Dover II: Round 29 preview

*Does Dover Signal The Return Of "Concrete Carl?" *Cassill, Clauson In Showdown For Raybestos Rookie Title *Just Ask Joey: A Lot Can Happen In A Year *In The Loop: Hamlin Aims For First Series Three-Peat At Dover Edwards Needs To Call On...

*Does Dover Signal The Return Of "Concrete Carl?"
*Cassill, Clauson In Showdown For Raybestos Rookie Title
*Just Ask Joey: A Lot Can Happen In A Year
*In The Loop: Hamlin Aims For First Series Three-Peat At Dover

Edwards Needs To Call On Concrete Dominance At Dover

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 16, 2009) - Lately, Carl Edwards (No. 60 World Financial Group Ford) has faced "last chances" to make a move on leader Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship race.

The reigning series champion has responded with two wins and a runner-up finish in his last four races to solidify his second-place standing in the rankings, 207 points behind Bowyer.

And Saturday at Dover, Edwards may turn the heat up on Bowyer a bit more, becoming the "chasee" instead of the chaser.

Edwards earned the nickname "Concrete Carl" for his series prowess on that surface. Each of his four wins last year came on concrete, including the first race at Dover.

Surprisingly, he has yet to win on concrete this year and has an uncharacteristic 13.8 average finish in those races.

But this is Edwards' final opportunity on concrete this season and in order to continue putting pressure on Bowyer -- who has two wins of his own on concrete, including this race in 2006 -- he'll need to regain his dominance.

A comeback from his current deficit isn't unprecedented in the series, but it's indeed rare.

In 1986, two-time series champion Jack Ingram held a 293-point lead over Brett Bodine with seven races left. However third-place Larry Pearson came roaring back, taking advantage of two missed races by Ingram due to suspension.

The second-highest deficit overcome in series history came in 1996. David Green, the 1994 series champion, led Randy LaJoie by 95 points with seven to go. LaJoie rallied to overtake Green and win the first of his back-to-back titles.

Rookie Race Heading For Heated Late-Season Finish

The series driver championship isn't the only title that could have down-to-the-wire implications over the last seven races of the season.

The Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award is actually the closest-contested championship in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Landon Cassill (No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet) leads the standings by three points over fellow 19-year-old Bryan Clauson (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge).

Cassill's slight lead is crucial to his rookie award hopes since Clauson is scheduled to compete in at least two more races than Cassill to end the year.

"We've shown in the past that speed is not an issue for us," Cassill said. "Personally, a great accomplishment would be finishing on the lead lap. With a solid run like that, we would easily be in position for a top-10 finish.

"Bottom line, I need to have a strong run at Dover in order to maintain the Raybestos Rookie of the Year lead."

It's been a stellar year for the current competitors for the award. Cassill, Clauson and Cale Gale (fourth in the standings) have earned their first career poles and also have posted their first top-five finish. Brian Keselowski (fifth) has run a career-high 10 races and was 15th at O'Reilly Raceway park in July, besting his brother Brad (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) by four places.

Career Takes A Turn For Logano Upon Return To Dover

On May 31, only one week after his 18th birthday, Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Dover.

He finished sixth and was perturbed he didn't do better.

Three months later -- returning to the track where he also won the NASCAR Camping World Series East title one year ago -- his outlook has changed for the better as his career has taken a dramatic turn.

"It's been a little bit of a whirlwind, but I've had a lot of fun," Logano said. "Nothing has really changed, I just think I've learned a lot in the last few months and will probably learn a lot more in the future."

In 12 NASCAR Nationwide starts, he's claimed one win, three poles (tied for the series lead), three top fives, nine top 10s and has been among the top 10 starters 10 times.

Last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he made the jump to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, debuting in Hall of Fame Racing as part of a partnership with his Joe Gibbs Racing team that includes five more NASCAR Sprint Cup starts. Next year, Logano will take over the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for departing two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

"Ironman" Keller Moves To Baker Curb Racing's No. 27 Ford

Two weeks ago, Jason Keller finished 16th at Richmond for CJM Racing.

Monday, he was announced as the new driver for the No. 27 Depend/Right Aid Ford for Baker Curb Racing. He'll finish out the season in the No. 27 and has been announced as the full-time driver for the team in 2009.

Keller, the all-time starts leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (450), makes his debut for the team at Dover where he leads all series drivers with 27 starts.

Although the team is new to Keller, the No. 27 car isn't. He drove two races in 2006 and four in 2007 for the former Brewco Motorsports organization in the No. 27.

CJM has turned to Scott Lagasse Jr. to drive the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet. Lagasse, 27, has started eight of his 19 career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races this year and has seven starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, most recently in 2007 for Chip Ganassi.

Keller is 11th in the standings, 32 points behind Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota). His driver points will transfer with him to his new ride.

Bliss At His Best In Series Top 10

Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet) has made a steady move through the top tier of the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings over the last seven races.

He's been ranked in the top 10 after the last 25 races and for 26 weeks overall this season.

He was fourth after the race at Michigan International Speedway -- his season high, which also tied his career-best ranking set in 2003 when he was fourth for a two-week span. He regained that slot heading to Dover after spending two weeks in fifth.

After a season-worst 31st-place finish at Gateway International Raceway, Bliss found consistency through the summer and into the latter stages of the season. He followed that worst finish with his season-best result of the year -- third at ORP. He's improved his finish one position over his last three races culminating with an 11th at Richmond.

In The Loop: Hamlin, Edwards Have Pitched Perfect Games At Dover

It took exactly one race for Joey Logano to prove that he was worth the hype.

He didn't win at Dover in May -- his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series -- but he didn't look anything like a rookie either. Here's one statistic to mull over: he was passed four times the entire race.

Logano's stats were solid across the board. In that race at Dover -- a track he'll return to this weekend -- Logano had a Driver Rating of 103.0, an Average Running Position of 9.2 and spent 176 of the 200 Laps running among the Top 15.

Logano's numbers throughout his 12-race NASCAR Nationwide career pretty much stack up the same as his very first race. He has an average Driver Rating of 106.5, an Average Running Position of 9.6 and has a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 83%. He also has 150 Fastest Laps Run (he had one at Dover).

Logano's prime competition this weekend will likely be Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards, who have combined to win the last three Dover races.

Edwards won the spring race in 2007, notching a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. Over his seven Dover starts, Edwards has five top fives, a Driver Rating of 115.0, an Average Running Position of 5.6, 148 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 95.8%.

Hamlin has won the last two Dover races (and finished second in the spring race that Edwards won), notching a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 in last year's fall race. In his seven race Dover career, he has a Driver Rating of 109.4, an Average Running Position of 11.2, 152 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 74.7%.

One NASCAR Nationwide Series regular who also should contend for a top-five finish is Mike Bliss. Bliss has scored two top 10s in his last three races and has a Driver Rating of 98.5 over that span.

The Director's Take: The More Rubber At Dover, The Better

The number of laps put down between the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars from Thursday through Saturday's race at Dover will make a big difference in race performance.

"Dover is one of those tracks where the line changes as the weekend progresses," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director. "As the Nationwide Series gets laps on the track, and the track rubbers in, the groove becomes wider," he said. "That gives drivers and crew chiefs more strategy options as the race unfolds.

"Drivers will start out running low but as the rubber builds, the groove moves up and makes more lanes giving more options for track position.

"This is our last race of the year on concrete, which will be more forgiving as the temperature changes. Asphalt seems to throw more of a curve at crew chiefs as the temperature fluctuates."

NASCAR Nationwide Series' New Car Passes First Official Test

The NASCAR Nationwide Series' new car made its official debut Sept. 8 at Richmond International Raceway and received positive reviews from the test participants.

Each of the four series manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota -- were represented by five teams. Rookie Bryan Clauson was the first driver on the track for Dodge and his Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team.

"Going through the garage area and speaking to some of the drivers, the input I got was the car was very good," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "A couple actually said they wished they could race this new car tomorrow."

A second test for the new car is scheduled for Oct. 13-14 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

NNS ETC.

Prostate Cancer Screening At Dover: Driver Jason Keller and his new sponsor, the Depend brand, will be spending the Dover race weekend encouraging NASCAR fans to pay attention to prostate health.

The Drive Against Prostate Cancer mobile unit offers free screenings consisting of a simple blood test that takes less than 10 minutes. No appointment or health insurance is necessary. Physical exams will be available if requested.

The mobile unit will be open Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. in the FanZone.

Males age 45 and above should have an annual prostate cancer screening, with African American males or males with family history of the disease encouraged to start annual screenings at age 40.

Townley Seeks Series Debut: The Dover entry list contains the teenage trio of Landon Cassill, Bryan Clauson and Joey Logano and looks to have another member as John Wes Townley (No. 09 Zaxby's Ford) seeks his series debut for RAB Racing.

Townley, 18 (a New Year's Eve birthday) made his first series attempt at Bristol last month but failed to qualify. The Watkinsville, Ga., native started five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races this year for Jack Roush.

The team will be hosting troops from Dover Air Force Base during the weekend.

Up Next: Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway

A Midwest showdown could be in the works next Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Standings leader Clint Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kan., and reigning series champion Carl Edwards, from neighboring Columbia, Mo., currently in second in the rankings, bring their late-season title battle to Bowyer's home turf.

Both drivers will be going for their first win at the track, which has had seven different winners, including Kyle Busch (18 Z-Line Designs Toyota), winner of last year's race by a scant .085 seconds over Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth has won the last two poles at Kansas and is tied with Michael Waltrip for the most poles at the 1.5-mile speedway.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Camping World RV Sales 200 Supporting The Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma
The Place: Dover International Speedway

The Date: Saturday, September 20
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 200 miles / 200 laps
Track Size: 1-mile concrete oval

TV: ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN; Sirius NASCAR Radio

2007 Winner: Denny Hamlin
2007 Polesitter: Greg Biffle

Schedule:
Friday--Practice 9:30-10:50 a.m.; Final Practice 1:50-3 p.m.
Saturday--Qualifying, 11:05 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Brett Bodine , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Greg Biffle , Mike Bliss , Carl Edwards , Landon Cassill , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Denny Hamlin , Bryan Clauson , Cale Gale , Joey Logano , Felix Sabates , John Wes Townley , Kyle Busch
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing