Richmond II: Round 28 preview

*Remember Me? Bowyer To The Forefront With Eight To Go *Austin Dillon Set For Series Debut At Richmond *In The Loop: Busch Defends With Perfect Driver Rating *Keller Prepares For Series Start No. 450 Friday Night With Biggest Lead Of The Year,...

*Remember Me? Bowyer To The Forefront With Eight To Go
*Austin Dillon Set For Series Debut At Richmond
*In The Loop: Busch Defends With Perfect Driver Rating
*Keller Prepares For Series Start No. 450 Friday Night

With Biggest Lead Of The Year, Bowyer Finally Gets His Props

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 2, 2008) - Maybe now Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) can finally get noticed as the standings leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Not that he's been forgotten. It's more like he's been overlooked the last couple of months.

Throughout the summer, Bowyer's 22 consecutive weeks atop the leaderboard have been pushed to the side by the likes of series-only regular Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) and his upstart run for the championship.

Also taking some of the limelight has been reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scott's Ford) who, along with Keselowski, staged a charge toward Bowyer over the last two months.

Add the heralded debut of Joey Logano (No. 20 GameStop Toyota) and the solid performances of other young drivers in the series and it's been easy to pass by Bowyer's season to date.

But with his standings lead at a season-high 204 points with only eight races to go, it might be appropriate to give Bowyer his due.

Gone practically unnoticed have been his 22 top-10 finishes, tying his career best mark of two years ago. He's also produced nine top fives, only four behind his series standard of 13 set last season.

He's had three runner-up finishes and also ridden a streak of 11 consecutive top-10 results.

And don't forget he's pulling full-time double duty in two national series and has been in a pressure-packed situation to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. His last opportunity to lock that in comes Saturday at Richmond.

Despite his 33rd-place finish at Auto Club Speedway last Friday, Keselowski remains in second place in the standings. But instead of the 122-point deficit -- and closing -- he entered the race with, he now comes to Richmond needing plenty of help to become the first series-only driver since 2005 to win the championship.

Third-place Edwards, meanwhile, has closed last week's sizeable gap on Keselowski, gaining over 100 points to get to within 18 of second.

Chip Off The Childress Block: Austin Dillon Eyes Series Debut

Forgive Richard Childress if he seems a bit more occupied than usual with one of his NASCAR Nationwide Series teams this weekend.

Childress, the reigning series owner champion, has a closer-than-usual tie to the driver of his No. 21 Childress Institute Chevrolet.

That driver, Austin Dillon, is his grandson.

Dillon, 18, is set to make his series debut at Richmond, a debut that carries a buzz similar to when Joey Logano made his earlier this season.

Like Logano, Dillon comes to the NASCAR Nationwide Series from the NASCAR Camping World Series East. He won his first-ever event in that series back in April and is currently in third place in the standings with four top fives and seven top 10s in his 10 races this year.

Logano, meanwhile, is preparing for a debut of a different kind as he attempts to make his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond. Plans call for him to make up to seven starts in the premier series this year. He'll have to qualify for Saturday night's race on time.

Logano will also be the subject of ESPN's primetime news magazine E:60 Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

In The Loop: Defending Winner Busch Perfect Last Fall At Richmond

Quite often when Kyle Busch (No 32 Dollar General Toyota) wins, he doesn't like to do it in nail-biting fashion.

Exhibit A with that argument was last Saturday night's race at Auto Club Speedway, when Busch led 144 of the 150 laps on his way to his series-leading seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season.

Exhibit B is last season's September Richmond race. In that event, Busch led 227 of the 252 laps. This weekend, he'll once again compete -- this time for Braun Racing.

The one similarity between the two dominating wins: a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, there have been 10 perfect Driver Ratings. Carl Edwards (Kentucky in 2005 and Dover-1 in 2006) is the only other driver with more than one perfect Driver Rating in the series.

Friday night, Busch will look for yet another checkered flag. While solid, his Richmond statistics rank behind some other series regulars. He has an average Driver Rating of 95.5 (tenth-best), an Average Running Position of 13.1 (13th) and 82 Fastest Laps Run (sixth).

The favorite this weekend will likely be two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Chevrolet) who scored a runner-up finish at Richmond in May (he led 98 laps that race).

Over the past seven Richmond races, Harvick holds series-high stats in Driver Rating (120.4) and Fastest Laps Run (209). He also ranks high in Laps in the Top 15 (1,422, third-best) and Average Running Position (9.3, fifth-best). He's seeking his first win in his own KHI car and Richmond might be the place where that finally happens.

Brad Keselowski will try to rebound from a 33rd-place performance in California -- and buck the statistical analysis in the process.

Keselowski has struggled at Richmond, though had a solid 11th-place run in May. It was by far his best finish at the Virginia short track (his previous best was 35th in last season's spring race). In his four-race Richmond career, Keselowski has a Driver Rating of 54.4 and an Average Running Position of 28.1.

Another Milestone For Keller

Jason Keller (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Co. Chevrolet) will add another milestone to his NASCAR Nationwide Series career at Richmond when he makes his 450th start.

Keller, 38, set the mark last October in Charlotte and, in his first full season since 2005, has returned to his usual solid form.

He posted his best finish since 2004 (third) at the Milwaukee Mile in July and heads to Richmond only 27 points out of 10th place in the standings.

Director's Take: Points Now Precious As Season Ticks Down

Was March really five months ago? The time may have flown by, but teams that dig out their notes from a two-day test at Richmond back then can finally get a big payoff Friday night, according to NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash.

"Now we're focusing on a track that we were able to test at earlier in the year," he said. "Teams that were at the Richmond test in March gained a lot of valuable data and now get to put that data into motion.

"With just eight races left, a lot of teams are looking to gain as many points as they can as the year winds down. You'll see a lot of drivers up on the wheel; pushing harder earlier in the race to try and gain positions because of the style of racing a short track presents.

"There will be some bump and runs to try and gain a spot. At this stage of the season, it'll be critical for drivers not to get involved in an incident so they don't lose valuable points. Time is running out to make them up."

Most Popular Driver

Through the first eight weeks of NASCAR Nationwide Series' Most Popular Driver voting on, over 80,000 fans have cast on-line ballots for their favorite driver.

Fans may vote once per day and have until Oct. 31, when balloting closes. This is the first time voting for the award has been open to fans.

Up Next: Open Weekend No. 3

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will have an open weekend on its calendar next week. Drivers and teams return to racing Sept. 20 at Dover International Raceway.

The series has had two previous open weeks this year. After next week's date, two more open weekends remain on the schedule.


The Race: Emerson Radio 250
The Place: Richmond International Raceway

The Date: Friday, Sept. 5
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

The Distance: 250 laps/187.5 miles
Track Size: .75-mile oval

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

2007 Winner: Kyle Busch
2007 Pole: Kyle Busch

Friday--Final practice, 8:45-10:55 a.m.; Qualifying, 4:05 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Jason Keller , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Austin Dillon , Kyle Busch