* Former series greats Bown, Ingram and Houston celebrate 25th Season Running at RIR * Final scheduled test of season next week at Lowe's Motor Speedway NEWS & NOTES Menard continues on upswing ... Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's ...
* Former series greats Bown, Ingram and Houston celebrate 25th Season Running at RIR
* Final scheduled test of season next week at Lowe's Motor Speedway
NEWS & NOTES
Menard continues on upswing ... Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet) continues on his hot pace of late. In sixth place in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings over the last three weeks, Menard (1,212 points) comes to Richmond only 12 points behind fifth-place J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet) and only 55 in back of third-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 Henkel Ford), last year's race winner. All five drivers ahead of Menard -- and the two immediately behind him in the rankings -- are full time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competitors as well. Since making his debut in the top 10 in the points after his seventh-place finish at Texas, Menard has gained 393 points thanks to three straight top-10 finishes, four in his last five races.
Commonwealth bragging rights ... The 2006 season has been a good one thus far for some Virginia natives who have the opportunity to feel at home this week. In addition to Jeff Burton's win at Atlanta earlier this year, Chesterfield's Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) won at Mexico City and stands third in the points. Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/American Red Cross Ford), of the famous racing Wood family out of Stuart, is ninth in the point standings. The trio of Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford -- Chesapeake), Mark McFarland (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet -- Winchester) and Danny O'Quinn Jr. (No. 50 Stonebridge Life Ford -- Coeburn) are 17th, 18th and 19th, respectively, in the point standings. McFarland posted a career-best seventh-place finish last Saturday at Talladega while O'Quinn started fourth in his first race at the superspeedway; it was his second top-five start in his last three races. O'Quinn celebrates his 21st birthday on Saturday. McFarland, meanwhile, has supplanted Todd Kluever (No. 06 3M Ford) in second place in the rookie point standings, and is 18 points behind leader Burney Lamar (No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet).
"25 Seasons Running" celebrated at Richmond ... This year marks the "25th Seasons Running" for the NASCAR Busch Series and its association with series sponsor Anheuser-Busch, and Richmond is one of seven tracks that have hosted series races since 1982. Two former champions -- Jack Ingram (1982, '85) and Chuck Bown (1990) -- will be in attendance at Richmond along with another former series great, Tommy Houston. All will be part of a "Welcome Back" reception hosted by the track on Thursday evening at Shula's 2 at the Sheraton Richmond West Hotel. The trio will also be available at a press conference at the Infield Media Center on Friday at 10:30 a.m. In addition, the track is holding a silent auction Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. -- 7 p.m. at the RIR amphitheater outside of Turn One with all proceeds to benefit the series' first two-time champion, Sam Ard (1983-84), who is unable to participate in 25th season celebrations due to medical issues. Numerous items have been donated by NASCAR drivers and teams. There will be one live auction opportunity on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the SPEED Channel stage on the midway where NASCAR President Mike Helton will offer up a 2006 Harley-Davidson XL 1200L Sportster and a leather jacket to the highest bidders. For more information on the Ard auction and the items up for bid, log on to www.rir.com.
Final test for series set next week at Lowe's .... The final scheduled test this year for NASCAR Busch Series teams takes place next week at Lowe's Motor Speedway. All teams have the opportunity to test May 8--10 from 9 a.m.--9 p.m. at the 1.5-mile track. This year, NASCAR set a schedule for when and where each of its national series may test at tracks that host NASCAR events -- the teams' only opportunities to test at those tracks. The test policy is part of some recent comprehensive changes NASCAR has implemented -- including the tire usage rule and the gear ratio rule -- to improve competition, maintain competitive balance and contain costs. Daytona International Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Richmond were the other tracks where testing took place earlier this year. Over 40 teams were scheduled to participate as of Tuesday. Media opportunities will be announced.
IN THE LOOP: Payoff Time for Leffler? ... Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Dodge) has been a force since his full time return to the NASCAR Busch Series. Ranked in the top 10 in the point standings in six of the season's 10 weeks, Leffler is 13th entering Richmond, but is just 19 points behind 10th-place Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet). Leffler won the Busch Pole two weeks ago at Phoenix and could continue his resurgence this week if NASCAR's Loop Data is any indication. The numbers from last year's events at Richmond show Leffler ranking first in Average Running Position (6.455) and Average Quality Passes (29), a key statistic considering the track's short distance. Leffler is also second in Driver Rating at 115.1. "In my last two NASCAR Busch Series races here we were extremely strong and came away with top five finishes. With any luck, our previous success will repeat itself and give us an opportunity to contend for the win," he said. Two series veterans, Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) and Tim Sauter (No. 36 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) are ranked first and second, respectively, in the Closers category. Wallace improved a total of eight spots over the last 10% of the races last year at Richmond, while Sauter picked up a total of six positions.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK Kenny Wallace is third all-time at Richmond with three NASCAR Busch Series victories. Wallace has nine total series wins, one-third have come at Richmond. He has finished in the top 10 in 17 of his 24 races at the track; he also has nine top-five finishes. A start on Friday night gives him the all-time lead in that category among active NASCAR Busch Series drivers at RIR with 25. ... Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Cottman Transmissions Dodge) has captured five Busch Poles, tied for first with 1998 series champion and Richmond native Tommy Ellis.
ETC. Chevrolet continues to lead the Bill France Performance Cup Standings. Martin Truex Jr.'s win at Talladega last Saturday gives Chevy three consecutive wins and seven overall; the manufacturer also leads with 15 series wins at Richmond. Dodge remains in second place, but holds only a one-win (2 - 1) and a one-point advantage (58 - 57) over Ford. ... Three NASCAR Busch Series crew chiefs are heading home to Virginia this week. Trip Bruce, who oversees the No. 9 Lipton Tea Dodge of last year's Busch Pole winner Kasey Kahne, is from Richmond. Charlie Lewis (Chesapeake) heads up his brother Ashton's No. 25 Ford team while Eddie Pardue, the first-year crew chief for 2002 series champion Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) is from Hampton. ... Aric Almirola (No. 19 Husqvarna Chevrolet), will attempt his first series start at Richmond. The 20-year-old from Tampa, Fla., is in his first full time season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and is the first competitor of Cuban heritage to compete in that series. He won 10 races over the last two seasons in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series driving for the Joe Gibbs/Reggie White Driver Development Program. ... Jon Wood and his pit crew stepped away from their shop duties Tuesday to participate in basic first aid and CPR/AED exercises with an American Red Cross instructor.
"Richmond is my home track. It's not too far from where I grew up and I've run a handful of races there. We got our first top-10 finish last weekend at Talladega, which was huge for the team. Now we're going to a track that I actually have some laps on." -- Mark McFarland
"Richmond really isn't all about aerodynamics or all about horsepower. It's about Saturday night short-track racing. That's where I came from." -- David Gilliland (No. 84 Hype Manufacturing Chevrolet)
FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" ARCHIVES
The old NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division had long competed at the equally old Virginia State Fairgrounds, now known as Richmond International Raceway. But a new era in NASCAR racing emerged in 1982 when the series was transformed into what has become today's NASCAR Busch Series.
The first race of 1982 at Richmond was also the second-ever event for the new series. The Eastern 150 was a 150-lap affair that saw polesitter Geoff Bodine lead a field of 28 cars to the green flag. Some of the more famous and colorful drivers competing that day were modified legend Ray Hendrick, newcomer Dale Jarrett, short track aces Sam Ard and Tommy Ellis -- both future series champions -- and Canadian Claude Aubin, also known as the "Mad Monk of Montreal."
Tommy Houston won that inaugural Richmond event, taking home $5,000 for the victory. Houston would go on to compete in the series through 1996 finishing his career with 417 starts, 24 wins 18 poles and 10 top-10 finishes in the championship point standings.
NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" QUOTEABLES
"... in the old days, when it was Late Model Sportsman, you only had one or two guys to beat. When we started the [NASCAR] Busch Series, there was four or five of us every week that you had to beat. It depended on where you were, who was going to be the best. But the competition was great, the people were great. That's what made the [NASCAR] Busch Series good for me." -- Tommy Ellis, 1988 NASCAR Busch Series champion and Richmond, Va. native.
ON DECK: DARLINGTON RACEWAY
Another of the seven tracks that has hosted NASCAR Busch Series races since the series inception in 1982, Darlington Raceway will host the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on Friday, May 12 at 8:30 p.m. Mark Martin, the series all-time leader in victories (47) and tied for the series lead in Busch Poles (28) is the top winner at Darlington with eight victories. Matt Kenseth won the race last season, while Jimmie Johnson captured his first career Busch Pole.
What: Circuit City 250 presented by FUNAI (Race No. 11 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, Va.
When: 8:05 p.m. ET, Friday, May 5.
Track Layout: .75-mile oval.
Race Length: 250 laps/187.5 miles.
Posted Awards: $1,088,910.
TV: FX, 7:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2005 Winner: Carl Edwards.
2005 Polesitter: Kasey Kahne.
2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 1,639. 2. Clint Bowyer 1,340. 3. Carl Edwards 1,267. 4. Denny Hamlin 1,247. 5. J.J. Yeley 1,224. 6. Paul Menard 1,212. 7. Kyle Busch 1,202. 8. Greg Biffle 1,154. 9. Jon Wood 1,143. 10. Johnny Sauter 1,111.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., May 5 -- Practice, 8:30 -- 9:40 a.m.; "Rookie Practice", 9:40 -- 10:10 a.m.; Final Practice 10:10 -11:10 a.m. Qualifying 4:05 p.m. (Impound).