Texas: Round seven preview

After Open Week, Series Drivers And Teams Back To Racing At TMS Going Long: Hall-Of-Famer Irvin Set For Ride With Keselowski All NASCAR National Series Standings Leaders Entered In O'Reilly 300 Back In The Saddle: Series Returns To Action At ...

After Open Week, Series Drivers And Teams Back To Racing At TMS
Going Long: Hall-Of-Famer Irvin Set For Ride With Keselowski
All NASCAR National Series Standings Leaders Entered In O'Reilly 300

Back In The Saddle: Series Returns To Action At Texas

Following the first open week of the season -- one that began with a test session at Richmond International Raceway -- NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers and teams are anxious to get back to racing this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Since we last left the series after the first of two stops this year at Nashville Superspeedway, Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet) claimed the driver standings lead, the first time in his NASCAR national series car he's been in the No. 1 position.

Five series regulars dot the top-10 rankings led by fifth-place Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet), who moved from Fitz Motorsports' No. 22 Dodge to Phoenix Racing during the open week. Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet), who has posted back-to-back fourth-place finishes in his last two races, sits in sixth place, his career-best standing.

Kelly Bires (No. 47 Clorox Ford), Mike Wallace (No. 7 GEICO Toyota) and Jason Leffler No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) come to Texas eighth through 10th, respectively.

All have had success at Texas. Keselowski was sixth last fall, at the time his best career finish. Bires made his track debut there last November and was a respectable 19th. Bliss and Wallace hope to resurrect their stout NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series stats at Texas in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.

Leffler won his first NASCAR national series pole at Texas in 2000 and has two top-10 finishes there.

Rookie Gale Helps Harvick, KHI Maintain Momentum

Kevin Harvick Inc. remains atop the NASCAR Nationwide Series owner standings and the team's main driver -- two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 RoadLoans.com Chevrolet) -- returns to the track where he is the all-time series winner (four).

Harvick won this race in 2001 and has captured the last three fall races at Texas. Driving his own equipment for the first time in his career, he's on a hot streak having collected top fives on both intermediate tracks contested thus far this season.

Although Harvick didn't run at Nashville two weeks ago, KHI's owner standings lead remains solid thanks to the career-best run by 23-year-old rookie Cale Gale in the No. 33 car.

Gale finished eighth at Nashville, a result that gives KHI six top 10s in the season's first seven races.

Gale is scheduled for 14 races this season -- 11 in the No. 33 and three in the team's second car, the No. 77 Chevrolet.

Threesome Returns To Lone Star State; Irvin Catches New Experience

Whether a NASCAR veteran or relative newcomer, a trip home is always welcome. Bobby Labonte (No. 21 Prilosec OTC Chevrolet), the 1991 series champion, is attempting to win his first NASCAR national series race at Texas in 20 tries (14 in NASCAR Sprint Cup, six in NASCAR Nationwide Series). Labonte is from Corpus Christi.

Brad Coleman (No. 27 Cottonelle Ford) is a Houston native and Robert Richardson Jr. (No. 4 Jay Robinson Racing Chevrolet) from McKinney each have one career series start at the track. Coleman was 16th in this race last year while Richardson was 32nd in the 2007 fall race. Richardson also has three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts at Texas.

Coleman's sponsor will distribute several thousand seat cushions at Texas and urge fans in the stands to participate in the Cottonelle brand's Lap 100 stretch -- creating the motorsports version of the seventh-inning stretch as seen in baseball.

Prior to Thursday's practice, Brad Keselowski will drive former Dallas Cowboys star and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Michael Irvin around the track.

The laps will mark the former wide receiver's first experience in a race car, and fittingly enough, they will be inside the No. 88 -- the same number Irvin wore from 1988-99 while racking up 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns with the Cowboys.

In The Loop: Standings Leaders In Each National Series Vie For Texas Supremacy

The NASCAR Nationwide Series entry list at Texas features the defending series champion (Carl Edwards, No. 60 Scotts Watersmart Ford), the 2001 and 2006 series champion (Kevin Harvick) and the points leaders in all three of NASCAR's national series (Jeff Burton, No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet; Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch, No. 18 DLP HDTV Toyota).

And each has excellent statistics at Texas in the series since 2005.

