Richmond II: Series round 27 preview

*Big Beatin' and Bangin' Theory: New Car Makes Short-Track Debut *JGR In Line To Tie Series Mark With Third Consecutive Owner Title *Leffler To Hit Career Start No. 250 At Richmond New Car Set For First Short-Track Race At Richmond Friday...

*Big Beatin' and Bangin' Theory: New Car Makes Short-Track Debut
*JGR In Line To Tie Series Mark With Third Consecutive Owner Title
*Leffler To Hit Career Start No. 250 At Richmond

New Car Set For First Short-Track Race At Richmond

Friday night at Richmond International Raceway is the third of four races this year for the NASCAR Nationwide Series new car. But despite this being the third race, there will be another first: the first event for the new car on a short track. Also, there are a new-car high 45 entries for the event.

When series owners met with NASCAR's competition executives last summer, the consensus was to race at tracks of varying length. The first race, on July 1 on Daytona International Speedway's 2.5-mile high banks, resulted in the historic first new car victory by two-time series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., who drove a Chevrolet Impala.

Current standings leader Brad Keselowski (No. 22 Ruby Tuesday Dodge) won in a Dodge Challenger in Race No. 2 at the flatter, wider 2-mile surface of Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 14.

Keselowski not only won the most recent new-car race, but he also won at Richmond in the spring. The 2007 series champion, Carl Edwards (No. 60 Copart Ford), who will drive a Ford Mustang Friday night, is the defending winner of this race.

Keselowski (fourth at Daytona in July) and Edwards (second at Michigan and 11th at Daytona) should be favorites at Richmond. But don't discount another Chevy victory or the first by Toyota, either.

Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Armour Vienna Sausage/Kroger Chevrolet), also a two-time series champion, has four wins at Richmond, one off the series record held by Mark Martin. He was fifth at the July race at Daytona and 10th four weeks ago at Michigan.

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota Kimmy/Z-Line Toyota), third at Michigan last month and seventh at Day-tona in July, has three wins at Richmond, including his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in 2004. the reigning series champion also is gunning for his 11th win of the season, which would set a new series record in that category. Pay particular attention to his car, firesuit and helmet, too -- especially if you like bunnies, kittens and little baby seals.

After Richmond's .75-mile oval, the new car has one more race this year, Oct. 15 on 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. That will be the last new-car race until 2011, when it will be introduced fulltime.

No. 22 Team Losing Ground To No. 18 Team's Owner-Title Chase

Brad Keselowski has a good handle on the driver standings lead (332 points over second-place Carl Edwards), but he's got some work to do if he's going to unify the 2010 driver and owner championship.

With only nine races to go, his No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge trails the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toy-ota, driven this season by the duo of Kyle Busch and Brad Coleman, by 83 points.

JGR has won the last two NASCAR Nationwide Series owner championships. The series record is three straight by Bill Baumgardner from 1995-97. Last year, Busch captured the driver and owner titles in the No. 18 car. In 2008, the team's No. 20 Toyota won the owner championship -- its first NASCAR Nationwide Se-ries title -- while Clint Bowyer (No. 21 Zaxby's Chevrolet) was the driver champion.

Shared championships aren't unique to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The first split title in NASCAR national-series history was in 2003 when Brian Vickers won the driver championship and Richard Chil-dress Racing's No. 21 Chevrolet was the owner champion. Edwards won the 2007 driver championship but was denied the owner title by Childress' No. 29 Chevy.

This is the second-closest margin between the leader and second-place team with nine races left since 2007, when the No. 29 team led the No. 60 by 68 points.

Should the No. 18 forge on, the Busch/Coleman tandem will represent the fewest number of drivers to capture a shared title for JGR. In 2007, the No. 20 championship team used five different drivers. In 2008, the No. 20 used four different drivers. Both of RCR's split championships were claimed by a team of two drivers.

There will be an extended practice for the new car Thursday at RIR from 9 a.m. -- noon and 1-4 p.m.

Following the afternoon practice session, an autograph session featuring series drivers will be held from 4:30-5:15 p.m. at the RIR Amphitheater, out-side Turn 1. The extended prac-tice sessions and autograph session are free. But fans will need to secure a wristband for the autograph session. They will be distributed at 3 p.m. at Gate 40, the same entry for extended practice seating.

In The Loop: A "Happy" Ending At Richmond?

This weekend could be dubbed --The Kevin Harvick Show.

Though most of Harvick's weekend will be defined by ending the NAS-CAR Sprint Cup Series regular season as the standings leader and possi-ble championship favorite, he'll also likely be one of the favorites in Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Harvick, with four career wins, loves Rich-mond. He almost always finishes well, as his nine top 10s in the last 10 races suggest. In 2005 and 2006, he won three consecutive Richmond races.

Overall at Richmond, the two-time series champion has a series-best Driver Rating of 117.0, an Average Running Position of 8.1, 258 Fastest Laps Run, 475 Laps Led, a Pass Differ-ential (passes minus times passed) of plus-150 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 87.3%.

Though not running a full NASCAR Nation-wide campaign, Harvick has been strong in his 20 races this year with only two finishes outside the top 10. He has some of the strongest statistics in the series: a Driver Rating of 113.9, an Average Running Position of 6.3, 321 Laps Led and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 95.3%.

Though likely not a winning threat, Jason Keller (No. Tri-Star Motorsports Chevrolet) could contend. The series' all-time starts leader (512), coming off two finishes inside the top 20, could break down the top-10 wall Friday night.

