Playing The Averages: Driver Title Within Reach For Keselowski
Brad Keselowski (#22 Discount Tire Dodge) never would be described as average.
Far from it.
But if he can morph into an “Average Joe” Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, chances are Keselowski will clinch the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship.
In order to reach that plateau – and also claim the first NASCAR national series championship for his legendary team owner, Roger Penske – Keselowski needs to finish the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge with a 390-point lead over the second-place driver in the standings, who happens to be his arch-rival, Carl Edwards (# Copart Ford). Keselowski currently leads Edwards, the 2007 series champion, by 485 points.
Simply said, Keselowski can clinch if he finishes 21st or better, 22nd and leads at least one lap, or 24th and leads the most laps.
And that’s where being average could be a beautiful thing.
In eight career NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Texas, Keselowski’s average finish is 14.0, well above his championship scenario targets. Edwards is better — barely. His average finish at TMS is 13.0. Solid, but not enough to deter Keselowski’s title march if the law of averages stays true.
Keselowski has been at his best at Texas over the last three races there, posting top-five finishes, including his track career-best third in 2009.
If Keselowski wins the driver title Saturday, he’ll add Penske’s first NASCAR national series title among the 22 national championships, more than 330 victories, nearly 400 poles and 15 Indianapolis 500 wins “The Captain” has already accumulated in his legendary motorsports career.
This race also is the fourth of four “Dash 4 Cash” events, an incentive program by series sponsor Nationwide Insurance where eligible full-time, part-time and limited-schedule series-only drivers along with fulltime double-duty drivers can pocket an extra $75,000 with a win. The bonus has rolled over in $25,000 increments to its current amount following wins by ineligible drivers Joey Logano (#20 GameStop Toyota) and Kyle Busch (#18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) at Kentucky Speedway and Iowa Speedway, respectively.
Busch Aims Six-Shooter At Texas
It’s hard to call a driver with five consecutive victories at one track a “spoiler.” But that’s exactly the role Kyle Busch hopes to take on at Texas, where he’ll make the 200th start of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career. He’ll become the 47th driver to make at least 200 series starts.
Busch, the 2009 series champion, isn’t defending his driver title. So his next best alternative: Upstage a possible early driver championship clinch by Brad Keselowski at Texas by winning a record-setting sixth straight series race there. And, he can build on the 71-point advantage the # 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team carries over the #22 Penske Racing team in the owner championship battle.
Busch has been downright dominant recently at Texas, where Saturday he’ll attempt to break the series record that he shares with Dale Earnhardt (five straight victories at Daytona International Speedway) and two-time series champion Jack Ingram (likewise at South Boston Speedway). Busch brings a sparkling 125.9 Driver Rating to TMS.
The #18 team — Busch has shared the ride with Houston native Brad Coleman, who handled the bulk of the stand-alone events this year — is attempting to forge a split in the driver and owner titles for the fourth time in series history. JGR also can tie a series mark with three consecutive owner championships.
Busch is the Nationwide Insurance “Driver of the Week,” and will participate in a web chat Thursday, Nov. 4 at 12:30 p.m. ET on NASCARNationwideSeries.com. He’ll also be featured on that site this week.
In A Rush: Fast Times Not Only On-Track For Bayne
For a 19-year-old kid, things are happening fast.
Just take a look at Trevor Bayne’s (#17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford) season so far.
It started terribly. He ran only six laps, got caught up in an accident and finished 41st in the season-opening race at Daytona.
Things got righted relatively quickly, though not exactly spectacularly. Bayne was sixth two races later, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but didn’t nab another top 10 in the next 11 races.
The next chapter might have been called “White Hot,” because that’s exactly what he became. In the next 14 races, Bayne would score nine top 10s. Included in that span were three consecutive top-five finishes at Gateway International Raceway, O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis and Iowa.
Things were rolling along. That is until mid-September when Bayne decided to move from Diamond-Waltrip Racing to Roush Fenway Racing.
At that point, he was one of the hottest drivers in the series; seventh in points and racking up top stats: a Driver Rating of 88.5, an Average Running Position of 13.8, a Laps In the Top 15 percentage of 71%, 95 Laps Led and 82 Fastest Laps Run.
Bayne made his first start in the #17 Ford at Kansas and finished 30th. Worse yet, his post-entry status earned him zero points. He dropped to ninth in the standings.
Since then, he’s been solid, with finishes of 11th at Auto Club Speedway, 17th Charlotte Motor Speedway and 11th in last month’s fall race at Gateway. The stretch has allowed Bayne to move back to seventh in the standings. Now, he’s in the fast lane again, preparing for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start (see below).
During his short time with Roush Fenway, Bayne has an average finish of 17.3, a Driver Rating of 82.3 and an Average Running Position of 15.0.
In two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Texas, Bayne has an average finish of 13.5 and a Driver Rating of 83.2.
Have A Cup: Bayne To Attempt NASCAR Sprint Cup Debut At Texas
It hasn’t been all that long since Trevor Bayne earned his high school degree. Now, he’s preparing to “graduate” again, this time to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
This weekend at Texas, Bayne will attempt to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut.
He’ll drive the famed #21 Ford for the Wood Brothers, and will be “taught” by one of the sport’s all-time greats, 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott.
