NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Iowa Elephant In The Room: Busch Hasn't Forgotten Last Year The term "double-duty" was coined to describe drivers who run in multiple NASCAR series, usually on the same weekend. Reigning...
NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes - Iowa
Elephant In The Room: Busch Hasn't Forgotten Last Year
The term "double-duty" was coined to describe drivers who run in multiple NASCAR series, usually on the same weekend. Reigning series champion Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) and two-time series champion (and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings leader) Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Jimmy John's Chevrolet) are in that category.
It also fits when tagging drivers who run fulltime in both NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide, like the latter's points leader, Brad Keselowski (No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge), Carl Edwards (No. 60 Fastenal Ford), who's second, and Paul Menard (No. 98 Mastercraft/Menards Ford), who's sixth.
Saturday night at Iowa Speedway, "double-duty" takes on another meaning; as in a two-way rivalry.
The dispute between Keselowski and Edwards is well known. But after the finish at the inaugural series race at Iowa last year, tack on a contentious Keselowski-Busch relationship heading into this one, too.
Busch and Keselowski traded the lead at various points after Lap 105 of last year's 250-lap event. Following a late-race caution, Busch, who was leading, opted for two tires. Keselowski stayed out, bulled his way by Busch with eight to go, and went on to win.
It's probably safe to assume Busch hasn't forgotten.
With Busch coming off a win last week at O'Reilly Raceway Park, it should make for an exciting evening.
Busch has won eight of the 16 series races he's entered this year, and is two wins shy of tying the mark for most wins in a season. He already shares that record with two-time series champion Sam Ard, who set the record in 1983. Busch tied the standard in 2008.
He's also edging closer to Mark Martin's all-time series record of 48. Busch has 38 wins in 189 career starts. Martin has 231 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts.
There's one other rivalry note between Busch and Keselowski. It comes in the form of the owner championship. Although Busch isn't defending his series title, he's the main reason the No. 18 team is in the hunt for its third owner title. Keselowski's Penske Racing team is one point ahead of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Busch has been aided this year -- when not running in the No. 18 -- by Brad Coleman, who will be his substitute driver this weekend. Parker Kligerman takes that role for Keselowski.
Standing Down On Stand-Alone Season
Saturday night's event at Iowa Speedway marks the last of three consecutive stand-alone races for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Since June 5's second visit to Nashville Superspeedway, the series will have run six stand-alone races, including two groups of three consecutive races that weren't combination events with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
There are nine stand-alone events on the 2010 schedule. Two remain after this weekend -- Aug. 31 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and a second visit to Gateway International Raceway on Oct. 23.
Stand-alone season has given series-only regulars and other young up-and-comers subbing for double -duty drivers an opportunity to showcase their talent. Take Matt DiBenedetto. He's the driver charged with handling the bulk of stand-alone races in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. But even then, he's still shared a few stand-alones with Joey Logano, making every race for the 19-year-old (his birthday was July 27) carry that much more importance.
Entering Iowa, half of the standings' top-10 drivers are series-only regulars, led by Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge) in third. An average of 5.3 "regular guys" have finished in the top 10 in the previous six stand-alone races this year, while three have captured Coors Light poles. Trevor Bayne (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) has won the last two poles at Gateway and ORP.
Allgaier Hopes To Turn The Tide At Iowa
Justin Allgaier's 2010 season has been one of ebbs and flows.
Fortunately for the youngster, it looks like this portion could be one of success. Considering the trends from this season, it seems Allgaier, 24, is due for a few good runs in a row.
Here's the sequence:
Allgaier's first five races were tremendous. He earned top-five finishes in each, including his first NASCAR national series win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Over that five-race stretch, Allgaier averaged a finish of 5.0, a Driver Rating of 104.1, an Average Running Position of 9.4 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 82.6%. He averaged a robust 160 points per race in the first five.
Then the dip came, and fears of a sophomore slump surfaced. Allgaier had six consecutive finishes outside the top 10. His numbers: an average finish of 14.5, a Driver Rating of 92.9, an Average Running Position of 11.2 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 75.8%. His points per race average was 120.3 -- a 40 point drop from the first five.
Then there was a short uptick. After those six subpar finishes, Allgaier ripped off two top fives and three top 10s in three races. He averaged a Driver Rating of 115.0, an Average Running Position of 6.4 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 92.1%. His points per race average launched back to 157 per event.
But a disastrous race at Road America (he finished 35th) gave way to a rough patch of five races, three of which were finishes outside the top 15. In that particular segment, Allgaier had an average finish of 18.6, a Driver Rating of 82.4 and an Average Running Position of 15.2. He averaged 110.4 points per race.
But the 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year rebounded last week at O'Reilly Raceway Park, finishing seventh with a Driver Rating of 104.6.
Now he heads to Iowa, where he ran extremely well last year despite a finish outside the top 10. In the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race there, Allgaier started second, led 35 laps, posted a Driver Rating of 116.4 and had an Average Running Position of 3.9. Still, he finished 15th.
It was a case of horrible luck -- a double dose of it, actually. First, in the closing laps, Allgaier got hit by Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota) after pulling out of his pit box and suffered some right front damage. Then, on the ensuing restart with 15 to go, Allgaier, Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota) and Erik Darnell wrecked on the backstretch.
