Michigan: Round 25 preview

*Keselowski Hopes For Win-Win Situation At Home In Michigan *Ambrose's Win Another Strike For Series-Only Regulars *Edwards, Roush Fenway Under Pressure At Michigan *In The Loop: Martin Brings Near-Perfect Driver Rating To MIS Brad Keselowski ...

*Keselowski Hopes For Win-Win Situation At Home In Michigan
*Ambrose's Win Another Strike For Series-Only Regulars
*Edwards, Roush Fenway Under Pressure At Michigan
*In The Loop: Martin Brings Near-Perfect Driver Rating To MIS

Brad Keselowski Heads Home With One Thing In Mind: Win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 12, 2008) - Last year, Michigan native Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) received an emotional standing ovation from fans at Michigan International Speedway when he crossed the finish line 13th in his first NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance at his home track.

This time around, the 24-year-old from Rochester Hills -- a two-hour drive from MIS -- returns home with quite a resume. And a reachable goal. He's stepped up his game this season having secured his first win, his first pole, and more importantly his first quest for a title.

Keselowski is second in the standings, 128 points behind Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet). It's the closest Keselowski has been to first place in his career and the closest any driver has been to Bowyer since May.

He realizes the significance of his ranking.

"I was reading something the other day about Alan Kulwicki when he won his championship in 1992," he said. "He wrecked out at Dover with six races to go and he was about 280 points behind and came back to win the championship. So, being only 128 behind Clint is not the end of the world.

"We need to race to win, and if we can win some races, we can close that gap really quickly."

In 27 starts for JR Motorsports last year, Keselowski posted five top-10 finishes. This year he has nearly tripled that total, posting eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 24 starts.

Ambrose's Win Builds On Series-Only Regulars' Success

Marcos Ambrose's (No. 59 STP Ford) first career NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Watkins Glen marked the fourth victory for series-only regulars this year, the most since 2005 when five series-only regulars registered wins.

"I've dragged my family halfway around the world ... and today it just feels like it was all worthwhile," said the native of Launceston, Tasmania. "It feels like I've conquered a huge mountain."

Ambrose's win also vaulted him into 10th in the standings, the first time he has been in the top 10 since the end of last season when he finished eighth. The affable Aussie finished third -- after starting 43rd -- in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Glen in just his third career start and will pull double-duty again this weekend at MIS.

Scott Wimmer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) in March, Brad Keselowski in June at Nashville Superspeedway and Joey Logano (No. 18 GameStop Toyota) at Kentucky Speedway are the other series-only regulars to capture wins this year.

Go-Time For Edwards, Roush-Fenway

What's a little beating and banging among friends?

Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford), the reigning series champion and Clint Bowyer, the current standings leader, tangled for the second time this summer at Watkins Glen. As a result, both drivers find themselves in a bit more precarious situation in the standings.

Push also came to shove between the two at the Milwaukee Mile where Edwards moved Bowyer out of the way late, en route to his first win of the year.

Their tussle at The Glen dropped them to finishes in the mid-20s and also impacted both in the standings.

Bowyer saw his lead -- although still stout -- slip so that second place is as close as its been in four months.

Edwards slipped from second to third in the rankings and at 174 points behind Bowyer, could be watching his chance at a repeat go by the wayside.

His team owner, Jack Roush -- who runs one of his engine facilities out of Livonia, Mich. -- leads all series owners with three wins at MIS. But one of his cars hasn't won there in 10 years, since Jeff Burton became the only driver to win from the pole in 1998.

Edwards' last two races at Michigan haven't been stellar, either. After finishing third in his first series start at the two-mile track in 2005, he's finished 23rd and 28th, respectively, in his last two races there.

Brad Not The Only Keselowski Making The Rounds At Michigan

Brad Keselowski's older brother also will attempt to qualify at Michigan.

Brian Keselowski, 26, finished higher than his brother (15th) the last time they raced together three weeks ago at O'Reilly Raceway Park, but Brad had the upper hand at Michigan last year, finishing 13th to Brian's 33rd.

Brian will attempt to make his 10th NASCAR Nationwide Series start this season. The brothers' dad, Bob, a long-time owner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will serve as crew chief for Brian.

Mark Martin Makes Series Return At One Of His Hot Spots -- Michigan

Mark Martin (No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet) will make his third start of the season this weekend at Michigan and also goes for his record-breaking third win at the track.

The series' all-time leader in wins (48) and poles (30) is tied with three other drivers -- two-time series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., Todd Bodine and Ryan Newman -- for the most wins at Michigan (two).

Martin has been dominant at MIS, having posted a series-high seven top fives and eight top 10s to go along with one pole in 10 starts.

Only Jeff Burton has stats to rival Martin's -- one win, one pole, five top fives and eight top 10s in 11 races.

In The Loop: Michigan A Favorite On Martin's Limited Series Schedule

Coming in cold doesn't really faze Mark Martin. It's sort of become a trademark of the all-time wins leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Martin has taken a three-month hiatus from the series, but don't expect much rust. He's made a living at running part-time in the series and still being able to snag wins. Take 1993, for instance. Martin won seven times while only running 14 of the 28 races that year.

This weekend, he looks to make it 2-3 (he won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). The statistics suggest it's a possibility. Martin has the top pre-race Michigan Driver Rating of anyone running in Saturday's race: 110.0. Along with that mark, Martin has an Average Running Position of 6.7, 11 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 92.9% in his last two Michigan races.

Also watch for a strong run from Brian Vickers (No. 32 ABF Freight Toyota). Vickers started second and finished sixth last season at Michigan and over his last two starts has a Driver Rating of 98.0, an Average Running Position of 11.4, 21 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 84.4%.

One thing is certain, this will be a memorable weekend for Brad Coleman (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) no matter how he finishes as he'll attempt to qualify for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday. He's already locked into the NASCAR Nationwide Series event, and hopes to follow up with another strong Michigan performance. Last season, in his first trip to the two-mile track, he finished 15th and racked up strong stats earning a Driver Rating of 81.6, an Average Running Position of 11.4, 62 Green Flag Passes and ran 54 of the 125 laps running among the top 15.

The Director's Take: Back To Ovals After Two Weeks On The "Road"

After two consecutive races on road courses, the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to racing on an oval this week at 2-mile Michigan International Speedway.

"Teams have been dealing with left and right turns. Now they come to a big, wide speedway ," said Series Director Joe Balash.

"Teams will work hard to keep the attitude of the car in what they feel is their perfect configuration to make them go as fast as they can on the long straights. Yet, they need to give the driver as much feel and control as possible to make that left turn at 180-plus mph.

"They've spent a lot of time and detail into hanging car bodies. Aerodynamics will play a big role at Michigan."

NNS Etc.

Coleman Seeks NASCAR Sprint Cup Debut: Brad Coleman (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) will attempt to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at MIS after being named last week to replace J.J. Yeley in the No. 96 Toyota for Hall of Fame Racing. The 20-year-old native of Houston, Texas, will have to qualify on time as the team sits 39th in owner points.

Logano And Stewart Teammates For First Time This Season: Joey Logano (No. 18 GameStop Toyota) will race with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart (No. 20 Old Spice Toyota) for the first time in series competition at Michigan. Stewart is second in the series with five wins while Logano has a win, two poles, three top fives and six top 10s in his eight-race career.

Will The Streak Continue?: One of four drivers, including defending pole winner and former series champion Greg Biffle (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford), Derrike Cope (No. 4 JVC Chevrolet), Mark Martin and Kevin Lepage (No. 73 Dodge) can become the first multiple pole winner at MIS. There have been 14 different pole winners for the track's 16 races.

Keselowski At WIX Media Day & Golf: Brad Keselowski will be part of the WIX Filters Media Day and Golf Challenge on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the WIX Filters warehouse in Gastonia, NC beginning at 10:30 a.m. Following interviews, media are invited to lunch and a round of golf at Pine Island Country Club. Contact Jimmy White (racecamp@aol.com) for further information and to RSVP.

Manufacturers' Standings Ford won its fourth race of the season last Saturday cutting into Toyota's lead in the Bill France Performance Cup standings.

Marcos Ambrose and JTG Racing are the first Ford team other than Roush Fenway Racing to secure a series win this season.

MIS bodes well for Chevrolet, which has won 11 of the 14 series races at the track including the last two in a row.

Cassill Wrestles Rookie Lead From CGRFS Duo

Landon Cassill took the lead in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings last weekend at Watkins Glen and is now four points ahead of Bryan Clauson. But neither Cassill nor Clauson are entered in the CARFAX 250, opening the door for Clauson's Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Dario Franchitti, who posted his best career finish (fifth) at The Glen after capturing his first career pole.

This will be Franchitti's 13th series start this season. He has posted one top-five and two top-10s and is scheduled for one more start than Clauson as the two drivers will split the remainder of the season's 11 races.

Franchitti will make his first start in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car at Michigan, but in his last start at the track in 2007 in the IndyCar Series he sat on the pole, but finished 13th due to an accident.

Up Next: Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway

Following two consecutive weekends of road-course racing followed by a two-mile oval, the series heads back to its short-track racing roots at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kasey Kahne won last year's Bristol night race giving Gillett Evernham Motorsports its first series victory at the track while Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) won his first Bristol pole.

FAST FACTS

The Race: CARFAX 250
The Place: Michigan International Speedway

The Date: Saturday, August 16
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 250 miles / 125 laps
Track Size: 2-mile oval

TV: ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Denny Hamlin
2007 Polesitter: Greg Biffle

Schedule:
Friday--Practice 1:45-3:30 p.m.; Final Practice 5:15-6:15 p.m.
Saturday--Qualifying, 10:40 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Derrike Cope , Tony Stewart , Todd Bodine , Jason Leffler , Greg Biffle , Kevin Lepage , Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose , Scott Wimmer , J.J. Yeley , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Landon Cassill , Brad Coleman , Chip Ganassi , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Bryan Clauson , Joey Logano , Brian Keselowski , Felix Sabates , Mark Martin , Alan Kulwicki
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , JR Motorsports