NASCAR Nationwide Dover Preview
NASCAR's Nationwide Series will be taking on the challenge of the Dover International Raceway this Saturday afternoon with the running of the Dover 200.
PRE RACE NOTES OF INTEREST.
With eight races remaining in the Nationwide Series' 2009 season, Kyle Busch has a 201 point lead over fellow Sprint Cup double duty driver Carl Edwards and a 297 point lead over series regular Brad Keselowski in third.
One would think that Busch's lead seems insurmountable and NASCAR may as well begin the process of engraving his name on the champion's trophy. But series history states that even a huge lead like this one can be counter acted in the eleventh hour. You only have to look back as far as this time last year to see proof of that.
With the 2008 Nationwide Series season only eight races away from concluding, eventual champion Clint Bowyer held a commanding 207 point lead over Carl Edwards. With a strong run during those final races Edwards trimmed that lead down to a mere 21 points before time ran out on the championship.
Can Edwards launch a similar run against Busch's points lead? It's very possible and that process could begin Saturday at the Dover race. There's a reason why Edwards has earned the nickname "Concrete Carl." He has a very strong record on concrete based race tracks like Dover. Five of his 23 series wins came on concrete tracks.
Let's not be engraving championship trophies just yet.
Because there is only eight races left in the season, Nationwide Series fans can expect a hard push from drivers to make sure their teams secure top five finishes in the final 2009 points standings.
The reason is national television time. When the series' annual awards banquet is held at the end of the year in Miami, the top ten in the final points standings will be honored. However, on the top five finishers will be invited to the stage in front of the television cameras.
This is huge for team owners, their personnel and their sponsors. It's a golden opportunity for drivers to please the sponsors they have or even an opportunity to introduce new sponsors that may be joining the team's efforts at the beginning of the new season to come.
Because of those banquet opportunities, the current points battle for fifth has now become the focal point during the course of these final races. Rookie driver Justin Allgaier, a development driver for Roger Penske Racing, is holding down the coveted fifth position going into Saturday's race. But his position is very tenuous because Allgaier is only 20 points ahead of Steve Wallace, of Rusty Wallace Racing, who will be looking to make a giant leap in the standings this Saturday.
Yet another interesting aspect to Saturday's Dover 200 might be the presence of Cup regular Martin Truex Jr who will be making his 11th start at what he calls his "home track." This will be only his second series start of the year and just the 12th start within the last four years. However the two time Nationwide Series champion, who won consecutive titles in 2004-2005, has two wins on his home turf and a very strong driver rating of 122.1.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN.
Saturday's race is 200 laps/200 miles around the Dover International Raceway's one mile concrete oval.
The race has 44 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. 14 of those entries are on the "go or go home" list meaning they will have to race their way into the starting line up based on their qualifying speed because they are outside of the top 30 in owner's points which doesn't automatically guarantee a start in the race.
Also on the Dover 200's entry list is the presence of ten Sprint Cup drivers and teams who lately have been referred to as "double duty drivers." Chief among them are Busch and Edwards who are running both series full time this year.
The defending race champion, and pole winner, from last year is Kyle Busch. Series regular Todd Bodine holds the record for most wins at Dover with three followed by drivers Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth who have two each.
The first Nationwide Series race at Dover was held in 1982 and was won by Joe Ruttman. There has been 51 races since that time with 40 different winners parking in victory lane. Over the years only four of those winners have started from the pole position. 12 of the 44 entries in Saturday's race, or roughly 27 percent, are former Dover winners.
Series iron man Jason Keller will be making his series leading 485 career start as well as his 30th start at Dover which is also a series record. The winner of the 2000 race, Keller also holds the record for the most top ten finishes at Dover with 12.
In the Raybestos Rookie Of The Year standings Justin Allgaier, from Penske Racing, holds a slim 16 point lead over Brendan Gaughan, from Rusty Wallace Racing, in a battle that's still too close to call.
Toyota stills continues to lead the manufacturer's points race thanks to the stellar season from Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing. Toyota has 181 points followed by Chevrolet-167, Ford-162 and Dodge-84. However it's Chevrolet who has a series high 26 wins at Dover.
THE TELEVISION BREAKDOWN, (ALL POSTED TIMES EASTERN)
Friday. Final practice. 130 pm. ESPN2
Saturday. Qualifying. 1030 am. ESPN2
Saturday. Pre race show 3 pm followed by a 330 pm green flag. ESPN2
Sunday. race rebroadcast. 4 am. ESPN2