BUSCH: Charlotte: Round 13 preview

* NASCAR Busch Series A Proving Ground For Open-Wheel Crowd * Defending Race Winner Edwards Also Overall Fastest During LMS Testing * Loop Data: Kurt Busch Looks Good For Top-10 Run -- Or Better -- On Saturday NASCAR Busch ...

* NASCAR Busch Series A Proving Ground For Open-Wheel Crowd
* Defending Race Winner Edwards Also Overall Fastest During LMS Testing
* Loop Data: Kurt Busch Looks Good For Top-10 Run -- Or Better -- On Saturday

NASCAR Busch Series Becoming A Proving Ground For Open-Wheelers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 21, 2007) -- The NASCAR Busch Series not only is a proving ground for young drivers aspiring to make the jump to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but it is fast becoming an opportunity for drivers in open-wheel racing to prove themselves in a stock car.

On this Memorial Day holiday weekend, Charlotte has become the place for some fomer open-wheelers who seek new challenges to conquer, starting with Saturday night's NASCAR Busch Series event -- The CARQUEST Auto Parts 300.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), a former Indy 500 champion who last March also became a NASCAR Busch Series winner with his victory in Mexico City, is firmly planted in the series top 10 and is only two points out of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings lead.

J.J. Yeley (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet) finished ninth in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 1998. He's one of five drivers pulling "double-duty" this year, running full-time in the NASCAR Busch Series and in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Dave Blaney (No. 10 ABF U-Pack Moving Toyota) is fourth in the points and captured his first national series win when he won the NASCAR Busch Series race at LMS last fall. He began his career in sprint cars.

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Country Crock Dodge) is another open-wheel alum who worked his way through the NASCAR Busch Series to gain a ride in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Ditto with Casey Mears (No. 24 National Guard Ford) who, like Montoya and Blaney, claims a NASCAR win in NASCAR Busch Series competition. Robby Gordon (No. 55 Verizon Wireless Ford) pulled the Indy 500-Coca Cola 600 "double" in 2002-03 and now owns teams in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and in the NASCAR Busch Series. He looks to help develop other drivers -- open-wheeler Ryan Hunter Reay for starters -- for NASCAR competition.

Defending Race Winner Edwards Also Fastest At Last Week's LMS Test

NASCAR Busch Series points leader Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts/Ortho Ford) has to feel good about his chances to build on his lead and capture his second consecutive win at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

His competitors, on the other hand, must feel like they're getting hit with a double-whammy.

Edwards is tied for the series lead with two wins and owns a series-high eight top fives to go with 11 top-10 finishes in the season's first 12 races.

Not only is he the defending race winner at LMS, but he led each of the four test sessions over a two-day period last Monday and Tuesday at the track including a fast lap of 29.565 seconds (182.648 mph) during the Monday evening session -- similar conditions to those on Saturday night's race.

Edwards also paces three of the top five categories in Loop Data. He's first in Average Running Position (6.987), in Quality Passes (573) and in Laps in the Top 15 (2.053).

In The Loop: Kurt Busch Picks His Spot In Charlotte But Watch For Mears and Kluever

Kurt Busch (No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge) chooses his NASCAR Busch Series races wisely.

The Las Vegas native has run two of the 12 events thus far in 2007 and has finishes of fourth and eighth, respectively.

He'll run his third NASCAR Busch Series race Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway and a little analysis shows why he's picked this race.

In his first career series race at LMS last year, Busch finished second behind Carl Edwards. Busch had a Driver Rating of 123.8, an Average Running Position of 4.165 and turned the fastest lap 14 times. Additionally, of the 200 laps run last year, Busch spent 194 of them in the Top 15.

Look for Casey Mears (No. 24 National Guard Chevrolet) to also continue his 2007 NASCAR Busch Series success. In his eight races this year, Mears has scored seven top 10s and four top fives. If his past history at the 1.5-mile track continues, he should improve on this year's average finish of 9.9.

Mears finished fourth in this race last year and led 12 laps in the fall race before an accident on Lap 198 took him out of a probable win.

Of drivers competing this weekend, Mears has the second-best Driver Rating (111.4), the second-best Average Running Position (6.747), the second-most Fastest Laps Run (51) and the second-fastest Green Flag Speed.

Then there's the standings leader, Edwards, who won this race last year and led a race-high 123 laps in the fall before the accident on Lap 198 that claimed three drivers going for the win. He has the eighth-best Average Running Position (12.632), the eighth-best Driver Rating (97.7) and has 64 Fastest Laps Run, more than any other driver racing this weekend.

Of the series regulars, Todd Kluever (No. 26 Dish Network Ford) could shine Saturday night. He has an impressive Driver Rating of 87.3 in two races at LMS and his Average Running Position of 12.449 is seventh-best. Kluever also has 50 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the Top 15 under green), which is tied for eighth-most at LMS.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya