Homestead: Series round 35 preview

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes -- Homestead Kudos To Kyle: Busch To Be Crowned 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion Bliss Tracks Down Allgaier For Fifth; Final Standings Battle Looms NNS, NCWTS Champions, Mike Helton At Media Luncheon...

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes -- Homestead

Kudos To Kyle: Busch To Be Crowned 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion
Bliss Tracks Down Allgaier For Fifth; Final Standings Battle Looms
NNS, NCWTS Champions, Mike Helton At Media Luncheon Nov. 23 In Miami

Let The Celebration Begin: Busch To Claim 2009 Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2009) -- Kyle Busch's (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) incredible season finally gets its proper recognition Saturday when he's crowned the 2009 NASAR Nationwide Series champion at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch needs only to start the Ford 300 to claim the title.

Although he was unable to secure his first NASCAR national-series championship last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway -- despite a 272-point advantage going in -- how he didn't clinch was a microcosm of his season, arguably one of the greatest in series history.

Forced in for repairs after an accident on Lap 8, Busch refused to concede that he wouldn't take the title home. His team, led by crew chief Jason Ratcliff, kept working on the car and Busch kept pushing it to the limit, resulting in an improbable seventh-place finish and a near-clinch regardless of the misfortune. Carl Edwards' (No. 60 Ortho Ford) win forced a one-week delay in the celebration.

Refusing to accept anything short of first place always has been Busch's mantra. He was "disappointed" in setting the series mark for runner-up finishes with 11. So, he took his frustrations out in record-setting fashion instead.

He's led the series standings for the last 28 weeks, 29 overall. His eight wins lead the series. He's amassed a series-record 2,625 laps led. He added to his series mark for the most perfect Driver Ratings (150.0) by collecting four this year, bringing his career total to eight. He's secured the first series driver title for Joe Gibbs Racing and for the first time in two years, has unified the driver and owner championship. This is JGR's second consecutive owner title.

Across each of NASCAR's national series -- Busch is entered in all three races again this weekend -- he's won 19 times this year. His 29 NASCAR Nationwide wins are fourth all-time and he's within 19 victories of matching Mark Martin's series record of 48. Busch has 172 career starts, Martin has 231.

Busch will become the eighth different series champion in the last 10 seasons (Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. won twice during that span) and the 21st different champion in the 27-year history of the series. He also is the fifth former Raybestos Rookie of the Year to win a series championship. He won the award -- not surprisingly setting or tying all but one of the 11 rookie categories along the way -- in 2004.

#%High-Five For Bliss?

It took 34 races, but Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet) is this close to an astounding accomplishment.

Ironically back in the No. 1 Chevrolet for the season's final race -- the ride from which he was released after the Aug. 1 race at Iowa Speedway -- Bliss has risen to the all-important fifth spot in the rankings. Drivers in the top five in the final standings in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be honored on stage at the combined Awards Banquet, Nov. 23 in Miami.

In ninth place after the Sept. 11 race at Richmond International Raceway, Bliss methodically passed Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) for the fifth position last Saturday at Phoenix. He comes to the season finale with a 14-point lead over Allgaier, the Raybestos Rookie leader, who now is sixth. Allgaier had held the No. 5 slot for 11 of the last 13 weeks, including five in succession until Bliss' charge.

After his original release from Phoenix Racing, Bliss drove the next 13 races for five different teams in order to keep his top-five opportunity alive. Should he finish fifth, Bliss would match his best-ever series standings result. He was fifth in 2004 and equaled that ranking last year.

Hauler Parade, Driver/Fan Events, Champions Media Luncheon On Tap For NNS And NCWTS

For the first time this year, the post-season awards banquets for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be combined.

The event will be held on Monday, Nov. 23, at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

The series champions, drivers who finished 2-5 in the standings, the Raybestos Rookies of the Year and the Most Popular Drivers (via fan vote) in each series will be honored on stage at the black-tie affair.

Drivers in each series who finish in positions 6-10 also will be recognized at the banquet.

Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway officially gets underway on Wednesday, Nov. 18, with a hauler parade featuring rigs from both series. They'll rumble down the MacArthur Causeway and on to Ocean Drive, ending at Lummus Park for free driver/fan events.

From 3:30-5:30 p.m., the top five drivers in each series will participate in a driver Q & A session hosted by Mike Bagley of MRN Radio, and a driver autograph session. The autograph session is open to the first 150 fans who check in at Lummus Park and receive a wristband. There is a one item limit for the drivers to sign.

Annett Comes Full Circle At Homestead-Miami

Last year at this time, Michael Annett (No. 15 Germain Racing Toyota) was hoping just to qualify for his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

This week, as he returns to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Annett is far from the first-time driver who qualified 29th and finished 36th due to an accident.

Instead, he's digging in to protect his territory, not unlike his pre-driver days as a hockey defenseman. That territory is his 10th-place rank in the standings, a position he's held for the last three races.

And he'll have to fend off some hungry veterans -- and another rookie -- to keep that position.

Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) continues to add to the best season in the nine-year history of his Jay Robinson Racing team. He's 11th and is 41 points behind Annett. Prior to 2006, Wallace had finished in the top 10 in points in each of the nine seasons he'd raced full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He's on a mission, after missing out in 2006 (11th) and '08 (16th).

Tony Raines (No. 34 Long John Silver's Chevrolet) is 44 points out of 10th while rookie Michael McDowell (No. 96 K-Automotive Dodge) is 49 points behind Annett.

Should Annett or McDowell claim 10th when all is said and done Saturday, it would be the first time since 2005 that three rookies finished in the top 10: Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Reed Sorenson were the last such trio.

Busch Is 2009's Loop Data Dominator

Kyle Busch practically is guaranteed the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide championship, and is guaranteed the most statistically-dominant season since the inception of Loop Data in 2005.

Even if he has an uncharacteristically horrible day at Homestead-Miami, Busch will own the top season numbers in several key categories. For instance:

Driver Rating: Currently, he has a Driver Rating of 126.2, which is eight points ahead of the second-best season-ending total. He set that record last year at 118.2. In a testament to the strength of this season's field, three drivers rank in the top 10 of Driver Rating: Busch, Carl Edwards (113.2, fourth-best) and Brad Keselowski (106.3, seventh-best).

Average Running Position: Even if Busch has an Average Running Position of 43.0 Saturday, he'll still have the best season-ending total since 2005. He currently has an Average Running Position of 5.7, nearly two positions better than Kevin Harvick's 2006 mark of 7.6. Third-best in the category is Edwards' 7.7 from this season.

Fastest Laps Run: Busch already has 1,252 Fastest Laps Run this season. The previous season-ending best was the 901 he racked up last year. Harvick's 620 in 2006 ranks third. With a strong run Saturday, Edwards (currently with 583) can move into third.

Laps in the Top 15: This is one of the few categories Busch doesn't lead, but he can with a solid race on Saturday. He currently has run 5,823 laps in the top 15. The highest season-ending total is 5,963, by Harvick in 2006. If Busch runs 140 of the 200 scheduled laps Saturday (70%), he'll tie Harvick's total. That is likely to happen: Busch's season Laps in the Top 15 percentage is 70.2%.

Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green): Here's one category Busch won't lead, but when you lead so often (he set the record for laps led in a season), there's no one to pass. Still, he has 1,023 Quality Passes this season, which would put him fifth-best. Harvick leads with 1,158 in 2006. Keselowski, who currently has 1,150 Quality Passes, can catch him this weekend.

NNS Etc: Homestead-Miami Edition

2009 Rookie Winner Decided At HMS

Justin Allgaier or Brendan Gaughan? The 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year honor in the NASCAR Nationwide Series comes down to those two drivers at Homestead-Miami.

Allgaier has an eight-point lead in the rankings, but the award is based on more than competition points, bonus points, entry points and final driver standings.

Contenders also are voted upon by the Rookie of the Year Panel, consisting of NASCAR competition executives and a select group of veteran drivers.

Allgaier has led since the July race at Daytona International Speedway. Michael McDowell and Gaughan also have led the standings.

In The Garage: Florida Natives

Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Chevrolet), the 1992 series champoin and a Florida native of Lakeland, is the all-time leader in wins (three) at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

David Reutimann (No. 32 Dollar General Toyota) also is finishing up his series season in his home state. Both drivers lead a NASCAR Nationwide Series contingent from the Sunshine State that includes:

Paul Flury (Hollywood) - No. 29 engineer
Kenny Oates (Miami) - No. 38 engineer
Thomas Costello (St. Petersburg) - No. 29 Mechanic
Kevin Bellicourt (Daytona Beach) - No. 38 tire specialist

JRM Switch To Bires Underway

Running in the NASCAR Nationwide Series is nothing new to Kelly Bires, but this weekend it will be. He'll attempt to qualify for his new team, JR Motorsports, in the No. 5 Ragu Chevrolet.

