Happy Homecoming? Reigning Series Champ Busch Hopes So
Since when is Kyle Busch (#18 Z-Line DesignsToyota) the underdog?
Looks like it’s nearly every time he comes to his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to compete in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
That he’s the reigning series champion, is now tied for third in all-time series victories (31) with Jack Ingram thanks to his win at Auto Club Speedway last week, and seems to be breaking series records every time he runs doesn’t seem to matter all that much when he hits the Strip.
Almost invincible everywhere else, Busch’s NASCAR Nationwide roll has come up snake eyes in Las Vegas.
Although he got the elusive home win in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition last year, he’s very un-Busch like in his NASCAR Nationwide Series events at the 1.5-mile track.
In six races at LVMS dating back to his rookie season of 2004, Busch has only one top five, a runner-up finish in 2007. That was one of the usual miniscule margin-of-victory finishes at Vegas; Busch and Jeff Burton were banging door-to-door down the frontstretch before Busch spun out and Burton took the checkered flag. The average MOV in the last four races at LVMS is .349 seconds.
Otherwise, Busch’s average finish at Las Vegas is shocking — 23.0. And in his last two Las Vegas races, he’s been forced out due to accidents, finishing 31st and 39th, respectively. His result there last year was his worst finish in 2009.
Vegas Last NASCAR Stop For Patrick Until June
Las Vegas is the second of two consecutive West Coast races for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
It’s also the last series race for Danica Patrick (#7 GoDaddy.com Chevy) before she turns her attention to her full-time ride with Andretti Autosport in the IZOD IndyCar Series, which opens its season March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
After Saturday’s race at Vegas, she’ll compete solely in IndyCar’s first eight races before pulling her own form of “double-duty.” She will return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the June 26 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
She’ll compete in both series thereafter, with 10 NASCAR Nationwide Series races and eight IndyCar events. There will be crossover for Patrick at two tracks during that span. She’ll compete in IndyCar and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Chicagoland Speedway (July 9 in NNS; Aug. 28 in IndyCar) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2 in IndyCar’s season finale; Nov. 20 in the final 2010 race for NNS).
Patrick has shown improvement since her first NASCAR national series race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13, where she finished 35th after getting caught in a 10-car accident on Lap 68. Last Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, Patrick improved to 31st, finishing the race three laps behind winner Kyle Busch.
Patrick’s JR Motorsports teammate, Kelly Bires, also is entered at Las Vegas in the #88
Rookie Repeat? Look For Strong Runs From Young Drivers At Vegas
Last year, the 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year class was touted as one of the strongest in series history.
At Las Vegas, they proved why.
Four rookies finished in the top 10 in that race, and should once again be threats for a solid run this weekend. Michael McDowell (#81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge) was sixth, Brendan Gaughan seventh, Justin Allgaier eighth and Scott Lagasse Jr. (#43 DRGmail.com) was ninth.
Though he had the third-best finish of the bunch, the statistically strongest member of that rookie class at Vegas was Allgaier. In the 2009 race, the eventual Raybestos Rookie of the Year scored a Driver Rating of 111.3, an Average Running Position of 6.0, 11 Fastest Laps Run and ran 207 of the 209 laps among the top 15.
McDowell had the best finish of the group, scoring a Driver Rating of 100.0, an Average Running Position of 8.6 and ran 197 Laps in the Top 15.
Gaughan just missed scoring a Driver Rating over 100. Instead he notched a Driver Rating of 97.8, an Average Running Position of 9.9 and ran 198 Laps in the top 15.
Lagasse had a Driver Rating of 90.4, an Average Running Position of 11.2 and ran 151 Laps in the Top 15.
The best bet for repeat success this weekend looks to be Allgaier, who sits fourth in the standings with some of the best statistics in the series. In the first two races, Allgaier has a Driver Rating of 91.7, an Average Running Position of 12.0, four Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 68.8%.
Allgaier’s patience might be his most impressive attribute, though. His average mid-race position is 21.0. His average finish – 6.5.
As for rookies in Saturday’s race, look no further than James Buescher (#1 Phoenix Racing Chevy), who has been impressive early. Currently eighth in the standings, Buescher has a Driver Rating of 85.7 and an Average Running Position of 14.2.
Gaughan Looking To Vegas For Jump-Start To 2010 Season
Two races into the 2010 season, Brendan Gaughan (#62 South Point Hotel and Casino Toyota) is looking for a little momentum.
