Nashville: Round six preview

Nashville's Stand-Alone Event At No Loss For Excitement Edwards, Bowyer Ready To Battle For Points Lead Series Tests At Richmond March 24-25 To Begin Open Week Prime Time Players: Series In The Spotlight At Nashville The first stand-alone...

Nashville's Stand-Alone Event At No Loss For Excitement
Edwards, Bowyer Ready To Battle For Points Lead
Series Tests At Richmond March 24-25 To Begin Open Week

Prime Time Players: Series In The Spotlight At Nashville

The first stand-alone event of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season at Nashville Superspeedway has plenty of drama attached to it.

First and foremost, who's got something for Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Miracle Gro Ford), the reigning series champion who has three straight wins at Nashville?

Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) thinks he does. His win last week at Bristol Motor Speedway propelled him into second place in the standings. Bowyer won his first series race on the 1.333-mile track in 2005.

Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick isn't racing this weekend, leaving the door wide open for a new leader. Bowyer's ready to walk through but Edwards is only one point behind him in third.

In fact, Harvick's 49-point cushion over Bowyer is the largest difference between one position and the next in this week's top 10-rankings where eight of the 10 are full-time series regulars.

A spot in the top 10 isn't out of the question for Nashville native Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 Smithfield Foods Ford). He's only 30 points out of 10th as he heads to his home track.

But it's a win at Nashville that drives Hamilton to circle this event on his calendar each year.

Just ask Tony Stewart about Indianapolis as far as what a home track win means. Hamilton feels the same about Nashville. He won't be satisfied until he holds aloft one of the most sought-after trophies in NASCAR -- a one-of-a-kind Gibson guitar custom-designed by Sam Bass. The closest Hamilton has come is a runner-up finish in 2002.

Opportunity Knocks At Nashville For Series Regulars, Up-And-Comers

The first stand-alone event of the season offers series regulars a prime opportunity to get into Victory Lane. It's also a chance for up-and-comers to gain experience.

Landon Cassill (No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet), Bryan Clauson (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge) and Colin Braun (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford) are in line for their season and track debuts. Chase Miller (No. 9 Valvoline Dodge) is set for his season debut -- he made his series debut at Nashville last June.

Braun and Brad Coleman (No. 27 Cottonelle Ford) will meet for the first time in their NASCAR careers at Nashville, but the native Texans are familiar with one another.

In 2005, they set a world record as the youngest team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (seventh in GT). Both were 16. A good showing has added importance to Coleman, who competes full-time for Nashville-based Baker Curb Racing. He also made his series debut at the track in 2006.

Strictly Speaking: Talking The Talk About Nashville Superspeedway

Saturday's Field Has Nashville Firsts
Along with Clint Bowyer, Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) earned his first series win at Nashville in 2004.

In addition to Chase Miller and Brad Coleman, Kelly Bires (No. 47 Clorox Ford), Cale Gale (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) and David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) also made their series debuts at Nashville.

Cooper Brings Impressive Resume Home
Nashville native Stewart Cooper joined Braun Racing late last season to lead Leffler, and the No. 38 Toyota team, in 2008.

Cooper's career began at the Nashville Fairgrounds where he served as crew chief on Casey Atwood's late model team and followed Atwood to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Brewco Motorsports (now BakerCurb Racing) where he was promoted to crew chief in 2005.

During his tenure, Cooper led his team to a total of eight wins, seven poles, 32 top-five and 79 top-10 finishes.

Keselowski Prepping To Be "Guitar Man"
Thanks in part to the rainy weather the NASCAR Nationwide Series has experienced during the first few weeks of the season, Brad Keselowski and his No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet team have spent some time playing "Guitar Hero."

Keselowski hopes to trade the video game experience for real-time strumming. If he wins the race and earns the Gibson guitar trophy, the JR Motorsports driver says he'll take on the challenge of learning to play a real guitar.

Harmon Goes Country
Rising country music artist James Otto will be displayed on the hood of Mike Harmon's No. 84 Chevrolet at Nashville. Otto is a member of "Muzik Mafia," a group of Warner Bros. Records artists that include Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Cowboy Troy, and John Anderson among others.

In The Loop: Stout Competition In Line To Halt Edwards' Record Nashville Streak

Winner of three straight at Nashville Superspeedway, Carl Edwards is the runaway favorite in this Saturday's Pepsi 300, right? Well, not exactly.

Statistically, Clint Bowyer is a notch better than Edwards at the 1.33-mile concrete track. Here's the statistical tale-of-the-tape at Nashville since 2005:

Driver Rating: Bowyer edges Edwards, 130.2 to 125.6

Average Running Position: Bowyer beats Edwards, 3.9 to 5.1

Laps in the Top 15: Bowyer edges Edwards, 1,083 to 1,072.

Edwards does lead Bowyer in a key speed category -- Fastest Laps Run. The defending series champion has 210 Fastest Laps Run in his five races at Nashville, compared to Bowyer's 153.

Bowyer has one win at Nashville, the second race there in 2005 -- a race Edwards did not run. Edwards has won three there, but only two when Bowyer was also running. His victory there last year was won without Bowyer in the field. He led a race-high 74 laps that event.

But other drivers have a chance of knocking Edwards off his pedestal. Scott Wimmer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) has a solid chance to win his first race since 2003. Wimmer, who has three consecutive top 10 finishes at Nashville, has a Driver Rating of 118.7, an Average Running Position of 4.5 and 72 Fastest Laps Run in his two races there since 2005.

Also watch for Nashville native Bobby Hamilton Jr. to have a strong showing. Last season, he racked up finishes of ninth and 13th, notching some solid stats in the process.

In the two races in 2007, Hamilton had a Driver Rating of 94.0, an Average Running Position of 8.9 and 447 Laps in the Top 15, which was all but three of the total laps.

Series regular Steve Wallace (No. 66 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) could also vie for his first win. In his four Nashville races -- all top-15 finishes -- Wallace has a Driver Rating of 85.1, an Average Running Position of 13.0 and 684 Laps in the Top 15 (76%).

The Director's Take: Concrete Answer - It's All About The Trophy

"Nashville provides a great opportunity for more rookies to showcase their talent and gives our second- and third-year drivers a great shot at a win," said NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash of the season's first stand-alone event.

The track surface and time of year will be factors on Saturday.

"Concrete tracks have a tendency to tighten a bit as they get rubbered in," he said. "That makes it a little easier for drivers to turn the car because they don't have to anticipate how much the track will change or 'come to' them.

"The concrete is less susceptible to temperature changes; asphalt gets greasy and slick when its hot. But not so with concrete tracks, especially in the early spring where the outdoor temperature varies so much.

"Racers race for different things. That guitar is important to people. The uniqueness of that trophy is important," he said.

NNS Etc.

Phoenix Racing, Jay Robinson Racing and Rusty Wallace Racing have made driver changes that will be in effect at Nashville. Tennessee's own Sterling Marlin will be in the No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet, replacing Johnny Sauter. David Stremme is now in the No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet in place of Chase Austin and Kenny Wallace will move to the No. 28 U.S Border Patrol Chevrolet for the remainder of the season; Brian Keselowski had been manning that car.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series has its first open week of the season next week but teams will be busy Monday and Tuesday as the third test of the year takes place at Richmond International Raceway March 24-25. Press conferences featuring select drivers will be held both days -- Monday from 5-5:45 p.m. and Tuesday from Noon-12:45 p.m. and 5-5:45 p.m.

Dollar General, sponsor of the No. 32 Toyota of Denny Hamlin, is a Nashville-based company and is assisting the area Red Cross and other corporations with fundraising to aid in relief efforts due to devestating tornadoes that hit the Nashville area and Middle Tennessee in early February. Dollar General pledged $100,000 towards the relief fund which was set to reach $500,000.

Bill France Performance Cup Standings

Chevrolet extended its lead on Toyota in the Bill France Performance Cup standings following Clint Bowyer's win last week at Bristol.

Ford is the manufacturer to beat at Nashville, however, with four wins -- three in a row.

Up Next: O'Reilly 300 At Texas Motor Speedway

Next week is the first open week of the season for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Competition picks up again on Saturday, April 5 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick is the all-time series winner at Texas with four victories. Matt Kenseth is the defending race winner.

The Race: Pepsi 300 presented by Kroger

The Place: Nashville Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, March 22

The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 300 miles/225 laps
Track Size: 1.333 miles

2007 Winner: Carl Edwards
2007 Pole: David Stremme

Schedule:
Friday-Practice 1:30-3 p.m.; Final Practice 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Saturday-Qualifying, 10:05 a.m. (Impound).

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Casey Atwood , Colin Braun , Johnny Sauter , Carl Edwards , Landon Cassill , Brad Coleman , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Bryan Clauson , Cale Gale , John Anderson , Kelly Bires , Chase Miller , Brian Keselowski , Steve Wallace , Chase Austin
Teams JR Motorsports , Phoenix Racing