NASCAR Nationwide Michigan preview
Just like their Sprint Cup counterparts, NASCAR's Nationwide Series will also be at the Michigan International Raceway for Saturday's Carfax 250. Also, as in the case of the Sprint Cup series, the representatives from the big three automakers, located just down the freeway in Detroit, are going to be in full force to collect the bragging rights in victory lane.
PRE RACE NOTES OF INTEREST
When the ESPN2 Network drops the green flag on their coverage of Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Michigan they will be presenting fans with what they feel is a new concept in television motorsports. They're calling this new concept "ESPN's Back Seat Drivers."
The broadcast booth will be manned by five NASCAR champions featuring former drivers Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace who will be joined by champion crew chiefs Tim Brewer, Ray Evernham and Andy Petree. The concept is to provide the fans with the direct point of view from NASCAR veterans in the know. Noticeably absent from the broadcast will be the presence of the traditional play by play network commentator. Network analyst Alan Bestwick will be on site but will play the role of show host doing pre race coverage and occasional drop ins during the race. But he will be working for an entirely different booth from the garage area. The debut of this new race coverage should be most interesting.
There's a few interesting seat assignments that could bear watching during Saturday's Carfax 250. Sprint Cup driver Reed Sorenson will be taking over the #1 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. It appears that team owner James Finch plans to use random Sprint Cup drivers when possible to drive this car. These drivers will be replacing Mike Bliss who was surprisingly released from this ride a little over a week ago.
Speaking of Bliss, he will be driving Joe Nemechek's #87 Toyota in Saturday's Michigan race. At the time of his release Bliss was sixth in the Nationwide Series championship points. He immediately began looking for a ride to maintain his top ten status in the points while, at the same time, began laying the groundwork for a full time NASCAR ride for next season. Nemechek, who is an owner-driver of both a Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series team, very generously offered to help a friend and fellow driver out.
Another driver to watch Saturday will be Sprint Cup regular Ryan Newman who will be driving the #5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, the team co owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr and Rick Hendrick. The Michigan International Raceway has very special memories for Newman. He won his first ever NASCAR national event, a Nationwide Series race, there back in 2001.
Yet another Sprint Cup driver doing double duty during the Michigan weekend is Denny Hamlin who will be making another appearance in the #11 CMJ Racing Toyota. Hamlin will have a team mate in this race. Justin Lofton will be making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Michigan driving the #14 Toyota for CMJ. Lofton is in the process of making a name for himself via the ARCA ReMax Series this season where he's won three races and his second in their points standings.
Despite the fact that the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series are racing at the same track on the same weekend, Joey Logano will not be driving the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in Saturday's Carfax 250. Gibbs development driver Brad Coleman will be driving the #20 Toyota in this race.
Coleman is probably hoping that he will not find himself with another animal control issue on his hands. Recently the young driver was testing a Gibbs Sprint Cup Car at the Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds. While running on a section, of the 10 mile long facility, at approximately 190 MPH, Coleman saw a large coyote emerge from underneath a guard rail located on the outside of the track. All of a sudden Coleman got on the in car radio and said "guys I hit a coyote. I'm going to come in because I think it screwed up the radiator and clogged the grill a little."
When he arrived it the pits it turned out that the front grill was completely replaced by the carcass of a dead coyote. The animal was literally wedged up against the radiator. Portions of his insides were all over the front of the car as well as on top of the engine. It was a very grisly sight and you truly had to feel sorry for whomever had to clean up the mess.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Carfax 250 is comprised of 125 laps around the Michigan International Raceway's two mile oval.
The race has 53 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 23 of those entries are on the "go or go home" list meaning they will have to earn a starting berth basely solely on a posted qualifying time.
12 of those entries are drivers from full time NASCAR Sprint Cup teams often referred to as "insurance whackers." These drivers will be performing double duty by driving in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events this weekend.
Two of those Sprint Cup drivers are Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards who are running the full schedule for both series this year. Busch is the series' points leader and holds a commanding 212 point lead over Edwards going into Saturday's race.
Carl Edwards is the defending race winner from last year. In 2008 he swept the Michigan weekend by winning both races.
Edwards drives a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing who has four Nationwide Series wins at Michigan. Winning at this particular track is very important to Jack Roush. The Roush Fenway national headquarters are located in Livonia-Michigan just a short drive from the speedway.
In the Nationwide Series' manufacturer's race Toyota continues to lead the standings with 155 points followed by Chevrolet-133, Ford-127 and Dodge-69.
But in the win column Chevrolet leads the rankings with 11 trips to victory lane. Ford has five wins, Dodge has one and Toyota is still looking for their first Michigan win.
In the Raybestos Rookie Of The Year standings Justin Allgaier, from Penske Racing, has an 11 point lead over Brendan Gaughan from Rusty Wallace Inc. Dave Grayson