NASCAR National Series News And Notes
NASCAR National Series News And Notes
The Race: STP 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, June 5
The Time: 1 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)
The Race: STP 300
The Place: Chicagoland Speedway
The Date: Saturday, June 4
The Time: 8 p.m. (ET)
TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
The Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250
The Place: Kansas Speedway
Date: Saturday, June 4
The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 250.5 miles (167 laps)
Enter Sandman: Harvick The Closer Does It Again
Kevin Harvick, the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins leader, has perfected the art of closing – likely terrifying news to the rest of the competition.
Consider these points…
• Each of Harvick’s three wins have featured late-race passes for the lead. At Auto Club Speedway, he passed Jimmie Johnson on the final lap. At Martinsville, he swiped the lead away from Dale Earnhardt Jr. with four laps remaining. Last Sunday, he won his first Charlotte points race, again snatching the lead from Earnhardt – this time on the final lap.
• Harvick has led a combined nine laps in his three victories this season. In his 17 career wins, he has led triple-digit laps four times.
• Of his 17 career wins, 10 featured race-winning passes for the lead with 10 laps or less remaining. Four his last seven victories came on last lap passes for the win.
But there’s plenty more to his Coca-Cola 600 victory than that.
Harvick pretty much locked up a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs – the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
After race number 26 at Richmond, the top 10 drivers will earn a spot in the Chase. Spots 11 and 12 – the Wild Card spots – will go to those outside the top 10 who have the most wins, provided they are in the top 20. Harvick, currently second in the points, will likely not need that fall-back – but it’s there if he does.
Owner Richard Childress said the team could be more aggressive now that it seems a lock to earn a playoff spot when the Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 18. Click here to listen to Childress’ thoughts.
At Kansas, Harvick has four top 10s in 10 starts – including a third-place finish last season. True to form, Harvick closed strong in that race, too. His Average Running Position was 6.9.
Sooner Than Later: Junior On Verge Of Breakthrough
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Victory Lane” visions have evolved from calm ripples, to a steady simmer and now, after his near-win at Charlotte, to full boiling over.
There’s good reason for optimism. His 2011 season is looking much like his 2008 season – the last in which he won a race and made the Chase. Just as encouraging: This season looks nothing like 2009-10 when he finished the season 25th and 21st in points, respectively.
Some facts to back up the optimism …
• Earnhardt’s six top 10s this season already surpasses his five from all of 2009. Last season he had eight. His two top fives match that of 2009, and are one short of last year’s total.
• Earnhardt’s average finish of 11.0 ranks third in the series behind points leader Carl Edwards (8.0) and five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson (10.9).
• He has completed more laps – 4,073 – than anyone in the series. He has finished off the lead lap twice this season: Daytona (202 of 208 laps) and Richmond (398 of 400).
• His consistency – as illustrated by his Driver Rating – is up. This season, Earnhardt has scored a Driver Rating over 90.0 in eight of the 12 races. In 2010, he did that in five of the first 12. In 2009, just three of the first 12.
• His fourth-place points position is his highest after 12 races since 2008, when he was third. Last year after 12 races, Earnhardt was 16th in points. In 2009, he was 19th.
Earnhardt has struggled recently at Kansas Speedway. His last two finishes have been out of the top 20. Overall, he has four top 10s in 10 races, leading laps in five of them.
Bowyer, Edwards, McMurray Hope To Shine In Homecoming
This Sunday’s inaugural STP 400 is a homecoming of sorts for a trio of drivers – but so far Kansas Speedway hasn’t been very hospitable to its native and adopted sons.
Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray count one NASCAR national series Kansas victory between them – and none in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Edwards, from Columbia, Mo. won the 1.5-mile track’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series stop in 2004.
“I’d like to race at Kansas every week,” said Edwards, whose best finish of second in 2008 is one of five top-10 finishes in the current NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader’s seven starts at Kansas. “It’s a lot of fun for me because so many people from Columbia, Mo. go to this race so I’m glad they have two races now.”
Based on his team’s record – Roush Fenway Racing has won three times at Kansas Speedway – Edwards would seem to have a solid chance to break through. “The way this team is running I think we have the best chance we have ever had,” he said.