"Dash 4 Cash" Bonus At $50,000 For Eligible Winner At Iowa
Talk about circling a date on your calendar.
Michael Annett (No. 15 Northland Oil Toyota) has worn his pen down doing just that.
Annett is native of Des Moines, Iowa, about 20 minutes west of Iowa Speedway. He's currently 14th in the driver standings, and looking to catch some second-half lighting in order to match or better his 10th-place finish in the points last year as a Raybestos Rookie. Annett was 11th at his home track in this event one year ago.
"I've been looking forward to this race all season," he said. "I got an amazing feeling during last year's race when I circled the track and the stands were packed with fans from my home state. Having the support of all those fans makes our sport what it is today, and I'm really excited to see how well NASCAR is being embraced by the fans at Iowa Speedway. I can't wait (for) Saturday."
Annett already holds a prestigious record at Iowa as the driver with the most laps of competitive racing there. Following a semi-pro hockey career, Annett turned to racing and honed his skills at Iowa Speedway in ARCA competition and in the ASA Late Model Series Challenge Division. He made his ARCA debut at Iowa in 2007, when he won the pole, led eight laps and finished third.
"I take a lot of pride in my home track," he said. It's one of the nicest facilities we visit, and a fun track to compete on. Heading into race week at Iowa, I'll spend the whole week making appearances in the area and catching up with those who have been there for me since the start of my racing career. My family, friends, fan base and many of my sponsors are here in the Midwest, so it's a fun week leading into race day at Iowa Speedway."
Appropriately, Annett also is the Nationwide Insurance "Driver of The Week."
The first-year initiative by series sponsor Nationwide Insurance is a program designed to increase driver awareness, with emphasis on series-only regulars.
Annett will participate in a live web chat with fans on Wednesday, July 28 at 12 p.m. ET on NASCARnationwideseries.com. He also will be ESPN2's in-race reporter at Iowa.
NNS Etc.: Iowa Edition
Hot Weather Favors Steve Wallace
The dog days of summer don't seem to bother Steve Wallace. On the contrary, he enjoys his role as of the hottest drivers in the series.
Following his outside pole and second consecutive top-10 finish last week at ORP, he comes to Iowa riding streaks of eight straight top- 15 finishes. Both are the third-longest such streaks in the series, behind Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, respectively.
Last year, his 10th place finish at ORP was his ninth top-10 result, matching his personal best for top 10s in a single season (set in 2009).
Wallace, 22, is one of the few series drivers who has visited Victory Lane at Iowa. At the inaugural ARCA event there in 2006, he overtook Juan Pablo Montoya for the pole position and rode that momentum to win at the track designed by his famous father, Rusty Wallace.
Wallace is seventh in the driver standings, second among series-only regulars. He's been ranked among the top 10 in the points following each of the last eight events. His Rusty Wallace Racing teammate, Brendan Gaughan, is seventh in the driver standings.
Summer School For "Regular Guys"
Steve Wallace is just one of many seriesonly regulars who have shown improvement over the summer months.
In addition to his two consecutive poles, Trevor Bayne has improved from 15th to ninth in the driver standings after collecting two consecutive top-five finishes. Bayne and Wallace are two of five seriesonly regulars ranked in the top 10 this week.
From the races at Kentucky in early June to ORP last week, Bayne, 19, has the following stat line: Three top-five qualifying positions, four top- 10 finishes, three top-five finishes, 74 laps led, an average starting position of 9.5 and an average finish of 13.1. Included in those numbers is his career-best finish, third, at Gateway.
Following his 12th-place finish at ORP, Colin Braun (No. 16 3M Ford) now owns three top-10 and six top-12 finishes in his last seven starts. Braun's Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 6 CitiFinancial Ford) won his first career pole in the series at Iowa last year.
Robert Richardson Jr. (No. 23 R3 Motorsports Chevrolet) posted his career-best finish of 15th at ORP. As a result, his R3 Motorsports team moved up one position in owner points to 26th, marking two consecutive weeks of gains in the standings. Richardson will be making his track debut at Iowa.
Baker Curb Debuts Herring At Iowa
Drew Herring will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Iowa in the No. 27 Ford for Baker Curb Racing.
Herring, 23, captured the pole for the 2009 USAR race at Iowa and led 128 of 200 laps before settling for a secondplace finish. He also was the rookie of the year in the series in 2008.
In 2009, the Benson, N.C., native captured his first USAR win along with seven top-fives and nine top 10s in 14 starts. He also made two ARCA starts that season. His resume also includes late model titles at Southern National Raceway Park (2007) and South Boston Speedway (2006).
Up Next: The Glen
The second of three road-course events on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, Aug. 7.
Marcos Ambrose has owned the Zippo 200 the last two years, one of the few road courses where "aces" have had success. Ron Fellows has three wins and two poles in series competition there. Dario Franchitti won the pole in 2008, Scott Pruett did so in 2001, as did Boris Said in 1998.
ESPN will carry the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Next Race: U.S. Cellular 250
presented by Northland Oil & John Deere
The Place: Iowa Speedway (0.875-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, July 31
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 250 laps/218.75 miles
TV: ESPN2, 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio (Local-KXIA-FM 101.1, KWQW-FM 98.3)
2009 Winner: Brad Keselowski
2009 Pole Winner: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Schedule prior to race day (times CT):
Friday: Practice, 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.; Final Practice, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.