Indy ORP: Round 22 preview

*ORP Feels Like Home For California Native Leffler *Resurgent Keller Brings Top-10 Standing To ORP *In The Loop: Stremme Set For Homecoming *ML Motorsports Leads Hoosier Contingent To Home Track Jason Leffler Sets The Pace At O'Reilly Raceway...

*ORP Feels Like Home For California Native Leffler
*Resurgent Keller Brings Top-10 Standing To ORP
*In The Loop: Stremme Set For Homecoming
*ML Motorsports Leads Hoosier Contingent To Home Track

Jason Leffler Sets The Pace At O'Reilly Raceway Park

In the state of Indiana where racing history is rich, it's difficult to stand out.

But a native Californian with the trademark Mohawk 'do, Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota), has managed to carve his own niche in the Hoosier State.

Last year at O'Reilly Raceway Park, Leffler made history by giving Toyota its first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. But that feat could have been expected. In five starts at ORP, he has one win, one pole, and three top-five finishes.

He also made his series debut at the track in 1999 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Leffler has always had a knack for ORP. He is tied for seventh with Parnelli Jones on the all-time wins list with seven -- one NASCAR Nationwide Series win, four National Midget wins and two Silver Crown Series wins. And in 2000, he set the track qualifying record in the Silver Crown division that still stands today.

His pre-race Loop Data shows Leffler in the top-12 of several key categories at ORP: Driver Rating (101.6), Average Running Position (12.045), Laps In The Top 15 (61.0%).

He's been a quick starter at the .686-mile oval. He's started in the top-five three times and has never started outside the top 15.

Prior to Saturday night's Kroger 200, he will compete in the Midget race in his own Lefturn Racing car.

He also will attempt to qualify for Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Haas-CNC Racing.

All-Time Starts Leader Is Using Experience To His Advantage

Jason Keller (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet) has the most starts (443) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but there's always one start each season he relishes.

Of those starts, Keller has turned them into his most successful finishes at ORP, the only track where he has multiple wins (two). In 14 starts there, Keller has seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes.

Keller is coming off his best finish of the season (third) at Gateway International Raceway and is currently 10th in the series standings for his independent team, CJM Racing.

That finish was his best since he was runner-up at Chicagoland Speedway in 2004.

He's also used to being in his top-10 slot in the rankings. When running full-time in the series, Keller has finished in the top 10 nine times including seven years in succession.

Young Stars Continue To Shine In The NASCAR Nationwide Series

In a series known for grooming the next generation of talent in NASCAR, five up-and-coming drivers continue to build upon expectations this season and plan to showcase their skills Saturday night at ORP:

Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) led 42 laps at Gateway last week en route to his second runner-up finish this year. In five starts, Logano, 18, has one win, two poles, three top-five and four top-10 finishes.

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) is second in the series standings, 170 points out of the lead. This season he has one win, one pole, and eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Last season the 24-year-old finished 10th at O'Reilly Raceway Park.

Landon Cassill (No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet) posted a career-best sixth-place finish last weekend at Gateway. He's also earned his first career pole (New Hampshire), and three top 10 finishes. The 19-year-old has accrued six top-10 starts out of his 11 attempts this season. Last season he made his second series start at ORP where he started 23rd and finished 30th.

James Buescher (No. 32 FOE / Braun Ability Toyota) rallied to a career-best finish of seventh last weekend at Gateway in just his fourth series start. In those starts he hasn't finished outside the top 20.

In 2006, Buescher, 18, captured the ASA Late-Model Southern Division title, rookie of the year, and "Most Popular Driver" Awards. In 2007, he won his first ARCA/REMAX Series race at USA International Speedway to become the youngest winner in the series.

Bryan Clauson (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge) will make his 14th start this weekend at ORP after a two-race hiatus. Clauson has posted one pole (Daytona), one top-five and two top- 10 finishes this season. He also leads the 2008 Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Clauson, 19, who was born in California but moved to Noblesville, Ind., with his family at age 10.

Mother/Daughter Miller, Mullen Lead ML Motorsports Team Home At ORP

Putting on a good show at home is paramount in NASCAR -- just ask Tony Stewart when he drives at the Brickyard.

A good showing, especially this weekend at its home track, is what Warsaw, Ind.-based ML Motorsports has been preparing for in its three-year history in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The only mother/daughter-owned team in NASCAR's three national series has blossomed this season giving Mary Louise Miller and daughter Stephany Mullen an optimistic outlook heading to their "circle" race on the 2008 schedule.

Veteran driver Mark Green (No. 70 Foretravel Chevrolet) has posted some of his best stats while competing for the team that plans on 20-plus races this year.

Green tied his career-best finish (fifth) earlier this year at Talladega Superspeedway and also tied his best career start (fourth) at Richmond International Raceway. He's had to qualify on time for each of the team's 12 races to date which he's done with ease.

Miller and Mullen have had one series start at ORP, in the team's inaugural 2006 season. They finished 31st with young driver Justin Dierks.

Green's resurgence and his extra motivation of having not raced at ORP since 2005 could signal a happy homecoming for the team, which is comprised of all Indiana natives -- except for Kentuckian Green.

In The Loop: Home Sweet Home Bodes Well For Stremme

The last time Indiana native David Stremme strapped into a NASCAR Nationwide Series ride at O'Reilly Raceway Park, he came away with an impressive fifth-place finish after starting second in 2005. Don't be surprised if some more home cooking leads to another strong outing for Stremme.

In that 2005 race, Stremme notched an impressive Driver Rating of 115.6, an Average Running Position of 4.5, 22 Fastest Laps Run and spent 203 of the 204 laps running in the top 15.

Also watch for a strong run from Cale Gale. The Kevin Harvick Inc. youngster proved a quick study, finishing 14th last season in his first race at ORP. In that event, Gale registered a Driver Rating of 93.9, an Average Running Position of 9.7 and ran all but one of the 200 laps among the top 15.

Scott Wimmer could prove strong this weekend as well in the No. 29 Chevrolet. Wimmer showed little rust last season at ORP, his first race at the short track since 2003. In that seventh-place finish, Wimmer had a Driver Rating of 92.3, an Average Running Position of 12.0 and ran 77.5% of the laps in the top 15.

It should also be interesting to see how Brad Keselowski fares this weekend. Keselowski has racked up four consecutive races with Driver Rating above 100.0. Last season at ORP, a 10th-place finish, he had an 87.2. Figure on improvement from that mark.

Jason Keller has two wins at ORP, and has finished inside the top 15 in each of his last three races. And with a third-place finish last weekend at Gateway, has momentum that could vault him to another solid ORP run. In the last three races at Indy, Keller has a Driver Rating of 98.1, an Average Running Position of 9.8, 21 Fastest Laps Run and a series-high 521 Laps in the Top 15 (86.3%).

The Director's Take: ORP Brings Series Back To Short-Track Roots

Joe Balash grew up two and a half hours from ORP, in Hobart, Ind. He literally lived down the street from the short track and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and also promoted races at both tracks in his former position with the ASA.

Now, as NASCAR Nationwide Series director, Balash sizes up the .686-mile oval that is one of the seven tracks to host races since the series' inception in 1982.

"For me, it's one of the racier tracks that we go do during the season," he said. "Based upon its size, configuration and that it's flat, it allows for a lot of passing. This is more of a pure short-track race; the competition is very close and the cars don't get strung out like they do on larger tracks.

"Sometimes passing on a short track calls for letting the driver in front of you know that you're there; a couple of 'cautious' taps on the bumper. But some drivers don't necessarily have the patience they need to pass, particularly early in the race.

"ORP is a track that puts our newer drivers at a more comfortable level too. For most of them, it will race like the local short tracks that they've competed on while growing up."

NNS Etc.

ORP Has Its Place In NNS History

ORP is one of only seven tracks (Bristol Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Dover International Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway, and Richmond International Raceway) to be on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule since its inception in 1982.

The Kroger retail food chain has had the longest tenured sponsorship with a single track (ORP) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series history totaling 26 years of partnership.

Shepherd Leads Series In Wins At ORP

Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Victory in Jesus Dodge), still active in the series at age 66, owns the most wins at ORP (three). Shepherd is the only driver to have multiple wins at ORP in a different make of car for each win -- Oldsmobile (1982), Pontiac (1984), and Buick (1988). In 12 races at the track, Shepherd has posted seven top-10 starts, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

Stremme, Braun Come Home

David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes and Communities Chevrolet) hails from South Bend, Ind., 140 miles from ORP. Braun Racing owner Todd Braun (Winimac, Ind.) is one of four team members from Indiana.

2007 Series Champion Builds Momentum

Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford) continues to build momentum with new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer, having won two out of the last five races. Edwards has moved into third place in the series standings, 201 points behind leader Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet).

Edwards heads into ORP looking to continue his hot streak having posted two wins, nine top-five, and 11 top-10 finishes this season.

Double-Duty Drivers This Weekend

Along with Jason Leffler, Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford) will attempt to qualify for Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis.

Also, Landon Cassill plans on running in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) is entered in all three NASCAR national series races in Indy this weekend.

Ford gained some ground on second-place Chevrolet last weekend in the Bill France Performance Cup standings posting its third win of the season at Gateway. But Ford will have their work cut out for them this weekend because Chevrolet has won 13 of the last 15 races at ORP.

Standings following the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway

Up Next: NAPA Auto Parts 200 Montreal powered by Dodge @ Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to international road course racing next Saturday, August 2.

ESPN2 will carry the 74-lap race from historic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Kevin Harvick won last year's inaugural event in one of the wildest finishes of the season. Along with Harvick, hometown favorite Patrick Carpentier, the polesitter, and Robby Gordon, who felt he was the winner, all showcased their burnout skills for the Canadian fans after the checkered flag flew.


The Race: Kroger 200 Benefiting Riley Hospital for Children
The Place: O'Reilly Raceway Park

The Date: Saturday, July 26
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

The Distance: 200 laps / 137.2 miles
Track Size: 0.686-mile paved

TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Jason Leffler
2007 Pole: Aric Almirola

Schedule: Saturday--Practice, 9-10:15 p.m.; Final Practice, 10:45-12 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:35 p.m.

-credit: nascar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Patrick Carpentier , Mark Green , Gilles Villeneuve , Marcos Ambrose , Scott Wimmer , Morgan Shepherd , Carl Edwards , Landon Cassill , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , Bryan Clauson , Aric Almirola , Cale Gale , Joey Logano , James Buescher , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing