their game with the Kansas City T-Bones at the RailCats' home stadium, U.S. Steel Yard. The 40-year old Sauter has never played any kind of organized baseball, but is excited about the opportunity, even at this level. "This is going to be fun," Sauter said. "I can't wait to join my new team and I know that more than a few people are having some fun at my expense over this. But I fully intend to get on base one way or another and let my teammates bring me around for the go-ahead run." In preparation, Sauter's entire race team is scheduled to work out with coaches and players of the Frontier League Gateway Grizzlies on Friday at 8:00 a.m. CT at GMC Stadium just south of St. Louis. Game time on Aug. 4 is 7:00 p.m. CT.
Young drivers notch career bests ... Aaron Fike (No. 66 Duraflame Ford) and Brandon Miller (No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet) have big shoes to fill this season when they step into their cars. Both drivers share rides with former NASCAR Busch Series champions -- Fike with Greg Biffle (2002 champion) and Miller with Kevin Harvick (2001). The former champs have had great success in the cars this season -- both have won (Harvick twice, Biffle once) and both have been ranked in the Top 10 at one time despite running just 16 and 13 races this year, respectively. Fike and Miller had tough stretches during their turns prior to last Saturday's race at Pikes Peak. Fike's best finish in three races in the No. 66 was 20th at Milwaukee, while Miller's best effort in his previous six outings was 16th, also at Kentucky. But at Pikes Peak, both drivers had first-ever top-10 finishes; Fike finished eighth, while Miller was 10th. "For me personally, last weekend was a huge step in the right direction," Fike said. "I know what it takes to be competitive at this level and I'm looking forward to finishing out the season on a high note." "I feel like a monkey is finally lifted off my back," Miller said. "Now I feel like I've got the momentum going in the right direction for this weekend and I am just looking for another quality finish."
Pikes Peak's exciting finish reflected in broadcast numbers ... Those who tuned in on TNT to watch David Green's win at Pikes Peak last Saturday were treated to yet another close NASCAR Busch Series finish. It also contributed to increased households and viewers compared to the same event one year ago on TNT. Households were up 31% over last year (1,923,000 -- 1,575,000) while viewers increased 23% (1,481,000 -- 1,134,000).
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) is the only driver who has competed in the previous eight races at Gateway. His average finish of 7.7 is sixth-best. Keller leads all drivers in top fives (six) and top 10s (six), and is tied for first with three races led; David Green also has led three times at the 1.25-mile track. ... Martin Truex Jr. is the lone former race winner entered in the field. Truex (2004), Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford -- 2003) and Randy LaJoie (No. 35 Dollar General Chevrolet -- 2002) are the three former Busch Pole winners in the field. Lewis' pole was the first of his NASCAR Busch Series career.
David Green's victory at Pikes Peak pulled Ford to within eight points of Chevrolet in the Bill France Performance Cup standings. Chevrolet leads with 10 wins and 148 points, but Green's win gives Ford eight victories and 148 points. It was the first win for Ford in five races. Dodge is third with three wins and 111 points. ... Chevrolet has six wins at Gateway, Ford two. ... Rusty Wallace is making his first visit to Gateway International Raceway. He has competed in two NASCAR Busch Series races this season, finishing sixth at Mexico City and 24th at Kentucky. Mike Wallace has participated in four series races this year; his best finish was eighth in his last outing at Daytona earlier this month. ... The parents of the Wallace brothers -- Russ and Judy -- will serve as Grand Marshals at Gateway. ... In addition to the Wallace brothers, Aaron Fike and his brother, A.J. (No. 43 Cowboy Crush/Curb Records Dodge) can call Gateway home as well. The Fikes are from Galesburg, Ill. ... Martin Truex Jr. led the NASCAR Busch Series points standings for the first time in his career following his win last year at Gateway. He stayed in first the rest of the way to capture his first series championship. ... Two-time NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series champion Kevin Hamlin will again drive the No. 4 GEICO/PetBrands Dodge. He finished 17th in his debut for Biagi Bros. Racing at Pikes Peak. ... The Gateway race is the lone NASCAR national series race on the schedule this weekend. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are off. All three national series will be in Indianapolis next week. This is the next-to-last stand-alone event for the NASCAR Busch Series this year; the series' final stand-alone is Oct. 22 at Memphis.
