Keselowski Overtakes Edwards For Standings Lead
Brad Keselowski (#22 Discount Tire Dodge) has raced in each of NASCAR’s national series. He’s got wins in two — the NASCAR Nationwide Series (six) and in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (one) — and nearly had one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2007 until a spin with 10 laps to go at Memphis Motorsports Park cost him his lead.
Although he’s got national-series wins, he’s never led the driver standings.
Following his third-place finish last Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway — his fifth consecutive top-five result — Keselowski claimed the series standings lead by four points over Carl Edwards (#60 FASTENAL Ford).
As if a four-point lead wasn’t precarious enough, the top five drivers in the top 10 are separated by only
51 points. That’s the closest margin among the top five after six races since 1999 when just 28 points separated leader Jeff Burton from fifth-place Elton Sawyer.
Keselowski has climbed from 12th place since the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, where he finished 13th. He’s led at least one lap in each of the season’s first six races, including a high of 72 at Bristol Motor Speedway where he was runner-up to Penkse Racing teammate Justin Allgaier (#12 Verizon Wireless Dodge). His average finish is 4.3 and his Driver Rating average is 116.0.
He’s also brought Dodge to the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings for only the third time. Dodge entered the series in 2002; Jamie McMurray (now driving the #88 Hellmann’s Chevy for JR Motorsports) secured its first lead for two weeks in 2003 and Reed Sorenson (currently driving the #32 Dollar General Toyota for Braun Racing) was the leader as a Raybestos Rookie for two weeks in 2005.
Busch Can Equal Consecutive Race Mark
Through 179 races in his NASCAR Nationwide Series career, reigning series champion Kyle Busch(#18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) has some pretty heady stats. Tops among them: He’s third on the all-time win list with 32. Mark Martin is the leader with 48 while two -time series champion Kevin Harvick (#33 Rheem Tankless Chevy) is second with 36. Busch tied Sam Ard’s series mark for most wins in a season (10) in 2008. He’s tied for third all-time with Matt Kenseth for consecutive seasons with a victory at seven — the series record is nine.
Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Busch could, in true Texas lexicon, notch another record mark on his belt with a victory.
The defending winner — and winner of last week’s race at Phoenix — has won four straight at the 1.5 mile track. A fifth consecutive victory would equal the record held by Jack Ingram and Dale Earnhardt for consecutive wins at the same track. Ingram, the series’ first two-time champion, won five in a row at South Boston Speedway from 1985-86. Earnhardt, winner of the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race in 1982 at Daytona International Speedway, won again in 1986 then won five straight from 1990-94.
The last driver to win a NASCAR Nationwide race at Texas not named Busch is Harvick, who had his own consecutive winning streak in the fall races there from 2005-06 before Busch stepped up.
Busch’s win last year was the first at Texas in 13 races from the Coors Light pole. Only three starting positions at TMS have had multiple winners — second (two), fourth (three) and seventh (three). Otherwise, race winners have come from various starting positions on the grid, as far back as 31st.
And for good measure, it was Busch who powered from the back of the field to claim the win in this race in 2008 — the first of his current winning streak.
Busch The Master Of Perfect Games At Texas
In the 181 NASCAR Nationwide Series races during the “Loop Data Era” (2005-present), only 16 races have been won with a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0.
Eight of those – including the last seven –have been scored by Kyle Busch. Only one other driver has multiple 150s – Carl Edwards at Kentucky in 2005 and Dover in June of 2007.
Four consecutive wins at Texas speaks to Busch’s dominance at the track. But here’s one stat that illustrates it completely: His last three wins there were statistically perfect.
In each of his last three Texas races, Busch has scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0.
Here’s a statistical rundown of each:
►11/1/08 – In his second consecutive Texas win, Busch had an Average Running Position of 1.3, 70 Fastest Laps Run and 174 Laps Led. And then there’s this: He was passed zero times under green flag conditions.
►4/4/09 – Busch was even better this race. He had an Average Running Position of 1.1, 75 Fastest Laps Run and 178 Laps Led. He was passed under green just three times.
►11/7/09 – With an Average Running Position of 1.3, Busch had 96 Fastest Laps Run and 179 Laps Led.
More perfection is not out of the question.
Judging from the first six races of the season, it seems on the horizon.
Through the first six races, Busch has series-best numbers in Driver Rating (121.4), Average Running Position (4.6) and Fastest Laps Run (172). He’s second in Laps Led (252) and third in Laps in the Top 15 percentage (95.7%).
Though a fifth consecutive win at Texas for Busch may seem inevitable, nothing in the series ever is. Standings leader Brad Keselowski has momentum, Kevin Harvick boasts the second-best Driver Rating at 115.9 and then there’s Paul Menard (#98 Menards Ford).
Menard comes off his third top-10 finish of the season, and his most statistically stout race of 2010. At Phoenix, he had a Driver Rating of 100.9 and an Average Running Position of 7.3 while running all 200 laps inside the top 15.
He also has past success at Texas. With three top 10s in the last four races, Menard has a Driver Rating of 91.2 and an Average Running Position of 13.9.
In this race last season, a fifth-place run, Menard had a Driver Rating of 100.1.
Trio Of Drivers Two-Step Home To Texas
Colin Braun (#6 Con-Way Ford), James Buescher (#1 Phoenix Racing Chevy) and Robert Richardson Jr. (#23 R3 Motorsports Chevy) are Texas natives from Ovalo, Plano and McKinney, respectively.Buescher — second to Brian Scott (#11 Braun Racing Toyota) by one point in the Raybestos Rookie standings — and Richardson previously have raced at TMS in NNS competition.
Both are locked in the top 30 in the owner standings and are guaranteed to race. Buescher finished 11th in his TMS track debut last fall. Braun, who was chosen by the media to capture Raybestos Rookie honors, is fourth in the standings for that award. He’ll be making his series track debut and must make the race on time. He’s had a tough start to 2010 with four DNF’s in his first six races. However in four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at TMS, he’s registered three top fives.
On Thursday, Braun will join fellow Texas native and 1991 NASCAR Nationwide champion Bobby Labonte, Texas governor Rick Perry and Ft. Worth mayor Mike Moncrief in downtown Ft. Worth to celebrate the race season in Texas. Braun and Labonte will drive the dignitaries down Main Street in two “Molly the Trolleys” to a stage where the group will be presented with state proclamations from Gov. Perry.
Richardson is a former star quarterback at McKinney High School who went on to play at SMU for a year before starting his racing career in earnest. He’s got five series starts at Texas with a best finish of 24th at this race last year.
His car number is in memory of his MHS coach, Billy Whitman, who wore #23 as a player.
“I'm loving racing and working with our team to make things better,” Richardson said. “Just like football, you have to take your lumps to make yourself better. Racing is no different.”
Richardson and Buescher also are helping Texas charities raise awareness this week.
Buescher will ask his fellow drivers to autograph a helmet for an auction for the Alzheimer’s Women’s Association for Resources and Education.
His mother, Deborah Packer, is part of the association. Their family lost a relative to Alzheimer’s. Richardson’s R3 Motorsports team donated its decklid to the Limbs for Life foundation, which provides prosthetic care and brings to light the challenges amputees face on a daily basis.
Lagasse Jr. Newest Member Of Revolving Top-10 Club
Over the last three years, three different drivers have occupied the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings lead after six races.
Kind of status quo.
But at the other end of the rankings, 10th place has been a merry-go-round, especially this year.
Through the first six races of 2010, six different drivers have resided in 10th, the last stop in the prestigious top 10.
Scott Lagasse Jr. (#43 Baker Curb Racing Ford) is the latest to occupy the 10th place position. He moved past Michael Annett (#15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota) after matching his career-best finish of eighth last week at Phoenix.
Lagasse’s Baker Curb Racing organization is one of four teams to have two drivers ranked in the top 10 this week. His teammate, 2002 series champion Greg Biffle (#27 Red Man Moist Snuff Ford) is eighth. Others are Penske Racing, with Brad Keselowski (first) and Justin Allgaier (fifth); Joe Gibbs Racing, with Kyle Busch (third) and Joey Logano (#20 GameStop Toyota), seventh and Roush Fenway Racing with Carl Edwards (second) and Paul Menard (sixth).
Now, Lagasse’s got his sights set on Mike Wallace (#01 J-D Motorsports Chevy), who’s one point in front of Lagasse in ninth.
And the way the standings have already displayed a topsy-turvy direction this year, the movement is far from over.
Heading to Texas, 76 points separates Wallace in eighth from Trevor Bayne (#99 Diamond-Waltrip Racing Toyota), who’s 17th.
NNS Etc.: Texas Edition
► RFR, JRM Bring Changes To Texas
Two teams will bring different key personnel to Texas this weekend.
JR Motorsports announced on Tuesday that Kelly Bires has been released from his contractual driving duties with the team and this year’s Daytona 500 winner, Jamie McMurray, will replace Bires at Texas. McMurray also will drive in eight other NASCAR Nationwide Series races this year. No driver has been determined beyond McMurray’s nine-race schedule.
McMurray spent two full seasons (2001-02) in NNS and has seven wins. His most recent race was 2008 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Not a good day,” Bires tweeted following his release. “Will continue working hard. I know I belong and will be successful in this sport. JRM gave me an opportunity, it just didn't work out.”
At Roush Fenway Racing, Mike Kelley has returned to a crew chief role, but with a different team. Kelley began the season with Carl Edwards, but moved to the director of competition for the organization after the race at Auto Club Speedway. He’s now back with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the #6 Ford, replacing Ben Leslie, who moves into Kelley’s former position.
► Shepherd’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Top-10 Streak Safe — For Now
Following Greg Biffle’s 22nd-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, Morgan Shepherd’s (#89 Dealtaker.com Chevy) record of 11 consecutive top 10s to start the season is safe for at least another year. Now in his third straight full-time season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Shepherd established the mark in 1990. Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson took a charge at the record in 2005, but his streak ended at seven consecutive top 10s to begin the year. Biffle’s attempt ended at six straight.
Raybestos Rookie Standings
Driver Team Points
1. Brian Scott Braun 61
2. James Buescher Phoenix 60
3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. RFR 57
4. Colin Braun RFR 55
5. Parker Kligerman SPR 16
Following April 9 race at Phoenix.
Chevy is the leader in the Manufacturers’ standings and in wins at Texas (seven), but Toyota may have the advantage this weekend.
Toyota has won the last four races at Texas, and also comes off a win at Phoenix.
Dodge (2006) and Ford (2007) have recent wins in this race. Chevy won the fall 2007 event.
► The “Other” Keselowski In The Mix
Brian Keselowski (#26 Stubb’s BBQ Dodge) moved his K-Automotive team into 30th in the owner points this week, guaranteeing a starting spot at Texas. After the fifth race of the season at Nashville Superspeedway, he was out of the 2009 top-30 qualifiers and was forced to make the race at Phoenix on time.
► Up Next: Talladega Superspeedway
The NASCAR Nationwide Series makes its lone visit of the year to Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, April 24. ESPN2 will carry the Aaron’s 312 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
David Ragan collected his first NASCAR national series win last year at Talladega in one of the season’s most exciting races. Ryan Newman captured the pole.
Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, April 17
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps
TV: ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
2009 Winner: Kyle Busch
2009 Polesitter: Kyle Busch
Schedule prior to race day (times CT): Thursday, April 15–Practice, 6-7 p.m.; Friday, April 16–Final Practice, 9:30- 10:50 a.m.; Qualifying, 1:45 p.m.
Tire: Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials
Number of Tires: Nationwide: Left-side -- 575, Right-side -- 575
Tire Codes: Left-side -- D-4392; Right-side -- D-4398
Tire Circumference: Left-side -- 87.1 in.; Right-side -- 88.2 in.
Technical Inspection Inflation:
Left Front -- 30 psi; Left Rear -- 30 psi; Right Front -- 50 psi; Right Rear -- 47 psi
Minimum Recommended Inflation:
Left Front -- 23 psi; Left Rear -- 21 psi; Right Front -- 49 psi; Right Rear -- 45 psi
Notes: Teams in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will run the same combination of left- and right-side tires at Texas this weekend . . . this is the first time teams have run either of these two tire codes . . . compared to the tire set-up NASCAR teams ran at Texas in 2009, this left-side tire features a new construction, mold shape and compound to offer more grip, while this right-side tire features a new construction that brings it in line with what has been run at Las Vegas and Charlotte and a new compound to improve wear . . . this tire combination came out of a Goodyear tire test at Texas this past January 19-20 . . . teams and drivers participating in that test were the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge with Kurt Busch, No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet with Tony Stewart, No. 16 Roush-Fenway Ford with Greg Biffle and No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota with Brian Vickers . . . as on all NASCAR ovals greater than one mile in length, teams are required to run inner liners in all four tire positions at Texas . . . air pressure in those inner liners should be 12-25 psi greater than that of the outer tire.