Bowyer, from Emporia, Kan., finished second in his second trip to Kansas Speedway in 2007. He once was a regular at nearby Lakeside Speedway.
“The race is very exciting to me. Always, to go back home, and race in front of the hometown crowd; two dates there is just big, it’s very special for me,” said Bowyer, whose Richard Childress Racing team continues to pursue its first Kansas Speedway victory. Click here to listen to audio from Bowyer on his return home.
A victory at Kansas Speedway would be special on several levels for McMurray, whose hometown of Joplin, Mo. was virtually leveled by tornado on May 22. McMurray hasn’t had much luck at the track since back-to-back top-10 finishes in his first two appearances.
McMurray, however, will leave thoughts about the upcoming race until later this week after a Thursday visit to his hometown with Convoy for Hope, a group bringing tornado relief supplies to the devastated city.
”I haven’t been back to Joplin for four or five years and I moved away from there when I was 20 years old,” said McMurray. “But Joplin will always be my hometown. And I’ve got, I don’t know, maybe it’s a different outlook now, but when we go do fundraisers, certainly I’m still going to do a lot with Autism, but I think for a long time it will be about Joplin and trying to get the city back where it was.”
Hamlin, Once Down And Out, Knocking On Top 10’s Door
New point system; old point system - it matters not. The cream ultimately rises to the top.
That would seem to be the case for Denny Hamlin, who stood 20th, 39 points out of the top 10 after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ seventh race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Many speculated that under the 2011 point system a nearly one-race deficit would doom Hamlin’s chances of qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in which he finished second last season.
Stop the presses; Hamlin’s fortunes have been reversed.
With this Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway marking halfway to September’s Chase cut-off, Hamlin has climbed to 12th in the standings, just 14 points out of the top 10.
Loop Data Statistics tell the tale of Hamlin’s comeback. After failing to post a triple digit Driver Rating through the season’s first five races, the Virginian has rated 104.6 to 126.7 in four of the past seven races. That includes a Driver Rating of 119.3 in the Coca-Cola 600, a race Hamlin had a chance of winning until a late fuel stop left him 10th.
Hamlin, who made his series debut at Kansas in 2005, will make his 200th series start on Sunday.
On hand at Kansas Speedway will be 1,100 corn farmers from across the Midwest associated with the National Corn Growers Association, the workers behind American Ethanol, which has been used in all three NASCAR national series starting this season. To help further recognize NASCAR’s historic partnership with American Ethanol, the backstretch at Kansas will be painted green this weekend’s NCWTS and NSCS events. … Fittingly, Richard Petty will serve as the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s STP 400. Richard Petty Motorsports driver AJ Allmendinger will pilot the No. 43 STP Ford, which will feature a 1972 STP Petty Blue paint scheme made famous by the NASCAR Hall of Famer. … Patrick Carpentier returns to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in the No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Ford. His last race was Texas, last November. ... Kansas is known as a track with surprise winners. Three of the seven Kansas Chase races have been won by non-Chasers. … Don’t be surprised if Sunday’s winner comes from the back of the pack. Seven of the 12 races this season have been won from a starting position of 20th or lower, including Kevin Harvick’s win on Sunday from the 28th starting position. That’s the most wins from 20th or worse through 12 races in series history.
Patrick, Bayne Return In Time For The Summer Stretch
Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne and IndyCar star Danica Patrick will be making their return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Patrick is back after a nine-race NASCAR layoff, during which time she returned to her full-time Indy Racing League gig. The native of Roscoe, Ill. has been steadily improving in her young stock car career – the STP 300 will be her 18th NASCAR Nationwide Series race since February, 2010 – Patrick was ninth in the series driver standings and had collected the best finish ever for a female driver in NASCAR’s national series (fourth at Las Vegas) before starting the IRL season.
The other emerging star returning is Trevor Bayne, who has been recovering from an illness with symptoms including nausea, fatigue and impaired vision and has not raced since finishing sixth on April 23 at Nashville. He’s currently 16th in the driver standings, 54 points out of 10th. Bayne returns to a team with white hot momentum. Roush Fenway Racing has won three consecutive races in three different cars – the first time a team has done that in NASCAR Nationwide Series history.
Bayne is also running a part-time double-duty schedule for the Wood Brothers, the legendary team with which he won the “Great American Race” in February. Bayne is expected back in the No. 21 Ford for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in two weeks at Michigan.
Heading into this weekend at Chicago, Patrick has made one start at the 1.5-mile track, finishing 24th in 2010. Bayne has made two starts at Chicago, posting a best finish of 12th in 2009. Bayne has the better pre-race Driver Rating of the two with an 83.1 compared to Patrick’s 59.2.
Title Chase At Boiling Point Heading To Chicago
Three competitors – two veterans and a rising star representing three different teams and two manufacturers – are separated by just two points at the top of the points standings as the series heads to Chicagoland Speedway for Saturday’s inaugural STP 300.
Elliott Sadler’s lead is tenuous. He’s a single point ahead of Iowa Speedway winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. One point further back is Reed Sorenson.
Each has held the points lead multiple times during the season’s first 13 races; Sadler after the past three races.
Sadler, 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Stenhouse and Sorenson currently have a bit of breathing room. Fourth-place Justin Allgaier, from Riverton, Ill. also makes a homecoming this weekend. He is 22 points off the lead while Aric Almirola is looking at a 51-point deficit as he rounds out the top five.
Sadler is the comeback story of the season so far – a surprise in itself as most tapped him as the driver to beat in pre-season polls. He finished outside the top 10 (including a 38th at Phoenix) in three of his first four starts but since has notched seven top fives and nine top 10s for his Kevin Harvick Inc. team.
Stenhouse’s amazing sophomore season with Roush Fenway Racing continues with three top-five finishes in his most recent three races and a series-leading 10 top 10s.
New Drama In Owner Championship Chase
The series owner championship, for the last three seasons the property of Joe Gibbs Racing, has been in the background these last few weeks thanks to the headlines made by the driver championship contenders.
But that could change quickly following Saturday night’s race at Chicagoland.
The No. 18 (2009-10) and No. 20 (2008) JGR Toyotas have won the last three owner titles, tying the series record for consecutive owner championships. The No. 20 entered the week having led the standings since race No. 6 at Texas Motor Speedway and boasted a 15-point lead over its sister team, the No. 18.
However, on Tuesday, JGR announced the No. 20 would not race at Chicagoland, the first time since the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2002 the car had not competed in a NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
Its absence leaves the door open for the No. 18 team – this week led by driver Kelly Bires – to make a significant move and also keep JGR in the running for a record-setting fourth straight trophy. That void also is a major boost to the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing team, which ranks one point behind the No. 18 in third place. Carl Edwards, the 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, will drive that Ford Mustang this weekend. Edwards has been on a mission since winning his driver title – he was not able to unify the championship, ceding the owner trophy to the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team. Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick drove a second car for RCR that season, acting as a wingman in the No. 29’s title pursuit. This weekend, Harvick could add another series mark to his resume; a top-10 finish would be his 198th, tying Tommy Houston for the all-time series record.
Harvick and Edwards are two of three double-duty drivers this weekend making the trek from Kansas Speedway to Chicagoland. Brad Keselowski, the 2010 series champion, also will compete at Chicagoland. David Mayhew will sub for Harvick while Sam Hornish Jr. will be available for Keselowski. Brian Ickler is on standby for Edwards, but he is expected to participate in practice on Friday.
NNS Etc. – Charlotte
Beginning this weekend, there will be a revision to the qualifying procedures for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Qualifying order will still be determined based upon practice speeds – from slowest to fastest – but will no longer be separated between those teams that are locked into the race and those teams that must qualifying on speed. … Jason Leffler will attempt to post his 100th series top-10 finish.
The 400th Race: Today’s NASCAR Stars Shaped Careers In NASCAR Camping World Trucks
Since its inception in 1995, 399 races ago, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has produced a distinguished list of alumni including a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Kurt Busch and three NASCAR Nationwide Series champions.
