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NASCAR Nationwide series' Iowa preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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The NASCAR Nationwide Series will journey to the state of Iowa for a stand alone event that could very well turn out to be a viewer's choice when it comes to televised racing this weekend. Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250, presented by John Deere and Northland Oil, is already being touted as an event that is expected to be loaded with excitement on this beautiful seven-eighths of a mile speedway located in Newton-Iowa. The speedway is still relatively new but its brief history has already created a reputation for outstanding racing.

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THE STORY BREAKDOWN

The NASCAR Nationwide Series weekly story line began this past Tuesday when it was announced that there would be penalties against J R Motorsports, the Nationwide Series team co owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr, that stemmed from the series event at O'Reilly Raceway Park held the previous weekend.

NASCAR tech officials determined that the team's #88 Chevrolet was using an unapproved left front shock. Crew chief Tony Eury Jr was fined $10,000. Dale Earnhardt Jr was docked 25 championship owner's points and driver Aric Almirola was docked 25 championship driver's points.

J R Motorsports development driver Steve Arpin will be driving the #88 Chevrolet at the Iowa race with Real Tree Outfitters as the primary sponsor.

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On the subject of young drivers in the Nationwide Series, 19 year old Trevor Bayne has been generating a lot of well deserved attention lately. The driver of the #99 Aarons Dream Machine for Diamond-Waltrip Racing has won the Coors Pole award for the past two consecutive races and has backed that up with strong finishes that has him ninth in the points standings. On the track Bayne seems poised, drives with a great deal of maturity and doesn't seem to be hesitant to mix it up with the series' veterans.

There's apparently a very good reason why Bayne's career is enjoying the new found notoriety. We learned last weekend that Diamond-Waltrip Racing recently hired Johnny Benson as Bayne's driving coach. Benson brings an impressive resume to the team. He's won championships in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. The plan calls for Benson to be present at the majority of the remaining Nationwide Series races to guide his young protégé.

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Going into Saturday's Nationwide Series race Brad Keselowski is on top of the championship points standings with a healthy 205 point lead over Carl Edwards. But it's the series' battle for the owner's championship that's really heating up. Jodi Geschickter, the owner of record of Keselowski's #22 Penske Racing Dodge, leads those standings with 3,189 points. But it's only a single point lead over team owner Joe Gibbs and his #18 Toyota.


That leads to one of the more interesting story lines from the Iowa race concerning the frequent flyer miles that the so called double duty drivers will be accumulating this weekend. With the Nationwide Series racing in Newton-Iowa and the Sprint Cup Series racing across the country in Pocono-Pennsylvania, the individuals in charge of team logistics are going to have to be really sharp in order to get their drivers back and forth across the country on a very tight time schedule.

It was expected that drivers Brad Keselowski, the current series points leader, Carl Edwards, second in points, and Paul Menard, fifth in the standings, would all be making the long trek across the country. This trio of Sprint Cup drivers are also racing the full schedule in the Nationwide Series.

Kyle Busch, who has eight series wins this year, was clearly tabbed to crisscross the country this weekend in an effort to take over the lead in the owner's points standings. Other Sprint Cup drivers also doing the long distance double duty includes Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Reed Sorenson and Joe Nemechek.

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The Iowa NASCAR weekend will also offer its fans two opportunities to have some fun and support a very worthwhile cause. The fun starts Thursday night when Rusty and Kenny Wallace will host "Rusty's Roast Of Richard Childress, presented by Musco Lighting." The evening spotlights Richard Childress' NASCAR career and accomplishments. You can bet that with Kenny Wallace behind the microphone Childress will also be the focus of some good natured ribbing. Other dignitaries signed up to participate in the roast includes NASCAR President Mike Helton, Childress Racing driver Clint Bowyer, former Childress Racing crew member turned Sirius NASCAR Radio personality Chocolate Myers and Conrad Clement the CEO of Featherlite Trailers.

Proceeds from the roast will go to the NASCAR Foundation. Created by NASCAR in 2006, the foundation raises money, and promotes volunteerism, to support non profit charities and causes in the United States to help children lead happier, healthier lives.

Yet another Iowa Speedway event benefiting the NASCAR Foundation is Saturday's "Rusty's Walk" presented by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Fans are invited to join Rusty Wallace for a one lap walk around the speedway. It will be a very informative affair because it was the firm of Rusty Wallace and Associates who designed the Iowa Speedway. NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers who will be joining the fans for the walk include Steve Arpin, Brian Scott, Steve Wallace and Josh Wise.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250, presented by John Deere and Northland Oil, is 250 laps, 218.75 miles, around the Iowa Speedway's seven-eighths of a mile oval.

The race has 47 entries vying for the 43 starting berths.

16 of the race entries are on the go or go home list. These teams do not have a guaranteed starting berth in the race because they are currently outside of the top 30 in owner's points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to get into the race.

The Iowa Speedway has full time seating for 25,000 fans. However, they do have temporary stands which are brought in for special events which raises the seating to a little over 55,000. To get an idea of the popularity of this race, Iowa Speedway officials, back on July 21st, issued a press release announcing that all but 2,000 of the seats had been sold and it was expected that the remaining seats would not be available much longer.

The U.S. Cellular 250, presented by John Deere and Northland Oil, will be broadcast live by the ESPN2 network beginning at 7pm eastern time.

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