"The Wallace name is legendary in our sport and to have the three brothers coming together for a good cause and sponsoring this race is great. I can't wait to compete against them and hopefully finish ahead of all three." -- Clint Bowyer
"It was an honor [for] me the other day. I was listening to CNN. There was Lance Armstrong on there saying, 'This is a cool time to retire. I'm retiring and NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace is retiring.' I can't believe he mentioned it in the same sentence, but he did." -- Rusty Wallace
"I've been in the NASCAR Busch Series for a long time. I've learned over the years that change is part of this business." -- Tim Fedewa
"The Air Force is a breeze compared to the NASCAR Busch Series. There's just so much competition." -- Brent Sherman (No. 10 Serta/Hickory Farms Ford), a seven-year Air Force veteran before changing careers to racing
"Any time you can increase your team speed, it is a good thing. And I have heard Tim can go the length of a football field in under two seconds. We just need him to go 90 feet." -- SouthShore RailCats broadcaster Tom Nichols on Tim Sauter, who will make his professional baseball debut with the team Aug. 4
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The 1997 NASCAR Busch Series season was a bright one for Elliott Sadler. He collected the first three wins of his career that year, including the inaugural event at Gateway International Raceway.
Sadler had captured the second win of his career the previous week at Myrtle Beach, S.C. where he won from the pole, pushing his Gary Bechtel-owned Chevrolet to a new track record for both the pole and the event.
At Gateway, Sadler qualified 12th in a field of 42 starters. The race featured NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars Terry Labonte, his brother Bobby, Joe Nemechek, Jimmy Spencer, Dick Trickle and Kyle Petty. A young Dale Earnhardt Jr. made this fourth career NASCAR Busch Series start, finishing 38th after getting caught up in an accident.
Sadler led the final 30 laps for his second consecutive victory, defeating Jason Keller by .233 seconds.
ON DECK: INDIANPOLIS RACEWAY PARK
The NASCAR Busch Series stays in the Midwest region next Saturday night, August 6, with a trip to Indianapolis Raceway Park. It's the fourth visit to a one-mile venue this season and the first since Milwaukee back on June 25.
This will be the 24th NASCAR Busch Series race at IRP, one of seven active tracks that have held a series event since its inception in 1982.
Morgan Shepherd is the all-time leader in wins at IRP with three, but Jason Keller and Randy LaJoie have two victories each. LaJoie is the only driver to have won in consecutive seasons -- his NASCAR Busch Series championship years in 1996-97.
The Kroger 200 -- the race sponsor also has been on board since 1982 -- is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen live on TNT.
What: Wallace Family Tribute 250 presented by Shop 'n Save (Race No. 22 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill.
When: 8:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, July 30.
Track Layout: 1.25-mile oval.
Race Length: 250 miles/200 laps.
Posted Awards: $1,422,411.
TV: TNT, 8 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
2004 Polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Martin Truex Jr. 3,006. 2. Clint Bowyer 2,884. 3. Reed Sorenson 2,822. 4. Carl Edwards 2,687. 5. Kenny Wallace 2,669. 6. Denny Hamlin 2,567. 7. Ashton Lewis Jr. 2,395. 8. David Stremme 2,336. 9. David Green 2,327. 10. Paul Menard 2,249.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., July 29: Practice -- 6:30 -- 7:30 p.m. Sat., July 30 -- Practice -- 9:45 -- 11 a.m. Qualifying -- 3:05 p.m. Impound on pit road after qualifying.