BUSCH: Charlotte: Aaron Fike preview

Aaron Fike, the 23-year-old driving phenom out of Galesburg, Ill., eyes his 50th career NASCAR Busch Series start when he takes the wheel of the ...

Aaron Fike, the 23-year-old driving phenom out of Galesburg, Ill., eyes his 50th career NASCAR Busch Series start when he takes the wheel of the #43 Smith Transport Dodge of the Curb Agajanian Performance Group in preparation for Saturday night's Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway outside Charlotte.

Fike has two previous NBS starts on the legendary 1.5-mile tri-oval, including his second-best career NBS finish of 14th in the #43 CAPG entry last fall. He made his Lowe's Motor Speedway NBS debut in the Fall 2004 race in the #43 CAPG Dodge, qualifying 17th before having to leave the race after a Lap-154 accident.

The 14th-place finish here at Charlotte is not only Fike's second-best career NBS finish, but the best in recent years for the #43 entry. In 10 appearances since the 2000 NBS season, brothers Jay and Johnny Sauter, Hermie Sadler and Todd Bodine all have piloted the #43 racing machine here.

Tops among his efforts in the #43 CAPG Dodge at this year's previous 12 NBS events, Fike qualified second in the season-opener at Daytona, and sixth at Talladega. He also added top-20 qualifying runs at Atlanta and two weekends ago at Darlington. Fike's best finishes to date are his 15th-place run at Nashville, and an 18th-place effort at Bristol.

On board with the #43 CAPG Dodge team this weekend is Smith Transport, the Roaring Spring, Pa.-based trucking firm. Its national "Driver of the Year," Brian Musselman of New Enterprise, Pa., served as honorary crew member with the #43 team earlier this season at the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.


"As is always the case at Lowe's, I'm excited about running here this weekend. We've had a weekend off to regroup a little bit after some tough love the weekend at Darlington threw at us. We tested at Lowe's a while back and I think we ended that test feeling pretty good about the car. We had a good run there last fall with a 14th-place finish. But with the repaving they did on the track, it'll be a whole new ballgame. I'm a little nervous about qualifying because it's a go-or-go-home situation for us and there are so many entries (52). And a lot of those drivers and teams had a chance at the Open and the All-Star race last weekend to see what the track is like, now, so they'll have the advantage. Fortunately, (crew chief) Joe (Shear) had a chance to work there last weekend with Michael Waltrip's team and gained some first-hand knowledge of what to expect. Hopefully, we'll unload for practice where we left off at the test and things will run smoothly for us. We're due for a big weekend, and Lowe's would be the perfect place to do it."


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Drivers Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Hermie Sadler , Johnny Sauter , Aaron Fike , Brian Musselman