Texas: Round 5 preview

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes - Texas NASCAR Nationwide Series Returns To Racing DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 31, 2009) - Many sports fans are in the throes of March Madness, but NASCAR Nationwide Series teams and fans are ready for ...

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes - Texas

NASCAR Nationwide Series Returns To Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 31, 2009) - Many sports fans are in the throes of March Madness, but NASCAR Nationwide Series teams and fans are ready for the madness to stop -- open-week madness, that is.

During three of the four full weekends in March, the series has been idle. That changes this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, the first of six consecutive series races.

The open weeks haven't dulled the enthusiasm of the competitors; the Texas entry list is 49 cars strong, the average for entries through four races in 2009.

Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) leads the driver standings by 114 points over second-place Kevin Harvick, who won March 21 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Harvick is the all-time series leader in wins at Texas with four, but he won't be in the No. 33 Armor All Chevrolet this weekend. That honor goes to Tony Stewart. But keep an eye on the two-time NASCAR Nationwide champion -- with his second-place ranking at this stage of the season, Harvick answered "Never say never," when asked if he might consider expanding his schedule to make a run at a third title. Ryan Newman and youngster Cale Gale are also slated for time in the No. 33 Chevy this year.

Edwards' No. 60 Ford also leads the owner standings, 56 points ahead of the No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet of Richard Childress Racing. It's Jeff Burton's turn this weekend at Texas, a track where he's won twice in NASCAR Sprint Cup but has yet to win in NASCAR Nationwide competition. However, Burton has 12 top-10 finishes in his 12 career races at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Kyle Busch (No. 18 NOS Toyota) swept both races at Texas last year, so his recent dominance and certain ire at not capturing a victory last weekend should give him favorite status. He had his streak of at least one win in each of the national series races contested in 2009 broken last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Edwards brought out the broom last year at Texas in the two NASCAR Sprint Cup events.

Balance has been the catch word for the series thus far. There have been four different race winners and four different pole winners while five series-only regulars dot the top-10 in the driver standings, led by three rookies for the first time since 2006 -- Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet -- fourth); Justin Allgaier (No. 21 Verizon Wireless Dodge -- eighth) and Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Co. Toyota -- 10th).

Veteran Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) is ninth, his first appearance in the top 10 since 2006 and the first time his team, Jay Robinson Racing, has had a driver in the top 10 in its 10-year history.

Texas Is Final Race For 2008 Top 30

Saturday's race at Texas marks the fifth and final race where owner points from the 2008 season will be used to set the top 30 guaranteed starting spots in the field.

Following the O'Reilly 300, it'll be the top 30 cars in 2009 owner points that will be locked in for the remainder of the year starting next week at Nashville Superspeedway.

Only 24 points separate positions 25-30 while a scant three-point deficit stands between the No. 40 StopRepairBills.com Chevrolet of Scott Wimmer and the No. 42 Dodge driven by Kenny Hendrick from the No. 61 Ford of Brandon Whitt for the coveted 30th position.

Including the Nos. 40 and 42 cars , just 67 points split positions 31-37 as they chase the No. 30 ranking. (The No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet is in 33rd place but has only two attempts on the season).

Lone Star State Duel: Earnhardt Vs. Earnhardt, And Another Generation Awaits

A storied racing family continues a journey this weekend at Texas that will eventually bring a fourth-generation racer into NASCAR national series competition.

The O'Reilly 300 marks the first time since last summer at Daytona International Speedway that Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 5 Fastenal Chevrolet) and Kerry Earnhardt (No. 31 Thirstbusters Chevrolet) will duel in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Rick Ware Racing recently announced that Kerry and his son Jeffrey, 19, will share select races this year for the organization, specifically those events where Stanton Barrett is concentrating on his full-time IRL schedule.

Jeffrey is preparing to become the fourth generation of Earnhardts to race in one of the three national series following his great-grandfather Ralph, grandfather Dale Sr. and his father and uncle. He will run a seven-race limited schedule this year in order to maintain his rookie status in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for 2010. His national series schedule is to be announced.

Kerry has 70 career NASCAR Nationwide Series starts with three top fives and six top-10 finishes. He competed full-time in the series in 2002, finishing 22nd in the standings. He last raced in the series in 2008.

Jeffery has experience in the NASCAR Camping World Series East where he was fifth in the standings as a rookie in 2007 and finished 15th in the rankings last year.

Fans can circle Sept. 5 on their calendars as all three Earnhardts are aiming to race against each other for the first time in national series competition in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In The Garage: Richardson Jr. Leads List Of Texas Natives

McKinney's own Robert Richardson Jr., driver of the No. 23 Mahindra Tractors Chevrolet, leads the way home this weekend for numerous Texas natives who ply their trades in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Among them:

PJ Briody, rear tire carrier for the No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota; James Davis, jack man/mechanic at Germain Racing and Sam Abney, jack man for the No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet are all from Austin. Davis grew up in Texas before joining the Air Force in 1997. He began his racing career in 2004.

A crowd of nearly 100,000 won't make Briody as nervous as having his mother and two brothers, who still reside in Austin, at the race.

John Bousselot, the front tire carrier for the No. 24 Hefty Odor Block Ford, is from Denton. While pitting the car, he'll explain his position to fans watching the broadcast on ESPN2 via his helmet-cam. Bousselot recently found out he'll become a father for the first time.

Richardson and Brad Coleman, a Houston native who is awaiting his turn behind the wheel of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, will take part in an autograph session Saturday from 10:30-11 a.m. at the NASCAR Nationwide Series merchandise trailer located between Gates 2 and 3 on the outside road, closest to Gate 3.

In The Loop: Tale Of Two Series For Logano

In one sense, Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) has all the time in the world.