Bires joined the organization earlier this fall, taking over the slot left by Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet), who is moving to Penske Racing to run full time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series next year.

Keselowski is running in his final NASCAR Nationwide race for JRM this weekend and has the opportunity to move into second place in the standings, which would be the highest ranking for a series-only regular since reigning series champion Clint Bowyer was runner-up to 2005 champion Martin Truex Jr. Keselowski, in third, is 60 points behind second-place Carl Edwards.

Keller Back In Familiar Territory

Jason Keller (No. 27 USPS Ford) has secured the 10th top-10 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver standings finish of his career, ending a three-year drought. From 1999-2005, he collected seven consecutive top-10 finishes in the points standings, including two second-place results (2000, '02).

Currently eighth, only 29 points behind Steve Wallace (No. 66 USFidelis Chevrolet), Keller, 39, has finished in the top 15 in six of the last eight races, including two top 10s. His eight top-10 finishes in 2009 have doubled his 2008 total and are the most he has registered since 2004. His next top-10 finish will be the 175th of his career, second-best in series history. Keller, the series' all-time leader in starts, will make his 492nd on Saturday, leaving him eight shy of becoming the first driver in series history to register 500 starts.

Toyota Searching For First HMS Win

In addition to Joe Nemechek's three victories, Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) is the only other driver to register multiple wins at HMS with two. His last win came in 2007, which clinched the owner championship for Richard Childress Racing.

Burton's win -- from the 30th starting position, the deepest in the field by any winner at HMS -- added to Chevrolet's total of seven, making the manufacturer the track winner in series competition.

Ford, on the heels of Carl Edwards' victory last year, has won two of the last three races at the 1.5-mile track but over the last four events, three of the four series manufacturers have registered at least one win (all but Toyota), making Homestead-Miami one of eight active series tracks at which the manufacturer has yet to win.

Toyota clinched its second consecutive Bill France Performance Cup title last month following the race at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Banner Year Comes To A Close

Key numbers for the NASCAR Nationwide Series as the 2009 season ends:
12 different race winners
19 different Coors Light Pole winners
50 drivers led at least one lap
50 drivers have scored at least one top-10 finish this year
Average Margin of Victory of 1.083 seconds
17 races with an MOV under 1 second
Average of 6 leaders per race
Average of 11 lead changes per race
Average of 17 green-flag passes for the lead all along the track (most since inception of Loop Data in 2005)
Average of 1,491 green-flag passes per race
39% of the cars finished on the lead lap
71% of the cars were running at the finish

Up Next: Daytona, 2010

The next time the NASCAR Nationwide Series is on track will be Februrary 2010 at Daytona International Speedway to kick off the 28th season of series competition -- and the 28th season-opening race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

The Camping World 300 opens the 2010 campaign on Saturday, Feb. 13 -- a season that will feature the points-racing debut of the NASCAR Nationwide Series new car at Daytona five months later, on July 2.

Tony Stewart, last year's winner, has won four of the last five season-openers. Kevin Harvick, a two-time series champion and the car owner for Stewart in two of those victories, broke Stewart's streak with a win in 2007.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Ford 300
The Place: Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

The Date: Saturday, Nov. 21
The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps

TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET
Radio: SIRIUS NASCAR Radio/MRN. Listen locally on WCTH-FM 100.3.

2008 Winner: Carl Edwards
2008 Polesitter: Joey Logano

Event Schedule (all times ET):
Friday -- Practice, 1:10-3 p.m., Final Practice 6:40-7:20 p.m.;
Saturday -- Qualifying, 11:35 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Tony Raines , Michael McDowell , Brendan Gaughan , Mike Bliss , David Reutimann , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Mike Helton , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Justin Allgaier , Kelly Bires , Joey Logano , Kevin Bell , Michael Annett , Steve Wallace , John Long , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Germain Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , JRM Racing , Phoenix Racing