Richmond: Round 11 preview

*Defending Richmond Winner Bowyer Arrives Atop Standings *JGR: Crew Chiefs Setting The Organization Apart in 2008 *Series-Only Regulars Make Up Half Of Top 10 Bowyer Is Standings Leader, Defending Winner Coming To Richmond It seems like Clint...

*Defending Richmond Winner Bowyer Arrives Atop Standings
*JGR: Crew Chiefs Setting The Organization Apart in 2008
*Series-Only Regulars Make Up Half Of Top 10

Bowyer Is Standings Leader, Defending Winner Coming To Richmond

It seems like Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) is getting all breaks this season.

Despite a 25th-place finish due to an early accident at Talladega Superspeedway -- where he went in leading defending series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) by nine points -- Bowyer managed to increase that lead to 27 points thanks to Edwards' first DNF of the season.

Now, Bowyer is looking ahead to the Lipton TEA 250 at Richmond International Raceway where he is the defending race winner.

It shouldn't come as a surprise if Bowyer builds on that lead at Richmond where he's posted three of his six finishes in the top 10 including last season's win.

He's also been strong during qualifying with five of his six starts in the top 10 at the .75-mile track.

Those numbers have been similar to his 2008 season overall after 11 races. Thus far, Bowyer has posted one win, four top fives and a series-high seven top 10 finishes.

Joe Gibbs Racing Crew Chiefs Making All The Right Calls

Joe Gibbs Racing has been almost unstoppable this season and a big part of the organization's success in the NASCAR Nationwide Series are crew chiefs Dave Rogers and Jason Ratcliff.

Rogers has been the key crew chief for the No. 20 Toyota leading the team to four wins, five top fives, and six top 10s over the first 10 races.

The two have put drivers Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch in victory lane a total of six times.

(Busch will drive at Richmond on Friday for Braun Racing in the No. 32 Haas Avocadoes from Mexico Toyota.)

Stewart has grabbed three wins with Rogers atop the pit box at Daytona International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway and at Talladega.

Busch posted a win with Rogers south of the border in Mexico, his first victory on a road-course in a national series competition.

Denny Hamlin will be behind the wheel this weekend driving the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota. He has three top 10s at Richmond and started on the pole in this event last season.

Ratcliff has been atop the No. 18 pit box for five races with Busch. The two have posted wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, along with three top-five finishes.

JGR leads the owner standings with the No. 20 car 55 points ahead of Richard Childress' No. 2.

Series-Only Regulars Making Moves In The Standings

A pack of cars came steaming off of Turn 4 on the last lap of the Aaron's 312 last Saturday, and many of the series-only regulars were vying for the top spot -- eight of the top-12 finishers were NASCAR Nationwide series regulars.

Four drivers, in particular, made big moves not only on the track, but also in the series standings.

David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) was a big force in the pack last weekend at Talladega netting a second- place finish. It was his second top-five and fifth top-10 of the season.

Stremme moved up three positions in the rankings from 16th to 13th, and currently is 28 points behind Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 Peanuts Shop of Wilmington Ford), who is in 10th place. Stremme's best finish at Richmond was eighth in 2004.

Hamilton kept his car out of trouble on Saturday to post his first top-five and second top-10 of the season.

His third-place finish propelled Hamilton five spots in the standings and into the top 10, a significant move after not running in Mexico. Boris Said was behind the wheel of the No. 25 there.

Hamilton does have two top-five finishes at Richmond in 2003-04, but was 22nd last fall in his last race there.

Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet) mounted a last-lap effort that resulted in his first to- five and fifth top-10 of the season. He also moved up in the series point standings two spots to fifth.

Bliss has a best finish of fifth at Richmond, recorded last fall. NASCAR's Loop Data Pre-Race Statistics have Bliss in the top 20 in Driver Rating (86.5) and Average Running Position (16.7).

Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) posted his third top-10 start and second top-five finish at the famed facility this past weekend.

Leffler maintained his top-10 ranking (eighth), but his finish at Talladega was his first top-five of the season. His best finish at Richmond was fourth in 2004.

In The Loop: Edwards And Bowyer Projected To Be Up Front

Each week, the NASCAR Nationwide Series points battle between Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer intensifies. Bowyer currently owns a see-sawing lead of 27 points.

Seemingly, their statistics mirror each other at each upcoming track. The same holds true at Richmond, where each have a win.

Edwards' victory came in 2005, while Bowyer's came during last season's spring race. Check out the tale of the tape between the two drivers at Richmond:

Driver Rating: Bowyer edges Edwards, 102.7 to 102.5.

Average Running Position: Edwards leads Bowyer, 9.7 to 12.4.

Fastest Laps Run: Bowyers leads Edwards, 136 to 71.

Laps in the Top 15: Edwards leads Bowyer, 84.7% to 77.1%.

But, of course, this won't be a two-horse race. Look for series regular Jason Leffler to make a charge to the front. Leffler has been solid at Richmond in his career, posting top fives in the fall race of 2004 and the spring race of 2005. The last time the series raced there, Leffler scored an 11th-place finish.

Since 2005, Leffler has a Driver Rating of 91.1, an Average Running Position of 13.3, 33 Fastest Laps Run, and has run 71.6% of the laps among the top 15.

And, as usual, Kyle Busch should pose a serious threat for a Victory Lane visit. He was brilliant in last year's Richmond fall race, leading 227 of 252 laps in a win. In the victory, Busch scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 and a race-high 72 Fastest Laps Run.

Overall, Busch, winner of three NASCAR Nationwide Series races already this season, has a Richmond Driver Rating of 96.6 and an Average Running Position of 12.6.

The Director's Take: Friday Night Lights Bring Drivers Back To Racing Roots

"Richmond is one of the more popular tracks on the circuit for the drivers because it brings them back to their racing roots; racing under the lights on a short track," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director. "This series was built on short-track racing.

"Over the last month, we've run on four different tracks ... road course races are about braking and shifting, getting into a rhythm, taking advantage of mistakes or out-braking in the corner. Superspeedways are about finding out what the car can do early in the race and who your friends are as far as the draft; positioning the car to be in the right spot to the finish. The car is either good or not when it comes off the trailer. There's not a lot you can do to make the car better.

"Short tracks are where everything comes into play ... the driver, the crew, the car. Richmond allows for the drivers to really showcase their talents. Even though they have to have a good car every week, this is a track where they use their talent to hustle the car around the race track to make up for small misses in the set up."

Bill France Performance Cup Standings

Toyota extended its lead on Chevrolet in the Bill France Performance Cup standings following Tony Stewart's win last week at Talladega.

Chevrolet is the manufacturer to beat at Richmond, however, with 20 wins -- and the last five in a row.

NNS Etc.

On Thursday from 4-6 p.m., at Richmond's Hermitage High School (8301 Hungary Spring Rd.), Nationwide Insurance and series drivers Clint Bowyer and Landon Cassill (No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet) will team up with DRIVE SMART Virginia, a program to encourage motorists to drive safely and stop texting while driving. Students and community members can see firsthand the impact texting has on their driving abilities while racing in a NASCAR Nationwide Series simulator. The event is open to the public and includes a driver autograph session, the Nationwide show car, a photo imaging station, giveaways and a chance to win a VIP race weekend experience at Richmond. Jeff Green (No. 31 Key Motorsports/JMI Signs Chevrolet) hopes to make his season debut at Richmond driving for Key Motorsports. Green won this race at RIR in 2000. The team has been plying its trade in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series over the past five years.

Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet) will make his 200th career NASCAR Nationwide Series start Friday. Harvick has compiled 32 wins, 16 poles, 102 top-five and 146 top-10 finishes in his previous 199 starts. His 32 wins are second on the all-time list, 16 behind leader Mark Martin. Harvick, with four wins at RIR, has the opportunity to tie Martin (5) for the most wins at the track.

Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Victory In Jesus Dodge) posted a 13th-place finish at Talladega last weekend, his highest finish since an 11th-place result also at Talladega in 2003.

Ryan Hackett (No. 76 J&R Supply Ford) aims for his series debut this weekend at Richmond. Hackett has experience on dirt and NASCAR late-model competition before moving up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 NAVY Chevrolet) was the fastest in the final test session at Richmond last March and will run a Blue Angels paint scheme just like the Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets upon his return Friday. Keselowski flew with the Blue Angels in a two-seater back in February. Also this week Keselowski and his team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make an aircraft carrier trip Thursday off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.

Up Next: Diamond Plywood 200 At Darlington Raceway

The 12th race on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is set for May 9 at Darlington Raceway.

Last year, Denny Hamlin became the third driver to win from the pole twice at Darlington - Mark Martin and Geoffrey Bodine were the others to accomplish the feat.

The Race: The Lipton TEA 250

The Place: Richmond Int'l. Raceway
The Date: Friday, May 2

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

The Distance: 187.5 miles/250 laps
Track Size: 0.750 mile

2007 Winner: Clint Bowyer
2007 Pole: Denny Hamlin

Friday-Practice 8:45-10:55 a.m.; Qualifying, 4:05 p.m. (Impound).

-credit: nascar

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Geoffrey Bodine , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Jeff Green , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Mike Bliss , Morgan Shepherd , Carl Edwards , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Ryan Hackett , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing