*RCR Has History Of Top-Five Finishes At Phoenix *Kyle Busch Extends Record Streak *Youth Movement: 12 Drivers In Friday's Race Are Under 24 Sure Thing: RCR Looks To Maintain Phoenix Domination Although there are no guarantees in sports, to...
*RCR Has History Of Top-Five Finishes At Phoenix
*Kyle Busch Extends Record Streak
*Youth Movement: 12 Drivers In Friday's Race Are Under 24
Sure Thing: RCR Looks To Maintain Phoenix Domination
Although there are no guarantees in sports, to say that at least one Richard Childress Racing car will finish in the top five in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200, is about as close as you can get.
Over the past three years (six races), Childress has entered 13 cars in NASCAR Nationwide Series events at Phoenix International Raceway and has come away with 11 top-five finishes.
Defending race winner -- and current standings leader -- Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) leads the charge among this weekend's RCR drivers with four top fives in six races. Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) finished third in this race last year for Childress, his only NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the track for his current team. Burton also has three top 10s in four starts, including a win, for former team owner Jack Roush.
Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet), who will run for his own team this weekend, finished in the top five in the last five Phoenix races he ran for RCR. Scott Wimmer, who shares time with Burton in the No. 29 Chevrolet, finished fourth in last fall's event.
"The Nationwide shop runs well because a lot of the key people have been in place for a long time," said Shane Wilson, crew chief of the No. 21. "We don't talk about being one team, it's just the way that it is at RCR; and I sometimes forget that we have three cars because everyone is looking out for the best interest of the team."
Trying to add to that tradition this week is RCR newcomer Stephen Leicht (No. 21 Chevrolet). Leicht finished seventh in the 2007 standings for Robert Yates Racing, but was left without a ride when the team decided to focus on its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. Leicht has started two races for RCR this year, finishing 10th at Auto Club Speedway and 12th at Nashville Superspeedway.
Three-peat Of A Different Kind: Kyle Busch Extends Win Streak
Kyle Busch's (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) win at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday extended a streak that had been nearly unheard of before his accomplishment. The victory marked the fourth consecutive season that Busch has won at least one race in all three of NASCAR's national series.
"To win in all three series four years in a row or something like that -- I just want to race," Busch said. "I just go out there and drive what I can. To win is the ultimate goal, and to go after points is second."
Before Busch first accomplished the trifecta in 2005, it had been done only two other times -- by Terry Labonte in 1995 and Kevin Harvick in 2003.
The fact that Busch completed the feat so early in the season is just as spectacular. Labonte's third win came in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Richmond International Raceway in September. Harvick's third win also came in the Craftsman Truck Series, but wasn't until October at Phoenix.
Prior to this season, 2006 was the quickest Busch had won in all three series, He completed the 'three-peat' with a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.
Next Generation Of Young Guns On Display At Phoenix
The continued influx of young drivers into the NASCAR Nationwide Series has helped maintain the series' position as a development arena for those looking to move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Twelve of the 43 drivers entered in Friday night's Bashas' Supermarkets 200 are 24 years old or younger. The group is led by three full-time drivers who are currently in the top 10 -- 22-year-old David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire-Coats Ford), fourth; 24-year-old Brad Keselowski (No. 88 Navy Chevrolet), sixth; and 23-year-old Kelly Bires (No. 47 Clorox Ford), ninth. Twenty-year-olds Steve Wallace (No. 66 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) and Brad Coleman (No. 27 Scott Tissue Ford) are also competing in the series full-time and are 15th and 18th, respectively.
"These younger drivers are very talented and come to the series with a wealth of expertise," said NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash. "They race well past their age."
Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates Landon Cassill (No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet) and Chase Miller (No. 9 Ragu Dodge) will be returning to the track after their recent season debuts at Nashville. Cassill, a JR Motorsports development driver, finished 19th, while Miller, with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, finished 14th.
Chip Ganassi Racing will roll out a pair of 22 year olds in Reed Sorenson (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge) and Kyle Krisiloff (No. 41 Polaroid Dodge), and 18-year old James Buescher (No. 32 Great Clips Toyota) will make his series debut for Braun Racing. Kyle Busch (22) and Stephen Leicht (21) round out the list.
In The Loop: Stremme And Leffler Lead Upset Contenders
David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) and Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) just might give the double duty drivers a problem this Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway.
Thus far this young season, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular has won all six NASCAR Nationwide Series races during the dual weekends. Don't be surprised if that streak ends at Phoenix -- and Stremme and Leffler could be the ones to do it.
Stremme finished third at Phoenix in the spring 2005 race and last year scored a solid 11th-place run during the spring event. In his three races since 2005, Stremme has a Driver Rating of 89.7 (which includes a 111.9 Driver Rating in the third-place finish), an Average Running Position of 15.5, and a 58.7% laps in the top 15 mark.
Likewise, Leffler is strong at Phoenix. He finished second there in 2000, his first trip to the one-mile oval. Since then, he's had a number of other strong runs, including a seventh in 2001 and an eighth last year.
Since 2005, Leffler has a Driver Rating of 94.7, an Average Running Position of 12.9, 52 Fastest Laps Run and a 58% laps in the top 15 total.
Of those double duty drivers who will likely pose the biggest threat to the NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, figure Carl Edwards (No. 60 World Financial Group Ford) and Clint Bowyer to be it.
Bowyer led 120 laps during last year's win at Phoenix. In his six starts since 2005, Bowyer has a Driver Rating of 112.0, an Average Running Position of 8.1 and a series-high 138 Fastest Laps Run.
Edwards, a Phoenix winner in 2005, has never finished outside the top 10 in six starts at the Arizona track. In those starts, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 112.6, an Average Running Position of 7.2 and 70 Fastest Laps Run.
The Director's Take: Challenges Ahead For Teams
"This is the time of year where the crew chiefs really earn their keep," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director. "Phoenix is very challenging with its multiple-shaped curves, turns and banking. It almost races like a track with five turns.
"Teams have to compromise on their setups -- some will set the car up to be good in Turns 1 and 2 while others will focus on Turns 3 and 4. Then there are those that will try to find the proper balance at both ends of the track.
"And there's the logistics of the schedule. We're coming out of a 1.5-mile tri-oval, heading to Phoenix, preparing for the trip to the road course at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City then going to Talladega. Different configurations and setups for each present plenty of challenges."
Three Drivers To Attempt Different Double-Duty
Prior to racing in Friday night's Bashas' Supermarkets 200, three drivers will be competing in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 150, the second event of the season for the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
Camping World Series West regular Johnny Borneman (No. 83 Red Line Oil Ford) will be joined by James Buescher and NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 John Morrell Ford).
Borneman finished fifth in the Camping World Series West standings last season. He has made two Nationwide Series starts this season, finishing 29th at Auto Club Speedway and 20th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hamilton has competed in one series event -- finishing third at Las Vegas in 1999. Buescher will be making his series debut.
Bill France Performance Cup Standings
Kyle Busch earned Toyota its third win of the season this past weekend. The win was Toyota's first since Tony Stewart opened the season with two consecutive victories. Chevrolet has three wins, Ford has one and Dodge remains winless.
Up Next: Corona Mexico 200 at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Mexico City next week for the fourth running of the Corona Mexico 200 presented by Banamex at famed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Juan Pablo Montoya won last year's race after starting third. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Pruett, sat on the pole position.
The race has become an 'all-star' race of sorts, attracting top drivers from all over the world and this year will be no different. Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain will lead the strong Mexican contingent while Boris Said and Pruett are among the many road course aces expected to participate.
The Race: Bashas' Supermarkets 200
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway
The Date: Friday, April 11
The Time: 9:45 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200 laps/200 miles
Track Size: 1-mile oval
TV: ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET
2007 Winner: Clint Bowyer
2007 Pole: Kyle Busch
Schedule: Thursday - Practice 10:15 a.m.-12 p.m.; Final Practice 5:45-6:45 p.m. Friday - Qualifying, 2:05 p.m. (Impound).