The best stats belong to Harvick, who owns a series-high Driver Rating of 121.3 at Texas. He also has highs in Average Running Position (5.4), Fastest Laps Run (99) and Laps in the Top 15 (951) among those in Saturday's field.

Also likely to run up front is Burton, the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader. He's finished inside the top 10 in each of 11 his series starts at Texas, owns a Driver Rating of 109.8, an Average Running Position of 6.3, 41 Fastest Laps Run and has spent 97.3% of the laps in the top 15, which is the highest percentage of any driver at Texas.

Edwards is always a threat at the intermediate tracks and Texas is no different. He has a Driver Rating of 94.1, an Average Running Position of 13.5, 39 Fastest Laps Run and has run 72.3% of the laps in the top 15. Edwards' best finish there was third in 2005 and this race last season.

Bowyer also has solid stats at Texas, but hasn't padded the resume as well as some of the other favorites. The NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader has a Driver Rating of 89.4, an Average Running Position of 12.2, 20 Fastest Laps Run and 74.6% of the laps run in the top 15. His best finish was fourth in the series' last visit to Texas.

Busch, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points leader, has four top fives at Texas in six starts, but has yet to find Victory Lane. Since 2005, he has a Driver Rating of 103.4, an Average Running Position of 10.9, 68 Fastest Laps Run and 78.0% of the Laps in the Top 15.

The Director's Take: Maneuvering Bumps Smoothest Way To Victory At TMS

They may not go "bump in the night," but navigating Texas Motor Speedway's signature bumps are one of the keys to handling at the 1.5-mile track.

"Managing the bumps, especially in Turns 1 and 2 and getting the car rotating properly, come into play at Texas," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director.

"The way the car turns or rotates in the center of the corner there allows the car to be 'lined up' -- basically, allowing the driver to get back in the throttle sooner. If teams aren't able to work that out, the driver is looking more at the outside wall and has to put more wheel into it; or turn the car harder to make it handle properly.

"Plan on a lot of passing, too. There are three grooves in play at Texas which will showcase plenty of passes during the race."

NNS Etc.

With too much to do and too little time, many motorists are committing "DWD" -- Driving While Distracted. Nationwide Insurance has teamed up with its series drivers Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) and Brad Coleman to raise awareness among teens in Texas about the dangers of driving while distracted and what they can do to stay safe on the road.

On Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Southlake Carroll Senior High (1501 W. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, Texas), the drivers' presentation will be supplemented by a contest with a NASCAR simulator to see how well the students do while texting behind the wheel.

The event is the first of a series. Similar events will be held in other communities during the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.

CJM Racing and driver Jason Keller, the series' all-time starts leader (428 and counting), heads to Texas knowing their future is secure in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Team owners Tony and Bryan Mullet announced this week that the team has secured primary sponsorship with America's Incredible Pizza Company (AIPC) for its No. 11 Chevrolet through 2013.

Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Hellmann's Dodge will carry more than the driver at Texas. The hood of the car will also be emblazoned with the picture of NASCAR fan Ron Bernheim. The 67-year-old resident of Chatsworth, Calif., is the winner of the sponsor's "Real Fan of the Year" promotion. He entered the sweepstakes online along with 355,000 other fans.

Bill France Performance Cup Standings

Chevrolet built its lead in the Bill France Performance Cup standings following Scott Wimmer's win at Nashville. Chevy also leads in all-time series wins at Texas with seven but hasn't won this race since 2003. Ford (the defending race winner) and Dodge have split the last four wins in the spring race.

Up Next: Bashas' Supermarkets 200 At PIR

Phoenix International Raceway is up next for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The Bashas' Supermarkets 200 will run under the lights at the 1-mile track on April 11.

Clint Bowyer is the defending race winner; Kyle Busch captured last year's pole. Greg Biffle leads all drivers with two wins at PIR.

The Race: O'Reilly 300

The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 5

The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles/200 laps

TV: ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET
Track Size: 1.5 miles

2007 Winner: Matt Kenseth
2007 Pole: David Ragan

Thursday - Practice, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Final Practice, 1-2 p.m.; Qualifying, 6:05 p.m. (Impound).

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Kasey Kahne , Scott Wimmer , Mike Bliss , Carl Edwards , Brad Coleman , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , David Ragan , Cale Gale , Kelly Bires , Kyle Busch
Teams Phoenix Racing