He is just 18 years old, and drives full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

In another sense, time isn't on Logano's side. With the competition level as high as it is, a win-now philosophy is always present.

Track time -- and confidence -- is something Logano dearly needs. He'll likely get both this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway as he pulls double duty.

Logano's statistics couldn't be more different when comparing his success in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to his success -- or lack thereof -- thus far in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup, Logano's best finish is 13th. In the NASCAR Nationwide Series, he has two top 10s, including a third-place finish.

He will likely add another top 10 to the count this weekend at Texas, home of his sponsor's headquarters (Grapevine) and a track where he scored one of five top-fives last season. In that fourth-place finish, Logano had a Driver Rating of 113.9, an Average Running Position of 4.0, two Fastest Laps Run and ran all 200 laps among the top 15.

To visit Victory Lane, Logano will have to hold off two very familiar foes -- his teammate and his predecessor.

Kyle Busch, Logano's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, has a Texas Driver Rating of 115.6, an Average Running Position of 8.6, 209 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 82.9. Busch swept last season's Texas races.

Tony Stewart, who drove the No. 20 Toyota for 10 years prior to Logano's entry into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has a Texas Driver Rating of 108.6, an Average Running Position of 14.2, 95 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 66.4. Stewart, who won the season-opening race at Daytona International driving for Hendrick Motorsports, will be behind the wheel of the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet this weekend.

Manufacturers

Chevrolet has the most wins at Texas Motor Speedway (seven), but Toyota has won the last two races thanks to Kyle Busch's sweep last year.

Ford (2007) and Dodge (2006) have both posted wins in this race over the last three years.

Sponsor Reaches Milestone

Great Clips, sponsor of Braun Racing's No. 38 Toyota, will celebrate its 250th start as primary sponsor with the car at Texas.

Great Clips came on board with the organization in 2001 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the late Christian Elder behind the wheel. The team has posted three wins with the sponsor.

It may be fitting that current driver Jason Leffler sports one of the most unusual hairdos in NASCAR; Leffler's "faux-hawk" is his trademark.

Leffler won his first career pole in his first series start at Texas in 2000 for Joe Gibbs.

NNS Etc.

Hoosier Howard Debuts For ML Motorsports: Shelby Howard (No. 70 ForeTravel Motorcoach Chevrolet) will attempt to make his debut for Indiana-based ML Motorsports at Texas. Howard, 23, a native of Greenville, Ind., replaces Mark Green.

"Mark did a good job and helped us develop our program," team owner Mary Louise Miller said. However with the opportunity to sign an Indiana driver, the organization made its move.

"Shelby is an Indiana kid (who) we know well from our days in ARCA," team manager Tony Barnes said. "We're very happy to have an Indiana driver."

Howard first competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2003 at age 17. He has 11 career starts in the series including two last year. He also ran a full schedule for Duke Thorson in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season where he finished 25th in the standings.

Wise Decision: Long-time owner Mike Curb's familiar No. 43 is entered at Texas with driver Josh Wise. Wise, 26, ran a partial schedule with two teams last season, finishing up with Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished 12th in his most recent race last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Self-Made Sellers Tries For Season Debut: Peyton Sellers (No. 77 SFP Chevrolet), who won the 2005 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national title becoming the series' youngest-ever champion, will attempt his season debut at Texas, the first of 10 scheduled races.

Sellers, 25, is part-owner of Cardinal Motorsports and has surrounded himself with experience with co-owners Will Spencer and Ed Berrier. Berrier helped build Kevin Harvick Inc., and raced in each of NASCAR's national series with a win in NASCAR Nationwide competition.

Sellers has two previous career starts, both in 2006. His brother, H.C., is the team's crew chief.

Up Next: Inaugural 'Dash 4 Cash" Race At Nashville Superspeedway

The first hint of stand-alone season begins next week at Nashville Superspeedway, the traditional kick-off for those events. This year there are nine on the schedule hat feature the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The Saturday, April 10 race is also the first of four $25,000 "Dash 4 Cash" events, a branded competition program implemented by NASCAR, Nationwide and ESPN that's focused on four 2009 stand-alone events: Nashville (April), Kentucky Speedway (June), Iowa Speedway (August) and Memphis Motorsports Park (October).

If an eligible driver wins at a Dash 4 Cash event, there's an extra $25,000 added to the winner's purse. The program is open to all NASCAR Nationwide series-only regulars, up-and-comers and those regulars who may not have a full-time ride. Double-duty drivers must be full-time in both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to be eligible for the bonus.

Should a Dash 4 Cash race winner not be eligible, the $25,000 payout will roll over to the next Dash 4 Cash race.

At the end of the four-race Dash 4 Cash schedule, the eligible driver with the most cumulative points from the four events will be awarded an additional $50,000 at the season-ending awards banquet.

The program is unique to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and was designed specifically with series regulars in mind.

And with extra money on the line, there's no doubt that the series' trademark exciting racing will get even more intense in the final laps at those four tracks.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: O'Reilly 300
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, April 4
The Time: 3 p.m. ET

The Distance: 200 laps / 300 miles

TV: ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / PRN

2008 Race Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Polesitter: Kevin Harvick (via final 2008 owner points; qualifying rained out)

Event Schedule (all times CT):
Thursday -- Practice 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Final
Practice 1-2:00 p.m.; Qualifying 6:05 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Ryan Newman , Mark Green , Kerry Earnhardt , Ed Berrier , Shelby Howard , Christian Elder , Scott Wimmer , Brendan Gaughan , Stanton Barrett , Carl Edwards , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Brad Coleman , Kenny Hendrick , Josh Wise , Peyton Sellers , Justin Allgaier , Robert Richardson Jr. , Cale Gale , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Germain Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , JR Motorsports