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NASCAR Phoenix Nationwide and Truck Series preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, November 11, 2010

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THE NATIONWIDE SERIES AT PHOENIX.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be a major part of the big racing weekend at the Phoenix International Raceway with Saturday's running of the Wypall 200. The series' championship is of course all ready resolved but there are some issues regarding the Owner's Championship and of course there is always the bragging rights that comes with saying you were number one in the valley of the sun.

THE STORY BREAKDOWN.

The hot garage topic from the Nationwide Series these days seems to be centered around NASCAR's anticipated decision and announcement regarding the status of Sprint Cup drivers entering the series' Saturday events.

For the past couple of years this particular topic has been somewhat of a double edged sword in every sense of the word. One of the arguments states that the influx of the Sprint Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide Series flies in the face of the series' original intent: a stepping stone and training ground for up and coming drivers. The proponents of that argument also points out that the Cup influx, and their on track successes, are taking the upper tier prize money away from the full time series team owners. Both points have a great deal of validity.

On the other end of this issue is an equally valid point of view from the track owners and promoters who will tell you that the presence of the Cup drivers in these races sells extra tickets. The television networks who broadcast the Nationwide Series also view their presence as a basic foundation for potential ratings. A prime example of this were the numbers from last Saturday's Texas race which was reported to be up from this time last year.

There's a very good possibility that NASCAR officials will be making an announcement, somewhere in the next two weeks, regarding their intent on this matter. The hot garage speculation seems to be leaning towards the Cup drivers being allowed to race in an unlimited number of Nationwide Series races but under the condition that they will not be eligible to win the series' championships. Under the proposed plan drivers who choose to race full time in both series, such as series champion Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards, will be required to declare which championship they wish to seek for 2011. Again, the operative words at this point in time are: "garage speculation."

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Nationwide Series fans already know that Brad Keselowski made early work of winning the 2010 series championship, for Roger Penske Racing, last Saturday in Texas. What remains undecided at this point in time is the series' Owner's Points Championship. Joe Gibbs Racing, thanks largely to the contribution from driver Kyle Busch, currently leads those standings and holds an 81 points advantage over Keselowski's team. If the Gibbs #18 team wins this title then it will mark the first time since 2008, and only the fourth time in series history, that the driver and owner championships were won by two separate teams.

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Regarding the pre race favorites to win Saturday's Nationwide Series events there are four standouts. The first one is Carl Edwards the defending race winner. Edwards has three wins at Phoenix, in 11 starts, and currently has an excellent average finish ratio of 6.5.

Of course you never overlook the win potential of Kyle Busch. He's won three of the last six series events at Phoenix. He currently has an average finish ratio of 9.6 in 10 Phoenix starts.

Also keep an eye on Kevin Harvick Saturday. He only has one series win in 16 starts at Phoenix but he hold the Nationwide track record for top five finishes at 12. He's also finished within the top five in the last six consecutive events there and has top fives in 10 of his last 11 starts.

Also on the favorites list for Saturday is newly crowned series champion Brad Keselowski. He's still looking for his first win at Phoenix but has a respectable 13.9 average finish ratio in ten starts. Keselowski has also ran up a streak of 100 consecutive races without a DNF, did not finish.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Wypall 200 is 200 laps/200 miles around the Phoenix International Raceway's one mile, basically flat, oval.

The race has 48 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 18 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning these teams are not guaranteed a starting berth because they are currently outside of the Nationwide Series top 30 in owner's points. These teams will have to earn a starting berth based on their qualifying speeds.

Two of the drivers on the go or go home list, Martin Truex Jr and Jeff Green, have guaranteed starting berths because they are entitled to past champion's provisionals.

Saturday's Wypall 200 will be broadcast live by the ESPN2 Network beginning with the pre race show at 430 pm eastern time.

TAIL GATE PARTY IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN

NASCAR's Camping Truck Series will be transporting their tailgate party to Arizona's valley of the sun at the Phoenix International Raceway. Friday night's running of the Lucas Oil 150 is expected to be a perfect format for these high energy racing trucks. That's because this speedway is a virtually flat one mile oval. That means PIR is considered to be a short track by modern day NASCAR standards and everyone, who follows this series, knows that NASCAR's truck series shines on the short tracks.

THE STORY BREAKDOWN

The Phoenix event is the next to the last race of the season and it appears that Todd Bodine will be presenting Germain Racing with their second championship. Going into Friday night's race the Toyota Tundra drivers holds a 230 point advantage over Aric Almirola while Johnny Sauter holds down third in the standings 304 points back. By the way that's the second largest points lead in series history. If Bodine finishes the Phoenix race with at least a 195 points lead then the title is his. That's very possible because Bodine has some very good stats at this track. He's a former race winner there and, in six official series starts, he's only finished outside of the top ten twice.

Still at issue is the coveted Owner's Points Championship. Bodine also wants to present that trophy to the Germain brothers as well but it's not going to be easy. Kyle Busch has similar plans for this title and would love to see his motorsports team take the owner's title during its rookie season. Three weeks ago the Bodine team had a 39 point lead in the standings. But Busch has been on fire lately and now holds a 72 point lead going into Friday night's race. While the lead is not mathematically insurmountable, it will be tough for Bodine and company to overcome this deficit with only two races left.

Is Indy Racing League superstar Dan Wheldon coming to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next year? That's one of the hot garage rumors these days. Sponsorship issues has left some serious question marks regarding Wheldon's future IRL plans. The rumor mill is now saying that Wheldon has been having exploratory talks with Kyle Busch Motorsports regarding a future NASCAR ride for next year.

Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr may be performing double duty at Phoenix this weekend. Depending on the stork's delivery schedule, Hornaday may be taking over the wheel of Ryan Newman's #39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for Sunday's Sprint Cup race if Newman has to hurry home on maternity leave. The Newmans are expecting the arrival of their first child literally any day now.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Lucas Oil 150 is 150 laps/150 miles around the Phoenix International Raceway's one mile, practically flat, oval.

The race has 36 entries for a 36 truck event. That means the go or go home teams, those outside of the series' top 25 in owner's points, will get a free pass this week and all entries will make the race.

There has been 19 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Phoenix that has sent 11 different winners to victory lane. Ron Hornaday Jr and Mike Skinner leads the PIR win list with two each. Other previous race winners, in the field Friday night, include Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch and David Starr.

The defending race winner is Kevin Harvick who is not entered in Friday night's race. Harvick's Childress Racing, Sprint Cup, team mate Clint Bowyer will be making his first series start since 2007 in Kevin Harvick Inc's #2 Chevrolet Truck.

Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 will be broadcast live by the SPEED Channel with the pre race set up show beginning at 730 pm eastern time.

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