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Charlotte II: Round 31 preview

Charlotte II: Round 31 preview
Oct 8, 2008, 8:13 PM

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes -- Lowe's Motor Speedway * Keselowski's Career Has Surged Since May Race At LMS * Team Owner Finch To Collect Start No. 500 Friday Night * Second New Car Test Set For Oct. 13-14 at LMS * ...

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes -- Lowe's Motor Speedway

 * Keselowski's Career Has Surged Since May Race At LMS 
* Team Owner Finch To Collect Start No. 500 Friday Night
* Second New Car Test Set For Oct. 13-14 at LMS
* In The Loop: Johnson Yet To Find NNS Success At LMS

Fall Race In Charlotte Brings Keselowski Full Circle

Daytona Beach, Fla (October 6, 2008) - Last May at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) finished third. At the time, it was his career-best result in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

But since that memorable race where he -- and his JR Motorsports team -- refused to back down from a late-race on-track dust up and post-race scuffle with Denny Hamlin (No. 10 Dollar General Stores Toyota) and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, Keselowski has come full circle in his racing career.

The 24-year-old gained plenty of respect in the garage for the way he handled himself in the tense moments following the race.

He also seemed to gain immeasurable confidence, which quickly began to show.

He won his first series race two weeks later at Nashville Superspeedway, then his first pole. Before capturing his second victory, he moved into second place in the standings and held that spot for six out of seven races before recently ceding to reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Winterguard Ford). Keselowski is currently third in the rankings.

Two weeks ago, owner Rick Hendrick tabbed Keselowski to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at ... Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"Certainly a lot has happened, and it's all been pretty good," Keselowski said. "Seems like I went for about two years and couldn't catch a break, and now it all seems to be pouring down at once.

"It's hard to describe it."

Keselowski will have to qualify the No. 25 Chevrolet on time if he's to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup race debut Saturday night. He's also scheduled to compete in the premier series at Texas Motor Speedway next month.

Back To Where It Began: Finch Reaches Start No. 500 At LMS

In October 1989, owner James Finch stood by while driver Jeff Purvis prepared to make the NASCAR Nationwide Series debut for fledgling Finch Racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Purvis started 14th but a blown engine would relegate him to a 40th-place finish.

Undeterred, Finch continued on. Through the following 20 years, he posted 11 wins -- the first by Purvis in 1996 -- and a 25 percent top-10 finish success rate in what will be 500 series races on Friday night, again at LMS.

It's fitting that Finch's driver will be veteran Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet), who will compete in his 415th NASCAR national series race.

Bliss has one win in series competition and it came at LMS in the fall race of 2004. Currently fourth in the standings, Bliss has been one of the hottest drivers in the series over the last quarter of the season and is the choice of many to break through for a win before the year ends.

"It's an honor to be driving for James in his 500th start as a team owner," Bliss said. "James has contributed a lot to this sport and it would be nice to celebrate this momentous occasion with a trip to Victory Lane."

Majority Rules: Most Drivers Have "Home Field Advantage" In Charlotte

With the bulk of NASCAR Nationwide Series race teams based in North Carolina and the Charlotte area, Friday night's race is basically a "home game."

Series teams are coming off an open week and with the race in their backyard plus the season beginning to dwindle down, the adrenaline certainly will be flowing.

"With so many drivers and teams being home, it really puts emphasis on winning at this track," said series director Joe Balash.

Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) comes back from the open week with a 196-point lead over Carl Edwards in the driver standings. Edwards won at LMS in 2006 but hasn't finished better than 13th there since.

Bowyer has five top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile track including his last four in a row.

Bowyer's also got added impetus as he's moved the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevy to within 33 points of the first-place No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the owner standings.

Childress has won four series owner titles -- two of those have been split championships. A fifth owner crown will break the tie he shares with Teresa Earnhardt who also has four trophies as a NASCAR Nationwide Series owner.

Do The Math: Time Running Short For Top-10 Standing

There are 10 seats available for drivers at the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Awards Banquet. But with five races left, there are five drivers vying for positions 8-10 and a post-season trip to Orlando, Fla.

The scramble is among a solid group of veterans with a total of 12 top-10 championship finishes between them.

Mike Wallace (No. 7 GEICO Toyota) holds the eighth position, but Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) is nine points back in ninth. Wallace is looking for his first Top-10 final ranking while Leffler finished third last year, his first ranking in the final Top 10. He'll be driving the same car that Kyle Busch (No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota) drove to victory for Braun Racing in May.

Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Tailgate Ford) made his first foray into the Top 10 in 2007, his first year in the series. He comes to Lowe's Motor Speedway in 10th, 34 points behind Leffler; it took him 24 races to finally climb into the Top 10 this year. But he's forced to pay attention to Jason Keller (No. 27 Viva Ford), who is 72 points out in 11th.

Keller -- who has been in the Top 10 in each of the previous nine years he's competed full-time in the series -- can't solely concentrate on catching Ambrose, though. He's got David Stremme (No. 64 Chevrolet) lurking only six points behind in 12th.

Final Open Week Highlighted By New Car Test At LMS

Following Friday night's race, the final open week of the season will be up for the drivers and teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but not before some head back to Lowe's Motor Speedway Monday, Oct. 13- Tuesday, Oct. 14 for the second official test for the NASCAR Nationwide new car.

This also is the last scheduled test for each of NASCAR's three national series in 2008.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series' new car made its official debut at a test at Richmond International Raceway last month. The five teams representing the four series manufacturers were excited with the initial data.

Where Richmond was a manufacturer test, LMS will be an open test. Series Director Joe Balash anticipates six teams will participate. Drivers still are to be named.

The garage will be open from 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. each day with on-track activity from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m.

In The Loop: Johnson Struggles In NNS Competition In "His House"

Something strange happens to Jimmie Johnson (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet) when he climbs into a NASCAR Nationwide Series car at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He becomes very un-Jimmie Johnson like.

Whereas Johnson has five LMS wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he has zero -- and only one top five -- in 12 starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

His Loop Data stats at LMS likewise fall well short of his lofty standards. In his last seven NNS races at the Concord track, Johnson has a Driver Rating of 78.2, an Average Running Position of 22.8, 20 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 43.9%.

Compare that to his NASCAR Sprint Cup stats at LMS over the same span: a Driver Rating of 116.5, an Average Running Position of 7.7, 260 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the top 15 percentage of 88.5%.

They're not even close.

Then there's the case of Kyle Busch, who's won twice at LMS in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but has yet to win there in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition (although he does have success there).

Busch, after winning in the No. 32 Toyota will be in the No. 18 Toyota this weekend, and boasts some of the top stats at LMS in the series.

In the seven LMS races since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Busch has a Driver Rating of 107.4, an Average Running Position of 12.0, 87 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 73.5%.

For Busch to sweep, he'll likely have to contend with Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet), who is the defending champion of this race. In four of the last five races, Burton has finished in the top 10. Over that span, he has a Driver Rating of 103.7, an Average Running Position of 12.8, 61 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 74.0%.

The Director's Take: Home Is Where The Competition Is

With 53 drivers -- most of them from the Charlotte area -- vying for 43 starting spots, Friday night's race will carry a bit more drama than usual.

"The field is the largest we've had this season and obviously will be tougher to make," said Joe Balash, the series director. "We've got a number of drivers who are working toward next year in the approval process so they need to be able to make this event (on time) and have a good run. That way they can continue that process as they make their way toward the 2009 season."

One of those drivers is Justin Allgaier, 22, a seven-time winner this year in ARCA who recently signed to drive limited schedules for Penske Racing in the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge the remainder of this year and next year.

Balash also noted that of the five remaining tracks on the schedule, three -- including LMS -- are 1.5 miles.

"With all the testing done at these kinds of tracks, now it's all up to good calls by the crew chiefs to make sure the cars are prepared. "They'll practice and qualify during the day, yet race at night so every note they've taken is critical."

2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champions Week & Awards Banquet Information

The 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Awards Banquet will be held Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla.

Once again, Champions Week Media Day activities will take place prior to the Awards Banquet at the ESPN Club located on Disney's BoardWalk.

The event is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 21 from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. The driver champion, representative(s) from the owner champion (if applicable), other drivers who finish in the Top 10 and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year are scheduled to participate.

2008 Manufacturer's Championship Standings

Although Toyota has clinched the 2008 Bill France Performance Cup and won the May race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Friday night's event doesn't seem to have a clear-cut favorite.

Chevrolet and Ford are tied with 15 wins at LMS but over the last five races, all four manufacturers have won at least once with Chevy winning twice in that span, including Jeff Burton capturing last year's event.

Up Next: Open Week No. 5

Following the fifth and final open week of the season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads for its final four races of the year starting Saturday, Oct. 25 at Memphis Motorsports Park.

That event is also the last stand-alone event of the 2008 season.

David Reutimann (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) won the 2007 race at Memphis, the first of his series career.

The race is also scheduled to be the first series start for Marc Davis, another of the fine young drivers with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Davis, 18, made his NASCAR national series debut last month at Gateway International Raceway where he finished 18th in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.


The Race: Dollar General 300
The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway

The Date: Friday, October 10
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN; Sirius NASCAR Radio

The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps Track Size: 1.5-mile oval

2007 Winner: Jeff Burton
2007 Polesitter: Greg Biffle

Schedule (all times local / ET):
Thursday--Practice, 1:15-2:20 p.m.; Final Practice, 6-7 p.m.
Friday--Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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