Charlotte: Round 13 preview

Rising Son: Results Starting To Show For Steve Wallace JGR Riding Six Straight Wins, But Is 1-14 In Series Races At LMS In The Loop: Pick 'Em Between Burton, Edwards, Busch Midwest Up-Rooting: Steve Wallace Comes Home To N.C. The race...

Rising Son: Results Starting To Show For Steve Wallace
JGR Riding Six Straight Wins, But Is 1-14 In Series Races At LMS
In The Loop: Pick 'Em Between Burton, Edwards, Busch

Midwest Up-Rooting: Steve Wallace Comes Home To N.C.

The race following an open week always brings extra energy. Drivers and teams are understand-ably antsy for their return to the track.

But this week, that vibe is wound just a little tighter since the CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 will be contested in Charlotte. It's considered a "home" event since the majority of competitors and organizations are based in the area even though their hometowns may be located elsewhere.

The Wallace family built its racing legacy in St. Louis before brothers Rusty, Kenny (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) and Mike (No. 7 GEICO Toyota) made their way to the sport's hub in North Carolina.

Third-generation racer Steve Wallace (No. 66 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) was born in North Carolina. And 20 years later, in his second full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, he's preparing for perhaps the most-anticipated race of his young career.

Last year, he collected his first two career poles but was inconsistent; his best finish was 12th. He also had nine DNFs -- including one race where he was parked by NASCAR for aggressive driving.

This year, Wallace has seemingly found his groove. He surprised many with his first top-10 finish at Mexico City and in his last two races, has bettered that with career-best fifth-place finishes. He's currently 11th in the series standings.

He's been quick to credit his Rusty Wallace Racing teammate David Stremme (No. 66 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) as a mentor as well as a steadying influence on the team.

Stremme also is having a strong season. He's 10th in the standings and has two top fives and seven top 10s in 11 races this year. He didn't race in Mexico; instead the team's road-course specialist, Max Papis, drove the No. 64 Chevrolet.

Will LMS Be The Streak-Ender For JGR?

The only thing to date that's interrupted the NASCAR Nationwide Series record six-race winning streak of Joe Gibbs Racing is the just-completed open week.

But Saturday night's stop at Lowe's Motor Speedway could present a major bump in that record road.

The team -- led this week by Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota) -- has only one series win at LMS. That was the 2004 fall race when JGR driver Mike Bliss registered his first career victory in one of the most exciting races of the season.

Bliss made a daring late-race pass on the front stretch that split Jimmie Johnson (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet) and Matt Kenseth, carrying him to the win.

Bliss now drives the No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing and has plenty of momentum of his own heading back to Charlotte.

The versatile veteran, who won the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship, is fifth in the standings. That ranking is the best among four other series-only regulars in the top 10 this week.

Three-Car First For JR Motorsports

For the first time in its four-year history, JR Motorsports has three cars entered in a race.

Team owner and two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the organization's No. 83 Junior Division NAVY Chevrolet, only the second time that car has been entered in a series event.

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet), the team's series-only regular driver, is seventh in the standings heading to Charlotte.

Jimmie Johnson, the two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, also is entered under the JRM banner.

Johnson ran full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series from 2000-01. He has one win and two poles, the most recent of which came at the 2005 fall race at LMS.

On And Off The Track, A Busy Weekend For Ambrose, Fellow Aussies

Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford) will host 30 fellow Australians in Charlotte as part of a second annual tour event.

"We kicked off this idea last year and have twice as many fans back this time around," he said. "If there is one thing Australians know how to do, it's have a good time."

The group arrives Wednesday night and will venture to several local attractions Thursday before heading to Lowe's Motor Speedway for the evening's activities.

Friday, Ambrose will host a tour of the JTG shop, lunch and a night of sprint-car racing.

The group will root for Ambrose in Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race and on Sunday, they head to a local bar to cheer on Australians Will Power and Ryan Briscoe in the Indianapolis 500 before heading to LMS for the Coca-Cola 600.

Monday they take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience at LMS before flying back to Australia that afternoon.

Ambrose also plans a tour for August at Auto Club Speedway where he will run both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

In The Loop: Burton Boasts Best Driver Rating Among Saturday's Field

The statistics suggest Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race will likely come down to a battle between the defending series champion, a 27-time series race winner, and the hottest driver in the sport.

In other words, figure on Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Water Smart Ford), Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) and Kyle Busch (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota) running up front all night.

