*Toyota Teams Showing No Signs Of Sophomore Jinx *It's A First: Crew Chief Cindy Woosley Set To Make History This Weekend *"Nationwide Insurance Mobile Experience" Debuts At Las Vegas Toyota Tag-Team: Stewart, Busch Showing Early-Season ...
*Toyota Teams Showing No Signs Of Sophomore Jinx
*It's A First: Crew Chief Cindy Woosley Set To Make History This Weekend
*"Nationwide Insurance Mobile Experience" Debuts At Las Vegas
Toyota Tag-Team: Stewart, Busch Showing Early-Season Strength
So much for the restrictor plate-only win theory.
Tony Stewart (No. 20 Old Spice Toyota) has won four races in his NASCAR Nationwide Series career, three of those at Daytona International Speedway including the 2008 season opener.
But he stepped outside the box this past Monday at Auto Club Speedway, winning his first series race without a restrictor plate.
His two-race winning streak is the first in the series since Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) won last summer at Montreal and Watkins Glen.
Stewart's chances at three straight are pretty good, too, considering his recent series results.
He's coming off a perfect 150.0 Driver Rating at California, only the eighth driver to do so in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
He finished third in this event last year with a perfect view of the thrilling finish between defending race winner Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) and his current teammate and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota).
And the hot start by second-year manufacturer Toyota certainly doesn't hurt Stewart's chances, nor those of his teammate Busch or the other four Toyota drivers entered in the event.
In fact, Busch's start has bordered on historic. He leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings and is second in the NASCAR Nationwide Series rankings heading to his home track.
Woosley First Female Crew Chief In NASCAR National Series History
Cindy Woosley didn't set out to be a pioneer. She'll be the first to tell you she's "all about the cars."
But this weekend at Las Vegas, a woman who has always had an affinity for working on cars, has worked as a sheet metal fabricator as well as a skilled home builder, will add another line to her resume -- the first female crew chief in NASCAR national series history.
Woosley will lead the No. 01 Lori Morgan LLC Chevrolet of JD Motorsports with Kertus Davis as the driver at Las Vegas.
She moved to the top of the pit box following a six-race suspension imposed on regular crew chief Gene Allnut, who was one of five crew chiefs suspended due to a rule violation at Daytona.
A native of Kentucky, Woosley has been with the team since last year and has been involved in racing for two seasons.
Familiar Territory: NASCAR Veteran Mike Bliss Right Back In Top-10 Mix
It hasn't taken long for Mike Bliss (No. 22 Supercuts Dodge) to get back in the NASCAR Nationwide Series groove.
Ranked eighth in the series standings, Bliss has improved his finish in the season's first two races: 17th at Daytona and 13th Monday at California.
The NASCAR national series veteran driver -- who won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship in 2002 and has 384 combined starts in NASCAR's three national series -- is back full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the first time since 2004.
He finished fifth in the standings that season after a 10th-place ranking in 2003, his first full season in the series.
Last year, the 42-year-old native of Milwaukie, Ore., competed in 23 races for Fitz Motorsports and posted three top fives and eight top 10s, including a runner-up finish at Memphis Motorsports Park.
His results propelled the team to an 11th-place finish in the owner points, its highest ranking ever.
Owner Armando Fitz moved quickly to secure Bliss for full-time duty this season. He also kept crew chief Paul Wolfe in the fold and the two are meshing well early. Bliss has also recently been joined on the team by another NASCAR veteran, Kenny Wallace (No. 36 Shark Energy Drink Dodge).
Bliss has run well at Las Vegas regardless of the series. In two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts he has a pole, a fifth-place and 12th-place finish. He has four top fives in six career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts and finished 16th in his lone NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at the track.
In The Loop: Las Vegas Is Becoming Burton's Personal Playground
Jeff Burton wants to change the Sin City slogan a bit. Make it "Whatever happens in Vegas, happens everywhere else."
If that were the case, Burton would come close to winning everywhere, every time.
Burton has raced at Las Vegas seven times to the tune of three wins, five top fives and six top 10s. Last season, Burton racked up one of the most dominating performances of the year.
He scored a stellar Driver Rating of 139.5, an Average Running Position of 3.8, 41 Fastest Laps Run and 195 Laps in the Top 15. That all spells "jackpot."
Reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford) has also proved lucky at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Though he hasn't won, he's never finished outside the top 10 in any of his three visits to the 1.5-mile track. Probably his best chance at a Victory Lane visit came in 2005 -- he started from the pole, led 125 of the 200 laps and earned a Driver Rating of 140.1. Oddly, he finished seventh that race -- his worst finish of his three starts.
Overall at Las Vegas, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 115.5, an Average Running Position of 6.8, a series-high 581 Laps in the Top 15 (95.9%) and a series-high 59 Fastest Laps Run.
A key "dark horse" this weekend may be David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet), who is driving for Rusty Wallace Racing. At Las Vegas, Stremme has finished in the top five in all three of his appearances. It's arguably his most successful track -- the three top fives account for 20 percent of his career top fives in the series (he also has three top-fives in four races at The Milwaukee Mile).
What makes Stremme's performances even more impressive at Las Vegas is that each race featured a number of double-duty drivers.
In his last two starts -- finishes of third and fifth -- Stremme compiled a Driver Rating of 110.1, an Average Running Position of 6.5, 60 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green) and 379 Laps in the Top 15 (94.8%).
The Director's Take: Fuel And Tire Strategies In Play At Las Vegas
"We're coming back to Las Vegas not long after it was one of the Preseason Thunder test stops for the NASCAR Nationwide Series," NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash says when sizing up Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"Teams will have a good indication of what they'll need for the event based on being able to test at the track just last month.
"One of the big changes teams will see this weekend will again result from the introduction of the tapered spacer. It will change the way the drivers roll through the corners and also affect strategy on how they race the event because their corner entry and exit speeds will be different than previous races at this track.
"Fuel and tire strategies will also be different this year due to the smaller fuel cell. We're at 17.75 gallons in each of our three national series as opposed to the 22-gallon cells we had across the board in years past.
"The crew chiefs will also need to recalculate their strategy as to when they put on fresh tires. Due to that combination, we may see an increase in fuel-only stops this year."
Las Vegas is the first of 19 scheduled trackside appearances for the "Nationwide Insurance Mobile Experience," which will be located in the frontstretch display lot between the start/finish line and Turn 4.
The 75'x75' NASCAR Nationwide Series-branded interactive display is focused on educating race fans about the series and its drivers, while reenforcing Nationwide Insurance's relationship with the Series and its product offerings.
The display features various interactive activities including NASCAR Nationwide Series racing simulators along with Motorcycle and ATV simulators, the NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver Match Game, a green screen imaging station, a Nationwide Insurance Prize Wheel, the Nationwide 'Up to Speed Challenge' as well as the Nationwide show car and a driver autograph session on Saturday before the Nationwide race.
What's quickly becoming an annual affair in Las Vegas, the Raybestos Rookie Cooking Challenge will be held on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the ESPN Zone located at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip from 2-4 p.m. MST.
NASCAR Nationwide Series rookies Cale Gale (Kevin Harvick Inc.), Landon Cassill (JR Motorsports) and Michael McDowell (Michael Waltrip Racing) will take part in the event. Chefs from the ESPN Zone will coach the drivers as they each prepare a meal that will be judged by members of the Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club. Brad Coleman (No. 27 Scott's Bath-Von's Ford) took the crown last year.
Once he crossed the 100-mile mark in Monday's race at California, Kevin Harvick officially logged 45,000 miles in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition since his first start in 1999. ... Las Vegas was the site of Richard Childress Racing driver Scott Wimmer and his wife Jody's wedding. They were wed Jan. 10, 2004 at Bellagio.
Tony Stewart's two-race winning streak has Toyota atop the Bill France Performance Cup standings heading to Las Vegas.
Chevrolet is the leading manufacturer at LVMS with six wins including last year's victory. Ford has four wins while Dodge has one.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series makes its annual appearance at Atlanta Motor Speedway next Saturday, March 8. The Nicorette 300 will be televised live on ESPN2 beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. The race begins at 2 p.m. ET.
The Race: Sam's Town 300
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 1
The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles/20 0laps
TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval
2007 Winner: Jeff Burton
2007 Pole: Kevin Harvick
Schedule: Friday -- Practice 10:30-11:50 a.m.; Final Practice 1:45-3:30 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 9:05 a.m. (Impound).