Fontana II: Round 27 preview

*Keselowski's Title Chase At California Crossroad? *Clauson Looks For Place Among Series' California Elite *In The Loop: Edwards-Busch Rivalry Has Roots In NNS *California Native Yet To Win At Auto Club Speedway Bowyer, Edwards Have The Success...

*Keselowski's Title Chase At California Crossroad?
*Clauson Looks For Place Among Series' California Elite
*In The Loop: Edwards-Busch Rivalry Has Roots In NNS
*California Native Yet To Win At Auto Club Speedway

Bowyer, Edwards Have The Success Keselowski Craves In Cali

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 26, 2008) - To NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet), Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) has to seem like an annoying little brother.

He just won't go away.

Keselowski moved back into second place in the rankings after capitalizing on a Bowyer miscue late in the race last Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway that resulted in his second win of the season.

Heading to Auto Club Speedway, Keselowski is 122 points behind Bowyer with nine races to go. Reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford) dropped to third, 241 points behind Bowyer, after a 37th-place finish at Bristol that put a serious dent in his hopes for a repeat.

But Bowyer and Edwards have something going for them at Auto Club Speedway that Keselowski hasn't had -- success.

Bowyer leads all series drivers with two poles at the track, both in this event. He has three top fives and four top 10s in six career races and finished third last year, his best finish in the fall event.

Edwards won at Auto Club Speedway in 2005 and boasts a pole, four top fives and five top 10s among his seven races at the 2-mile D-shaped oval. He was 14th last year but third in February's race.

Keselowski made his series debut at Auto Club Speedway in 2006 and in this race last year, had his night end following a spectacular accident that saw his car ride sideways along the wall engulfed in flames.

In four career races in California, he hasn't finished better than 32nd.

"Carl is going to be the guy to beat this weekend," Keselowski said. "He was struggling earlier this year then at Michigan he killed everyone. He's going to be just as strong in California.

"I think Clint and I are pretty equal, so our team needs to do whatever we can to maintain our place in the standings and capitalize on every opportunity we have to gain points. We're coming down to the last few races and every point counts. Every position is one step closer or one step back from the championship."

Home Improvement: California's Clauson Returns On An Upswing

California natives have made their mark in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

For instance, Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet -- Bakersfield) is a two-time series champion. Jimmie Johnson (No. 5 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet -- El Cajon) ran two full seasons in the series before moving on to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series where he's the two-time defending champion. Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota -- Long Beach) has had a solid career and is currently eighth in the standings.

Bryan Clauson (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge) doesn't have that type of status, but he's been gaining ground. He was born in Carmichael but moved to Noblesville, Ind., with his family at age 10.

Now 19, Clauson is back after a four-race hiatus; he shares seat time with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Dario Franchitti.

Following a surprising sixth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway to start the season, Clauson was disappointed with his 34th-place result in the second race of the year at Auto Club Speedway.

But in the 12 races since, he's shown marked improvement and relishes his second chance in California.

He claimed his first top-five finish (fifth) at Kentucky Speedway in June and at Daytona in July, captured his first series pole. He's third in the Raybestos Rookie standings, 13 points out of first.

In The Loop: New Rivalry Simmering In NASCAR Nationwide Series

There's a very good chance that the Carl Edwards-Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) rivalry may spill into the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

It would be fitting if it did. After all, the roots of the rivalry were set during a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

In his post-race interviews, Edwards thought back to a series race at Richmond International Raceway where Busch punted him out of the way -- just like Edwards did to Busch at Bristol.

Saturday's race at Auto Club Speedway is the first chance to see if there are any post-Bristol fireworks. And if there is any leftover animosity, it could certainly play out in California.

The two drivers have almost identical statistics at Auto Club Speedway, meaning they should be racing in closed quarters the entire night. Also, their stats are strong, so figure on another battle for the win between the duo.

The similarities start with Driver Rating. Since 2005, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 107.7 while Busch has a 107.8.

In terms of Average Running Position, Edwards has an 8.901 and Busch has a 8.964.

A slightly wider gap exists in the Fastest Laps Run category. Edwards has 83 Fastest Laps Run in California, while Busch has 70 (in fairness, Busch has run two fewer races at the track than Edwards since 2005).

In Laps in the Top 15 percentage, Edwards has run 83.5% of the laps among the top 15. Busch has run 77.3% of them in the top 15.

The co-main event this Saturday will be between Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski, who rank one-two in the series standings. The stats make their duel seem like a huge mismatch in Bowyer's favor.

Bowyer has a Driver Rating of 102.9 in six races there. In his four career races at Auto Club Speedway, Keselowski has just a 49.0 Driver Rating after failing to crack the top 30 in each of his races.

Another Developmental Leap

Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) announced this week he'll move up to NASCAR Sprint Cup competition next year, taking over the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Logano joins Brad Coleman who, two weeks ago, also made the jump from the NASCAR Nationwide Series to NASCAR's premier series. Coleman will drive this weekend for Hall of Fame Racing in the No. 96 Toyota at Auto Club Speedway.

The Driver's Take: Long Beach Native Leffler Sizes Up Auto Club Speedway

A driver's main goal is to win the race, but to win the race at his home track, well, that's the ultimate.

No native Californian has won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway.

But Long Beach's own Jason Leffler hopes to be the first.

"You want to win every race, but you especially want that win in front of the home crowd and with your family and friends cheering you on," he said.

Leffler won a pole at Auto Club Speedway in 2004 and has two top-10 finishes in nine series starts. His best finish was seventh in 2005. He finished 11th in this race last year.

"This is a really fun race track. It's wide-open pretty much all the way around and has multiple grooves so there's a lot of two and three-wide racing.

"You carry a lot of speed down the straight-aways and with the sweeping corners you can run around the bottom or you can run up high. You're always searching for that groove where your car is the fastest."

Results following the Food City 250 @ Bristol Motor Speedway.

Up Next: Emerson Radio 250 @ Richmond International Raceway

The final short track night race of the year is at Richmond on Friday, Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will carry the Emerson Radio 250 live.

Kyle Busch won from the pole last year while Virginia native Denny Hamlin finally broke through, winning at his home track last May.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Camping World RV Service 300 presented by Coleman
The Place: Auto Club Speedway

The Date: Saturday, Aug. 30
The Time: 10 p.m. ET

The Distance: 300 miles/150 laps
Track Size: 2-mile oval

TV: ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Jeff Burton
2007 Pole: Denny Hamlin

Schedule:
Friday--Practice, 2 -- 3:30 p.m.; Final Practice, 5:30 -- 6:30 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 2:05 p.m.

-credit: nascar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Dario Franchitti , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Brad Coleman , Chip Ganassi , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Bryan Clauson , Joey Logano , Felix Sabates , Kyle Busch
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing