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NASCAR Chicagoland Nationwide Preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, July 08, 2010

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Last year Joey Logano won the Nationwide race
It will be Friday night lights time for the NASCAR Nationwide Series when they take on the challenge of the Chicagoland Speedway's 1.5 mile oval for the running of the Dollar General 300, powered by Coca Cola. There are multiple story lines worthy of examination connected to this event. But the pertinent ones actually do not involve this weekend. They are about what may be coming in the future for the series.

THE STORY LINE

It was apparent late last week that NASCAR officials have been having meetings and discussing some possible changes for the series. One of them seems to involve schedules. There's currently a feasibility study being conducted looking into the possibility of both the Nationwide Series, as well as the Camping World Truck Series, running some weeknight events by the 2012 season.

In a press conference, held last Friday, by NASCAR Chairman Brian France, there were also some indications that NASCAR may be considering limiting the number of Sprint Cup drivers and team's participation in series events.

The initial intent of the Nationwide Series was to be a buffer zone to development the future talent of NASCAR. It was the next level for drivers who raced late model stock cars at NASCAR sanctioned Saturday night tracks. The Nationwide Series remains the perfect tier on the NASCAR ladder that allows young talented drivers to prepare themselves for the time when a Sprint Cup opportunity becomes available. The Nationwide Series is also a powerful buffer and learning curve for new team owners and crew members as well.

But over the past two decades there has been an increased number of Sprint Cup drivers and team owner participating in Nationwide Series events. This was especially true when the two series were racing at the same tracks on the same weekends. There has been times when observers openly referred to the Nationwide Series as "Cup Light." A case in point is this weekend at the Chicagoland Speedway. There are 12 full time Sprint Cup drivers entered in Friday night's Nationwide Series race.

During his press conference last Friday, Brian France addressed the issue of a possible limit of Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series and said "it's a barrier for entry for new owners and new drivers. You're likely to see us make some changes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series as a result of that phenomenon because there's such a concentration of Cup drivers which we like on hand, but we want to make sure that the division is our version of college football; that there's drivers, owners, crew members all building their identity and careers through that channel, and there needs to be a big enough place for them to do that."

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The Chicagoland Speedway race will mark the official halfway point of the Nationwide Series' 2010 schedule. The numbers compiled by NASCAR so far has clearly indicated a high level of competition.

At the halfway point the series has sent nine different winners to victory lane.

Seven different drivers has won the Coors Light Pole award on qualifying day.

43 drivers has led at least one lap during the first 17 races of the year.

42 drivers have at least one top ten finish during the first half of the year.

The average margin of victory calculates to .874 seconds.

11 of the 17 races has a margin of victory of under one second.

There has been an average of 7 leaders per race.

There has been an average of 12 lead changes per race.

The first half of the season has seen an average of 17 green flag passes for the lead in each race.

There has also been 1,762 green flag passes in the first 17 events.

46 percent of the cars has finished on the lead lap with 76 percent of them still running at the finish.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Dollar General 300, powered by Coca Cola, will be 200 laps/300 miles around the Chicagoland Speedway's 1.5 mile oval.

The race has 49 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. 17 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not guaranteed a starting berth because they are outside the top 30 in series' owner's points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to earn a berth in the race.

The defending race champion is Joey Logano, in the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who led 96 of the 200 laps last year. Logano is entered in Friday night's race with Game Stop's "Harry Potter" video game as the primary sponsor.

Chevrolet leads the manufacturer's win list with four trips to victory lane.

Brad Keselowski currently leads the Nationwide Series championship standings with a very comfortable 277 point cushion over Carl Edwards.

Kyle Busch, #18 Joe Gibbs Toyota, leads the series with six wins and is fourth in points despite not running the full time schedule.

Danica Patrick will be making her latest NASCAR appearance at the Chicagoland Speedway Friday night. It will be home turf for the driver. She's a native of Roscoe-Illinois just 100 miles from the track.

Her team mate will be Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray who will once again drive the #88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

Kevin Harvick will be doing double duty Friday night in his self owned #33 Chevrolet. Harvick is a two time Nationwide Series winner at Chicagoland.

Other notable Sprint Cup drivers doing double duty include Ryan Newman, in the #1 James Finch Chevrolet, and David Reutimann, in the Braun Racing #10 Toyota.

One of the more interesting driver assignments in the race is ageless veteran, and former series champion, Morgan Shepherd behind the wheel of the #21 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

The Dollar General 300, powered by Coca Cola, will be aired live by ESPN Friday night beginning at 730 pm eastern time.

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