* Triple Threat: Busch Has Shot At Three National Series Titles * Patrick Gets Extra NASCAR Seat Time At Dover * Fully Developed: Former NNS Drivers Highlighted In The Chase Busch Hopes To Catch A (Record) Break At Dover Although it's hard to...
* Triple Threat: Busch Has Shot At Three National Series Titles
* Patrick Gets Extra NASCAR Seat Time At Dover
* Fully Developed: Former NNS Drivers Highlighted In The Chase
Busch Hopes To Catch A (Record) Break At Dover
Although it's hard to tell thanks to 10 wins in 22 races and a third-place standing in the driver points, reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Kyle Busch (No. 18 NOS Toyota) isn't officially running to defend his driver title.
But there still are championships to be had for the driver who has made it known he hopes to be the most prolific winner in NASCAR national series history. He's at 80 wins and counting after his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory last Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Now, this challenge: No driver has been part of three NASCAR national series titles in the same year.
In addition to participating in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (a unified driver/owner title), Busch and his No. 18 team lead the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner standings over Brad Keselowski's No. 22 Penske Racing team by 51 points. JGR is attempting to tie the series record of three consecutive owner championships set from 1995-97 by Bill Baumgardner. JGR won with the No. 20 Toyota in 2008, while Busch unified the driver and owner championship last year in the No. 18.
Busch also is in contention for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner championship with his Kyle Busch Motorsports team. In that series, his No. 18 Toyota is 25 points behind the No. 30 Toyota of Germain Racing. He'll compete in the last five truck races this season.
And once the on-track competition is over, he and fianc0x00e9 Samantha ("Sam") Sarcinella will wed.
"Man, if that happens, I think it would be nothing but awesome," Busch said of the opportunity to be involved in three championships in the same year. "Then, of course, being able to go on into the offseason with three championships, getting married, I think that would be one way to go out in 2010."
He's also poised to make more NASCR Nationwide Series history. With his next win, he'll set the standard for most victories in a season, breaking the mark he shares with two-time champion Sam Ard. Busch originally tied Ard's record in 2008. When he won No. 10 that year, he had four races remaining. Including Saturday's race at Dover, Busch will run in eight of the final nine NASCAR Nationwide Series races.
Fourth last fall at Dover, Busch rebounded to win in May, claiming his second victory in the last four events there.
Double Duty For Danica At Dover
As one motorsports season is ending for Danica Patrick (No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet), an abbreviated "second season" is getting ready to begin.
Patrick has one more race left on her fulltime open-wheel schedule, Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After that, her attention turns to her NASCAR development.
She'll get a head start at Dover when she'll make her NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut on Friday before running in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday. The Dover 200 will be her first series start since Aug. 14 at Michigan.
Beginning next month, she'll compete in her longest continuous stretch of NASCAR races this year. In October, she'll run at Auto Club Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Gateway International Raceway. The latter event will be her only stand-alone event this season. In November, she'll conclude her first NASCAR season with races at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway before once again closing out at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Her previous streak of consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races was three to start the season at Daytona International Speedway, Auto Club and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
To date, Patrick has run six NASCAR Nationwide Series races with an average finish of 30.5. Her best finish was 24th at Chicagoland Speedway.
In The Loop: Dover Could Be Scott's Slump-Buster
Brian Scott's (No. 11 BigSpot.com Toyota) perch atop the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings has lasted awhile.
In fact, Scott's lead has been intact since after the April race at Phoenix, nearly six months ago.
But now, that spot looks shaky. With a top-five finish at Richmond International Raceway two weeks ago, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 6 CitiFinancial Ford) pulled to within three points of Scott in the Rabestos Rookie standings. The rookie standings are based on a driver's best 16 finishes. So another strong run by Stenhouse would essentially delete a poor finish from earlier in the season -- and leave Scott's once-stable throne with a new occupant.
The reason for Scott's fall: Recent results. Over his last four races, all with finishes of 25th or worse, Scott has an average finish of 32.8, a Driver Rating of 52.2, an Average Running Position of 30.5 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 14.8%. His last top-10 finish came July 17 at Gateway (sixth).
But there's an immediate reason for optimism: Dover International Speedway. A venue that acts like both a big and short track, Dover would presumably take some getting used to. Not for Scott, who has taken to the high-banked one-miler with the gusto of a veteran.
In only his second start there in 2009 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Scott won his first NASCAR national series race. In that event, he had a Driver Rating of 124.5, an Average Running Position of 5.0, 14 Laps Led, 14 Fastest Laps Run and ran all 200 laps among the top 15.
The Dover success continued at the NASCAR Nationwide Series level. He finished ninth in May, posting a Driver Rating of 90.2, an Average Running Position of 13.4 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 80%.
Six Former Series Champions, Long-Time Competitors Highlight The Chase
NASCAR's ladder system, specifically the step up from the NASCAR Nationwide Series, has a bright light shining right on the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Of the 12 drivers in the Chase:
* Five are former NASCAR Nationwide Series champions -- Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Kevin Harvick Fan Club Chevrolet);
* Nine ran at least one full year in the series before graduating to -- Biffle, Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Busch, Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth;
* Five competed in more than one season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series before moving up -- Bowyer-2, Burton-5, Gordon-2, Johnson-2 and Kenseth-3;
Stenhouse Jr. In Midst Of Big Turnaround
Jack Roush called it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 6 Citifincial Ford) has done it.
Stenhouse and fellow Roush Fenway Racing rookie Colin Braun were highly-touted coming into 2010. Braun was voted by the media to finish first in the Raybestos Rookie Award standings; Stenhouse was predicted to finish second.
But the season started off rocky for both drivers, each of whom saw their respective teams drop out of the top 30 in owner points following the fifth race. Braun, with two races worth of help from Matt Kenseth, got the top-30 ship righted for the No. 16 team after six races.
Stenhouse, however, wasn't as fortunate.
It took until Race No. 17, at Daytona, for the No. 6 team to climb back into the top 30 to stay. Before that, Stenhouse didn't qualify for one race, the June event at Nashville Superspeedway, and was benched by Roush for the race at Kentucky Speedway. Of his first 15 races this year, Stenhouse didn't finish five of them.
Roush was brutally honest about his two young drivers in early June, but also showed extreme confidence in them.
"Colin and Ricky are young guys who don't have a lot of experience," Roush said before the Kentucky event. "They've had more wrecks and problems that were self-induced due to lack of experience.
"(But) we're going to see a better result from both of those guys in the second half of the year than we did in the first half. I can guarantee you."
That prediction has come to fruition, especially for Stenhouse.
He was a season-high 35 points behind rookie standings leader Brian Scott following the race at Road America. Since then, Stenhouse has settled in, collecting four of his five top-10 finishes in that span. Now, heading to Dover, he's just three points behind Scott in the rookie race, has been the highest-finishing rookie in the last five races and is a season-best 19th in the driver standings.
NNS Etc.: Dover Edition
* No Rest For The Leader
In just his second full NASCAR Nationwide Series season, Brad Keselowski looks to have the driver championship in hand. He's built a 373-point lead over second-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 Copart Ford). In 1986, Larry Pearson overcame a 320-point deficit to win the title, which stands as the largest margin in series history that was surpassed with eight races to go.
Keselowski has had a banner season, tying his career high in wins (four) and setting his career best in poles (five). He has finished outside the top 10 only five times in 27 races. But despite the accolades that look to come his way via the driver championship, he's got work to do to unify the driver and owner titles.
His No. 22 team trails the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Kyle Busch/Brad Coleman by 51 points.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and owner championships have been split three times in series history, twice in the last three seasons. In 2003, Brian Vickers won the driver championship, while Richard Childress Racing won the owner title. In 2007, Edwards won the driver championship and RCR once again won the owner title. In 2008, Clint Bowyer was the driver champion and JGR captured the first of its two consecutive owner championships.
* No Pressure, Kid
Drew Herrring gets the nod Saturday for his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series start in Baker Curb's No. 27 Ford. Herring, 23, made his series debut at Iowa Speedway over the summer and ran several laps in the top five before settling for a 15th-place finish.
A nice showing, for sure. However, there are some lofty expectations that come along with driving the team's flagship car, especially at Dover. The No. 27 has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races at the "Monster Mile." Greg Biffle, the 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and a two-time winner at Dover, finished eighth in the May race. Jason Keller (No. 35 Tri-Star Motorsports Chevrolet), the series' all-time starts leader who became the first driver to reach 500 career series starts at Dover in May, finished in the top 10 in both Dover races in 2009. Keller also posted a win at Dover, in 2000.
* Mike Wallace Is "Driver Of Week"
The Wallace trifecta is now complete as Mike Wallace (No. 01 J-D Motorsports Chevrolet) is the Nationwide Insurance "Driver of the Week" at Dover.
His younger brother, Kenny Wallace (No. 28 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), carried the "Driver of the Week" distinction at Gateway. His nephew, Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota) who on Saturday will make his 150th NASCAR Nationwide Series start, was "Driver of the Week" at Daytona.
The program, an initiative by series sponsor Nationwide Insurance, is designed to increase driver awareness, with emphasis on NASCAR Nationwide Series-only regulars.
Mike Wallace will participate in a live web chat on NASCARNationwideSeries.com at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 22 and also is featured this week in an in-depth story on that site.
Mike won his first series race at Dover in 1994, and will join Steve with a milestone start of his own Saturday with his 375th career start.
* Dover Bittersweet For Allen, Davis
Two drivers will be racing at Dover while also carrying some heavy memories.
Willie Allen will showcase the logo of the ALS Association (Lou Gehrig's disease) on the hood of his No. 05 Chevrolet. Allen lost his father, Al, to the disease this spring. His team will host some representatives of the ALS Association on Saturday, who also will serve as honorary pit crew members. The ALS Association is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
"Having The ALS Association logo on our car this weekend means the world to me," Allen said. "Having lost my father to ALS, this is a cause that is very close to my heart. I hope we can help the ALS Association raise the level of awareness for this terrible disease."
Marc Davis (No. 23 WHUR-FM Chevrolet) is back in the series for the first time since the passing of his father, Harry, in January. Davis, 20, a native of Silver Spring, Md., is the youngest owner in NASCAR's national series.
Allen made his series track debut at Dover in May, finishing 23rd. Davis has raced four times in NASCAR competition at Dover, twice each in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the K&N Pro Series East. His best finish there was second in 2008 in an East race.
Up Next: Kansas Speedway
Kansas Speedway is one of four active tracks that have produced a different NASCAR Nationwide Series winner in each of its races. It's up next, hosting the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday, Oct. 2. ESPN2 has the broadcast beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
There have been nine different winners at Kansas, including Joey Logano, who won last year. Parker Kligerman captured his first pole in his first series start there last year.
That streak of different winners is now the longest in the series after Kyle Busch won for the second time at New Hampshire in June. Prior to Busch's victory, there had been 23 different NASCAR Nationwide Series winners at NHMS.
Other active series tracks with different winners: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (four), Iowa (two) and Road America (one).
Next Race: Dover 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway (1-Mile Banked Concrete)
The Date: Saturday, September 25
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200 laps / 200 miles
TV: ESPN2, 3:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
2009 Winner: Clint Bowyer
2009 Polesitter: Kyle Busch
Schedule prior to race day (times ET):
Friday: Final Practice, 1:05 --3 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 10:35 a.m.