*Kentucky Boasts Seven Different Race, Pole Winners *Keselowski's Win Throws Standings Battle Into Full Gear *In The Loop: Coleman Returns To Kentucky With Stout Stats Is Kentucky In Store For Another Surprise Party? Another first-time winner...
*Kentucky Boasts Seven Different Race, Pole Winners
*Keselowski's Win Throws Standings Battle Into Full Gear
*In The Loop: Coleman Returns To Kentucky With Stout Stats
Is Kentucky In Store For Another Surprise Party?
Another first-time winner or an eighth different winner in eight races?
Either way, Saturday night's Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway promises to bring more surprises for the usual packed house at the 1.5-mile track.
Over the last two years, this race has produced a surprise winner. Last season, Stephen Leicht held off his best friend, Brad Coleman (No. 27 Cottonelle Ford) for his first career victory.
One year earlier, David Gilliland, a relatively unknown driver running for a part-time team, shocked the racing world with a win that completely turned his life -- and career -- around. Gilliland now competes full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Leicht currently runs a limited schedule for Richard Childress Racing and will be the all-important substitute for double-duty driver and series standings leader Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World/RVs.com Chevrolet) this weekend.
Kentucky is one of only three tracks in the NASCAR Nationwide Series that has yet to produce a multiple race and multiple pole winner. Four other tracks share Kentucky's distinction of different winners for each race while three have yet to award a pole to a driver more than once.
Three former winners of this race -- Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 Curly's/John Morrell Ford), reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 CitiFinancial Ford) and Kyle Busch (No. 18 Farm Bureau Insurance Toyota) -- are entered and will attempt to break the one-winner string. Edwards is the lone former pole winner entered who also has a shot to become the first to double in that category.
Keselowski's First Win Creates Havoc In Standings
Brad Keselowski's (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) first career win last week at Nashville Superspeedway has not only increased the buzz around the young series-only driver, but has also thrown the standings into that same hot-topic category for the first time in three years.
Clint Bowyer continues to lead with a 166-point margin over David Reutimann (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota). That difference between first and second place is the closest at this stage of the season since Reed Sorenson led Martin Truex Jr. by 51 points in 2005.
Bowyer's lead is comfortable, but so was Kyle Busch's on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series side prior to last weekend's race at Pocono Raceway. He finished 43rd and coughed up a 142-point lead that now stands at 21.
Keselowski's victory resulted in positions 2-5 being separated by only 26 points. Reutimann leads third-place Busch -- who will again run all three national series races this weekend (also the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup at Michigan International Speedway) -- by 22 points.
Carl Edwards is fourth, 24 points behind Reutimann, while fifth-place Keselowski lurks only two points in back of Edwards.
Keselowski is aiming for his 50th career start in the series Saturday.
Bluegrass State Goes Green
Mark Green (No. 70 Foretravel Chevrolet) returns to his old Kentucky home this weekend on an upswing.
Green, from Owensboro, Ky., moved to the Mooresville, N.C., area in 2000 but still has close ties to the Bluegrass State. "(It) will be special," said Green, who hasn't raced at the 1.5-mile oval with his Indiana-based ML Motorsports organization. "I have a lot of family and friends there, and its close for the team, too. It's always fun to show off in front of the people you grew up with."
The veteran of 238 series starts has been a perfect fit for the part-time team that plans to compete in 21 races this season. At Talladega Superspeedway, Green drove the mother-daughter-owned car to a fifth-place finish, tying his career best set in 1997. A week later, he qualified fourth at Richmond International Raceway, his best start since 2002 and in his last outing, he finished 14th at Nashville. Green has had to qualify the No. 70 on time in each of the eight team's races, including five at combination events where as many as 16 double-duty drivers were entered.
Clauson, A Year Later
Last year at this time, Bryan Clauson (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge) was at Kentucky Speedway, but not to race.
He was there to observe his then-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate David Stremme (now driving the No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) and also be greeted with a cake celebrating his 18th birthday (June 15). He would make his first series start three months later at Richmond.
A year later, Clauson is one of the top up-and-comers in the series. He finished sixth at Daytona International Speedway to start the season and following last Saturday's race at Nashville, moved past his GCRFS teammate Dario Franchitti to claim first place in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.
RCR Makes Headway In Owner Points
It's taken six weeks but Richard Childress Racing's No. 2 Chevrolet has crept back into the owner standings race.
Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 Toyota had a season-high 159-point lead prior to the race at Nashville, but a 31st-place finish by the JGR car coupled with a fourth-place result from the RCR entry lowered the deficit to 64 points, the closest since a 55-point spread after JGR first took the lead from RCR following Talladega.
In The Loop: Coleman Hopes To Go One Position Better This Year At Kentucky
Kentucky Speedway has earned its identity as the track that makes careers.
Can it happen again?
If it does, look for the honor to go to Brad Coleman. He almost won last season finishing second in a hotly contested late-race battle.
Coleman's statistics that day speak for themselves. He had a Driver Rating of 124.8, an Average Running Position of 4.3, 23 Fastest Laps Run and ran all 200 Laps in the Top 15.
If not Coleman, Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford) may be the guy.
Ambrose finished just outside the top 10 (11th) last year, his first trip to the track. His stats, though, were some of the best with a Driver Rating of 103.6, an Average Running Position of 7.3 and all 200 Laps in the Top 15.
Also watch for a strong performance from Steve Wallace (No. 66 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet), who also is looking for his first series win. Unlike Coleman and Ambrose, Wallace has run two races at Kentucky -- with finishes of 11th and 22nd, respectively.
His stats there are solid with a Driver Rating of 94.4, an Average Running Position of 8.8, 73 Green Flag Passes and 86.5% of the Laps in the Top 15.
Who can end the reign of the 'newbies?' Clint Bowyer will certainly give it a go -- and could very well succeed.
In Bowyer's two races since 2005, he has a Driver Rating of 108.8, an Average Running Position of 9.4, 20 Fastest Laps Run and has run 87.8% of the Laps in the Top 15.
Bowyer also has momentum on his side. He is coming off a Nashville race in which he scored a Driver Rating of 129.4, second only to race winner Brad Keselowski.
For the record, Keselowski has yet to compete in a series race at Kentucky, but finished 18th and 30th there in 2005 and 2006 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. His Driver Rating over those two races was 64.6.
The Director's Take: Series-Only Teams Look For Third Straight Win
Joe Balash, the NASCAR Nationwide Series director, isn't just a nuts and bolts guy. He understands where stats have a place in his garage. "Is this the weekend that another full time series driver completes a 'Kentucky trifecta' with another first win?," he asked.
"With as many full time series regulars posting some of their best finishes in recent weeks, the race at Kentucky is shaping up to be one of the best of the season," he said.
"A very tight points battle will force the crew chiefs to double- and triple-check their notes for this 1-5 mile track.
"Every week, series-only regulars are battling for every point they can get and this is another opportunity for them to distance themselves from some of the double-duty drivers.
"We talk about development as one of the key elements of the NASCAR Nationwide Series and at this point in the season, it shows how strong that development is with the number of drivers who have scored points and are in the running for the top 10 positions."
Most Wins: Seven drivers with one win
Most Poles: Seven drivers with one pole
Quick Fact: Brad Coleman won his first ARCA race at Kentucky in 2006 with current crew chief Shawn Parker in that same position.
In addition to Stephen Leicht for Clint Bowyer, other substitute drivers this weekend at Kentucky are scheduled to be: Jeremy Clements for Kyle Busch; Jason Hedlesky for Carl Edwards (Hedlesky normally serves as Edwards' spotter); Chad Blount for Jason Leffler (Leffler seeks his second consecutive start in the No. 70 Haas Automation Chevrolet); Auggie Vidovich for David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) and Josh Wise for David Reutimann. Wise will handle Friday's first practice and Reutimann is expected for final practice and qualifying. Wise will then move to the No. 22 Supercuts Dodge for the race.
Standings leader Clint Bowyer looks to collect his 125th career NASCAR Nationwide Series start Saturday. In his first 124 starts, Bowyer has accumulated six wins, six poles, 47 top fives and 77 top 10s.
Landon Cassill (No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet), will make his first series start at Kentucky but has experience there having tested for Hendrick Motorsports' R&D team in 2007-08. He has added experience with Owensboro's own David Green, the 1994 series champion, who will spot for Cassill. Cassill, 18, registered his first career top 10 finish at Nashville. He'll pull his own version of double duty Sunday at a dirt race in his home state of Iowa.
Nationwide Insurance hosts another of its "Driving While Distracted" programs Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Meijer store on Houston Road in in Florence, Ky.
Brad Keselowski and Eric McClure (No. 24 Hefty Brands Chevrolet) will speak to the community on the dangers of driving while distracted.
The race is a "home" event for Nationwide; its headquarters is located in Columbus, Ohio.
Bill France Performance Cup
With its win at Nashville last weekend, Chevrolet completed a season sweep at the track and also did what no manufacturer had been able to do in the pervious eight races -- defeat Toyota.
Chevrolet (four wins) and Ford (three wins and defending race winner) are the only two manufacturers to post victories at Kentucky. Dodge had two cars among the top 10 finishers last year; Toyota's best finish was 14th.
Up Next: Camping World RV Rental 250 at The Milwaukee Mile
The NASCAR Nationwide Series moves on to West Allis, Wis., for the Camping World RV Rental 250 at The Milwaukee Mile on June 21.
Aric Almirola won last year after starting the race, but teammate Denny Hamlin took over on Lap 58 and actually crossed the finish line.
Almirola also won his second consecutive pole there last year.
The Race: Meijer 300 presented by Oreo
The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: Saturday, June 14
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps
Track Size: 1.5-mile oval
TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET
2007 Winner: Stephen Leicht
2007 Pole: Regan Smith
Schedule (Times local--ET)
Friday--Practice 5-6:15 p.m.;
Final Practice 6:45-8 p.m.
Saturday--Qualifying, 5:10 p.m.