* Coming home: Yeley, Kuettel among Phoenix natives returning this weekend * Chevrolet continues to lead Bill France Performance Cup standings NEWS & NOTES Yeley heads up Phoenix homecomings ... J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home...
* Coming home: Yeley, Kuettel among Phoenix natives returning this weekend
* Chevrolet continues to lead Bill France Performance Cup standings
NEWS & NOTES
Yeley heads up Phoenix homecomings ... J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet), one of seven drivers attempting to compete fulltime in the NASCAR Busch Series and in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, returns home to Phoenix for this weekend's races. Yeley has finished 10th in his last two NASCAR Busch Series races at Phoenix, and last November, was introduced at his home track as the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition for Joe Gibbs Racing. Yeley is fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series points, and has finished in the top 10 in six of his first eight series races. At least three other NASCAR Busch Series team members will join Yeley for a Phoenix homecoming. Pierre Kuettel, the first-year crew chief for Carl Edwards (No. 60 Henkel Ford), is a Phoenix native as is Gannon Pritchard, the jack man for Raybestos Rookie Mark McFarland (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet). Todd Drakulich, the tire specialist for points leader Kevin Harvick's No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet, is from nearby Tuscon.
McFarland experiences the Navy up close ... Mark McFarland and his JR Motorsports teammate Shane Huffman, driver of the No. 88 Champion Chevrolet in the USAR Pro Cup Series, ventured to the west coast a few days ahead of schedule to visit naval installations in California before traveling to Phoenix. On Tuesday, the drivers visited Naval Base Ventura County -- Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme to learn more about the Naval Construction Force referred to as the "Seabees." Wednesday, McFarland and Huffman are scheduled to appear at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Calif., to experience what it takes to become an elite member of the Navy SEALs Team.
Keller, Chris Wimmer dismissed from teams ... Phoenix Racing owner James Finch announced a driver change in the No.1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge effective at Phoenix. Mike Wallace will take over driving duties from Jason Keller on an interim basis as the team evaluates its program. "We have the utmost respect for Jason and his accomplishments in the sport and wish him the very best," said Finch. Keller, a 13-year veteran, was scheduled to make his 400th career NASCAR Busch Series start this weekend. Currently second on the all-time starts list, Keller was on pace to break the mark of 417 held by Tommy Houston. The only driver to surpass $9 and $10 million in series career winnings was 12th in the series points standings following last Saturday's 16th-place finish at Nashville. Additionally, Chris Wimmer and Keith Coleman Racing have parted ways effective immediately. "I wish things would have worked out differently," Wimmer said. "Sometimes, a fresh start is what both the driver and the team need." Wimmer, a Raybestos Rookie, drove the No. 23 KCR Chevrolet; no replacement had been announced as of Tuesday.
"IN THE LOOP": 2005 Phoenix phenoms play favorites role ... Last year's combined Loop Data statistics from Phoenix show that Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) battled from the 20th starting position and completed 45 Green Flag Passes en route to winning the spring race last year at Phoenix. Biffle's ascent through the field helped him record the third best Driver Rating with a rating of 122.3. Biffle also led the Fastest Drivers in Turns 1 and 3 statistics. Carl Edwards won the Busch Pole and never ran lower than fourth place on his way to an impressive win in last year's fall event at Phoenix where he led 103 of 200 laps. Edwards' strong performance helped propel him to the top spot in the Driver Rating category with a rating of 123.8. He is also second in the Closers category, improving a total of five positions over the last 10% of the two races while Paul Menard led this category, having improved seven slots. NASCAR Busch Series points leader Kevin Harvick was the fastest in overall Speed in Traffic last season at Phoenix, averaging 125.304 mph. The data is a new feature from NASCAR in partnership with stat experts STATS LLC to provide in-depth statistical details dealing with more than the race winner.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) is the only multiple race winner at Phoenix; Jamie McMurray (No. 64 Top Flite Golf Co. Dodge) and Carl Edwards have one win each. ... There have been eight different Busch Pole winners at Phoenix; six of those drivers -- Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jason Leffler (No. 32 Ft. McDowell Resort Destination Chevrolet), Ken Schrader (No. 66 Yard-Man Ford), Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's-Hitachi Chevrolet) and Edwards are entered this week. Edwards is the only driver to have won from the pole having accomplished the feat last November. ... Biffle has finished in the top 10 in each of his six series races at Phoenix. ... Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford) is scheduled to make his 200th NASCAR Busch Series start at Phoenix. Likewise, Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) is on track to make his 150th career start, while McMurray is eyeing career series start No. 125.
Denny Hamlin became the first driver to win two Busch Poles this season when he captured his second straight at Nashville last Saturday. There have been eight different winners in the first eight races this year, 10 different winners dating back to last November's race at Phoenix. The series record is 13 consecutive different winners, which occurred at the start of the 1988 season. ... Kevin Harvick's first win of the season at Nashville helped boost Chevrolet's lead in the Bill France Performance Cup standings to nine points, tying its largest advantage this season over the second-place manufacturer, Dodge. Chevrolet has accumulated five wins and 57 points, while Dodge has two wins and 48 points. Ford has one win, but stands just one point behind Dodge in third with 47. Ford has five NASCAR Busch Series wins at Phoenix, three out of the last four. ... Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ameriquest Ford) will have a new crew chief at Phoenix as Jimmy Fennig comes on board to oversee Kenseth's crew as well as the entire Roush Racing NASCAR Busch Series organization. ... Raybestos Rookie David Gilliland (No. 84 Hype Manufacturing Chevrolet) has some veteran experience at Phoenix. He won the 2003 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series race and also the 2005 NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series race at the track. "The level of competition up from the Southwest and West Series to the NASCAR Busch Series level is tremendous," he said. "That doesn't mean we can't win. I think we've proved to a lot of these guys that we're just as fast. We're just in a different game now. There a lot of great drivers in the NASCAR Busch Series." ... From the "time flies" department -- Carl Edwards ran in his first pavement race just five years ago in the 2001 Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway. ... April is National Autism Awareness month, and Jamie McMurray will run a special logo on his car at Phoenix. A neurological disorder that effects social interaction, communication and the sensory system, Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. "As most know, this cause hits home for me as my niece is autistic," he said. "Anything I can do to help raise awareness is directly helping my family out. Having the Autism Awareness Month logo on my car is just a tiny way that I can help raise awareness to a cause that is extremely important to me." ... Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) and his nephew Steve Wallace (No. 64 Jackson Roscoe Foundation Dodge) will each throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Monday, April 24 when the Washington Nationals host the Cincinnati Reds. The two will meet the media at RFK Stadium prior to the game and then arrive on the field via the Richmond International Raceway pace car to deliver the first pitch. The Wallaces are helping promote the Circuit City 250 presented by FUNAI May 5 at Richmond.
"It will be a good race and with all six Roush NASCAR Busch Series teams in it again this weekend, our stiffest competition will probably be our teammates." -- Greg Biffle.
"In the last three races, we've (Compton and teammate Jon Wood -- No. 47 Clorox/American Red Cross Ford) improved over our starting position a total of 41 spots. That's incredible. And it's only going to get better." -- Stacy Compton (No. 59 Kingsford/Bush's Baked Beans Ford).
"Getting back to racing under the lights on Friday night ... it reminds me a lot of my Late Model days." -- Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet).
FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" ARCHIVES
The Bashas' Supermarkets 200 has been held each year since 1999 at Phoenix International Raceway. Cars prepared by team owner Jack Roush have won three of those events. Roush first went to Victory Lane at Phoenix in 2000 when his driver Jeff Burton crossed the finish line .932-second ahead of rookie Jason Leffler.
Greg Biffle made it back-to-back wins for Roush with his 2001 victory. In each case, Burton and Biffle led the most laps.
Biffle, again driving a Roush-prepared Ford, led the most laps and won the 2005 edition of the race to become the event's only repeat winner. His 1.969-seconds win over Elliott Sadler is the largest margin of victory for any NASCAR Busch Series event held at Phoenix.
NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" QUOTEABLES
"It's hard to be on an even keel all the time when you are in that race car. Things happen that, in high-pressure situations, you just absolutely lose it for a time. But you don't hold a grudge." -- Tommy Ellis (1988 NASCAR Busch Series champion).
ON DECK: TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
The NASCAR Busch Series makes its only trip to Talladega Superspeedway this season next Saturday, April 29. Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers have made their mark at the 2.66-mile track over the last three years as Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in 2003, and two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. captured the last two races. Paul Menard sat on the Busch Pole last April.
What: Bashas' Supermarkets 200 (Race No. 9 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.
When: 9 p.m. ET, Friday, April 21.
Track Layout: 1-mile oval.
Race Length: 200 miles/200 miles.
Posted Awards: $1,234,370.
TV: FX, 8:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle.
2005 Polesitter: Kasey Kahne.
2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 1,284. 2. Denny Hamlin 1,128. 3. Clint Bowyer 1,075. 4. J.J. Yeley 1,028. 5. Carl Edwards 963. 6. Paul Menard 962. 7. Jon Wood 943. 8. Johnny Sauter 914. 9. Kyle Busch 905. 10. Burney Lamar 901.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thur., April 20 -- Practice, 12:15 -1:20 p.m.; "Rookie Practice," 1:30-1:55 p.m.; Final Practice 4:30-5:30 p.m. Fri., April 21 -- Qualifying 2:35 p.m. (Impound).