BUSCH: Off-week news of notes 2005-05-18

* Points leader Edwards, 2005 series champion Truex Jr. part of All-Star Weekend * Five former series champions to compete in NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge * Second annual NASCAR Day set for Friday DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 18, 2005) --...

* Points leader Edwards, 2005 series champion Truex Jr. part of All-Star Weekend

* Five former series champions to compete in NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge

* Second annual NASCAR Day set for Friday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 18, 2005) -- Saturday nights NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway is billed as a premier series event, but many of the participating drivers bring solid ties to the NASCAR Busch Series.

Carl Edwards (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford), who won his second NASCAR Busch Series race of the season at Richmond and has led the point standings for eight consecutive weeks, will participate in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge due to his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win at Atlanta. Edwards also collected his first NASCAR Busch Series win there, marking the first time in NASCAR history a driver claimed his first national series wins during the same weekend. Edwards is attempting to become the second driver to run a full season in both the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- duplicating the feat of his Roush Racing teammate and 2002 NASCAR Busch Series champion Greg Biffle (No. 66 Duraflame Ford).

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Chevrolet), the defending NASCAR Busch Series champion, is entered in the NEXTEL Open via his top-50 rank in the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings. Truex is currently fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings, only 47 behind third-place Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge).

Truex also is in the running for a spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge via fan vote, where the driver receiving the highest number of fan votes who also finishes on the lead lap of the NEXTEL Open transfers to the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.

Five former NASCAR Busch Series champions -- including Biffle -- are in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge field. One, two-time series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., won the event in 2000. Kevin Harvick, Joe Nemechek and Bobby Labonte also represent former NASCAR Busch Series champions in the all-star field. Brian Vickers, the 2003 champion, and Jeff Green, the 2000 titlist, are entered in the NEXTEL Open along with Truex.

"I never thought this would happen," Truex said of his opportunity to race his way into the All-Star Challenge. "I remember last year at Nazareth all the guys came over to my RV to grill out and watch the All-Star race on TV. Who would have ever thought one year later, we would have the chance to be in the big show?"


Former NASCAR Busch Series standouts in all-star form ... The 20 drivers qualified for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge have won a combined total of 190 NASCAR Busch Series races. Jeff Gordon, the four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, first made his mark in the NASCAR Busch Series. He has three all-star victories to his credit (1995, '97, 2001), which ties him with Dale Earnhardt for most all-star wins. Gordon has five wins in 73 career NASCAR Busch Series starts. Earnhardt has the distinction of winning the first NASCAR Busch Series race. Matt Kenseth, the defending NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge champion, has 17 wins in 168 NASCAR Busch Series starts, including his latest two weeks ago at Darlington. Mark Martin, the all-time NASCAR Busch Series wins leader (47) won the all-star event in 1998 - two of those victories came at California and Las Vegas this year.

NASCAR Day celebrated on Friday ... NASCAR Day, the second annual nationwide celebration of NASCAR spirit, is set for Friday. For a $5 charitable donation, participants receive a commemorative pin plus the option to wear their favorite NASCAR-themed gear to work. All proceeds benefit Speediatrics, Victory Junction Gang Camp and Speedway Children's Charities. To date, nearly 2,000 companies nationwide have pledged support, and the offices of 25 governors were expected to make official proclamations of May 20 as NASCAR Day in their states. Pins are available at NASCAR.com, all AutoZone stores and southeastern SunTrust Bank branches.

TV numbers up thanks to Richmond thriller ... Viewers tuned to last Friday's FUNAI 250 at Richmond were treated to an exciting finish as Carl Edwards' last-lap pass of Elliott Sadler secured his second NASCAR Busch Series win of the year. The event, broadcast on FX, aired directly against the NBA playoffs and showed increases in households and viewers over the 2004 race, also broadcast on FX. Households increased 35% over last year (1,602,000 -- 1,189,000) while viewers increased 24% versus the 2004 race (2,099,000 -- 1,698,000). Figures are provided by Nielsen Media Research.

Yeley gearing up for fatherhood ... Following last week's race at Richmond where he finished 24th, J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot/Chevrolet) headed back to his home in Indianapolis to join his wife, Kristen, who is expecting their first child on June 6. The Yeleys will have a girl, and have chosen the name Faith Anne. Yeley will be participating in a birthing class with his wife this weekend. Following the birth, the family will relocate to Charlotte. "The off-weekend is coming at a great time for me from a personal standpoint because it allows me to spend some time with my wife as we prepare for the birth of our first child," he said. "We are very excited about the upcoming arrival of Faith Anne, and we appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers from everyone in the NASCAR family."


Martin Truex Jr. will run a special paint scheme on his No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet in the NEXTEL Open commemorating the 25th anniversary of Dale Earnhart Inc. "It really is a great honor to support [DEI] this weekend," he said. "That's a big motivation for us. It will be really cool if we can win the Open and race against Michael [Waltrip] and Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. in the All-Star race. I'm just very fortunate to be a part of this race, but mainly a part of this great organization." ... David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) is 11th in the standings, but is tied with Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) in points with 1,308. Green was 10th following the California race in February, but had a string of sub-par finishes that have forced him to steadily climb to his current ranking. "As we head into our off-weekend, being tied for 10th is a good boost for me and the team," the 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion said. "No question, we're not happy with our results so far and we're determined to keep on moving up." ... Kenny Wallace (No. 22 Stacker 2 Ford) will run his dirt track car, "The Herminator," May 17-19 at various tracks in Illinois and Kentucky. ... David Stremme (No. 14 U.S. NAVY Dodge) was scheduled to land on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on along with FitzBradshaw Racing teammate Tim Fedewa (No. 12 Supercuts Dodge) and Team Rensi's Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford) to participate in various activities with the crew. Lewis will continue on to Washington, D.C., where he will take part in ceremonies surrounding the U.S. Marines Memorial Foundation.


"I'm really looking forward to the race itself. It will be a lot like Saturday night dirt track racing with the format the way it is. Everything is a sprint to the end and you go 100 percent every lap and that's going to be fun." -- Carl Edwards, NASCAR Busch Series points leader, on the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge

"I'm spending a lot of time with my son [Kyle] this week. We're going to be working on his racecar every day and hopefully get in a little bit of testing this weekend. Having my son follow in my footsteps probably means more to me than anything. He loves to race. He has dreamed about it since he was a boy." -- Steve Grissom (No. 49 Advil Ford)


Although many NASCAR Busch Series graduates have made a mark in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge race over the years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains the only NASCAR Busch Series champion to win the all-star event.

Earnhardt Jr. captured back-to-back NASCAR Busch Series championships in 1998-99 before joining his famous father, Dale Earnhardt, on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series circuit fulltime the following year.

The 2000 all-star race consisted of two 30-lap segments and a 10-lap "shootout." Legendary driver Bill Elliott sat on the pole and won the first two segments. Two laps into the final segment, the caution came out, giving Earnhardt Jr. a chance to pit for four new tires. He was sixth when the green flag flew.

Hardly "intimidated," young Earnhardt passed his father and Jerry Nadeau with three laps remaining to take second place behind Dale Jarrett. Earnhardt Jr. moved into the lead with two laps left and held on for the win, becoming the first rookie to take all-star honors.

In an unforgettable moment, the young driver was met in Victory Lane for a congratulatory hug from his father.


The NASCAR Busch Series returns to action next weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway for the CARQUEST Auto Parts 300. The series has visited the track twice a year since the series inception in 1982. Kyle Busch is the defending race champion, while Greg Biffle won the pole one year ago.


Next Race: CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 (Race No. 13 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

When: 7:10 p.m. ET, Saturday, May 28.

Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval.
Race Length: 300 miles/200 laps.

Posted Awards: $1,159,088.

TV: FX, 6:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.

2004 Winner: Kyle Busch.
2004 Polesitter: Greg Biffle.

NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Carl Edwards 1,797. 2. Clint Bowyer 1,617. 3. Reed Sorenson 1,526. 4. Martin Truex Jr. 1,479. 5. Ashton Lewis Jr. 1,443. 6. Kenny Wallace 1,424. 7. Denny Hamlin 1,419. 8. David Stremme 1,386. 9. Greg Biffle 1,379. 10. Jason Keller 1,308.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., May 27: Practice -- 9 -- 10:30 a.m.; 11 a.m. -- Noon. Qualifying -- 5:05 p.m. Cars impounded after qualifying.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Jerry Nadeau , David Green , Steve Grissom , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Ashton Lewis , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin