Off-week news of note 2008-03-25

To Bires And Keselowski, Everything Old Is New Again Young series regulars making strides in 2008 with solid top-10 points ranking Ambrose, No. 59 team, have to right the ship after crew chief Giles departs DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 25, 2008)...

To Bires And Keselowski, Everything Old Is New Again
Young series regulars making strides in 2008 with solid top-10 points ranking
Ambrose, No. 59 team, have to right the ship after crew chief Giles departs

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 25, 2008) -- In this 60th anniversary season of NASCAR, short tracks like Richmond International Raceway are recognized as having laid the foundation for the sport.

Classic racing, beating and banging, no apologies ... those are the words drivers use to describe competing at the .75-mile oval.

If it sounds old school, it is.

But as the NASCAR Nationwide Series approaches its first open weekend of the season following its lone short-track test of the year at Richmond, there are fresh names popping up in the top 10 standings looking to add their own history to the series.

Kelly Bires (No. 47 Clorox Ford), 23, and Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. Navy Chevrolet), 24, are two of the five series regulars who dot the top 10 rankings this week. Keselowski is a career-best sixth in the standings while Bires jumped from 11th to eighth. Both were among the top-five finishers at Nashville Superspeedway last Saturday.

Both drivers forged similar paths to this stage in their career. Keselowski was named to take over the No. 88 for JR Motorsports last July while Bires got the nod in the No. 47 JTG Racing entry last June.

Now, in their first full year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, they're able to build on the information gained during their partial season in 2007.

"Testing is really important for us to get working together and build chemistry with our team," Keselowski said at a press conference prior to going on track Tuesday afternoon.

"I think if we can find a little more speed with our cars we have a shot at it (the series championship)," he said. "We need to get better at these types of tracks if we want to run with Clint (Bowyer -- series points leader) and Carl (Edwards -- defending series champion) to have a shot at the championship come November."

"We've had a great start to the season," Bires said. "Consistency has been there, which is really what you need. It's a long season and if you're consistent, the top 10s, the top fives and the wins are going to come with that.

"We're here to try to gain as much information as we can for our short-track program. I ran one race here last year and struggled. That's one of our big priorities this year, to improve on that program -- and it's starting here today and yesterday."


Crew Chief Departure Leaves Ambrose Scrambling ... The JTG Racing camp was expected to have one of its two teams challenging for a top-10 standing this year, but most figured it would be the No. 59 Kingsford Ford of Marcos Ambrose as opposed to the surprising start of his teammate Kelly Bires. Ambrose, who finished eighth in the 2007 final standings, comes to the open week 16th in the rankings and now has to search for a new crew chief in addition to finding more consistency.

Ambrose's fellow Australian Walter Giles left the team after last Saturday's event at Nashville. "(Giles) decided to part ways with us and that has put us on the back foot," Ambrose said. "We've had a tough start to our year, and today it's about Gary Cogswell, a crew chief who was working with us in the truck series in 2006. We're just trying to learn each other again."

Lone Short-Track Test Gets Thumbs Up From Balash ... Cloudy and cold weather on Monday gave way to sunny skies and warmer temperatures on Tuesday for the two-day test at Richmond. The combination of the weather -- dry after postponements of practice at some races to start the year -- and information gained was a plus for the teams according to Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director. "From a NASCAR perspective, we're pleased to see the mix of drivers on top of the leader board," he said.

"The teams have been working with busy schedules. Drivers have had to modify their driving styles based upon past experience at this track due to the new engine package. Overall, the teams have been happy with the amount of track time they've logged as well as the results."

More than 30 drivers representing more than 20 teams participated in the two-day test and gathered notes for the remaining three short tracks on the 2008 series schedule. The .75-mile facility will host the NASCAR Nationwide Series 250 on May 2.

Pit Stops ... Mid-way through Tuesday's afternoon session, Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 Smithfield Foods Ford) topped the speed chart at Richmond with a fast lap of 21.733 seconds/124.733 mph. Reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) was the fastest of the two sessions on Monday topping the chart in the evening at 21.600 seconds/125.0 mph. Mike Wallace (No. 7 GEICO Toyota), posted a quick lap of 21.535 seconds/125.377 mph during the afternoon session on Monday. Log on to for all NASCAR Nationwide Series testing speeds from Richmond. Audio from testing press conferences as well as photos from the sessions may also be accessed at NASCAR's media-only website.

Open Week Up Next ... With this test behind them, NASCAR Nationwide Series teams look toward the first open week on the schedule this weekend. They'll return to the track April 5 for the O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Nationwide Series testing at Richmond International Raceway.

Track Layout: .75-mile oval.

When: Monday, March 24 and Tuesday, March 25.

Times: 1-5 p.m.; 6-9 p.m. each day.

Who's Scheduled: Kertus Davis, Clint Bowyer/Steven Leicht, Landon Cassill, David Ragan, Mike Wallace, Chase Miller, Sam Hornish, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Johnny Benson, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte/Stephen Leicht, Mike Bliss, Eric McClure, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Brad Coleman, Scott Wimmer, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick/Cale Gale, Jason Leffler, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Clauson, Kelly Bires, Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards, David Stremme, Steve Wallace, Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann, Jason Keller, Kevin Lepage, Mark Green, Morgan Shepherd, Jeff Green.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Jeff Green , Kevin Lepage , Mike Wallace , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Dario Franchitti , Johnny Benson , Mark Green , Marcos Ambrose , Scott Wimmer , Mike Bliss , David Reutimann , Carl Edwards , Landon Cassill , Brad Coleman , David Stremme , Kertus Davis , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Bryan Clauson , Stephen Leicht , Cale Gale , Kelly Bires , Chase Miller , Steven Leicht , Steve Wallace , Sam Hornish Jr. , Kyle Busch
Teams JR Motorsports