Series off-week notes 2010-03-02

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes How's That For Starters? While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series are at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has the first of six open dates...

NASCAR Nationwide Series News And Notes

How's That For Starters?

While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series are at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has the first of six open dates on its schedule.

Three races in may be the perfect time for a breather considering the exciting coast-to-coast action that's accompanied the start of the 2010 season -- one of the most anticipated on record.

Danica Patrick made her national-series debut while also bringing an incredible meter-moving presence to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She'll return to series competition this June 26 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In the meantime, she's back to her "regular" job in the IndyCar Series. Said Patrick on her Twitter account earlier this week, "I am going to miss driving the stock car (and the people), but it is time to get the IndyCar season started."

Out of the gate, there have been three different winners -- Tony Stewart (Daytona International Speedway), reigning series champion Kyle Busch (Auto Club Speedway) and two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (Las Vegas Motor Speedway). Busch, who started first at Daytona after the field was set via the Rule Book, Joey Logano (Auto Club) and Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas) are the three different polesitters thus far in 2010.

Three series-only regulars are making noise in the top 10 in the standings: Justin Allgaier is fourth, Steve Wallace is sixth and Scott Riggs is 10th. An average of 3.3 "regular guys" have registered top-10 finishes in the first three events versus an average of 11.3 double-duty driver entrants.

Riggs' Veteran Savvy Paces RAB Racing

After three races, Carl Edwards, the 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, is the standings leader by 41 points over second-place Brad Keselowski. The remainder of the top-10 drivers are well within striking distance of the lead -- 146 points separates first place from 10th, where Scott Riggs resides.

Riggs, 39, is in his first season with RAB Racing, an independent series team. The 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year spent two full seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series from 2002-03, posting four wins. Until the season opener at Daytona, he hadn't competed in the series since 2007.

His time away from the series and his late addition to the organization -- he wasn't announced as the driver for the team's No. 09 Ford until late January -- hasn't impeded his results. In fact, in the short time Riggs has been with the team, his finishes have been team bests.

He began with a 15th-place finish at Daytona, at the time the best for RAB. He was 16th at Auto Club Speedway, then followed with a 14th-place finish at Las Vegas, the best ever for the organization since its inception in September 2008.

In addition to his 10th-place ranking in the driver standings, he's propelled RAB to 12th in the owner standings, again an organization best.

These two open weeks will be critical for Riggs and RAB. The team was funded through the first three races and is in search of sponsorship to continue its surge on a full-time basis this year.

In The Loop: Strong Starts, Encouraging Finish

There's no sophomore slump for Justin Allgaier.

Besides sitting fourth in the standings, Allgaier also has racked up some of the top statistics in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Over the first three races, he has a Driver Rating of 96.0, an Average Running Position of 11.1, 16 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 79.4.

Perhaps most impressive: he's improved with each race. At Daytona, his Driver Rating was 89.5; at Auto Club Speedway, 93.8 and at Las Vegas, he scored a season-best 104.7.

Another series-only regular who has been strong at the outset is Steve Wallace.

Over the first three races, the quicklyprogressing Wallace has a Driver Rating of 87.3, an Average Running Position of 13.4, six Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 73.9%.

Wallace, too, has improved with each race, scoring Driver Ratings of 83.5, 85.3 and 93.0 over the first three events, respectively.

Also improving -- Danica Patrick, who will have to wait until June at New Hampshire for her next series race.

No doubt, the stock car learning curve has been a steep one for Patrick. In the three races, the open-wheel star posted a Driver Rating of 42.8, an Average Running Position of 31.7, and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of just 3.6%.

Still, she leaves on a relatively high note. Though her finish at Las Vegas was the worst of the three events (36th), Patrick had her best run at the high-banked 1.5-mile course.

At Las Vegas, she had a Driver Rating of 54.4, an Average Running Position of 30.0, a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-10 (her only positive race in that category) and 16 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green).

Is Steve Wallace On The Verge?

Looking for a good comparison for Steve Wallace's improvement? How about to that of the NFL?

Coaches talk about the development of young quarterbacks; that few can step in and master a complicated offensive system immediately. It's a maturation process on and off the field before they start showing progress, usually about their second or third year in the league.

The 2010 season is Wallace's fourth in a full-time capacity in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

And has he ever begun to show progress.

Wallace, 22, heads into this first open week on a career-best streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to last season.

He put up back-to-back results of 10th and eighth, respectively, at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway last year before starting 2010 in the same fashion.

He was 10th at Daytona, sixth at Auto Club Speedway and 10th at Las Vegas. He's sixth in the standings, by far the best start of his series career. Wallace started his 125th career race last week at Las Vegas.

"Three top 10s is a great way for us to start the season," Wallace said. "It always seems like the guys who can have a good start to the year and build some momentum tend to stay towards the front of the point standings for most of the year.

"We'll build on this and head to Bristol in a few weeks -- it's one of my favorite tracks and our hot rods should really be strong there."

Wallace isn't taking the week off. Instead, he'll make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in Atlanta for Billy Ballew.

"I've always enjoyed watching that series; those guys race really, really hard," he said. "Running one of those races is something that I've wanted to do for awhile, but the timing has never been right until now.