Here are the thoughts of four current NASCAR Sprint Cup stars on how truck racing shaped their careers:
• Kevin Harvick, two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck owner champion with his wife DeLana, 2001 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 winner: “When I was a kid (in Bakersfield, Calif.) I watched some of the first exhibition races and the Truck Series is the reason I am where I am today. We support our truck program mainly for (four-time champion) Ron Hornaday to keep him busy and keep him part of the series. We want to win races and we want to be competitive but Ron is the biggest reason.”
• Carl Edwards, current NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader, 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and 2004 O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 winner: “If it weren’t for the truck series I wouldn’t be here. Mike Mittler reluctantly hired me to drive his truck in 2002. If NASCAR hadn’t come up with the truck series and guys like myself didn’t get those opportunities, this sport would look a lot different today.” Click here for audio of Edwards on the series.
• Kyle Busch, 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck owner champion, 28-time winner and 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion. He made his first start at age 16: “It’s definitely been a great series to run in, to be involved in, to win some races in and to now be owning a race team in the series is definitely great for myself and for all the people at Kyle Busch Motorsports that are employed there and that we can give jobs to and put food on the table for their families.”
• Greg Biffle, 2000 NASCAR Camping World Truck champion, 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and 15-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner. He’ll pace the field to start Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250: “It’ll be the first time I’ve driven a pace car to the green flag, so hopefully I won’t make any mistakes. I learned so much in the truck series. They gave me my start and gave me my opportunity. I really miss the truck series and all the people there, so I’m looking forward to going back and getting an opportunity to visit with the officials and spend a little time with them before bringing the field down to the green. I’m pretty excited about it. I can’t wait.”
Skinner, Hornaday, Musgrave Posted Milestone Victories
Timeline for milestone victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ first 399 races:
• Phoenix International Raceway, Feb. 5, 1995. Mike Skinner uses late-race pass to edge Terry Labonte by 0.09 seconds in the series’ inaugural race. Skinner later becomes the first NCWTS champion.
• Evergreen (Wash.) Speedway, April 3, 1999. The series’ 100th race is won by Ron Hornaday Jr., who collects a $100,000 bonus posted for an eligible winner who had competed in the previous 99 events.
• Memphis Motorsports Park, June 21, 2003. Ted Musgrave leads 102 of 200 laps in winning the series’ 200th race.
• Dover International Speedway, June 1, 2007. Hornaday wins race No. 300 en route to his third of four series championships.
Hornaday and Skinner are the only competitors with a 2011 start to compete in the inaugural race. Richard Childress and Jim Rosenblum are the remaining active owners from race No. 1.
Beginning this weekend, there will be a revision to the qualifying procedures for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Qualifying order will still be determined based upon practice speeds – from slowest to fastest – but will no longer be separated between those teams that are locked into the race and those teams that must qualify on speed. … Last chance: Vote on the top 25 moments in the series’ first 399 races at nascarmedia.com. Click here to vote. … Kansas Speedway is the only track on the schedule holding multiple races without a repeat winner – a streak reaching 10 a year ago. There have been three first-time winners: Ricky Hendrick (2001), Jon Wood (2003) and Erik Darnell (2007). Hornaday, defending winner Johnny Sauter and Todd Bodine are the only previous winners in this week’s field. … Four drivers who competed in the Kansas Speedway’s 2001 inaugural race have entered this Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250: Matt Crafton, Brendan Gaughan, Travis Kvapil and Jason White. … Kyle Busch will be making his first NCWTS start at Kansas Speedway, as will Clint Bowyer. Busch won a NASCAR Nationwide race at the track in 2007. … The series has competed in and around Kansas City in all but one year (2000) before making Kansas Speedway its home. Races were held at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo. and Heartland Park Topeka from 1995-99.
For additional information, contact:
Mike Forde, NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications, (386) 310-6056 or firstname.lastname@example.org;
Kelly Hale, Kansas Speedway, (913) 328-3314 or email@example.com;
Nicole Meagher, Chicagoland Speedway, (815) 722-4180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.