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Nationwide Series: Danica is Back!

by Dave Grayson
Friday, June 25, 2010

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Danica Patrick with her game face on
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be taking on the flat track challenge of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Saturday's New England 200. A long standing winner's is at stake in this race and, oh yeah, Danica is going to be there.

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THE STORY BREAKDOWN

The Nationwide Series has a very unique record at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The series has raced there 23 times and has sent 23 different winners to victory lane. That a record that stands tall in all three of NASCAR's national touring series.

However you have to wonder if that streak may be in jeopardy this Saturday. Six of the previous 23 race winners are in the field. At least three of those six drivers have a better than great chance of becoming the first multiple winner at New Hampshire. The six drivers are: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kenny Wallace, Jason Leffler and Joe Nemechek.

Kyle Busch returns to the Joe Gibbs Racing #18 Toyota, and the Nationwide Series, for the first time in three weeks. That's due to the fact the series ran stand alone events and the schedules for those races didn't match his Sprint Cup commitments. Busch, with a series high five wins this year, is the defending race champion and Joe Gibbs Racing has sent their cars to victory lane for the past two consecutive years. Busch will also be aiming at another Nationwide Series record. Mark Martin holds the series record for most laps led at 8,092. Busch needs to lead 91 laps to break that record.

Like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick also elected not to run both the full NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup schedules. However, Harvick is having a very good Nationwide Series season. He still remains sixth in the championship points based on two wins, seven top five finishes and 11 top tens. He will be a serious candidate to become that first multiple winner at New Hampshire this Saturday.

On the other hand, Carl Edwards is running for the championship in both series. He will be bringing a ton of momentum with him following last weekend's impressive Nationwide Series win at Road America. Edwards is second in the points standings based on one win, eight top five finishes and 12 top tens. He will be looking for a way to eradicate some of that 237 points deficit between himself and leader Brad Keselowski this Saturday.

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She's B-A-C-K! Danica Patrick returns to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this Saturday and let the hype begin. There will be the usual crowd of media surrounding every move she makes outside of her race car. If fact, you would have to check out the video of actress Lindsay Lohan's last court appearance in Los Angeles to find hype of this intensity.

The driver of the #7 Go Daddy Dot Com/ J R Motorsports Chevrolet has made three series starts this year at Daytona, Auto Club Speedway in California and Las Vegas. Those efforts have netted respective finishes of 35th, 31st and 36th. We're already hearing a lot this week about those numbers and many seem to be reading way too much into them.

Patrick will be the first to tell you that her presence in Saturday's New Hampshire race is about seat time and working on her personal learning curve. She's also gone on record as saying that a realistic goal would be a top twenty, or possibly even a top fifteen, finish. The team recently tested at the Milwaukee Mile, a track that has characteristics similar to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. There are also plans for her team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr, to take Patrick around the New Hampshire track in a rental car to show her where the speedway's braking and acceleration zones are located.

All of this seems to be proof that Patrick's transition to NASCAR is being handled with a great deal of intelligence and patience. Yet observers and critics seem to be looking for some sort of instant delivery from Patrick. For those of you want instant delivery, you probably need to call your local pizza restaurant.

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Danica Patrick will have a new J R Motorsports team mate in Saturday's race. NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Elliot Sadler will be racing the team's flagship car, the #88 Chevrolet. This is first of ten races that will have Sadler in the car.

Another interesting seat change in Saturday's race involves young Austin Dillon. The grandson of team owner Richard Childress will be driving Childress Racing's #21 Chevrolet. The effort will be supported with sponsorship from Bass Pro Shops who also sponsors Dillon's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride also fielded by Childress.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The New England 200 is 200 laps/211.6 miles around the New Hampshire Motor Speedway's 1.058 mile oval.

The race has 43 entries which means all entries will have a starting berth in the 43 car field.

Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.

Brad Keselowski is the current leader in the series' championship standings. He holds a 237 point lead over Carl Edwards in second.

Chevrolet leads the manufacturer's win list with eight.

Toyota leads the manufacturer's standings. This contest features a very tight battle for second with Dodge holding a one point advantage over Chevrolet.

The New England 200 will be broadcast live by the ESPN Network with the pre race show beginning at 230 pm eastern time.

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