BUSCH: Pikes Peak: News of note, schedule

Vickers displaying mid-season surge Hamilton's rejuvenation Parker to defend title in TrimSpa 250 NEWS & NOTES * Vickers displaying mid-season surge ... Not only is Brian Vickers proving that youth is no obstacle to success, the ...

Vickers displaying mid-season surge
Hamilton's rejuvenation
Parker to defend title in TrimSpa 250


* Vickers displaying mid-season surge ... Not only is Brian Vickers proving that youth is no obstacle to success, the 19-year-old is showing he's a title contender. Vickers -- 13 years younger than any driver in the top five in the point standings -- has been the hottest driver on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit lately. In the last five races, he has scored more points (801) than any other driver by averaging an impressive 160.2 points per race. Moreover, he is the only driver this year to post seven consecutive top-10 finishes. Vickers' midseason surge has carried him from 10th in the series points to a career-best third -- following his fourth-place finish last Saturday in New Hampshire -- in the last 10 races. Vickers is still searching for his first NASCAR Busch Series victory, but that could change this weekend on the 1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway. Vickers' other finishes on 1-mile tracks this season: two runner-up finishes (Nazareth and Milwaukee) and a fifth at Dover. "It's all about being consistent and working toward a common goal -- winning," said Vickers of his teams' hot streak. "With our team being new, it took a few races for everything to click, but it's all coming together now. Sometimes I wonder when it's going to be interrupted. I just hope it's not soon."

* New crew chief fuels Hamilton's title run ... After a breakthrough 2002 season in which he earned his career-first win and finished eighth in the championship, Bobby Hamilton Jr. entered this season looking to contend for the NASCAR Busch Series crown. However, after 13 races -- 1/3 of the season -- Hamilton sat 10th in the series points with just one top-five finish. The U.S. Marine Corps team decided to make a switch, bringing in veteran crew chief Harold Holly, beginning with the Dover race on May 31. Holly helped lead Jeff Green's dominant 2000 season culminating in the series championship by a record 606 points. The turnaround for Hamilton has been equally impressive. In the seven races since Holly joined the team, Hamilton has recorded six top-10 finishes, including wins at Kentucky and Chicago. "Ever since Harold joined our team, it's been like a new beginning," Hamilton said. "We have all raised our level of performance and effort. We go to the track with the confidence that we can win and we know the car will be awesome. If we can continue to perform and stay out of trouble, we can still win the title."

* Parker to defend title in TrimSpa 250 ... Hank Parker Jr. will have an opportunity to defend his title in Saturday's TrimSpa Dream Body 250 presented by Dodge. Parker is scheduled to drive the No. 7 Kleenex/Scott Products Chevrolet for Evans Motorsports. Parker led twice for 23 laps in last year's race at Pikes Peak, winning his second career race and the first for car manufacturer Dodge in the NASCAR Busch Series. The North Carolina native has another top-five finish in his four starts at PPIR -- a fourth in 2000. This will be the fourth race for Parker this season. His best finish was sixth at Darlington. "It's a great opportunity for me to show everyone that I still have what it takes," Parker said. "Everyone said that I won a fuel mileage race last year, and maybe it worked out like that, but we had a car that could run up front. I know that I haven't forgotten how to drive and so hopefully I can put on a repeat performance of last year."

* Pikes Peak a groovy place ... Pikes Peak International Raceway has been a favorite among the drivers since it was added to the NASCAR Busch Series schedule in 1998. The multiple grooves have allowed for exciting side-by-side racing with a total of 62 lead changes in just five races. The average number of lead changes at the 1-mile track is 12.4, and last year's race tied the 1999 record with 14 lead changes. "PPIR has the perfect size, shape and banking to give the fans and drivers the best racing," David Green said. "To me, it's one of the best tracks we run on all year as far as racing grooves and endless opportunities to pass."


* Colorado native and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran Rick Carelli is scheduled to drive the No. 4 ReMax Chevrolet for Biagi Bros. Racing on Saturday. The Pikes Peak event was not one of the 28 races on the partial schedule for the No. 4 car, which is normally driven by Mike Wallace and sponsored by GEICO. ... Kasey Kahne and the No. 38 Great Clips Ford Racing team will get a behind-the-scenes look at NORAD, the United States' North American Aerospace Defense Command center, on Thursday when they arrive in Colorado. Although Kahne has yet to compete at Pikes Peak in NASCAR Busch Series competition, he has raced at PPIR in USAC events. NASCAR Winston Cup star Ryan Newman held off Kahne -- who finished third -- in a USAC Midget race at PPIR in 2000, but Kahne went on to win the championship that year. ... Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Joey Clanton (No. 27 TrimSpa Pontiac) has a busy weekend scheduled. Along with his car sponsor being the title sponsor of the race, Clanton will be making appearances at Peterson Air Force Base, NORAD, and the Xtreme Sports Bar at Fort Carson, Colo. "There has been so much excitement leading up to this event," Clanton said. "TrimSpa has been such a supportive sponsor of our team. I really can't wait to see what they have planned for the race."


* Ron Hornaday and Tim Fedewa (No. 12 Supercuts Cheverolet) have three top-10 finishes each at Pikes Peak -- the most among active drivers. Hornaday, who has not finished outside the top 10 in three starts at PPIR, has an average finish of 7.0 and posted his best finish (fourth) last year. Fedewa has two 10th-place finishes and a runner-up effort in 1999.

* David Green has an average finish of 4.0 in two starts at Pikes Peak. He finished sixth in 2001 and runner-up in 2000 to brother Jeff.

* Jason Keller is one of four drivers who have started all five races at Pikes Peak. Although he would like to forget his first two races in Colorado -- both 33rd-place finishes -- he has been solid in the last three and improving with each race. In 2000, Keller led 50 laps before finishing 12th. He finished fourth in 2001 after leading 42 laps, and after winning the pole last year and leading 57 laps, he finished third.


* "Pikes Peak is different than any track we've raced on this year. It's a 1-mile track but it's not flat like Milwaukee and not as banked as Dover. You have to approach it like a flat track. The track is very slick and it allows the groove to widen. A wide groove gives you the ability to not only race side-by-side, but the opportunity to pass cars and mount a charge toward the front." -- Jason Keller.

* "[Colorado Springs] is such a neat part of the country with all the tradition of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, home of Focus on the Family, and the Air Force Academy. Our visit to NORAD will be very special to me and my team. We'll get to say hello to a part of our Armed Forces and invite them to the race." -- David Green.


Built in 1997 with a price tag of $35 million, Pikes Peak International Raceway hosted its first NASCAR Busch Series race in 1998. In the track's first race, Matt Kenseth, the current NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader, earned his career-first NASCAR Busch Series pole. Kenseth went on to lead 104 of 250 laps to post his second career victory.


What: TrimSpa Dream Body 250 Presented by Dodge; Race 21 of 34 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Pikes Peak International Raceway, Fountain, Colo.
When: 3:30 p.m. (ET), (1:30 p.m. local), Saturday, July 26.

Track layout: 1-mile paved oval.
Race length: 250 laps/250 miles.
TV: NBC, 3:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday--Practice, 12:45-2:45 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:05 p.m.; Final practice, 6:15 -- 7:15 p.m. (Final practice time approximate.)


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Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jason Keller , Hank Parker Jr. , Ryan Newman , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Ron Hornaday Jr. , David Green , Kasey Kahne , Joey Clanton