NASCAR Busch Series drivers, teams matching up with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup visitors DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2004) -- NASCAR Busch Series regulars won six of the last nine companion races during the 2003 campaign, in which they went ...
NASCAR Busch Series drivers, teams matching up with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup visitors
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2004) -- NASCAR Busch Series regulars won six of the last nine companion races during the 2003 campaign, in which they went head-to-head with their counterparts from the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
And while NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regular Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Ritz/Oreo Chevrolet) won Monday's rain-delayed 2004 season opener at Daytona International Speedway, there's no reason to believe the trend won't continue this year. All teams are now required to be in the inspection line prior to the start of the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup practice on the morning of a NASCAR Busch Series race, preventing any changes to a car based off the morning practice session. Although the change went into effect in August 2003, NASCAR Busch Series Director Brian DeHart isn't sure that was what caused the streak.
"We were fighting a perception [that NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers had an advantage by practicing on the morning of a NASCAR Busch Series race]," DeHart said. "If it did change something, it was a good call on our part. If it didn't, we at least quieted down the perception in the garage and now the guys are concentrating more on racing than they are on who's maybe got an advantage on who."
DeHart's explanation is much more simple.
"I think it just shows you how strong the series is, and how strong the talent pool we can bring is," he concluded. NASCAR Busch Series drivers and teams that won during the late-season stretch read like a who's who of the division's top contenders. Brian Vickers, who went on to capture the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series title for the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports operation, won Aug. 30 at Darlington and again on Sept. 20 at Dover. Johnny Sauter (No. 27 Kleenex/Scott Brand Products Pontiac) scored the victory Sept. 5 at Richmond by beating eventual 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth out of Turn 4 on the final lap. David Green (No. 37 Timber Wolf Pontiac) won Oct. 4 at Kansas, Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford), on Nov. 1 at Phoenix and Kasey Kahne (No. 38 Great Clips Dodge) ended the season with a trip to victory lane Nov. 15 at Homestead.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regular Greg Biffle (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford) won twice during the nine-race stretch, on Oct. 11 at Charlotte and again on Oct. 25 at Atlanta. Jamie McMurray (No. 30 TrimSpa Dodge) won his third consecutive race at Rockingham on Nov. 8.
"I think it compliments the true NASCAR Busch Series teams and drivers," Green says. "Seeing all those companion races on the schedule, a lot of times, people think it's a given that NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers are going to win those races. I think [the win streak by NASCAR Busch Series regulars] is really, really cool. It says how far the series has come. Those kinds of wins are more satisfying to me as a driver, and to my team. On a stand-alone NASCAR Busch Series race, it's very tough to win, but you're taking another step forward when the Cup guys get here."