Changing faces highlight Nationwide racing at Texas

Amanda Vincent

When the NASCAR Nationwide Series takes the green flag for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night, it'll do so without the series' most recent winner at the track, Trevor Bayne.

Bayne won the Fall 2011 Nationwide race at Texas and has driven the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in every series race up to this point in 2012, but a lack of sponsorship has resulted in car owner Jack Roush opting to not enter the No. 60 for this Texas Motor Speedway event.

Actually, there'll be several familiar Nationwide Series faces absent when the series takes to the track on Friday. Among those will be the most dominant driver in Nationwide competition at TMS in recent years, Kyle Busch. For the first time this season, owner/driver Busch will give up the driver's seat of the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to older brother, Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch won five-straight Nationwide races at Texas between 2008 and 2010, but he's turning his car over to another capable driver. It just so happens that Kurt Busch is the most recent series victor at the track among all drivers on the entry list for this weekend's event, visiting the TMS victory lane in Nationwide competition in 2006.

Steve Arpin, Mike's Hard Lemonade
Steve Arpin, Mike's Hard Lemonade

Photo by: Ted Rossino

"I've been coming around the guys at the track to try and take some of that 'newness' off before it was my turn in the car," Kurt Busch said. "Then we had the chance to spend two solid days together testing at Nashville Superspeedway. That time really allowed us to build our chemistry, and I look forward to seeing how that translates on the track this weekend."

Kenny Wallace, a veteran of the Nationwide Series who has competed in all five races on the circuit up to this point, will also be absent from the starting grid this weekend, but his car won't be. RAB Racing has opted to put Ryan Truex behind the wheel of its No. 09 Toyota for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300.

"I appreciate RAB Racing for giving me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of their 09 Toyota," Truex said. "They've had strong cars every week, and I can't wait to get to Texas.

Wallace is expected to return to the driver's seat next month at Talladega Superspeedway.

While several familiar faces won't be around for the green flag on Friday, several other drivers will be making rare appearances in Nationwide Series competition this weekend. Steve Arpin is slated to drive the No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, making his first start in the series since 2010. This weekend will mark the first of a two-race deal Arpin has with the Turner organization to compete in the series.

"I can't think of a better place to start this out than Texas," Arpin said. "We've developed our own little family here, between myself, (sponsor) Mike's (Hard Lemonade) and Turner Motorsports, and I'm really looking forward to see what we can do in these next two races."

Kelly Bires is also expected to return to the series after a lengthy absence to drive the No. No. 39 Fenton Racing Ford at Texas this weekend.

Pit stop for Dale Earnhardt Jr., JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Pit stop for Dale Earnhardt Jr., JR Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will suit up on Friday night to drive the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in Nationwide Series competition, making one of his few starts in the series this year.

"I'm back in the Nationwide car this weekend and looking forward to it," Earnhardt said. "Texas is pretty special to me. I enjoy racing there and have good memories of the place. We won our first Nationwide race there back in '98 and followed up with our first Cup win a few years later."

Other Sprint Cup Series regulars who plan to engage in extra racing on Friday include Kasey Kahne in the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Paul Menard in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, David Ragan in the No. 27 GC Motorsports Ford and Joey Logano in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kenny Wallace , Kurt Busch , Trevor Bayne , Kasey Kahne , Paul Menard , Jack Roush , Eric Gilbert , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Kelly Bires , Joey Logano , Steve Arpin , Ryan Truex , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Turner Motorsport , JR Motorsports , Kyle Busch Motorsports
Tags arpin, bayne, bires, busch, earnhardt, featured, vincent, wallace