"While running the truck race is going to be fun, my main focus is 100% on contending for the Nationwide Series championship. Atlanta is a track where we traditionally haven't run as well as we'd like in the Nationwide car, so getting some extra seat time at Atlanta will help on that side as well."

R3 Motorsports, Richardson Jr., Team With Coleman Pressley

When the NASCAR Nationwide Series resumes racing March 20 at Bristol, a thirdgeneration driver also will resume his series career.

Coleman Pressley, 21, the son of NASCAR national series veteran Robert Pressley and grandson of Bob Pressley, a multiple NASCAR Late Model short-track champion, has joined R3 Motorsports. Pressley will share the No. 23 Chevrolet with primary driver Robert Richardson Jr. for at least three races, more if sponsorship is attained.

Pressley started the first five races of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career last year driving the No. 47 for JTG-Daugherty racing, the same number his dad drove for the organization in 1997 and again in 2004.

In addition to Bristol -- where he finished 39th last August -- Pressley is scheduled to drive at Richmond International Raceway in April and at Darlington Raceway in May.

Richardson and Pressley tested together last month with positive results.

"I got a small taste of what the NASCAR Nationwide Series was about last year and now I want to run a whole race and earn a good finish," Pressley said.

Pressley also will have added familiarity with Steve Plattenberger atop the pit box at Bristol. Plattenberger was named interim crew chief for the No. 23 team earlier this week, replacing John Quinn.

"Working with Steve is going to be pretty cool because he worked with my dad, too," Pressley said.

Plattenberger had served as R3's shop foreman since last year. He has more than two decades of crew chief experience, having worked with Robert Pressley, Stacy Compton, John Andretti and Jeff Fuller. He led Fuller to the 1995 Raybestos Rookie of the Year honor in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

NNS Etc: Open Week Edition

Manufacturers' Standings

Toyota has made the biggest jump in the Manufacturers' Standings since the start of the season.

The winner of the last two Bill France Performance Cups has vaulted from last to second in the standings after the first three races.

Chevrolet has yet to surrender the lead it claimed after Tony Stewart's season-opening win at Daytona. Kevin Harvick added to the advantage with his victory last Saturday at Las Vegas.

Ford and Dodge are in third and fourth, respectively. Ford finished second in the first two races and was third at Las Vegas while Dodge has finished in the top five in each race thus far.

Rookies Running The Gamut

That there will be ups and downs throughout the season for the series' five Raybestos Rookies is an understatement.

The first two races produced surprising results for James Buescher and Brian Scott. Buescher was eighth at Daytona while Scott secured 10th place at Auto Club Speedway after running in the top five for much of the event.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has had the worst luck of the three thus far, getting caught in accidents in each race. Parker Kligerman wasn't able to race at Daytona after his team withdrew, but came back with a decent 22nd-place finish in his season debut at Auto Club Speedway. Colin Braun had mixed results -- an accident relegated him to 34th at Daytona -- but he rebounded for a 18th-place finish at Auto Club.

Las Vegas is where all the rookies' luck ran out. Literally.

Four of the five were knocked out of the race before it ended -- Braun, Buescher and Scott due to accidents and Kligerman because of a faulty transmission. Stenhouse managed to collect his first finish of the season despite going behind the wall for repairs after hitting the Turn 4 wall.

The rookies will have two weeks to collect themselves before racing on their fourth different track in their first four events -- at Bristol -- the first short track of the year.

Tale Of Two Cities For Allgaier

After going east and west during the first three weeks of the season, Justin Allgaier added north and south destinations this week.

Allgaier, the 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year in the series, traveled to Toledo, Ohio, Tuesday for an ARCA season kick-off event. He spoke about his career in that series and how it served as a springboard to his NASCAR career.

Allgaier won the 2008 ARCA title in dramatic fashion, overcoming a 105-point deficit in the final race to claim the title. In the process, he broke Frank Kimmel's series record of eight consecutive championships.

After his stop in Toledo, Allgaier travels to Talladega Superspeedway, where on Wednesday, he'll help "install" new grandstand seats and give pace car rides to media in attendance.

Allgaier is fourth in the standings, the highest ranked series-only regular.

Up Next: Open Week No. 2

The NASCAR Nationwide Series actually is off for consecutive weeks before returning March 20 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The series also is off during the final weekend of March, and resumes with the first of its nine stand-alone events on April 3 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Following these open dates, the series isn't off again until May's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Weekend.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Scotts Turf Builder 300
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)

The Date: Saturday, March 20
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 300 laps / 159.9 miles

TV: ABC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Channel 128.

2009 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2009 Polesitter: Brendan Gaughan

Event Schedule (all times ET):
Friday--Practice, 1:40-3:15 p.m.; Final Practice--4:45-5:45 p.m..;
Saturday--Qualifying, 9:40 a.m.

-source: nascar

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Drivers John Andretti , Tony Stewart , Jeff Fuller , Kevin Harvick , Robert Pressley , Stacy Compton , Colin Braun , Frank Kimmel , Scott Riggs , Brendan Gaughan , Carl Edwards , Justin Allgaier , Robert Richardson Jr. , Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , Joey Logano , Brian Scott , James Buescher , Parker Kligerman , Steve Wallace , Coleman Pressley , Danica Patrick , Kyle Busch