After stepping away from driving fulltime in 2003, Elliott has competed on a part-time basis, almost exclusively for the Wood Brothers, since 2007.
The 2010 season has been a whirlwind for Bayne, who started the year driving fulltime in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Diamond-Waltrip Racing. He had an incredible summer, tying a series record with three consecutive poles and also moving into the top 10 in the standings.
In mid-September, he moved from Diamond-Waltrip to Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series organization, opening the door for his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut.
Along the way, Bayne’s “teachers” have been outstanding educators, to say the least.
In addition to Elliott, Bayne was tutored by 1995 NASCAR Nationwide Series and 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Benson over the summer while he was still with Diamond-Waltrip.
Another up-and-coming 19-year-old, Ryan Truex, the two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, has replaced Bayne at Diamond-Waltrip. However his older brother, two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Martin Truex Jr., will drive the team’s #99 Out! Pet Care Toyota at Texas.
Ryan Truex will finish the season in the #99 in the final two races at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
NNS Etc.: Texas Edition
►Back In Familiar Territory At TMS
Texas is home to some drivers and crew members in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the Lone Star State also serves as the headquarters for some series sponsors.
It’s appropriate that Robert Richardson Jr. (# 23 R3 Motorsports Chevy) returns home at this time of the year when football is in full swing.
Richardson was a star quarterback at McKinney High School and played one season at SMU, where he graduated with a degree in Studio Art. He makes his home in Denton.
His father and team owner, Robert Sr., owns North Texas Pipe, which will be the sponsor for Josh Wise in his attempt to qualify R3’s NASCAR Sprint Cup entry at Texas.
GameStop, the sponsor of Joey Logano’s #20 Toyota, is headquartered in Grapevine, just a few miles from the track. Foretravel Motorcoach, sponsor of Shelby Howard and the #70 Chevy, is based near Ft. Worth in Nacogdoches.
James Davis, the jackman/mechanic for Germain Racing’s #15 Pilot/Flying J Coffee Toyota driven by Michael Annett, is from Austin. Before landing his position with Germain, Davis served in the military and spent time overseas in Iraq.
►Close Enough To Home For Kennedy
Although he’s not from Texas, Alex Kennedy (#27 Baker Curb Racing Ford) is racing close to home. Kennedy, 18, is a native of New Mexico. He’ll also stay in the region to race next week at Phoenix.
Kennedy will carry a special scheme this weekend to help raise awareness for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which is dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers and promotion of their safety.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. features names of more than 18,000 officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The Memorial Fund also is working to create the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum.
For more information or to make a donation online, NASCAR fans can visit www.LawMemorial.org.
►Gaughan First To Set Texas Standard
Kyle Busch may be seeking a record sixth consecutive win a Texas, but he had to surpass Brendan Gaughan’s (#62 Snap-On Toyota) previous record of four straight wins there.
Gaughan, who became a first-time father on Oct. 30 when his wife Tatum, gave birth to Michael James Gaughan, won four consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at TMS from 2002-03.
And after nearly two full years in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Michael Annett figures he’s ready to apply lessons on Texas success from his Germain Racing teammate, Todd Bodine.
Bodine, currently leading the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver standings, has six truck victories at Texas. At this stage, that’s the NASCAR national series record for wins at the track .
“Having Todd as my teammate these past two years has really helped me out,” Annett said. “His wealth of knowledge makes him very easy and comfortable to work with. Being a one-car team in the Nationwide Series, it can be tough. “Even though Todd doesn’t run in our series (fulltime), he’s always there for me to bounce ideas off of and look to for advice,” said Annett. “As an organization, we’re continually showing our strength on 1.5-mile tracks.”
►Up Next: Phoenix
One final trip west remains on the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule.
The WYPALL* 200 powered by Kimberly-Clark Professional will be run on Saturday, Nov. 13 at Phoenix International Raceway.
ESPN2 will carry the broadcast beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
Carl Edwards won last year. Denny Hamlin captured the pole.
Kyle Busch is the driver to watch, however. He won in the spring and another victory would make him the all-time leader at PIR with four wins. He shares the mark at three with 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Greg Biffle and Edwards.
Raybestos Rookie Standings
Driver Team Points
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. RFR 209
Brian Scott RAB 204
Colin Braun RFR 179
James Buescher Braun/TM 124
Next Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, November 6
The Time: 12:55 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps
TV: ESPN2, 12:00 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
2009 Winner: Kyle Busch
2009 Polesitter: Matt Kenseth
Schedule prior to race day (times CT): Friday: Practice, 9-10:15 a.m.; Final Practice, 10:40–11:55 a.m.; Qualifying, 5:35 p.m.
Tire: Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials (Sprint Cup and Nationwide)
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 all three NASCAR series will run the same combination of left- and right-side tires at Texas this weekend, though the Sprint Cup and Nationwide tires will be branded "Goodyear Eagle," while the Camping World Truck tires will be branded "Goodyear Wrangler" . . . this is the same tire combination that teams in all three series ran at Texas earlier this season . . . in addition, this is the same tire set-up that these teams ran at Chicagoland in 2010 . . . Cup, Nationwide and Truck teams will also run this left-side tire code (D-4392) with a different right-side code at Homestead in two weeks . . . 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.