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Nationwide Series News & Notes - Bristol

  • Night Time Is The Right Time For Bowyer At Bristol
  • Shades Of 2003: Series Title Race Closest In Five Years
  • In The Loop: Series-Only Regulars Should Shine At Bristol
  • After 17 Consecutive Bristol Starts, Harvick Turns To Gale

    Bank On It: Bowyer Glad To Be Back At Bristol

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 18, 2008) - Just say the words “Night race at Bristol,” and watch eyes light up from fans to drivers alike.

    Just say “Bristol” to Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) and he may respond in the same way.

    He may also say, “It’s about time.”

    Bowyer, the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader, has a solid lead of 113 points over reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford). But that advantage has been far from comfortable over the last few weeks for the 29-year-old double-duty driver from Emporia, Kan.

    If it’s not Edwards pushing Bowyer with three wins in his last nine races, then its series-only regular Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) who has also refused to go away. He comes to Bristol Motor Speedway third in the rankings, 132 points off the lead.

    Couple that with a current four-race stretch that, although including two top-10 finishes, also holds finishes of 23rd and 18th, matching his worst span of the season. Bowyer started the year with two top-10 finishes sandwiched between results of 25th and 19th.

    But now he’s back at Bristol where he won the rain-shortened event in March and has two top fives to go along with a top-10 finish in his last three overall races there.

    He was eighth in this race last year.

    “We’ve given up some points over the last few weeks so we need get back to business and work on padding our points lead,” he said.

    With 10 Races To Go, Series Title Chase Closest Since 2003
    The August race at Bristol marks the 10-races-to-go point in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.

    It also points to what looks to be a great title chase between three drivers down this final stretch.

    Carl Edwards has willed himself back into the race and is 113 points behind Bowyer. He was as many as 254 points behind Bowyer after the event at Chicagoland Speedway.

    Bowyer has managed to put some distance on Brad Keselowski, who was as close as 128 points to the top spot prior to last week’s race at Michigan International Speedway. But despite falling back a bit, Keselowski remains in the hunt and is only 19 points behind Edwards heading to Bristol.

    Series history shows the deficits are hardly safe.

    Not since 2003 when four drivers were within 135 points of Scott Riggs, the leader then with 10 races left, has the championship battle been this close among this many drivers.

    In 2003, Riggs was being chased by 1994 series champion David Green, who was 28 points behind in second. Ron Hornaday Jr. was third, 97 points back, while Jason Keller (No. 11 America’s Incredible Pizza Co. Chevrolet) was fourth, 104 points behind, and Brian Vickers was 135 points back in fifth.

    Vickers ultimately won the championship, taking Green to the last lap of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

    In The Loop: Series-Only Regulars Defy Logic At Bristol
    Logic would suggest that in the Bristol Motor Speedway bullring, the double-duty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers might use intimidation to ease their path to Victory Lane.

    After all, you’d forgive the NASCAR Nationwide Series-only drivers for feeling a little bit in awe of Bristol, with its high-banking and beat-and-bang competition.

    Logic would suggest all that.

    Logic would be dead wrong.

    Four NASCAR Nationwide-only drivers in particular have solid statistics at Bristol, and could be a factor on Friday night: Scott Wimmer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet); Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota); Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet) and Brad Keselowski.

    After capturing the pole, Leffler nearly won this race last year, leading 81 laps and posting a Driver Rating of 131.7. In his past six Bristol starts, Leffler has a Driver Rating of 89.1, an Average Running Position of 14.9 and 58 Fastest Laps Run.

    Wimmer has the top Driver Rating (91.4) of any NASCAR Nationwide Series-only regular at Bristol. He boasts an Average Running Position of 12.9 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 65.9%. In this season’s spring Bristol race, he finished 12th, posting a Driver Rating 110.8.

    Bliss has two top fives this season, one of which was at Bristol. In the March race, a fifth-place run, Bliss posted a Driver Rating of 100.0 and an Average Running Position of 11.9. In each of his past three Bristol races, Bliss has posted a Driver Rating of 97.5 or higher.

    Keselowski will have the most pressure this weekend. Still very much in the championship hunt, a solid Bristol finish is near-mandatory.

    In this season’s March Bristol race, Keselowski had a Driver Rating of 100.7 and an Average Running Position of 9.4 in a fourth-place finish. In this race last season, he had a Driver Rating of 103.0 and an Average Running Position of 10.1 in a seventh-place run

    The Director’s Take: Second Groove May Alter Setups At Bristol
    “This is the second time we’re going back to Bristol since the repave,” said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director.

    “And based upon our experience in the first race, we found that Bristol now has two good racing grooves and that may change the way the teams develop their strategy for the race.

    "The second groove will lead to passing on both the inside and outside. Teams will try to take advantage of this and take a good look at setting their cars to run on the high side of the track.

    “Bristol always gives drivers a challenge, especially if it’s their first experience there. A high-banked short track where laps clock at 15 seconds doesn’t give a driver a chance to catch his breath.

    “Once the green flag drops they need to be up on the wheel for every lap unlike speedways where they may get a chance to catch their breath down the longer straightaways.

    “And there’s the added excitement that this race always brings,” he said. “Short-track racing in front of 100,000 fans under the lights.”

    Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings
    Rank Driver Points
    1 Landon Cassill 151
    2 Dario Franchitti 149
    3 Bryan Clauson 147
    4 Cale Gale 119
    5 Brian Keselowski 90
    Results following the CARFAX 250 @ Michigan International Speedway.

    Up Next: Auto Club Speedway
    The NASCAR Nationwide Series travels to Auto Club Speedway in California Saturday, Aug. 30 for the Camping World RV Service 300.

    Jeff Burton is the defending race winner while Denny Hamlin won the pole last year.

    The race will be broadcast on ESPN2 beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.

    Fast Facts
    The Race: Food City 250
    The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
    The Date: Friday, August 22
    The Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
    The Distance: 250 laps/133.25 miles
    TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET
    Track Size: .533-mile banked oval
    2007 Winner: Kasey Kahne
    2007 Pole: Jason Leffler

    2008 Standings
    1 Clint Bowyer 3,582
    2 Carl Edwards 3,469
    3 Brad Keselowski 3,450
    4 Mike Bliss 3,223
    5 David Reutimann 3,219
    6 David Ragan 3,202
    7 Kyle Busch 3,003
    8 Mike Wallace 2,963
    9 Jason Leffler 2,926
    10 Marcos Ambrose 2,903

    Friday–Practice, 9—10:00 a.m.; Final Practice, 10:30—11:50 a.m. Qualifying, 5:05 p.m.

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