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NASCAR Nationwide California Preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, October 08, 2009

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Kyle Busch won the spring Nationwide race at Fontana
The NASCAR Nationwide Series teams are visiting the country's "left coast" this weekend at the beautiful Auto Club Speedway in Fontana-California. Race number 30, of 35, for the series is the Copart 300 and is set for the green flag on Saturday afternoon .

PRE RACE STORY BREAKDOWN

All eyes will be on driver Kyle Busch. Then, again, when it comes to the 2009 Nationwide Series season, we've all been watching Kyle Busch all throughout the year. Going into Saturday's Copart 300, Busch has a commanding lead of 245 points over Carl Edwards and is looking good towards bringing a Nationwide Series championship to Joe Gibbs Racing. The driver's phenomenal year in the series includes six wins, 21 top five finishes and 25 top ten finishes. Last week, at the Kansas race, he established a new all time series record for laps led in a single season at 2,226.

Busch hopes that the Copart 300 will help him launch a run at a few more series records during the final six events of 2009. Chief among them is the most wins in a single season. The original record, 10 wins, was set by NASCAR icon Sam Ard back in 1983. Busch tied Ard's record last year with ten of his own wins. Busch admits that winning five or the last six events to break the record is a tall order and that effort might have to wait until next year.

But he does have a good shot of breaking the Nationwide Series record for most top five finishes in a single season. He's only four top fives from the record 25 set in 2000 during Jeff Green's series championship year.

He also recently tied another Nationwide Series record also set by Sam Ard back in 1983 but be guaranteed that Busch is not too thrilled about this one. His finish at last weekend's race at Kansas marked his tenth second place finish in a single season. Everyone knows that NASCAR's "rowdy one" has no use for anything other than a first place finish.

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Every position in a national points series is certainly important but you wouldn't think there would be so much interest in who finishes fifth in the final Nationwide Series' 2009 points standings. NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will have a combined awards banquet to be held in Miami after the season ends in November. Only the top five in each series will be allowed on the stage during the nationally televised ceremony. That's several minutes of free national TV time to thank your sponsors who supported your team during 2009. It's also an opportunity to perhaps entice new sponsorship for 2010. How important is this? It's huge.

Over the past few weeks that fifth position has been traded back and forth between two series young guns. Justin Allgaier, the 23 year old driver of the #12 Verizon Wireless/Penske Racing Dodge, currently sits in fifth. But he only has a 13 point advantage over 22 year old Steve Wallace the driver of the #66 U.S. Fidelis/Rusty Wallace Racing Chevrolet. Look for this battle to rage on until the final race of the season.

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But it's not the only major battle going on between two teams owned by Roger Penske and Rusty Wallace in the Nationwide Series. Both organizations are in a down to the wire run for the series' prestigious Raybestos Rookie Of The Year title. Allgaier is leading those standings with 223 points. But Wallace's second team driver, Brendan Gaughan, is only 22 points behind him in a race that's too close to call. Saturday's Copart 300, at the Auto Club Speedway, could impact this battle as well.

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Also still too close to call is the Nationwide Series' Manufacturer's Points Championship. Toyota has a slight edge going into Saturday's race because their teams have won the last three series races at the Auto Club Speedway. However, Ford has the most overall Auto Club wins with seven while Chevrolet has five.

Going into Saturday's Copart 300 Toyota leads the standings with 196 points followed by Chevrolet-182, Ford-170 and Dodge-90.

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The NASCAR weekend at the Auto Club Speedway is a major homecoming opportunity for Riverside-California's David Gilliland. However the driver may not have a lot of time to visit family and friends this weekend because he will be doing triple driving duty.

Gilliland will start his California racing weekend by driving the James Finch owned #1 Nationwide Series Chevrolet in Saturday afternoon's Copart 300. Immediately afterwards he will make a short drive down the freeway to San Bernardino where he will drive a late model stock car in twin main events at the Orange Show Speedway, an ASA sanctioned quarter mile paved oval. Then Gilliland returns to the Auto Club Speedway to his regular NASCAR Sprint Cup duties behind the wheel of the #71 TRG Chevrolet in Sunday's Pepsi 500.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Copart 300 will be comprised of 150 laps around the Auto Club Speedway's mammoth two mile, D shaped oval.

The race has 49 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 19 of those entries are on the "go or go home" list meaning they must earn a starting berth based on qualifying speed because they are outside of NASCAR's top 30 in owner's points. 13 of the entries are full time NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who will be doing double duty during the Auto Club Speedway weekend.

The defending race champion is Kyle Busch who won the 2008 event from the pole position. Busch also won the Nationwide Series race at the Auto Club Speedway this past February after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race there on the very same day.

The total purse for Saturday's Copart 300 is $1,623,337.

The Copart 300 will be aired live on ESPN2 beginning with the countdown show at 4pm eastern time. ESPN 2 will re air the event on Sunday morning, 2am eastern.

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