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NASCAR Kentucky Nationwide race preview

by Dave Grayson
Friday, June 12, 2009

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Once again NASCAR's Nationwide Series teams gets the opportunity to shine in another scheduled "stand alone" event. That means they are the featured racing class instead of being the support act for the Sprint Cup Series. It also means there will once again be a lack of Sprint Cup drivers and teams in attendance because they will be busy at their race in Michigan. This latest Nationwide Series quality moment is the Meijer 300, presented by Ritz, and will be held this Saturday at the Kentucky Speedway.

A VERY SURPRISING SUSPENSION

During Saturday's Nationwide Series coverage expect to hear a lot about the suspension of a crew chief over allegations concerning racing slurs. On Thursday morning NASCAR announced the indefinite suspension of Bryan Berry who is the crew chief for driver Brendan Gaughan and Rusty Wallace Racing.

NASCAR's official statement said that Berry was in violation of section 12-1 of their rule book which pertains to "actions detrimental to stock car racing." However team owner Rusty Wallace assessed the situation as being "an alleged racial incident" against Afro American driver Marc Davis. The incident was alleged to have occurred on the evening of June 6th when the NASCAR Nationwide Series was racing at the Nashville Super Speedway.

During the course of that race Gaughan was coming down on pit road when there was a collision with the Davis car. The 19 year old Davis was in the process of turning left through a gap in the pit wall that leads to the garage area. Gaughan was in the process of compiling a very good finish in the race before the collision happened. While both vehicles sustained heavy damage, Gaughan was able to return to the race. However, on his car radio , a still angry Gaughan was heard to say "don't let him leave until he sees me." It's believed that it was during the course of taking his car to the garage area for repairs when Berry allegedly made his remarks regarding Davis.

In the aftermath Ramsey Poston, NASCAR spokesman, said "it was an inappropriate comment that won't be tolerated. The reason for this penalty was his (Berry's) actions and what he said."

Last Thursday team owner Rusty Wallace, well known for his ability to be candid, said "Bryan looked me in the eye and told me that he didn't say it. But NASCAR told me that they had two witnesses, both sponsor representatives from the Davis team, who heard him. I don't know who to believe." Wallace also said that he told Berry "I hope to God that you didn't do what they said you did-I'd better not ever hear about that out of our team."
Commenting further about his talk with NASCAR officials Wallace said "they said their goal is to get Bryan back into NASCAR as soon as they can." He also noted part of the conditions for that return is the successful completion of sensitivity training.

In a very brief, but classy, prepared statement Davis said "NASCAR has clear and concise policies covering all racing conduct and procedures. Mr. Gaughan and his crew's action do not merit response."

THE DASH 4 CASH

This program is a four race track bonus payment incentive being provided by series sponsor Nationwide Insurance. A bonus of $25,000 goes to the race winner if the driver races the Nationwide Series only on a full time, part time or limited race schedule. The four races in the program are Nationwide Series stand alone events at the Nashville Super Speedway, the Kentucky Speedway, the Iowa Speedway and the Memphis Motorsports Park.

If a non qualifying driver wins one of these races then the bonus incentive is added to the next race. For example: Joey Logano won the race at Nashville but didn't collect the bonus due to his status as a full time Sprint Cup driver. That means the potential "Dash 4 Cash" bonus incentive will now be $50,000 for Saturday's race at the Kentucky Speedway.

A VERY WORTH WHILE CAUSE.

Actress-singer Hillary Duff is the Grand Marshall for Saturday's Nationwide Series race. She'll also be doing double duty by acting in her capacity as national spokesperson for the "Blessings In A Back Pack" Program. This program is an initiative designed to feed children in grades kindergarten through five who qualify for the federal free and reduced meal program but may not have enough food at their homes to sustain them for the weekends. The program currently feeds over 11,500 kids in seven states including Kentucky. Many of the NASCAR Nationwide Series teams have already pledged to donate back packs.

THE BREAKDOWN OF THE RACE.

The Meijer 300, presented by Ritz, requires 200 laps, around the Kentucky Speedway's mile and a half oval, to complete the 300 mile distance.
The race has 48 entries meaning five of the teams will be going home after qualifying. There are 18 entries on the "go or go home" list who must qualify on speed to make the race.

This race rarely has the usual large contingent of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver entries. The Sprint Cup teams are racing in Michigan on Sunday. The back and forth commute between the two states is massive due to the perspective practice, qualifying and race schedules.

However that doesn't mean that this race is completely "Cup light." Defending 2008 race winner Joey Logano is entered in the event. Last year's event was Logano’s first Nationwide Series win in only his third start. He also was the fastest qualifier for the race. That victory also made him the youngest winner in series' history.
Also entered in the race are Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards who are seeking the championship both in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series this year. Busch currently leads the Nationwide Series points standings. Edwards is second and 65 points behind him. Making the commute process even more interesting is the fact that Busch is also entered in Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in Michigan.

Because of the commute schedule between Michigan and Kentucky the full time Cup drivers are going to need some back up. Jeremy Clements, who was recently signed as a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, will be in Logano’s car for practice, and possibly qualifying, sessions. Brad Coleman, another Gibbs development driver, will be subbing for Kyle Busch. Carl Edwards will be getting back support from west coast driver Auggie Vidovich. If the Cup drivers can't get to Kentucky in time for qualifying then their substitutes will have to make the two lap timed run for them. That will mean the three teams will have to line up at the rear of the field prior to the race.

Because of the reduced number of Cup drivers in this race, the Kentucky Speedway has a tendency to reward first time winners. In the last three years David Gilliland, Stephen Leicht and Logano have won their first Nationwide Series race there. Over the past eight years this race has produced eight different pole and race winners.

Saturday's race can be seen live on ESPN2 beginning at 8pm eastern time.

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