Burton won the last time the series raced at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four races. Over that span, he has a Driver Rating of 104.4 (best of any driver in Saturday's field), an Average Running Position of 13.6, 51 Fastest Laps Run and has run 69.4% of the Laps in the Top 15.

Edwards has struggled of late at the 1.5-mile track, finishing outside the top 10 in each of the previous three LMS races. But he won the spring race in 2006 and finished fourth in the fall race in 2005.

Overall at LMS, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 99.9, an Average Running Position of 12.9, a series-high 102 Fastest Laps Run and has run 61.9% of the Laps in the Top 15.

Busch, who won twice at LMS (spring, 2004-05), was the runner up last fall and finished in the top 10 in both 2007 races. In his past six races at LMS, Busch has a Driver Rating of 103.3, an Average Running Position of 13.0, 57 Fastest Laps Run and a series-high percentage of Laps in the Top 15 (70.3%) among those drivers who have run each of the last six races there.

Also watch for another strong run from series-only regular Kelly Bires (No 47 Clorox Ford). Bires finished ninth in last season's fall race, his first at the track in series competition. In that race, Bires had a Driver Rating of 89.6, an Average Running Position of 12.2 and ran 70.5% of the Laps in the Top 15.

The Director's Take: Perfecting Balance Is The Long And Short Of It At LMS

Balance will be the name of the game Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway according to Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director.

"Getting the car ready for both short and long runs will be the determining factor for the teams," he said.

"Some drivers will have their cars balanced well early and will be stout during the short runs. They'll also be anticipating cautions."

"But if those cautions don't come, there will be quite a bit of passing throughout the field and you'll see new leaders emerge because their cars were set up especially for longer runs."

"As 1.5-mile tracks go, this is a very fast track."

"On top of all that, there's the added pressure of securing bragging rights with a win here. It's the home track for most of our racers, which makes it very important."

NNS Etc.

After Saturday, Joey Logano won't have to be only a NASCAR Nationwide Series fan.

Logano, last year's NASCAR Camping World Series East champion, will turn 18 that day and will be eligible to drive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. His much-anticipated debut is set for the following week at Dover International Speedway.

Joe Gibbs Racing plans to help Logano celebrate at LMS with a car-shaped cake.

Braun Racing will make the team's 100th start in a Toyota since it entered the series in 2007. Jason Leffler (No. 32 Great Clips Toyota), 2003 series champion Brian Vickers (No. 10 ABF Toyota) and Kyle Busch will team up to make the organization's 99th, 100th and 101st starts. Leffler earned the first victory for Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last July at O'Reilly Raceway Park.

Due to his team's 30th-place standing in the owner points, Eric McClure (No. 24 Hefty Brand Chevrolet) can look forward to his first career series start at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He did not qualify in six previous attempts.

He has run in national series competition at the track, though, when he competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Showdown for Front Row Motorsports in 2005.

Cale Gale (No. 77 VFW Chevrolet) will represent Veterans of Foreign Wars at LMS. This isn't the first time he's worn the colors of VFW. Gale's T-ball team also was sponsored by VFW and his grandfather is a proud member of the organization.

Also to show support for America's Armed Forces, members of KHI's teams are wearing red bracelets provided by VFW.

Bill France Performance Cup Standings

Toyota's six-race winning streak could be in danger Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Chevrolet, second in the Bill France Performance Cup standings, and third-place Ford, each have 15 wins at LMS.

Dodge is the defending winner of this race and LMS is one of four tracks where the manufacturer has its series-best two victories.

Up Next: Heluva Good! 200 at Dover International Speedway

Joey Logano's debut headlines the Heluva Good! 200 at Dover on Saturday, May 31.

Reigning series champion Carl Edwards also is the defending race winner. Denny Hamlin, Logano's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, won the fall race at Dover last year and captured the pole for the 2007 spring event.

The last driver to win consecutive spring races at Dover was Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99).

Fast Facts

The Race: CARQUEST Auto Parts 300The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 24

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps

TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET
Track Size: 1.5-mile oval

2007 Winner: Kasey Kahne
2007 Pole: Matt Kenseth

Schedule:
Thursday--Practice 1-2:30 p.m.; Final Practice 6-7 p.m.
Saturday--Qualifying, 3:45 p.m.

- credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Jason Leffler , Max Papis , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose , Mike Bliss , Ryan Briscoe , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , David Stremme , Eric McClure , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Cale Gale , Kelly Bires , Joey Logano , Steve Wallace , Kyle Busch
Teams Front Row Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing , JRM Racing , JR Motorsports , Phoenix Racing