BUSCH: Las Vegas: Round four preview

NASCAR Busch Series rides wave of momentum in Las Vegas DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 8, 2005) -- As the NASCAR Busch Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Saturday's Sam's Town 300, drivers and teams are in no need for the traditional...

NASCAR Busch Series rides wave of momentum in Las Vegas

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 8, 2005) -- As the NASCAR Busch Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Saturday's Sam's Town 300, drivers and teams are in no need for the traditional boost of excitement that comes with the glitz, glamour and the lights of Las Vegas.

But they'll take it anyway.

The NASCAR Busch Series is riding a wave of momentum as it makes its fourth stop on the 35-race circuit, thanks in part to three fantastic season-opening races, including last Sunday's supercharged Telcel MOTOROLA 200 presented by Banamex in Mexico.

Through the first three races, preliminary TV viewership results show an average increase of 38% over 2004, with an average of 4.6 million viewers tuning in each race. Last Sunday's historic Mexico City race -- the first points race for the NASCAR Busch Series outside the United States -- added to that by setting a record 5.6 million viewers for a non-Daytona event.

The new 2005 schedule has helped launch the series by beginning the year at tradition-rich Daytona International Speedway then traveling to the West Coast -- California Speedway.

And the all-star cast of international, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series drivers combined with a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup off-week and a trip to a brand-new track to peak interest for last Sunday's event in Mexico.

Also fueling the excitement is a rush of new drivers in the NASCAR Busch Series. Carl Edwards (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford) -- who trails fellow NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regular and part-time NASCAR Busch Series driver Kevin Harvick (No. 21 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Chevrolet) by 61 points -- is currently second in points. He's hoping to be the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year to win a NASCAR Busch Series title.

Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) -- currently third in points -- has a 7.6 average finish after three races, a huge improvement over his 17.5 average finish in 2004. Raybestos Rookie Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Dodge), currently fifth in points, also has turned heads with a pair of top-10 finishes and a 14th-place finish on the road-course in Mexico City.

And, appropriately, as the NASCAR Busch Series enters the city of headliners, nine NASCAR Busch Series regulars "headline" the Top 10.

NEWS & NOTES, PART II

Truex makes statement in title defense ... Despite being only three races into the new season, it's clear that defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) is prepared to defend his title. Truex emphatically stated his point last Sunday with a victory in the Telcel MOTOROLA 200 presented by Banamex, his first win of the 2005 season. With an impressive six-second victory over a world-class field of road-course racers, Truex also put himself on a list of drivers to beat when the series heads to Watkins Glen in August. "If we can win here, we can win anywhere," said Truex following his seventh career NASCAR Busch Series win. Truex moved up four spots and currently is fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings. Harvick an impatient runner-up ... The 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion, Kevin Harvick, is making runner-up finishes look easy. But as the NASCAR Busch Series car owner (No. 33 Outdoor Channel Chevrolet) and part-time driver, he's growing weary of being the runner-up. After posting his third consecutive second-place finish in Mexico last Sunday, Harvick is looking forward to Saturday's Sam's Town 300 where he is the defending race champion. Harvick held off Kasey Kahne last year by a race record .119 second. "We won our first NASCAR Busch Series race as an owner, myself and [wife] Delana, [at Daytona] and we've finished second three times as a driver, so we're a little bit hungry to win for ourselves," said Harvick, who will run 20 races in the No. 21 Chevrolet this year while Brandon Miller will run the other 15 races. Harvick will turn over the keys to Miller next weekend at Atlanta despite currently leading the NASCAR Busch Series point standings. Sherman re-joins Air Force for ride with Thunderbirds ... Brent Sherman (No. 58 Serta Mattress Dodge) will be "re-joining" the Air Force, albeit for just one day on Wednesday when the Minnesota native will be an honorary guest of the world-famous Thunderbirds. Sherman will take a ride in an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. On Thursday, he'll tour the base and sign autographs for the troops. "After being in the Air Force for six years, I know how respected the Thunderbirds are," Sherman said. "I feel lucky to have this opportunity to fly with them." While with the Air Force following his high school graduation, Sherman logged over 3,000 hours doing combat, surveillance and instruction around the world. Sherman, who has four career starts, finished 23rd at Mexico in his 2005 debut; he failed to qualify at Daytona. Stremme hoping to be healthy in Las Vegas ... David Stremme (No. 14 U.S. NAVY Dodge) is hoping for smoother seas this weekend at Las Vegas after suffering from effects from the flu last weekend in Mexico. The 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year was pulled from the car on Lap 39 of the Telcel MOTOROLA 200 presented by Banamex upon his own request. J.J. Yeley (No. 18 The Home Depot/Vigoro Chevrolet), who left the race with engine problems at Lap 20, relieved Stremme and finished 22nd. "The flu has been going around our shop and I guess it was my turn to get it," said Stremme, currently 14th in points. "I'm feeling better, but I'm still a little weak so we will see what the rest of the week brings. Our teammate Tim Fedewa (No. 14 Supercuts Dodge) tested at Las Vegas and turned some good laps during practice. I ran well there last year and I'm looking forward to getting back to the track." Stremme posted a third-place finish at Las Vegas last year, one of his five top-five finishes in 2004, while Fedewa's seventh-place finish in last year's Sam's Town 300 was his second-best finish of the year.

TV Timeout ... Based on preliminary national results from Nielsen, the Telcel MOTOROLA 200 was the second-most viewed event in NASCAR Busch Series history, based on both average number of households and viewers who tuned in. An average of 3.8 million households and 5.6 million viewers tuned into the race. It was also the most viewed non-Daytona NASCAR Busch Series event in broadcast history. The top spot still belongs to the 2003 Koolerz 300 at Daytona, when over six million viewers tuned in. ON THE RIGHT TRACK Three previous Las Vegas winners -- Harvick (2004), Joe Nemechek (2003) and Mark Martin (1999) -- will be in the field for Saturday's Sam's Town 300. Two-time pole winner Martin (No. 9 Wal-Mart Ford) is the only driver with more than one pole and has the best average finish (3.0) of any driver in the field. ... Nemechek (No. 87 Cellular One Chevrolet) has the most top-10 finishes (six) at Las Vegas while Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Domino's Chevrolet) and Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) are tied for the fourth most top-10 finishes with four each.

ETC. Ken Schrader (No. 67 Panasonic Chevrolet), who has 107 career starts, will be attempting his first NASCAR Busch Series start at Las Vegas since April 2002. ... The 2002 NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year, Scott Riggs (No. 30 Smith & Wesson Chevrolet), will also be attempting his first NASCAR Busch Series start since the 2003 season-finale. Riggs is currently scheduled to compete in three other events in 2005. ... Edwards leads Sorenson 45-40 in the 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings after three races. Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet), Michel Jourdain Jr. (No. 10 Telcel Ford) and Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/Wisk Ford) round out the top five among 16 eligible 2005 rookies.

QUOTEBOOK

"I always keep the Las Vegas race circled on my calendar. It's one of those towns that you wish we stayed in a few extra days. I have raced in every NASCAR Busch Series race in Las Vegas and I really love the track. It's a wide race track that you can really race on." -- Jason Keller. "We have had good finishes the last two weeks but we need a win. We are going to stay miserable like we should until we get a win." -- Kenny Wallace (No. 22 Stacker 2 Ford). "I had a great time in Mexico. The hospitality was great, the race track was a lot of fun to race on and the crowd is a lot of fun. It's a different atmosphere than we're used to in the United States. The crowd starts whistling and whooping and hollering and that's what it is supposed to be like." -- Kevin Harvick. FROM THE ARCHIVES The NASCAR Busch Series has competed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since the facility opened in 1997. In the eight races that have been staged, only once has there been a repeat winner. Virginian Jeff Burton won in 2000 and 2002. Both times he drove a Jack Roush-prepared Ford. The 2000 event saw Hank Parker Jr. win his only series pole with Burton starting seventh. Burton took the lead for the first time on Lap 4 and held it to Lap 80. He surged to the front again on Lap 197 and never looked back. Burton won from the pole in 2002 to become the third driver at Las Vegas to do so. Jeff Green won the inaugural Las Vegas NASCAR Busch Series race in 1997 from the pole as did Burton's teammate Mark Martin in 1999. Burton dominated the 2002 event, leading 148 of 200 laps.

FAST FACTS

What: Sam's Town 300 (Race No. 4 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nev.

When: 4:10 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 12.

Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval.

Race Length: 300 miles/200 laps.

Posted Awards: $1,508,149.

TV: FX, 3:30 p.m., ET.

Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.

2004 Winner: Kevin Harvick.

2004 Polesitter: Mike Bliss.

NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 515. 2. Carl Edwards 454. 3. Clint Bowyer 433. 4. Martin Truex Jr. 423. 5. Reed Sorenson 414. 6. Ashton Lewis 397. 7. Shane Hmiel 376. 8. Kenny Wallace 318. 9. Justin Labonte 303. 10. Jason Keller 294.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday: Practice -- 9-11:15 a.m.; Qualifying, approx. 4:40 p.m.; cars impounded following qualifying.

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Burton , Michael Waltrip , Jason Keller , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Jeff Green , Hank Parker Jr. , Jon Wood , Justin Labonte , Shane Hmiel , Kasey Kahne , Brent Sherman , J.J. Yeley , Mike Bliss , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Brandon Miller , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Mark Martin , Michel Jourdain