* 10 to go: Must-win situations at hand for contenting teams * Menard continues torrid pace; continues climb in standings NEWS & NOTES Only 10 races to go in NASCAR Busch Series season ... Friday night's race marks an important juncture in...
* 10 to go: Must-win situations at hand for contenting teams
* Menard continues torrid pace; continues climb in standings
NEWS & NOTES
Only 10 races to go in NASCAR Busch Series season ... Friday night's race marks an important juncture in the NASCAR Busch Series season -- 10 races remaining for drivers challenging for the championship. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), the defending NASCAR Busch Series champion and current points leader, padded his advantage last Saturday at Michigan by 82 points over second-place Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet). Bowyer, who led 62 laps, seemed poised to cut into Truex's lead, but a late-race penalty coupled with mechanical problems relegated him to a 30th-place finish -- his second-worst finish this season. Bowyer is 204 points behind Truex (3,606 -- 3,402), the biggest deficit he's faced all year. But he can look to this same point last year, when Truex watched his Chance 2 Motorsports boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 81 Menard's Chevrolet) win this event in a three-lap, green-white-checkered shootout with Matt Kenseth.
Although he finished seventh, Truex -- ranked first in points at the time -- was being pushed to the limit by rookie Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's/Spectrum Chevrolet) whose third-place finish left him just 78 points shy of Truex's lead. This weekend, Bowyer and Raybestos rookies Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge) (third, -- 3,282 points) and Carl Edwards (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford) (fourth -- 3,255) are nearing must-win situations with their title hopes. "It's a big blow in the championship standings, but we aren't going to roll over and give up," Bowyer said following the Michigan race. "We aren't out of it, we just have a little bigger hole to climb out of now."
Menard's torrid pace continues ... Paul Menard's (No. 11 Menards/Marvel Mystery Oil Chevrolet) climb into the upper echelon of the NASCAR Busch Series point standings continues. Menard -- who celebrated his 25th birthday last Sunday -- has posted nine top-10 finishes in his last 10 races, lifting him to a career-best seventh-place in the series championship standings. He was sixth last Saturday at Michigan, his fourth consecutive finish of eighth or better. The Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver has jumped from 20th in the points following Dover to his current spot during the 10-race span. Now may be the perfect time for such momentum. He finished 22nd in the Sharpie Professional 250 in March and has mixed results at other tracks under one-mile this season. He was seventh at Indianapolis Raceway Park three weeks ago, but tied his season-worst finish of 36th at Richmond in May. "We've got a ton of momentum coming to one of the most exciting races of the year," Menard said. "Without question, Bristol is one of my favorite places to race. It seems we've always had a good race car there. Knock on wood, if we can continue our latest streak of staying out of trouble, it could turn out to be a really memorable night." Broadcast numbers continue upswing at Michigan ... Another exciting NASCAR Busch Series finish compliments of Ryan Newman's (No. 39 Alltel Dodge) win at Michigan last Saturday produced significant increases in viewers and households over last year. The race, broadcast on TNT, showed a viewer increase of 32% over the same race last season (2,104,000 -- 1,600,000) while households were up 30% (1,663,000 -- 1,278,000) versus last year's numbers also on TNT.
Newman seeks third consecutive win ... Ryan Newman, winner of the last two NASCAR Busch Series races at Watkins Glen and Michigan, is entered at Bristol and will attempt to become only the fifth driver in series history to register three consecutive wins. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the last to accomplish the feat in 1999, the second of his two straight championship seasons. Earnhardt won the June races at Dover, South Boston at Watkins Glen for his trifecta. The NASCAR Busch Series record is four consecutive wins by the series' first two-time champion, Sam Ard, whose 1983 string included the fall events at South Boston, Martinsville, Orange County and Charlotte. Ard also won three in a row in May 1984 at Langley, Milwaukee and Dover. Newman's Michigan victory, his third career NASCAR Busch Series win, was accomplished in only his 19th start. His win last week marked the first time this season a NASCAR Busch Series driver has won consecutive races. Jamie McMurray (No. 64 Top Flite Dodge) was the last to accomplish the feat; he won at Phoenix and Darlington last November. Akins Motorsports releases Tyler Walker ... Akins Motorsports team owner Doug Stringer announced that Tyler Walker has been relieved of his duties in the No. 38 Great Clips Dodge. Mike Wallace will be in the car at Bristol. Walker, 26, shared the majority of this season's starts with Kasey Kahne. Walker participated in 15 races with a best finish of 14th at Charlotte in May. "We are currently 20th in the owner point standings and it is extremely important for Akins Motorsports and Great Clips to finish the season in the top 10," Stringer said. "For the remainder of the year, we will be turning to veterans to fill the driver's seat with vast experience to communicate with crew chief Jon Wolfe and the entire Great Clips team. We appreciate very much what Tyler has done for us this year and look forward to watching him for many years to come in NASCAR."
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
There are 13 former NASCAR Busch Series winners at Bristol entered in Friday night's race, including four-time winner and 2001 series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet) who won the Sharpie 250 this past April. Eight of those 13 drivers have posted wins in the August Food City 250. ... Steve Grissom (No. 49 Advil Ford), the 1993 series champion, is the only driver to complete a season sweep of races, having done so in 1995. ... Jeff Fuller (No. 7 Big Boar Customs Chevrolet), claimed his only Busch Pole and series win to date at Bristol in August 1996. He is one of seven drivers -- five in August -- to register wins from the pole.
Steve Darne will serve as crew chief on the No. 64 Dodge, replacing Blake Bainbridge. Darne takes over this weekend at Bristol on an interim basis. ... Ryan Newman's win at Michigan last week from the 38th starting position matched Kevin Harvick's victory from the same starting slot last April at Bristol, and both are tied for the second biggest come-from-behind win in series history. Chad Little's February 1995 win at Daytona from 42nd is tops. He came from a 42nd place start to win ... Harvick has five consecutive top-five finishes at Bristol, seven in 11 series races there. Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Family Dollar Dodge)has five top fives -- including a spring win in 2000 -- in his last five races at Bristol. ... Kyle Busch, last year's NASCAR Busch Series championship runner-up, is scheduled to compete in all three NASCAR events at Bristol. He is the only driver to have participated in each of NASCAR's three national series during the same weekend this year; Busch did it at Dover in June. He finished first, 36th and second, respectively, in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races. ... Frank Cicci Racing with Jim Kelly will field two teams for the first time this season at Bristol. Todd Bodine (No. 34 Dollar General Chevrolet), who raced for Cicci in the 1990s, and posted the majority of his 15 NASCAR Busch Series wins with the team, will join two-time series champion Randy LaJoie (No. 84 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Cicci was the first owner to have two, then three cars in the NASCAR Busch Series over a decade ago. Bodine has won at Bristol twice in NASCAR Busch Series competition. ... Bobby Labonte (No. 19 Hunt's Chevrolet), the 1991 NASCAR Busch Series champion, looks to compete in his first series race at Bristol since August 1997.
"There are some drivers out there who never seem to change emotionally. You can burn their house down and they keep that same, even keel. Others, if they ever lost their middle finger, they'd have to retire from race car driving." -- Stanton Barrett (No. 36 Darden Chevrolet) on the closed-quarters racing at Bristol.
"You can't put into words what it's like to be going that fast on such a small track." -- Kevin Hamlin (No. 4 GEICO Dodge).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Steve Grissom's win in the 1995 Food City 250 began a run of 10 consecutive NASCAR Busch Series victories in the second Bristol event by the Chevrolet brand. Dale Earnhardt Jr. registered the most recent Chevrolet win in this race with his win from the pole last summer.
Ford has two wins in the race with the first coming in 1989 when Mark Martin was behind the wheel of Bill Davis' Thunderbird. Kenny Wallace won for Ford in the 1994 edition of this race. Overall, Fords have won a total of four times at Bristol in NASCAR Busch Series competition. Dodge has not won a NASCAR Busch Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway, but the brand is coming to the high-banked Tennessee facility with two consecutive series victories courtesy of Ryan Newman. Dodge has a season-record six NASCAR Busch Series wins in 2005 and currently sits third in the Bill France Performance Cup standings with 144 points. Chevrolet leads with 171 points and 11 wins while Ford is second with 160 points and eight victories.
ON DECK: CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY
The NASCAR Busch Series returns to California next Saturday for the Ameriquest 300. The race begins at 5:35 p.m. PT, taking the drivers from dusk to dark over the course of the event. Mark Martin won there in February, breaking the two-race winning streak of Greg Biffle. Biffle swept the races in 2004, the first time the series made two visits in the same season to California. Matt Kenseth has three NASCAR Busch Series wins at the 2-mile track, including two straight in 1999-2000.
The race will feature the return of Adrian Fernandez to the NASCAR Busch Series; he finished 10th in Mexico City in his series debut at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez last March, the first points race held outside the United States for the NASCAR Busch Series. Carlos Contreras is also scheduled to enter the event.
What: Food City 250 (Race No. 26 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.
When: 7:50 p.m. ET, Friday, Aug. 26.
Track Layout: .533-mile oval.
Race Length: 250 laps/ 133.25 miles.
Posted Awards: $1,298,939.
TV: TNT, 7:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.
2004 Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 Polesitter: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Martin Truex Jr. 3,606. 2. Clint Bowyer 3,402. 3. Reed Sorenson 3,282. 4. Carl Edwards 3,255. 5. Kenny Wallace 3,078. 6. Denny Hamlin 3,053. 7. Paul Menard 2,847. 8. David Green 2,826. 9. David Stremme 2,802. 10. Ashton Lewis Jr. 2,728.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., Aug. 26: Practice -- 9:45 -- 11:55 a.m. Qualifying -- 4:40 p.m. Impound on pit road after qualifying.