BUSCH: Chicagoland: News of note, schedule

Riggs, Green separated by two points in series championship chase TV numbers show even more increases after first half of season NEWS & NOTES TV Timeout In addition to a 4% increase in network ratings in the first half of the season despite...

Riggs, Green separated by two points in series championship chase
TV numbers show even more increases after first half of season


TV Timeout

In addition to a 4% increase in network ratings in the first half of the season despite having three races take place during Operation Iraqi Freedom (Bristol, Texas and Talladega), Tampa--St. Petersburg is the NASCAR Busch Series' largest market based on average number of mid-season households (72,000), up 3% over last season. Meanwhile, Atlanta (+6%), Boston (87%), Philadelphia (9%) and Washington, D.C. (60%), all Top Ten U.S. Metered Markets, experienced an increase in number of mid-season NASCAR Busch Series viewing households. In all, the NASCAR Busch Series increased in 28 out of 53 Markets (53%) over 2002. (Figures compiled by Nielsen Media Research.)

Points race takes new twist to Chicago

There's been another lead change in the NASCAR Busch Series championship chase heading into Chicago. Scott Riggs (No. 10 Nestle Nesquik Ford -- 2,440) is back on top -- albeit by a slim two-point margin -- over David Green (No. 37 Timber Wolf Pontiac -- 2,438). Riggs took his second lead of the season and first since June 7 following his win at Nashville by virtue of his sixth-place finish at Daytona last Friday. Green's two-race hold on first place ended with an uncharacteristic 20th-place finish at DIS; he also saw his streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes come to an end. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) moved up to third and is only 33 points behind Riggs, while Todd Bodine (No. 96 Herzog Jackson Chevrolet) is only 43 points in back of the leader. In fact, 14 positions in the top 25 are fewer than 50 points behind the next highest position. There have been nine lead changes among six drivers thus far in 2003. Four drivers in this week's top 10 -- Brian Vickers (No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet -- fifth), Johnny Sauter (eighth), Shane Hmiel (No. 48 Goulds Pumps Chevrolet -- ninth) and Scott Wimmer (No. 23 Stacker2 Chevrolet -- 10th) -- have not won a race in 2003. The closest championship battle to date in series history came in 1992 when Joe Nemechek edged Bobby Labonte by three points.

First NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying effort by Keller

Jason Keller (No. 57 Alberstons/Jewel-Osco/Got Milk? Ford) will attempt to pull double-duty this weekend at Chicago. Currently fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series points race, Keller will make his first NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying effort in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. No. 81 Chevrolet entry. Keller has one NASCAR Winston Cup start under his belt. On May 3 at Richmond he finished 32nd as a substitute for injured Jerry Nadeau in the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac. "I'm really excited about this weekend," he said. "I've been planning this weekend for so long I can't believe it's finally here. I think it is going to be a great weekend for both teams. We have been consistent over the past few races and have seen success at Chicago. That combination only boosts my confidence heading into such an important weekend. I was able to test with the Winston Cup car and should be able to use some of that information for my Busch car. I've always believed that the Winston Cup drivers have an advantage by running Saturday morning before the Busch race, now I will get to experience it first hand."

Nemechek in No. 7 ride:

1992 NASCAR Busch Series champion Joe Nemechek is entered at Chicago and will drive the No. 7 Kleenex/Scott Brands Chevrolet. Last week at Daytona, 2002 NASCAR Busch Series champion Greg Biffle finished 23rd in the No. 7 car and was able to use that experience en route to his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory one night later in the Pepsi 400. Biffle will get more series seat time Saturday in the No. 88 Chevrolet owned by Robert Overman and led by crew chief Brian Pattie, who normally serves as Nemechek's crew chief with the No. 87 CellularOne Chevrolet. That car will be driven by David Reutimann with Eric Phillips as crew chief.

Busy week for Wimmer

There was little time for rest for Scott Wimmer this week, as he was jetting all about the country. Friday night, Wimmer finished 16th at Daytona. On Monday and Tuesday, he was testing with the Bill Davis Racing engineering staff in Lakeland, Fla. Wednesday he is scheduled to be in Memphis, Tenn. for an all-day press conference at Memphis Motorsports Park. Wimmer will be returning home late that evening, only to turn around and fly out first thing Thursday morning to Chicago.


Starting from back in the pack has been the norm for the first two winners at Chicago. Jimmie Johnson won starting from the sixth position in 2001, while defending champion Johnny Sauter fought from 20th to win last year. Sauter also set the race record in the process -- 128.008 mph.

Seven of the top 10 finishers from last year's race are entered for Saturday -- Johnny Sauter (first), Todd Bodine (second), Joe Nemechek (fourth), Ron Hornaday Jr. (fifth), Greg Biffle (eighth), Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford -- ninth) and Jason Keller (10th). Hornaday will drive the car in which Richard Childress Racing teammate Johnny Sauter won last year, the No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet.


Brian Vickers enters Chicago with a streak of five top-10 finishes; the run began at Dover. ... Paul Menard (No. 55 Turtle Wax Chevrolet) is entered at Chicago, his third NASCAR Busch Series race of the season. Menard finished 12th at Nashville June 7 in his debut, then followed with a solid 14th-place finish at Kentucky. ... Casey Mears (No. 19 Fujifilm Dodge) is also entered in his third NASCAR Busch Series race of the season at Chicago; the Raybestos Rookie in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series finished 21st in the standings last year. ... NASCAR Top 10 leader Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Bayer Ford) headlines six series regulars entered in the Tropicana Twister 300 Saturday. Mears, Dave Blaney (No. 31 Whelen Ford), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Yellow Freight Dodge), Todd Bodine and Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Aaron's Sales & Lease Chevrolet) will also pull double-duty in Chicago this weekend. ... There's something left over from Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo celebration in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 8 Dirty Mo Posse Chance 2 Motorsports Chevrolet will be on display inside DAYTONA USA for a limited time. The car is presented in race condition with confetti from the Victory Lane celebration and fans will have the opportunity to get up close and take pictures of this winning machine. Earnhardt led all 100 laps and held off his NASCAR Winston Cup teammate Michael Waltrip for his third NASCAR Busch Series win of 2003. The victory was his fourth at DIS this year -- Budweiser Shootout, Gatorade 125s, Koolerz 300, Winn-Dixie 250 -- and his sixth career win at the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval. DAYTONA USA is open 9 a.m.--7 p.m. and holds extended hours during race events. Call (386) 947-6800 for more information, or visit http://www.DAYTONAUSA.com.


"We struggled through the first half of the season by our standards. Now we have to buckle down and really focus on consistency through the second half. There are teams that have had a tough season and are already out of contention for the championship. We're fortunate that we've set our standards so high that our bad season only has us 84 points out of the lead. The five drivers that are in contention for this championship are all consistent drivers and teams. We are not going to be able to gain 100 points in one race, but we will have to pick up 10 points here or 20 points there. The only way we can guarantee that is if we continue to finish up front in the Albertsons Ford week after week." -- Jason Keller.

"I guess it's a little bizarre that Kevin and I really like Chicago." -- Johnny Sauter on the success of he and No. 21 PayDay Chevrolet teammate Kevin Harvick at Chicago; Sauter is the defending Tropicana Twister 300 champion, while Harvick has won both NASCAR Winston Cup Series races there.

"I can't begin to tell you how much we needed a strong finish. We've been fighting bad luck all season, and finally we got a break at one of the season's most prestigious events. I can't thank my spotter enough; he worked with me all night, and really deserves a ton of credit. [Daytona] was my first superspeedway experience, and it will be something I [will] remember forever." -- Raybestos Rookie Joey Clanton (No. 27 TrimSpa Pontiac) on his NASCAR Busch Series career-best 11th-place finish at Daytona.


Jimmie Johnson not only won the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race at Chicago in 2001, but it was his also his first series win. Johnny Sauter followed Johnson with a win at Chicago last year, which was also his first NASCAR Busch Series victory. At new NASCAR Busch Series tracks since 1995, three drivers have won their first series event to go with the first series victory at the venue -- Jeff Green (Las Vegas, 1997), Greg Biffle (Nashville, 2001) and Johnson.


What: Tropicana Twister 300 presented by Speedway SuperAmerica (Race 19 of 34 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.
When: 2:30 p.m. (ET), Saturday, July 12.

Track layout: 1.5-mile paved tri-oval.
Race length: 200 laps/300 miles.
TV: NBC, 2:30 p.m. (ET).

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday -- Practice, 9 -- 11:15 a.m.; Qualifying, 1:35 p.m.; Final Practice follows NWC Qualifying (scheduled for 3:05 p.m.).


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Jerry Nadeau , Casey Mears , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Shane Hmiel , Johnny Sauter , Scott Wimmer , Brian Vickers , Paul Menard , Joey Clanton , Dave Blaney
Teams Bill Davis Racing