* Loop Data: Leffler A Solid Choice To Upend Harvick At Richmond * Chevrolet Back In Lead, Comfort Zone in Manufacturer's Standings In The Loop: Harvick Reigns At Richmond But Leffler Could Be Lurking While the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series...
* Loop Data: Leffler A Solid Choice To Upend Harvick At Richmond
* Chevrolet Back In Lead, Comfort Zone in Manufacturer's Standings
In The Loop: Harvick Reigns At Richmond But Leffler Could Be Lurking
While the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race this weekend will be called the Jim Stewart 400, the NASCAR Busch Series event at Richmond International Raceway could just as easily be called the "Kevin Harvick 250" instead of the Circuit City 250.
The reigning NASCAR Busch Series champion has won three consecutive races at the Virginia track, and knocking him off the Richmond pedestal will not be easy.
Harvick has by far the best pre-race Driver Rating at 126.8, and in one of his victories earned a near-perfect Driver Rating of 149.2 (a maximum rating is 150.0). Also, in the past four races at Richmond, he has an Average Running Position of 6.806, which is third-best.
He has turned the fastest lap 153 times over the past two years at Richmond, by far the most of any driver (Virginia native Jeff Burton [No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet] is second with 61 Fastest Laps Run). And his 882 Laps in the Top 15 is second only to Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Dish Network Ford -- 885).
So who can brave the challenge of dethroning Harvick? One driver to watch is Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota). Leffler's finishes do not mirror his performances at Richmond.
Though last year he finished 20th and 24th, respectively, Leffler did notch top fives in 2005 and '04. And last year at this race, he won the Busch Pole and led 66 laps before getting caught up in an accident.
Leffler also has impressive stats at Richmond. He has a sixth-best Average Running Position of 8.069 and an eighth-best pre-race Driver Rating of 104.0. He also is the top "Closer," as over the last 10 percent of his three races there over the past two years, Leffler has improved 17 positions. That's nearly twice the number of any other driver -- Mike Wallace (No. 7 GEICO Chevrolet) is second with nine positions improved.
Leffler has turned the fastest lap 32 times, which is seventh-most at Richmond and his 648 Laps in the Top 15 are eighth-best. He also averages 28.0 Quality Passes at Richmond, which is the second-highest average.
Brad Coleman (No. 18 Carino's Chevrolet) topped off his first career Busch Pole with his best series finish to date (ninth) at Talladega Superspeedway last week. And although a native of Texas, Coleman has a homecoming of sorts in Virginia. He attended a private high school in Martinsville, moving there to further his racing career while living with his coach, sports car legend Price Cobb. This will be a happy second homecoming for Coleman -- his best friend will be in attendance at the race; he was in the dorm where the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech initially took place three weeks ago.
Bill Davis Racing and Riley-D'Hondt Motorsports are forming a joint venture at Richmond featuring BDR developmental driver Bobby Santos (No. 91 Riley Technologies Toyota) who will attempt to make his debut in the NASCAR Busch Series. The 21-year-old native of Franklin, Mass., has recent experience in USAC Midgets and in ARCA -- he won the pole at Lakeland earlier this year in his second start -- and ran the first two races in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this season. Santos and the team were a surprise at testing in Richmond in May, posting the second-fastest time in the Day 2 morning session then leading the evening session at 21.741 seconds (124.189 mph). The Richmond race is the first of a yet-to-be-announced group of races for Santos; the team also has plans to bring 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion David Green into the fold.
Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, will drive the No. 32 SEYMOUR Paint Toyota for Braun Racing at the CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 May 26. Elliott has 43 NASCAR Busch Series starts, the last of which was at Memphis Motorsports Park in October, 2005. He has one win (Watkins Glen, 1993) and two Busch Poles.
Adrian Fernandez, Mexico's most popular driver who has made nine starts in the NASCAR Busch Series, became a father for the first time over the weekend. His wife Catalina gave birth to daughter Valentina on Sunday. Fernandez drives for Hendrick Motorsports in series competition.
The Director's Take: Richmond
What to watch for at Richmond International Raceway from NASCAR Busch Series Director Joe Balash:
Richmond International Raceway is at the root of short track racing.
It's a track where the driver who's willing to drive in deep into the corner and out-brake his peers will gain valuable track position.
There's a trade-off, though. Drivers have to be careful not to use up all of their brakes in the early stages of the race so they have some left at the end of the night.
ESPN2 will have live primetime coverage of the 250-lap Circuit City 250 Presented by FUNAI from Richmond beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown. The race will start at 8 p.m.
Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and one of the charter members of the NASCAR Busch Series with 329 starts and 11 wins, will join two-time NASCAR champion crew chief Andy Petree in the ESPN booth for analysis during the telecast. Jarrett is filling in for ESPN's lead auto racing analyst, Rusty Wallace, who will rejoin NASCAR coverage in June. ESPN's Marty Reid will handle play-by-play duties, filling in for regular anchor Jerry Punch. Allen Bestwick, Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro will serve as pit reporters.
In addition to the telecast on ESPN2, ESPN's signature broadband service, ESPN360.com, will deliver a live online simulcast of the race, and a Spanish-language version will be televised on ESPN Deportes, ESPN's domestic Spanish-language network.
Chevrolet Can Build On Lead At Richmond
With its second consecutive win -- its first multiple-victory streak since Jeff Burton captured back-to-back wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway -- Chevrolet has moved from a one-point lead over Ford in the Bill France Performance Cup standings to a seven-point advantage heading to Richmond.
That's a perfect scenario for the manufacturer as Chevy has won three straight at the .75-mile facility and boasts 10 wins in the previous 12 races there.
Ford has the other two wins at Richmond and series points leader Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) is the last driver to have taken Ford to Victory Lane.
Dodge is still in a tight battle with Toyota for third place in the rankings. Dodge is up by three points heading to Richmond where Toyota will make its series debut.
Up Next: Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway
The NASCAR Busch Series makes its annual trek to Darlington Raceway on May 11 for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200.
Denny Hamlin won the race one year ago from the Busch Pole, the seventh driver to do so and the first since Jeff Burton in 2002.
Mark Martin holds the series record for wins at Darlington with eight. Burton is next with four victories, tied with Harry Gant.
Martin has also accumulated eight poles at Darlington, most of any series driver.
The Race: Circuit City 250 presented by FUNAI
The Place: Richmond International Raceway
The Date: May 4, 20071
The Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 0.75-mile oval
Race Purse: $1,109,432
2006 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2007 Point Standings
Schedule: Fri., May 4 -- 8:30 -- 9:40 a.m., Practice; 9:40 -- 10:10 a.m., Rookie Practice, 10:10 -- 11:10 a.m., Final Practice, 4:05 p.m., Qualifying (Impound).