Richmond: Round nine preview

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Richmond International Raceway Keselowski, Finch Pull NASCAR Sprint Cup Upset At 'Dega DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 27, 2009) - Brad Keselowski became the first NASCAR Nationwide Series regular to win a...

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Richmond International Raceway

Keselowski, Finch Pull NASCAR Sprint Cup Upset At 'Dega

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 27, 2009) - Brad Keselowski became the first NASCAR Nationwide Series regular to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in nearly seven years when he scored a stunning last-lap victory in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

After a slow start to the season in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Klondike Chevrolet, Keselowski moved up to sixth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings following a ninth-place finish in Saturday's Aaron's 312.

The last NASCAR Nationwide Series-only regular to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was Jamie McMurray, subbing for injured Sterling Marlin, at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2002.

Now, the NASCAR Nationwide Series moves from the high banks of Talladega to short track action in Friday's Lipton TEA 250 at Richmond International Raceway.

Keselowski had mixed results on the .75-mile oval in 2008. He improved from a 33rd-place starting position to finish 11th in the spring race. Last September, he qualified third, but finished 21st.

But he wasn't the only series-only regular to win Sunday at Talladega.

His victory came at the wheel of the No. 09 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet owned by James Finch, who also owns the No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet driven full-time by Mike Bliss in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It was an ironic turnaround from Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide race.

Bliss went out Saturday after just 40 laps when his car overheated following an early-race incident. His 41st-place finish was only the fourth time in his 151-race NASCAR Nationwide Series career that he'd registered a result of 40th or worse. The last time was October 2007 at Texas Motor Speedway, when he was 43rd after an accident on Lap 3.

Bliss had made his first foray into the 2009 top 10 standings (ninth) prior to Talladega. But the DNF dropped him back to 13th position in the rankings.

Darnell To Debut In Roush's Talladega-Winning No. 6

Erik Darnell has big shoes to fill when he makes his season debut in the No. 6 Northern Tools+Equipment Ford for the Lipton TEA 250.

David Ragan won his first NASCAR national series race at Talladega. That moved the Georgian up to third in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, while the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 leaped to sixth in the hotly-contested owner standings.

The series owner championship is the team's main goal, with Ragan and Darnell sharing time in the car.

Darnell, a candidate for the 2009 Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year award, will be making his second start in the series. He made his debut last year with a lead-lap 26th-place finish in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford at Mexico City. The 26-year-old Beach Park, Ill., driver is a two-time winner in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition.

Harvick Has Found A Home At Richmond In NASCAR Nationwide Competition

Kevin Harvick has found a home at Richmond in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition. He has four victories on the .75-mile oval, second only to Mark Martin's five.

Harvick came close here a year ago, leading 98 laps and dominating the latter stages of the race before being passed by Denny Hamlin with 12 laps remaining. Harvick finished second, .789 seconds behind the native Virginian.

Harvick will be making his sixth start of the season in the No. 33 Rheem Tankless Water Heaters Chevrolet that he co-owns with his wife DeLana. It will be his second race since winning at Bristol Motor Speedway last month, his first win in his own equipment. Since then, his only race was at Phoenix International Raceway, where he placed fifth.

Harvick scored his first victory at Richmond in the 2003 spring event. He won three consecutive races there, taking the 2005 fall round in addition to sweeping the 2006 events.

The Bakersfield, Calif., native has finished in the top five in 10 of his 16 starts at Richmond. He also has a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory there, winning the 2006 fall event to complete his sweep.

Rheem, VFW To Entertain Troops

In addition to sponsoring Kevin Harvick's NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet, Rheem Manufacturing and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) will team up to co-host a hospitality event Friday night at Richmond International Raceway to entertain 100 wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The event will feature appearances by more than a dozen NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers, including Eric McClure, Brad Keselowski, Scott Wimmer, Todd Bodine, and Cale Gale, as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular and part-time KHI driver Ryan Newman and team owners DeLana Harvick and Richard Childress.

Lagasse Jr. Makes Move To Third

Scott Lagasse Jr. finished a solid eighth in his first start at Talladega, enabling the driver of the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Toyota to move up to third in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.

Michael McDowell was second among the rookie contenders, placing 15th, but dropped a position to fourth in the standings.

Justin Allgaier ran with the leaders before getting involved in an accident and finishing 32nd. He continues to lead the standings by four points over Brendan Gaughan, whose car overheated at Tallladega, relegating himto 38th.

Lagasse, Allgaier and McDowell are also ranked 8th - 10th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings.

Busch, Edwards Should Provide Fireworks At Richmond

Kyle Busch padded his points lead a bit at Talladega, finishing three positions ahead of Carl Edwards.

Richmond could be a place where Edwards makes up some ground. Or, Edwards could lose even more ground if Busch can dominate like he did in 2007.

In that fall race, Busch scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 -- one of six perfect ratings Busch has in his NASCAR Nationwide Series career.

In his eight previous races at Richmond since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Busch has a Driver Rating of 95.6, an Average Running Position of 12.5, 83 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 66.5%.

Edwards won in his first trip to Richmond in 2005 and his last trip there in 2008. In his eight career Richmond races, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 110.4, an Average Running Position of 7.8, 162 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 88.4%.

Also looking to grow a healthy points lead is the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet. The No. 33 leads the owner points by 22 over the No. 18 Toyota driven by Kyle Busch.

This weekend, Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 33 ride -- which could mean a swell in the points lead.

Harvick is phenomenal at Richmond. He has four wins there, including three consecutive victories from 2005-06. Since 2005, Harvick has a Richmond Driver Rating of 119.3, an Average Running Position of 8.8, 213 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 82.5%. One possible wrench in the hopes of the aforementioned double-duty drivers is series-onlyl regular Mike Bliss. He's finished in the top 10 in two of his last three Richmond races, has a Richmond Driver Rating of 95.0 and an Average Running Position of 12.5.

Martin Returns To Richmond

Mark Martin, Richmond's leading winner in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition, will be making his 2009 series debut in Friday's Lipton TEA 250.

It will be the first start at the .75-mile oval for the series' all-time leader in wins (48) and poles (30) since 2005, and his first appearance in the series since finishing third last fall at Texas.

Martin raced five times in the series last year, winning in his debut in the JR Motorsports Chevrolet at Las Vegas. That was his Nationwide Series-leading 48th victory.

Martin, who will race Rick Hendrick's No. 5 Lipton Chevrolet, won five races at Richmond, four of them for Jack Roush. He's raced here 24 times, all in Fords. His last victory at Richmond was in 1999 and he won his debut race here in 1987, driving for Bruce Lawmaster. He swept the 1993 events and won the 1997 spring race.

Martin's most recent NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond was in 2005, when he won the pole and finished fourth.

Brian Keselowski In Top 30

Brad Keselowski wasn't the only big winner in his family last weekend. His older brother, Brian, finished 14th at Talladega. That was good enough to move the No. 26 Schweitzer Title Dodge up four positions in the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner points, to 30th position.

That means the Dusty Whitney-owned entry has a guaranteed starting position in Friday's race. With 49 entries at Richmond, that means six teams will go home disappointed.

The Whitney entry is only two points ahead of Lori Morgan's No. 01 sponsordavis.com Chevrolet driven by Danny O'Quinn Jr., who will be among the 19 drivers participating in knockout qualifying to make the field.

Among the cars also in striking distance of the top 30 are the No. 09 Zaxby's Ford of rookieJohn Wes Townley, 39 points back, and the No. 05 31W Insulation Chevrolet of Casey Atwood, 56 points in arrears.

Stanton Barrett, now a regular in the IRL IndyCar Series, makes his return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the No. 41 Rick Ware Chevrolet. Barrett, son of the Sprint Cup Series' original Skoal Bandit, Stan Barrett, will also field the No. 31 Chevrolet for Travis Kittleson.

NNS Etc.

Tony Raines is making the most of his opportunity to drive the No. 34 Long John Silver's Chevrolet after landing the ride on the eve of the 2009 opener. Raines finishes a season-best fourth in the Aaron's 312 -- his best outing since finishing fourth at Nashville for Kevin Harvick in 2005.

With 2008 Lipton TEA 250 winner Denny Hamlin not in the field, the mantle of local favorite for the Virginia fans shifts to Jeff Burton. The South Boston driver has finished in the top 10 in three of his four 2009 series starts, including a sixth at Auto Club Speedway. Burton will drive the No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet. He's seeking his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory since 2007, when he won five races for Richard Childress Racing.

Among the other double-duty drivers entered are Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Scott Speed and Joe Nemechek.

Manufacturers' Standings

Ford leapfrogged from third to take the lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Bill France Performance Cup standings.

Chevrolet led Toyota by two points entering Saturday's raced at Talladega, with Ford another two points back.

David Ragan's first NASCAR national series victory gave Ford a one-point lead, with Chevy and Toyota only one point behind.

Chevrolet had a five-race winning streak at Richmond snapped last season. Denny Hamlin won the Lipton's TEA 250 for Toyota, while Carl Edwards captured the fall race for Ford.

Quick Stats For Richmond

Drivers will attempt to break a five-year-old track record in qualifying Friday. Kyle Busch set the track record of 20.874 seconds (129.348 mph) as a series rookie in May 2004.

The race record is even older -- with series charter member Dale Jarrett winning the fall 1997 event in 109.047 mph.

While the pole winner has gone on to win nine of the 50 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Richmond, the most winners (10) have come from the third starting position. Half of the winners have started in the top three, with six coming from the outside front row. No other starting position has won more than three races at RIR.

Kyle Busch is a two-time pole winner at RIR, and went on to win both races (2004 and 2007). Those are his only two victories here.

Kevin Harvick won three consecutive races at RIR from Fall 2005 through both 2006 races. The only other driver to win three consecutive races here was series great Harry Gant from 1991-92.

The last winner from outside the top 10 was Johnny Sauter, who started 30th in 2003.

Up Next: Darlington Raceway

The NASCAR Nationwide Series visits historic Darlington Raceway for the only time in 2009 with the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on Saturday, May 8.

Last year, Tony Stewart drove to victory in a Joe Gibbs Toyota on the egg-shaped 1.366-mile oval. Carl Edwards broke the track record in qualifying with a lap of 176.994 mph in a Roush Fenway Ford.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Lipton Tea 250
The Place: Richmond International Raceway

The Date: Friday, May 1, 2009
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 187.5 miles / 250 laps

TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / MRN

2008 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
2008 Polesitter: Kasey Kahne

Event Schedule (all times ET):

Friday
Final Practice 9-11:45 a.m.; Qualifying 4:10 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Casey Atwood , Tony Raines , Jamie McMurray , Michael McDowell , Johnny Sauter , Kasey Kahne , Scott Speed , Scott Wimmer , Brendan Gaughan , Mike Bliss , Stanton Barrett , Carl Edwards , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Jack Roush , Eric McClure , Brad Keselowski , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Justin Allgaier , Erik Darnell , Danny O'Quinn , Cale Gale , Harry Gant , Joey Logano , Travis Kittleson , Brian Keselowski , DeLana Harvick , John Wes Townley , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , JR Motorsports