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NASCAR Nationwide Series News & Notes

Great Early-Season Competition Comes In Threes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 3, 2009) - After three races, it’s fitting that the results have come in threes in key NASCAR Nationwide Series competition categories:

Media Can Predict The Champions

On the subject of threes, three past NASCAR Nationwide Series champions are currently ranked 1-3 in the top 10 in the driver standings – Carl Edwards, 2007; Brian Vickers, 2003 and Greg Biffle, 2002 – while the last two series owner champions – the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevy, 2007 (third); and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 2008 (ninth) – reside in the top 10 in owner standings.

Who will earn those titles this year? For the first time, media can predict the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and owner champions in addition to this year’s Raybestos Rookie of the Year on Media can select positions 1-10 in the driver and owner polls; 1-8 in the rookie poll.

Voting runs through Tuesday, March 10.

Edwards Capitalizes On Vegas Luck To Take Standings Lead

Carl Edwards “cashed in” at Las Vegas last Saturday during the Sam’s Town 300, finishing second behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle. He also took the lead in the series point standings for the first time since claiming his 2007 series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch, the standings leader coming into Las Vegas, was involved in an accident on Lap 21 that dropped him to a 39th-place finish at his home track. It also dropped him four spots to fifth in the standings.

Edwards capitalized and opened a 48-point lead over 2003 series champion Brian Vickers when he posted his fourth top-10 finish in five races at Las Vegas.

Edwards has rattled off impressive finishes thus far in 2009: Second at Daytona, fourth at Auto Club Speedway and the aforementioned runner-up result at Las Vegas.

Edwards isn’t the only driver at Roush Fenway to jump to a good start this year.

Greg Biffle is third in the series and ended a 76-race series winless streak with his victory at Las Vegas.

David Ragan is sixth in the rankings with two top 10s in the first three races.

When the series returns to racing at Bristol Motor Speedway following a two-week hiatus, Edwards will be raring to go. He owns one win, two top fives and four top 10s in nine races on the .533-mile high banks.

Additionally, NASCAR Season-to-Date Loop Data shows Edwards ranked first in Driver Rating  (116.9).

2009 Rookie Class Impressive Out Of The Gate

The 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year class has started the season off strong and looks to raise the level of competition this season. 

Brendan Gaughan (#64 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevy) is pacing the new group of rookies. He’s fourth in the standings, just nine points behind third-place Greg Biffle. He also leads the rookie standings by five points over Michael McDowell (#47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota).

Gaughan has begun to build off his experience in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. At his home track in Las Vegas, he posted his second consecutive top-10 finish in his first three starts this season. 

“Big-time teams pull off big-time feats and that’s exactly what our Rusty Wallace Racing team did,” he said. “We were able to pull off another top 10. I have to tell you, this is the most fun I’ve had in racing in a long, long time. I can’t wait to get to Bristol.”

While Gaughan has yet to start at Bristol in the NASCAR Nationwide car, he’s made five starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series there with a best finish of second in 2007.

McDowell seems to be parlaying his 20-race NASCAR Sprint Cup experience last year into immediate dividends this season.

He’s second in the rookie standings and a surprising 10th in the series standings. Last Saturday he was sixth at LVMS, his career-best finish in NASCAR national series competition. Likewise, he’ll take his first laps at Bristol in any of NASCAR’s national series in the first NASCAR Nationwide practice March 19.

Justin Allgaier (#12 Verizon Dodge), driving for Penske Racing, is third in the rookie rankings but may be the most-watched young driver thus far.

He had a career-best race last Saturday, leading five laps and finishing eighth. He’s 11th in the standings after moving up 14 spots from 25th.   Like McDowell, Allgaier has never competed in NASCAR’s national series at Bristol.

Scott Lagasse Jr. (#11 America’s Incredible Pizza Co. Toyota), who’s fourth in the rookie standings, was ninth at Las Vegas, also his career best.

The four rookies in the top 10 were a first for the series since 2007 at Talladega, when four rookies also registered top-10 finishes (David Ragan, Kyle Krisiloff, Juan Pablo Montoya and Brad Coleman – who also won the pole).

NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie Standings

     Driver                    Team          Points
1 Brendan Gaughan       RWR             37
2 Michael McDowell       JTG-D            32
3 Justin Allgaier             Penske          28
4 Scott Lagasse Jr.       CJM               26
5 Michael Annett           Germain         22
6 John Wes Townley     RAB               20 
7 Ken Butler III              R3                 14
8 Erik Darnell*               RFR                0
*First race scheduled for Richmond, 5/1.

In The Loop: Keselowski Wants To Go Back To The Future

Brad Keselowski (#88 Chevy) wants to go back to 2008. Big time.

Last year, he was the king of the NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, battling for the points lead and posting two wins. One of those wins took place at Bristol, with a number of double- duty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in the field.

But this year, he’s struggling. In three races, he has finished on the lead lap just once. Some of it has been terrible luck, like getting caught up in a accident at Vegas.

Still, Keselowksi is clearly looking to change his fortune.

In the three races, he has a Driver Rating of 71.5, an Average Running Position of 19.2, 10 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 43.8.

Plus, he’s close to losing the sibling rivalry battle. Brad has 271 points, just one point ahead of brother Brian.

If Keselowski’s struggles are a bad surprise, Brendan Gaughan’s success is a good one. Gaughan, a series rookie, made the jump from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is driving like anything but a rookie. He has posted back-to-back top 10s – a ninth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway and a seventh-place finish at Las Vegas – and sits fourth in the standings.

Through the first three races, Gaughan has a Driver Rating of 88.8, an Average Running Position of 12.2, a Pass Differential of plus-167 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 89.1.

Not to be dismissed in the rookie battle is Penske Racing’s Justin Allgaier. Sitting 11th in the points standings, Allgaier has a Driver Rating of 84.6 and an Average Running Position of 15.3. He led five laps at Las Vegas and battled for the win before fading late.

Among the top series-only regulars having strong runs going into the season’s first off-week are Mike Bliss and Jason Leffler.

Bliss has a Driver Rating of 81.5 and an Average Running Position of 17.0. Leffler has a Driver Rating of 84.8 and an Average Running Position of 15.4.

NNS Etc.

2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings

Chevy     19
Toyota         19
Ford            19
Dodge           9

Off Track News …

Up Next: Consecutive Open Weeks Before Resuming At Bristol

The NASCAR Nationwide Series is off for the next two weekends, a first for the series since 1996 when it was off for consecutive weeks  between the Dover International Speedway and Lowe’s Motor Speedway events in the fall.

The Scotts Turf Builder 300 will be up next on March 21 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The event will mark the first of four NASCAR Nationwide Series races to be broadcast on ABC.
Fast Facts

Next Race: Scotts Turf Builder 300
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 21
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 159.9 miles / 300 laps
TV: ABC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / PRN
2008 Winner: Clint Bowyer
2008 Pole: (Set By Rule)

Event Schedule: Friday-Practice 1:40-3:15 p.m.; Final Practice 4:45-5:45 p.m.; Saturday-Qualifying 9:40 a.m.

Top 10  Driver Standings

   Driver                     Points
1 Carl Edwards             515
2 Brian Vickers             467
3 Greg Biffle                 416
4 Brendan Gaughan      407
5 Kyle Busch               406
6 David Ragan              387
7 Kevin Harvick             386
8 Jason Leffler              354
9 Jason Keller              343
10 Michael McDowell    326

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