Off-week news, notes 2009-03-03

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes Great Early-Season Competition Comes In Threes DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 3, 2009) - After three races, it's fitting that the results have come in threes in key NASCAR Nationwide Series ...

NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes

Great Early-Season Competition Comes In Threes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 3, 2009) - After three races, it's fitting that the results have come in threes in key NASCAR Nationwide Series competition categories:

There have been three different race winners: Tony Stewart at Daytona International Speedway; Kyle Busch at Auto Club Speedway and Greg Biffle at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

A trio of different drivers have won poles: Kevin Harvick at Daytona; Carl Edwards at ACS and Scott Speed at Las Vegas.

Three different leaders have been atop the driver standings: Stewart following Daytona, Busch after California and current leader, Edwards, following his comeback second-place finish at Las Vegas.

And there have been three different owner standings leaders thus far: The No. 80 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after Daytona; No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota following ACS and the current leader after Las Vegas, the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Edwards Capitalizes On Vegas Luck To Take Standings Lead

Carl Edwards "cashed in" at Las Vegas last Saturday during the Sam's Town 300, finishing second behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle. He also took the lead in the series point standings for the first time since claiming his 2007 series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch, the standings leader coming into Las Vegas, was involved in an accident on Lap 21 that dropped him to a 39th-place finish at his home track. It also dropped him four spots to fifth in the standings.

Edwards capitalized and opened a 48-point lead over 2003 series champion Brian Vickers when he posted his fourth top-10 finish in five races at Las Vegas.

Edwards has rattled off impressive finishes thus far in 2009: Second at Daytona, fourth at Auto Club Speedway and the aforementioned runner-up result at Las Vegas.

Edwards isn't the only driver at Roush Fenway to jump to a good start this year.

Greg Biffle is third in the series and ended a 76-race series winless streak with his victory at Las Vegas.

David Ragan is sixth in the rankings with two top 10s in the first three races.

When the series returns to racing at Bristol Motor Speedway following a two-week hiatus, Edwards will be raring to go. He owns one win, two top fives and four top 10s in nine races on the .533-mile high banks.

Additionally, NASCAR Season-to-Date Loop Data shows Edwards ranked first in Driver Rating (116.9).

2009 Rookie Class Impressive Out Of The Gate

The 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year class has started the season off strong and looks to raise the level of competition this season.

Brendan Gaughan (No. 64 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet) is pacing the new group of rookies. He's fourth in the standings, just nine points behind third-place Greg Biffle. He also leads the rookie standings by five points over Michael McDowell (No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota).

Gaughan has begun to build off his experience in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. At his home track in Las Vegas, he posted his second consecutive top-10 finish in his first three starts this season.

"Big-time teams pull off big-time feats and that's exactly what our Rusty Wallace Racing team did," he said. "We were able to pull off another top 10. I have to tell you, this is the most fun I've had in racing in a long, long time. I can't wait to get to Bristol."

While Gaughan has yet to start at Bristol in the NASCAR Nationwide car, he's made five starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series there with a best finish of second in 2007.

McDowell seems to be parlaying his 20-race NASCAR Sprint Cup experience last year into immediate dividends this season.

He's second in the rookie standings and a surprising 10th in the series standings. Last Saturday he was sixth at LVMS, his career-best finish in NASCAR national series competition. Likewise, he'll take his first laps at Bristol in any of NASCAR's national series in the first NASCAR Nationwide practice March 19.

Justin Allgaier (No. 12 Verizon Dodge), driving for Penske Racing, is third in the rookie rankings but may be the most-watched young driver thus far.

He had a career-best race last Saturday, leading five laps and finishing eighth. He's 11th in the standings after moving up 14 spots from 25th. Like McDowell, Allgaier has never competed in NASCAR's national series at Bristol.

Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Co. Toyota), who's fourth in the rookie standings, was ninth at Las Vegas, also his career best.

The four rookies in the top 10 were a first for the series since 2007 at Talladega, when four rookies also registered top-10 finishes (David Ragan, Kyle Krisiloff, Juan Pablo Montoya and Brad Coleman -- who also won the pole).

In The Loop: Keselowski Wants To Go Back To The Future

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet) wants to go back to 2008. Big time.

Last year, he was the king of the NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, battling for the points lead and posting two wins. One of those wins took place at Bristol, with a number of double- duty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in the field.

But this year, he's struggling. In three races, he has finished on the lead lap just once. Some of it has been terrible luck, like getting caught up in a accident at Vegas.

Still, Keselowksi is clearly looking to change his fortune.

