BUSCH: Daytona II: Round 19 preview

* Halfway Home: Season's First Half Begins And Ends At Daytona * Toyota Tale: First-Year Manufacturer A Solid Contender * In NASCAR Busch Series; Three Drivers In Top 10 * Loop Data: Reigning Champ Harvick A Daytona Dominator At The Half:...

* Halfway Home: Season's First Half Begins And Ends At Daytona
* Toyota Tale: First-Year Manufacturer A Solid Contender
* In NASCAR Busch Series; Three Drivers In Top 10
* Loop Data: Reigning Champ Harvick A Daytona Dominator

At The Half: Edwards Eyes Goal; Series Regulars Ramp Up Competition

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 2, 2007) -- At the season's halfway mark, the NASCAR Busch Series has provided its usual blend of excitement and surprise -- and leaves the door open for more.

Carl Edwards (No. 60 Aflac Ford) has laser-beam focus on his goal of claiming the 2007 series title. Having lost out on the opportunity to secure his first NASCAR national series crown over the past two seasons, his march continues.

Through the first 18 races, 11 different drivers have won. Edwards leads with four victories while three others have registered their first career series wins. Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) made the successful crossover from open-wheel to stock cars with his March win in Mexico City and Stephen Leicht (No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford) last month continued the recent trend at Kentucky Speedway where an upset driver comes away a winner.

Leicht comes to Daytona International Speedway ranked 10th in the series standings, one of eight series regulars in the top 10.

Regulars and newcomers have made solid contributions throughout the first half of the year. Steve Wallace (No. 66 Rapid Industrial Cleaning Dodge) won his first career pole at Bristol Motor Speedway in March and followed by claiming the pole at Nashville Superspeedway last month. He was joined by fellow 19-year-old Brad Coleman, a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver who won his first pole at Talladega Superspeedway and has posted two top-five finishes -- including a runner-up effort to Leicht -- in his last two races.

David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) and Regan Smith (No. 4 Ginn Racing Chevrolet) also won their first career poles in the season's first half.

The second half begins next week at Chicagoland Speedway and will be highlighted by the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal on Aug. 4, the series' inaugural event in Canada and its second race on international soil this season.

Toyota Puts Up Strong First Half; Vickers Teams With Braun Friday

Toyota's inaugural season of NASCAR Busch Series competition has been successful through the first half of the year.

Three drivers representing the two full-time teams come to Daytona ranked in the top 10 in the standings.

Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) and Dave Blaney (No. 10 Seymour of Sycamore Toyota) drive for Braun Racing are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the standings. Blaney finished second at Daytona in February, while Leffler qualified on the outside pole.

David Reutimann (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota), a native of Zephyrhills, Fla., who returns to his home track this weekend, is a career-best second in the standings.

Add to that mix the return of 2003 champion Brian Vickers to the NASCAR Busch Series this week. Vickers will drive the No. 32 Ft. McDowell Resort & Destination Toyota for Braun and hopes to make his 2007 series debut at Daytona, giving the team three strong entries for the series' mid-summer event.

Vickers' previous NASCAR Busch Series appearance was at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November.

In The Loop: Reigning Champion Harvick Returns To Daytona Seeking Series Season Sweep

When Kevin Harvick straps into a NASCAR Busch Series race car, he makes it count.

The reigning series champion won in his first race back from a three-week layoff last weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway. This week, he will race again in the NASCAR Busch Series and in the process, attempt to post consecutive wins at Daytona International Speedway.

Harvick opened the season with a win in February and has been brilliant at the "World Center of Racing" overall. In 10 starts there, he has yet to finish outside of the top 10 and has finished outside the top five only once -- eighth in 2001.

Since 2005 -- which includes finishes of second, fifth, third and first -- Harvick has racked up some of the top stats on the circuit.

Among those drivers competing Friday night, Harvick has the top Driver Rating of 107.7, the second-best Average Running Position of 9.4, third-most Fastest Laps Run at 18 and the second-most Laps in the Top 15 with 469.

Harvick's Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) is another driver to watch. In five Daytona starts, Bowyer has an average finish of 6.0. He finished fourth there in February and since 2005 has run the most Laps in the Top 15 with 469. He has a Driver Rating of 107.7 (third-best among those driver competing Friday), an Average Running Position of 8.701 (second-best) and 497 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), fourth-most.

As usual, series points leader Carl Edwards has solid numbers. After finishes of 10th, 36th and 39th at Daytona, Edwards has roared to fifth- and third-place finishes in his last two races there. Those results boosted his Loop Data statistics to some of the best in the series.

Since 2005, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 92.1 (eighth-best), has 37 Fastest Laps Run (best of any driver competing Friday) and 338 Laps in the Top 15 (sixth-most).

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing