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NASCAR Nationwide O'Reilly Raceway Park preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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Kyle Busch
With all due respect to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, one of the hottest racing tickets this weekend might turn out to be Saturday' night's Nationwide Series race just down the highway at the O'Reilly Raceway Park.

The Nationwide Series teams will be treating their fans to some good old fashioned short track racing at its best Saturday night. The Kroger 200 is 200 laps, 137..2 miles, around ORP's bullring shaped 0.686 mile oval.

This race will be 43 cars running bumper to bumper and wheel to wheel.. They're going to bang into each others rear bumpers, they're going to leave donuts on the sides of each others cars and the driver's tempers are likely to get hotter than their water temperature gauge. This race has all the makings of a classic stock car slug fest.

THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Kroger 200 will be aired at 730 pm eastern time by the ESPN Network.

The race has 48 entries. 18 of those teams are on the "go or go home" list meaning they will have to qualify on speed to earn a starting berth in the race.

The defending race winner is Kyle Busch. He's also on top of the series points standings and lengthened his lead over Carl Edwards to 212 points following his win last Saturday at the Gateway International Raceway.

The red hot Kyle Busch has finished either first or second in the last seven Nationwide Series events. It appears that he may be lined up to make a move on the series' record, nine consecutive first or second finishes, held by former series champion Jack Ingram.

It also appears that Busch is trying to also make a move on the record for most wins in a Nationwide Series season. Busch shares that record with series icon Sam Ard with ten wins each. Ard first established the mark back in 1983. Busch tied the record last year. Busch already has six series wins in 2009.

The series' records for top five and top ten finishes in a single Nationwide Series season may also be up for grabs. Busch has accumulated 13 top fives in 19 starts this year. The record was set in 2000 by David Green who had 25 top fives in 32 starts.

The record for top ten finishes in a single season is held by Kevin Harvick who scored 32 of them, out of 35 races, back in 2006. So far in 2009 Busch has 16 top tens in 19 starts.

Still another interesting Nationwide Series record may be tied Saturday night. 67 year old ageless wonder Morgan Shepherd, who's in his 42nd consecutive season of driving in a NASCAR national series event, holds the ORP track record for most series wins at three. Shepherd won his three races in 1982, 1984 and 1988. Kyle Busch and Jason Keller, who has two ORP wins each, could tie Shepherd's record.

Speaking of Jason Keller, his #27 Mike Curb owned, Kroger sponsored, Ford will be displaying a very special paint scheme Saturday night. The car will have 34 hand prints and names of patients and their families from the Riley Hospital For Children.

The Kroger 200 has entries from four "Insurance Whackers" or full time Sprint Cup drivers and teams. However the tight schedule between the Sprint Cup activities at Indy and the Nationwide schedule at ORP will make it necessary for these four teams to employ the use of back up drivers for practice and possibly even qualifying.

Roush Fenway Racing's drivers will be in full force Saturday night both in primary and back up positions. Carl Edwards, who's running both series full time this year, will be doing double duty Saturday and will have NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Colin Braun covering the back up duties. Matt Kenseth, who will making his first ORP start in a decade, will be backed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Kyle Busch has enlisted the back up help of Johnny Sauter a regular driver from NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series. Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann will receive support services from development driver Brian Ickler.

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