His last two starts -- a 12th at Bristol Motor Speedway and an 18th at Atlanta Motor Speed-way -- rank as one of his best two-race stretches of the season. Only a fourth at Talladega Super-speedway and a 14th at Richmond earlier in April were better. Over the two events, Keller had a Driver Rating of 72.0 and an Average Running Position of 18.2. Solid numbers, both.

Momentum is on his side, as is a wealth of experience -- and success -- at Richmond.

Keller's last six starts at RIR all have resulted in top-20 finishes, and two were top 10s. Over that span, he had an average finish of 13.8, a Driver Rating of 82.2, an Average Running Position of 15.0 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 60.5%.

Sadlers Renew Sibling Rivalry At Richmond

Two sets of brothers are entered at Rich-mond, and one is literally preparing for a brother vs. brother backyard brawl.

The Sadler brothers -- Elliott (No. 88 GT Vodka Chevrolet) and Hermie (No. 27 Virginia Commonwealth University Ford) -- from Emporia, Va., will face each other in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race for the first time since 2003 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hermie (29th) got the best of Elliott (36th) in that one.

But Elliott may have the upper hand Friday night. He'll drive the No. 88 for JR Motorsports -- Jamie McMurray won in that car last Saturday in Atlanta. Hermie will drive a Ford Mustang new car model.

The other set of brothers boasts a three-time winner at Richmond. Kenny Wallace (No. 28 Fedearated Auto Parts Chevrolet), won at RIR in three consecutive seasons -- fall 1994, spring 1995 and fall 1996. He once again goes up against older brother Mike (No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet).

The last time the Sadlers faced each other at their home track was 1999. Hermie Sadler made his first series start since 2004 in March at Richmond while Elliott Sadler's last series race at RIR was this race in 2008.

The Sadlers have strong ties to the series. Hermie Sadler has 257 starts (six full seasons) and two wins, while Elliott Sadler has 129 starts (two full seasons) and five wins. Both have a career-high finish of fifth in the final standings.

NNS Etc.: Richmond Edition

Leffler Set For Start No. 250

Richmond will represent another milestone event in the career of series veteran Jason Lef-fler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota).

The native of Long Beach, Calif., who cele-brates his 35th birthday Sept. 16, makes his 250th NASCAR Nationwide Series start Friday night. He made his first start in 1999 at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. He's got two wins and eight poles (one at RIR in 1999) over that span, and comes to this race with momentum.

He's 10th in the standings following a sev-enth-place finish at Atlanta last Saturday. That result was his ninth top 10 of the season, and his sixth driving the No. 10 Toyota. He's driven the No. 10 when Kasey Kahne has been in the No. 38 for Braun Racing.

Leffler is six points behind ninth-place Joey Logano, 49 behind eighth-place Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota) and 80 behind young Trevor Bayne (No. 99 Out! Pet Care Toyota). He hasn't finished below ninth in the final standings in the last three seasons.

He finished 32nd in this race last year after a mid-race accident forced him to miss 23 laps.

Pressley Returns To Site Of Dad's Win

Coleman Pressley (No. 23 R3 Mo-torsports Chevrolet) is back for another turn with R3 Motorsports. He and the team already have had success this year at Richmond.

The third-generation NASCAR driver has driven for R3 in three previous races this season; one of which was the April race at RIR where he finished 18th.

Pressley's father, Robert, counts a 1992 win at Richmond among his 10 career victories in 244 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts.

Other notables returning to the series this week: Aric Almirola (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) previews his new deal with JR Mo-torsports while Erik Darnell gets a shot in the No. 16 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

Gaughan Nationwide "Driver Of Week"

Returning to a track where he's run well this year may be the perfect remedy for Brendan Gaugahn (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota).

Gaugahn has slipped from of the top 10 in the standings over the last two weeks to 11th, due in large part to an average finish of 22.0. This last top-10 finish, a sixth at O'Reilly Raceway Park, came six races ago.

But, a ninth at Richmond in April is among Gaughan's seven top-10 finishes this year.

Gaughan also is Nationwide's 'Driver of the Week'-- He's featured in a piece on NASCARNationwideSeries.com, and will be on a live web chat on that site at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Also on Sept. 8, as part of series sponsor Nationwide Insurance's events during Richmond week, Brian Scott (No. 11 BigSpot.com Toyota), the Raybestos Rookie standings leader, will speak to students and take part in a safe driving event from 3-5 p.m. at Richmond's Showplace Exhibition Center, 3000 Mechanicsville Turnpike in Richmond.

Manufacturers' Standings

Although Chevrolet is the all-time winner at Richmond with 20, each manufacturer has won at least once over the last six races there.

Toyota and Ford had won the last four races over the previous two seasons, but this spring, Dodge captured its first-ever win at RIR.

Up Next: Open Week

The NASCAR Nationwide Series has a week off before returning to Dover International Speedway for the Dover 200 on Saturday, Sept. 25. ESPN2 will have the race broadcast, starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Clint Bowyer is the defending winner while Kyle Busch won March's event. Busch also was the polesitter for the fall 2009 race.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Virginia 529 College Savings 250
The Place: Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile oval)

The Date: Friday, September 10
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 250 laps/187.5 miles

TV: ESPN2, 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio (Local-WRVA-AM 1140, WRNL-AM 910)

2009 Winner: Carl Edwards
2009 Polesitter: Denny Hamlin

Schedule prior to race day (times ET):
Thursday: Practice, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., 1-4 p.m.;
Friday: Final Practice, 10 -11 a.m. Qualifying, 4 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Jamie McMurray , Hermie Sadler , Trevor Bayne , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Brad Coleman , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Aric Almirola , Erik Darnell , Joey Logano , Brian Scott , Steve Wallace , Coleman Pressley , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing , JR Motorsports , JD Motorsports