Newman Aims To Continue NASCAR Busch Series Win Streak Texas' Own Seek Success In O'Reilly Challenge FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 1, 2005) - Ryan Newman may be in the midst of pursuing a championship in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, but ...
Newman Aims To Continue NASCAR Busch Series Win Streak
Texas' Own Seek Success In O'Reilly Challenge
FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 1, 2005) - Ryan Newman may be in the midst of pursuing a championship in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, but he has enough time to dominate the NASCAR Busch Series in record-setting fashion.
Newman, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star running a partial Busch Series schedule, arrives at Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday's O'Reilly Challenge having won a NBS-record five consecutive races.
Newman's string eclipsed the previous Busch Series single-season record of four established by Sam Ard en route to his 1983 series championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in five consecutive NASCAR Busch Series starts over three seasons from 2002 to 2004.
More amazingly for Newman is that he has accomplished the feat in only seven starts this season.
He is the hottest driver on the circuit since returning to Busch competition in May for the first time since 2001. He posted third-place finishes at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Chicago before reeling off consecutive wins at Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Dover and Lowe's.
Newman, however, will have his hands full in extending his streak this weekend. He finished 14th in his only previous start at Texas Motor Speedway, which came in 2001, and will join more than a dozen fellow Buschwhackers, i.e. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stars, competing in the O'Reilly Challenge. That group includes former Texas NASCAR Busch Series winners Joe Nemechek (2003), Matt Kenseth (2004) and Kasey Kahne (2005).
"When we started this Busch team earlier this year and made its debut in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway, I don't think we even considered being able to go for this type record," Newman said. "In that May race, it was the first time some of those guys had even gone over the wall for a pit stop during a race.
"Still, we finished third, and if we hadn't had a mistake during a pit stop at Chicago in July, we might have visited victory lane in just this team's second race. These guys have done an awesome job."
A robust 54 cars are entered in the O'Reilly Challenge, and Albertsons Qualifying Day for the Busch Series will begin 5:05 p.m. Thursday (SPEED Channel). The O'Reilly Challenge begins at 1 p.m. Saturday on TNT with a 1:20 p.m. green flag.
RICH RACING HERITAGE CONTINUES
Two of the most famous surnames in Texas racing history, Foyt and Labonte, will offer a preview of the future for the noted racing families when A.J. Foyt IV and Justin Labonte compete in the O'Reilly Challenge.
Foyt will trade the open wheels of his grandfather A.J's 1,525-pound IRL IndyCar Series Dallara for the 3,400-pound Great Clips Dodge of Akins Motorsports in his Texas stock car debut. Foyt finished 32nd in his Busch Series debut Oct. 22 at Memphis and will tackle the circuit full-time in 2006. Foyt has started five IRL races at Texas with a career best 10th- place finish last fall. He was 18th in June's Bombardier Learjet 500k.
Labonte, the son of two-time Cup Series champion Terry, will pilot the family-owned Coast Guard Chevrolet in his third Texas start. He finished 33rd and 29th, respectively, in his previous two starts. Labonte qualified fourth in April's O'Reilly 300.
"I'm really looking forward to returning to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend," Foyt said. "It will be nice to be back in my home state and have my family around to support me this weekend.
"We tested at Texas last week and everything went really well. There are a lot of differences that I noticed between the IRL IndyCar and the Busch car. With the Busch car, you have to back out of the throttle earlier going into the corner and you have to use the entire race track to get the most out of your car."
"Going home is always fun," Labonte commented. "You get to see your friends and family. Harold (Holly-crew chief) has brought a lot to this team. Over the past few months the team has come together and our finishes are starting to prove how good we can be."
HOLDING ONTO THE REIGN
The O'Reilly Challenge will prove to be a critical juncture in the battle for the NASCAR Busch Series championship between reigning series champ Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer. Truex Jr., looking to become the series first back-to-back champion since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1998-99, possesses a 100-point advantage with three races remaining
Bowyer trimmed 20 points off Truex Jr.'s lead following his Oct. 22 Memphis victory, but urgency and a stellar performance in the O'Reilly Challenge ring loud this weekend for him.
Past Texas performances, however, put the pair on equal footing entering the O'Reilly Challenge. Truex Jr. has posted finishes of 10th (2004) and 35th (2005) at Texas Motor Speedway, with an outside front-row starting berth in April's O'Reilly 300. Bowyer has finishes of 36th (2004) and sixth (2005) in his Texas starts.
"We just have to take each one at a time," Truex Jr. said of the remaining races. "This Chance 2 team has been through the highs and lows this season, and right now we're going ahead full steam to win every race.
"Texas is a very fast track and we need to capitalize on what we did here in the spring race. We started on the outside pole, led 38 laps and were in good shape with 30 laps remaining when we had a spin. The car ended up hitting the wall and we didn't get the finish I think we deserved. If we can start like we did last time and finish with a win or position that earns us points; that will be good."
Said Bowyer: "All we can do is continue to do what we have been doing. If we lead the most laps, gain all the bonus points, and win, then that is the best we can do. We know we need to finish ahead of Truex in these remaining three races to close in on the championship. Ultimately we need to stay focused on our program and the task at hand and let the rest fall into place."
Former IRL IndyCar Series driver and current car owner Adrian Fernandez has drawn great attention to his Texas Motor Speedway stock car debut in the O'Reilly Challenge. Fernandez, a national hero in his native Mexico, has developed a huge Hispanic fan following in the area while competing in open-wheel events at Texas. One of the interested onlookers watching Fernandez Saturday will be Mexico Consul General Carlos Garcia de Alba. Fernandez' venture into the NASCAR Busch Series has produced 2005 finishes of 10th at Mexico City March 6, 28th at California Sept. 3 and 40th at Lowe's Motor Speedway Oct. 14.
WALK THIS WAY
Fans attending Saturday's O'Reilly Challenge can walk a lap around Texas Motor Speedway with a NASCAR driver or purchase special memorabilia following the checkered flag and benefit children at the same time. The Tyson Fun Walk allows fans to mingle with a NASCAR driver while walking the mile-and-a-half distance around Texas Motor Speedway. The Walk, which benefits the Victory Junction Gang and Speedway Children's Charities, will begin about one hour after the O'Reilly Challenge and will originate near Gate 8 at the speedway. A pre-registration donation of $20 is available at www.speedwaycharities.org or $25 at the track. A special memorabilia auction will also begin one hour after the Busch Series race in the Village of Champions hospitality area. Fans can bid on the opportunity to ride in the Dickies 500 pre-race parade Sunday with their favorite NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver. For more information call (817) 215-8421.
LAST LAP..The NASCAR Busch Series "Silly Season" is in full swing with several drivers switching rides for the O'Reilly Challenge. The "new" drivers in the O'Reilly Challenge include Todd Bodine (Frank Cicci No. 34), Chad Chaffin (Day Ent. No. 16), Kertus Davis (FitzBradshaw No. 12), Sterling Marlin (FitzBradshaw No. 40) and O'Reilly 300 winner Kasey Kahne (Evernham No. 6)..Kahne, who moved out of the Great Clips entry for A.J.Foyt IV, lobbied car owner Ray Evernham to compete in the O'Reilly Challenge. "I wanted to race in this event so much, that I asked Ray if he would let me drive it even though he had tentative plans to put another driver in the car. I told Ray if he put me in the car he wouldn't be sorry." Kahne nipped Greg Biffle for the O'Reilly 300 victory by a mere 0.304 seconds on April 16.