Perhaps a return to his hometown – and his home track – will do the trick.
Gaughan, a Las Vegas native, is suffering a reversal of fortune from one year ago.
After two races in 2009, he was eighth in the driver standings and was leading the Raybestos Rookie rankings. He went on to finish ninth in the final points standings and was second in the rookie race to Justin Allgaier (#12 Verizon Wireless Dodge).
This year following the first two races, it’s quite the opposite. Gaughan finished 30th at Daytona after an accident ended his day on Lap 92. Last Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, he was a disappointing 24th.
LVMS has been good in the short term to Gaughan, who finished seventh in 2009 in his NASCAR Nationwide Series track debut. His result was the highest among four rookies who finished in the top 10.
Over the long term, however, the track hasn’t been all that kind to Gaughan. He does have a win there, from the pole in 2003 while driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
But in his other nine truck races, his average finish is 22.1.
Gaughan, 34, is in his second year with Rusty Wallace Racing and teammate Steve Wallace. He has a degree in business from Georgetown University (1997), where he played football and basketball for the Hoyas.
He began his racing career in 1991 running in the desert, and won three consecutive CORR Pro-2 championships from 1996-98.
His rise through NASCAR’s ladder system began with NASCAR K&N Pro West Series titles in 2000-01, which eventually propelled him into the NASCAR Camping World Trucks before a full-time ride in NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2004.
By The Numbers: Milestones For Mike, Steve Wallace Add To Racing Family’s Totals
Racing is a numbers game for the Wallace family, led by the five members who have competed in NASCAR’s national series.
Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, started 706 races (winning 55) in that series in addition to running in 42 NASCAR Nationwide Series events.
His brother, Kenny Wallace (#28 Federated Auto Parts Chevy), winner of nine NASCAR Nationwide races, will make his 456th series start Saturday at Las Vegas. Chrissy Wallace made her NASCAR Nationwide debut two weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway.
Also at Las Vegas, two more Wallaces move the beads on the family racing abacus.
Mike Wallace (#01 Chevy) will make his 350th NASCAR Nationwide start to supplement his four series victories. He was able to race with his daughter, Chrissy, a second time in national series competition at Daytona. The father-daughter duo also had done so last October at Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Steve Wallace (#66 5-Hour Energy Toyota) will prepare for his 125th series start.
It’s been a solid start to the 2010 season for Mike and Steve. Mike was 12th last week at Auto Club Speedway, his best result since placing ninth at Phoenix International Raceway in 2008.
Steve, meanwhile, has been tabbed by many as a dark horse candidate to challenge for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Rusty’s son comes to Vegas seventh in the standings, having registered two top-10 finishes in the first two races. That’s a career first for him.
Mike joins Kenny as one of just 13 drivers with more than 300 series starts, and he’s chasing his younger brother to join the elite 400-start club where only three drivers — Jason Keller (#35 Chevy) with 493; Kenny and Tommy Houston (417) reside.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series is the one national series in which each member of the Wallace family has at least one start.
Combined, the family has put up some heady numbers as far as their NASCAR national series starts (below):
Wallace NSCS NNS NCWTS Total
Rusty 706 42 1 749
Kenny 344 455 11 810
Mike 190 349 114 653
Steve 0 124 0 124
Chrissy 0 1 7 8
Totals 1,240 971 133 2,220
NNS Etc: Las Vegas Edition
Changes All Around For Standings Leader Edwards, #60 Team
Drew Blickensderfer didn’t stay out of the crew chief chair long.
After moving from the #17 NASCAR Sprint Cup team of Matt Kenseth following the Daytona 500, he’s come full circle, returning to Carl Edwards’ #60 COPART Ford in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The duo teamed for 19 NNS races in 2008, earning seven wins, two poles and a second-place series points finish while closing the season with nine consecutive top-five runs.
Mike Kelley, who had served as Edwards’ NNS crew chief, will assume the role of competition director for Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series effort.
Edwards is the current standings leader, which is an odd occurrence for the 2007 series champion.
Since his first full-time NNS season in 2005, Edwards has led the standings at least once in each odd-numbered year. He didn’t lead in 2006 or 2008, finishing second in the standings in each of those seasons.
He has yet to win at LVMS in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.
► Biffle A “10” For Baker Curb
Defending Sam’s Town 300 race winner and 2002 series champion Greg Biffle (#27 Red Man Moist Snuff Ford) registered the first-ever top-five finsih for Baker Curb Racing last Saturday at Auto Club Speedway with his eyelash-close second-place finish. The .051-second result was the 10th-closest margin of victory in series history.
For Biffle, it was his 10th runner-up finish for the Nashville-based team in 45 starts since 2005.
The team, formerly known as Brewco Motorsports, last secured a top-five finish in June 2007 when Jason Keller (now driving the #35 Tri-Star Motorsports Chevy) was fifth at Milwaukee.
► Leffler, Scott Kick Back Before Vegas
Jason Leffler (#38 Great Clips Toyota) will start his Las Vegas race weekend by competing in Thursday night’s USAC Midget race at the one-half mile Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Leffler’s NASCAR career was jump-started by his open-wheel success in the late 90s. He became the first driver in 37 years to win three consecutive USAC Midget National titles (1997-1999).
Leffler has unfinished business at LVMS. He was in second place, contending for the win last year before running out of fuel on the last lap, relegating him to a fourth-place finish.
Leffler’s Braun Racing teammate, Brian Scott (#11 StopRepairBills.com Toyota), had a similar run last week at Auto Club Speedway.
The rookie was running second midway through the race and was a constant in the top five before finishing 10th.
A native of Boise, Idaho, Scott used the time in between California and Las Vegas to visit the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s always great to come back and see the town I grew up in,” he said. “I like seeing how things have changed.
“We’re on the road so much that I don’t see my family very often, so I always enjoy any chance I can to catch up with them.”
► Vegas Cooking Class In Session
The annual Raybestos Rookie Cooking Challenge at the ESPN Zone Las Vegas is set for Thursday, Feb. 25, from 2-4 p.m. PT.
The event pits members of the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie class in a scaled down “Iron Chef” competition.
The drivers scheduled to participate — rookie standings leader James Buescher; Colin Braun (#16 Roush Fenway Ford); Brian Scott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (#6 Roush Fenway Ford) — will be instructed on basic cooking skills by the ESPN Zone culinary team before embarking on the competition. Kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas will be the judges.
The five rookies — including Parker Kligerman (#42 Smith Ironworks Dodge) will be making their series track debuts at LVMS.
Driver Team Points
1. James Buescher Phoenix 24
2. Brian Scott Braun 22
3. Colin Braun RFR 18
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. RFR 15
5. Parker Kligerman SPR 8
► Up Next: Open Week
The weekend of March 6-7 is the first of six open weeks for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
► Manufacturers’ Standings
Chevy — one of three manufacturers tied for the early Bill France Performance Cup lead — has the most wins at Las Vegas (seven).
Ford is the defending winner while Toyota has yet to post a series victory at LVMS.
The Race: Sam’s Town 300
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, Feb. 27
The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps
TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
2009 Winner: Greg Biffle
2009 Polesitter: Scott Speed
Event Schedule (all times PT):
Friday–Practice, 11-11:50 a.m.; Final Practice–1:40-3 p.m..;
Saturday – Qualifying, 9 a.m.
Nationwide Series -- Race No. 3 – Sam's Town 300
Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval) – Las Vegas, Nev.
Fast Facts for February 26-28, 2010
Tire: Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials
Number of Tires: Nationwide: Left-side -- 575, Right-side -- 575
Tire Codes: Left-side -- D-4316; Right-side -- D-4234
Tire Circumference: Left-side -- 87.4 in.; Right-side -- 88.3 in.
Technical Inspection Inflation:
Left Front -- 34 psi; Left Rear -- 34 psi;
Right Front -- 62 psi; Right Rear -- 58 psi
Minimum Recommended Inflation:
Left Front -- 30 psi; Left Rear -- 30 psi;
Right Front -- 58 psi; Right Rear -- 54 psi
Estimated Pit Window: Every 50-55 laps, based on fuel mileage (Sprint Cup).
Notes: Teams in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will run the same tire codes at Las Vegas this weekend . . . teams in these two series will be running the same right-side tire code (D-4234) they ran at this track in 2009, but it will be paired with a new left-side code (D-4316) . . . compared to last year's left-side tire, the 2010 version features a slight construction change based on what Goodyear learned at both the Las Vegas and Charlotte races in 2009 . . . the left-side compound remains unchanged from last year . . . Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams ran this right-side code at both Las Vegas andCharlotte last year, and will do so again this year . . . as on all NASCAR ovals greater than one mile in length, teams are required to run inner liners in all four tire positions at Las Vegas . . . air pressure in those inner liners should be 12-25 psi greater than that of the outer tire.