In the three races, he has a Driver Rating of 71.5, an Average Running Position of 19.2, 10 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 43.8.

Plus, he's close to losing the sibling rivalry battle. Brad has 271 points, just one point ahead of brother Brian.

If Keselowski's struggles are a bad surprise, Brendan Gaughan's success is a good one. Gaughan, a series rookie, made the jump from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is driving like anything but a rookie. He has posted back-to-back top 10s -- a ninth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway and a seventh-place finish at Las Vegas -- and sits fourth in the standings.

Through the first three races, Gaughan has a Driver Rating of 88.8, an Average Running Position of 12.2, a Pass Differential of plus-167 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 89.1.

Not to be dismissed in the rookie battle is Penske Racing's Justin Allgaier. Sitting 11th in the points standings, Allgaier has a Driver Rating of 84.6 and an Average Running Position of 15.3. He led five laps at Las Vegas and battled for the win before fading late.

Among the top series-only regulars having strong runs going into the season's first off-week are Mike Bliss and Jason Leffler.

Bliss has a Driver Rating of 81.5 and an Average Running Position of 17.0. Leffler has a Driver Rating of 84.8 and an Average Running Position of 15.4.

NNS Etc.

Some Drivers Never Let Up: Despite the first of two open weeks for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, five full-time driviers are entered in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.

In 2005, Carl Edwards became the first driver to win his first NASCAR national series races in the same weekend when he won the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup races there.

Kyle Busch won 21 races last season across NASCAR's three national series. He has three wins already this year -- at Las Vegas in NASCAR Sprint Cup and at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Joe Nemechek (No. 87NEMCO Chevrolet), the 1992 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion also will attempt the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta. Ditto for Tony Raines (No. 34 Chevrolet) who will attempt to qualify for owner Brad Jenkins.

Veterans Showing They've Still Got It: Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Victory In Jesus Chevrolet), Scott Wimmer (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet) and Kenny Wallace (No. 28 US Border Patrol Chevrolet) all posted their best finishes of the season at Las Vegas. Wallace is 12th in the standings and Shepherd, still strong at age 67, is 19th; both have been running at the finish in all three races this season.

After missing the mark at Auto Club Speedway, Wimmer bounced back to qualify at Las Vegas and finished 11th.

Townley Staying Busy During Open Week: Jon Wes Townley (No. 09 Zaxby's Ford) plans on competing in the 125 lap Pro Late Model race at South Alabama Speedway in Opp, Ala. on March 7. He'll be driving the No. 09 Zaxby's Ford prepared by crew chief Wayne Hansard.

Townley is sixth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, and is 38th in the series driver standings.

The Watkinsville, Ga., native has competed in the first three NASCAR Nationwide Series events this season with a best finish of 14th at Auto Club Speedway.

Tie At The Top Among Manufacturers: Following the third race of the season, three manufacturers -- Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet -- are tied for the standings lead. Dodge is in striking distance in fourth place.

When the series returns to the track at Bristol, Chevrolet may have the upper hand with 28 series wins there, including a sweep last year.

Off Track News ...

Stock-Car Montreal Signs Three-Year Lease With Parc Jean-Drapeau: Stock-Car Montreal, a subsidiary of International Speedway Corporation (ISC), announced it has signed a three-year lease with the Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal to host major motorsports events on the historic Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

In addition, the management of Stock-Car Montreal announced that tickets to the third annual NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge will be available to the public beginning March 18.

Fans Can Attend Free Cancer Screening At Atlanta: Lori Hamilton, wife of the late NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton, is urging local fans to take advantage of a free screening for oral, head and neck cancer on March 7-8 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The screening will be conducted by medical professionals from the Georgia Chapter of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA), formerly the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation. Screenings will be available from 9a.m.-1:30p.m. both days in the vendor area.

For more information, please visit www.OHANCAW.com.

Up Next: Consecutive Open Weeks Before Resuming At Bristol

The NASCAR Nationwide Series is off for the next two weekends, a first for the series since 1996 when it was off for consecutive weeks between the Dover International Speedway and Lowe's Motor Speedway events in the fall.

The Scotts Turf Builder 300 will be up next on March 21 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The event will mark the first of four NASCAR Nationwide Series races to be broadcast on ABC.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Scotts Turf Builder 300

The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 21

The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 159.9 miles / 300 laps

TV: ABC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / PRN

2008 Winner: Clint Bowyer
2008 Pole: (Set By Rule)

Event Schedule:
Friday-Practice 1:40-3:15 p.m.; Final Practice 4:45-5:45 p.m.;
Saturday-Qualifying 9:40 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing