NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes - Bristol Harvick, Keselowski Counting On Their Bristol Bonds DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 17, 2009) - If he could, Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Armour Foods Chevrolet) would schedule more than two NASCAR ...
NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes - Bristol
Harvick, Keselowski Counting On Their Bristol Bonds
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 17, 2009) - If he could, Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Armour Foods Chevrolet) would schedule more than two NASCAR Nationwide Series races per year at Bristol Motor Speedway. It's a favorite of the two-time series champion and he's tied for the all-time lead with four wins there.
If he could, Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet) would welcome a finish exactly like the one he had the last time he raced at the .566-mile track. He won last August, bettering 10 double-duty drivers in the process. It was the first win at Bristol for a series-only regular since 2004.
Now, both are counting on their bond with Bristol to carry them through Saturday's race, the first for the series since Feb. 28 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Harvick is second in career wins in the series with 32, but hasn't won since November 2007 at Texas nor at Bristol winning at this race in 2004. Each of those wins came for Richard Childress; Harvick is an owner/driver now and would covet his first win in his own KHI car at Bristol.
His last three Bristol races have been in his equipment and he's registered top 10s in both March races. In total, Harvick has three poles,10 top fives and 13 top 10s to go along with his four victories.
Keselowski's best single-track series stats have been put together at Bristol. In four career races, he has last year's win, two top fives and three top 10s.
The 2009 season has been nothing short of total frustration for Keselowski. He contended in each of the first three races only to have tire issues (Daytona International Speedway) or accidents not of his doing (Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas) unravel his strong runs.
He's 22nd in the standings with two races to go before this season's top 30 in the owner standings are locked in on a weekly basis for the remainder of the year, lugging an average finish of 24.3 along with him.
After 17 races at Bristol, perhaps Harvick offers the best insight of all.
"You have to go to Bristol and enjoy it, but know that the outcome could be the opposite of what you want it to be," he said.
Young Drivers? How About Young Owner/Drivers?
Kevin Harvick isn't the only owner/driver entered in the season-high 52-car field at Bristol. There are four other owner/drivers on the entry list. And one, although only 18, has worn that hat for three years already.
Marc Davis (No. 36 Howard University WHUR Toyota), heads up Marc Davis Motorsports and is the youngest owner in NASCAR Nationwide Series history. The youngest owner/driver in national series history was Bill Morton (17 years, 2 months, 17 days) who competed in that capacity on Oct. 9, 1955 at Memphis-Arkansas Speedway in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Davis actually has been an owner since he was 15. He's fielded Fastkids/FastTrucks, Limited Late Model and Bandolero teams.
He'll attempt to make his first start of the season and his fifth overall in his brief NASCAR Nationwide Series career. He started fourth at Memphis Motorsports Park last year in his debut and his 23rd-place finish is his best to date.
He'll have to qualify on time, and a start at Bristol would mark his first there in national series competition.
Other owner/drivers entered are Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Chevrolet), the 1992 series champion; Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Victory in Jesus Racing Chevrolet) -- who is tied with Harvick for the most wins at Bristol, and Mike Harmon (No. 84 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet). Of that trio, only Shepherd is guaranteed a starting position via the top 30 in owner points. Nemechek and Harmon, like Davis, will have to qualify on time.
Leffler, Balash Visit Montreal, Kick Off Ticket Sales For Third Series Race At Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Judging by last year's fan turnout despite the majority of the race having been run in the rain, Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) gave planning for this year's race in Montreal some serious thought.
"With as many fans that come for our shows in Montreal -- especially the fans last year who watched our race in the rain -- I'll have to go early to get my tickets," he quipped.
Leffler, of course, will drive in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge. But he'll take part in a media blitz in Montreal on Wednesday, March 19, to help the ticket sales kick-off for the race weekend. Also featured will be NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series racing. Tickets go on sale Friday, March 20.
Leffler finished seventh at last year's race, which was the first NASCAR national series points race run in the rain. The rain-soaked Canadian fans were rewarded as Toronto's Ron Fellows won.
March Madness Slam-Dunks Through NASCAR Nationwide Garage
Eric McClure (No. 24 Hefty Brand Ford) is never at a loss for words when it comes to sports, especially if the conversation revolves around the University of Virginia Cavaliers.
But with his beloved UVA out of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament picture, McClure still has plenty to say.
He's got Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina and Duke as his Final Four.
"I believe UNC will win it all because Ty Lawson is back," he said. "And whenever Tyler Hansbrough touches the ball, the refs are already calling a foul on someone. I prefer UNC not to win because most Virginia Tech football fans are bandwagon UNC fans. Since I love The University of Virginia, I can't like anyone that Virginia Tech likes. I am kidding ... sort of.
"The ACC is a tough conference and they will prevail. Duke lives and dies with Gerald Henderson and Louisville is solid but not as flashy as other teams. Memphis let me down last year by missing their free throws, so I'm not going with them. Either way, it's a wide-open field and we'll see some great basketball."
A fan like McClure can be envious of the actual Division I participation of Kyle Chapman, who spots for Jason Keller (No. 27 Scott Tissue Ford). Chapman was captain of the 1998-99 Western Kentucky Hilltopper team; WKU is in the Big Dance this year and is picked by many to upset its first-round opponent, Illinois.
"My Final Four picks are Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma, with Louisville winning it all," Chapman said. "Of course, my heart will be pulling for my Hilltoppers.
"It's the best time of year for a college basketball junkie. I'll be checking my Sprint cell phone throughout the Bristol weekend to keep up with the latest scores."
In The Loop: Series-Only Regulars In The Thick Of It At Bristol
Twice a year, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to the Bristol short track -- and twice a year, the teams share the weekend with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
That usually means an opportunity for double- duty drivers to showcase their talents twice in one weekend.
It also means that NASCAR Nationwide Series-only regulars go head-to-head with the "big boys." And statistically, they more than hold their own at Bristol.
For instance, the last time the series visited Bristol, series-only regular Brad Keselowski won. He was joined in the top 10 by Cale Gale, David Stremme, Scott Wimmer and Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Drink Chevrolet) -- all series-only regulars.
But two drivers, in particular, relish the opportunity to face off against the NASCAR Sprint Cup double-duty drivers at Bristol: Keselowski and Wimmer.
Keselowski wears the latest Bristol crown, thanks to his victory last August. He has finished in the top 10 in the last three Bristol races and has solid statistics at the Tennessee short track. In his four career Bristol races, Keselowski has a Driver Rating of 90.8, an Average Running Position of 16.6, 46 Fastest Laps Run and a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-54 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 57.5.
Likewise, Wimmer is strong at Bristol, finishing in the top 10 in three of the last four races there. In his last five Bristol races, he has a Driver Rating of 93.7, an Average Running Position of 12.0, 21 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 72.9.
The stats suggest that Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer will be the two double-duty drivers to beat. Bowyer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet)has a Driver Rating of 107.3 and an Average Running Position of 8.4 at Bristol.
Harvick will be looking for his first win in his No. 33 Chevrolet. He has the top Driver Rating in the series at Bristol -- 107.4.
In The Garage: Newcomer Bayne Leads Tennessee Natives At Bristol
Chalk up another up-and-comer to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Trevor Bayne (No. 52 Means Motorsports Ford) is one of three 18-year-olds entered at Bristol, joining Marc Davis and Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota).
Bayne will debut at home -- he's from Knoxville, Tenn. -- and is one of many Volunteer State drivers or natives of nearby cities in southwest Virginia entered in the race. The No. 52 will be in the show via its top-30 standing in the 2008 owner points.
Bayne was a rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Series East last year. He finished fourth in the standings and won a race at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
He also finished second in the Toyota All-Star Showdown in January.
Other notable homecomings this weekend:
Bobby Hamilton Jr. (Nashville) -- No. 24 co-owner
John Reese (Mt. Juliet) -- No. 27 car chief
Jeff White (Nashville) -- No. 27 engineer
Butch Waugh (Smyrna) -- No. 27 rear tire carrier
Danny O'Quinn Jr. (Coeburn, Va.) -- No. 0 driver
Brad Teague (Johnson City) -- driver
Eric McClure (Abingdon, Va.) -- No. 24 driver
Casey Atwood (Antioch) -- No. 05 driver
Burney Lamar (West Sacramento, Calif. native; Nashville resident) -- No. 32 driver
Bristol Notables: Seven former series champions are among the entries at Bristol; there also are 11 former winners entered including reigning series champion Clint Bowyer, whose lone 2008 victory came in last year's rain-shortened event in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Scott Wimmer (No. 40 StopRepairBills.com Chevrolet) drove the No. 29 last year and was the polesitter for the race, which was set by the rule book due to inclement weather.
Speaking of Wimmer, JR Motorsports announced he will be part of its star-studded five-driver, 21-race lineup in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Wimmer is scheduled for five races; the other events will be shared among team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Mark Martin, the series' all-time leader in wins (30) and poles (48) and Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.
Paul Menard (No. 98 Richmond/Menard's Ford) returns to NASCAR Nationwide competition for the first time since 2007. He hasn't run at Bristol since 2006, his last full season in the series.
Will the trend continue? The start of the season has been one of balanced competition -- three different driver standings leaders currently headed by Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford); three different owner standings leaders (Edward's No. 60 is the current leader); three different race winners and three different pole winners.
AIPC "Incredible Hero" At Bristol: America's Incredible Pizza Co. and CJM Racing will continue its "Incredible Heroes" program this weekend at Bristol.
The back story: In December 2007, then 18-year-old Lindsay Witherspoon noticed a vehicle submerged underwater in Fort Patrick Henry Lake in Kingsport, Tenn.
A trained lifeguard, she jumped into the freezing water and pulled the woman inside to safety. The car had veered into the lake, leaving the driver trapped behind the wheel of her vehicle.
Witherspoon was subsequently awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal. She and her mother, Kim, will be guests of CJM Racing on Saturday.
Bill France Performance Cup standings leader Chevrolet has the most wins at Bristol (28) including a sweep of both 2008 races. Ford has six wins while Dodge has two.
Up Next: Open Week No. 3
The third open week of the month greets NASCAR Nationwide Series teams next week.
It will be the final open week for the series until the week of May 11 -- NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race weekend.
Teams next meet at Texas Motor Speedway for the April 4 O'Reilly 300 and begin a string of six straight race weekends, the longest stretch of the season thus far.
The Race: Scotts Turf Builder 300
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 21
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 laps / 159.9 mile
Track Size: .533-mile banked oval
TV: ABC, 2 p.m.
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / PRN
Track Size: .533-mile banked oval
2008 Polesitter: Scott Wimmer (via final 2007 points; qualifying rained out)
Friday-Practice 1:40-3:15 p.m.; Final Practice 4:45-5:45 p.m.;
Saturday-Qualifying 9:40 a.m.