NASCAR’s Nationwide Series will join their Sprint Cup counterparts this weekend to race on the fastest track on their schedule; the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Great Clips 300 is a Saturday night under the lights event that is expected to treat the series’ fans to an evening filled with side by side racing and perhaps even an oh so close finish that this race track is famous for. The starting field for the Great Clips 300 will once again be comprised of so called double duty drivers from the Sprint Cup Series with many of them representing high profile team owners.
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
With ten races left on the Nationwide Series schedule there will be a point in time when the official trophy manufacturer of NASCAR will receive a call from Daytona Beach informing them to start engraving a champion’s name. They will likely need some additional time in this process to perform a spell check on the name Keselowski.
Going into the Atlanta race, Brad Keselowski has a very healthy 365 point lead over season rival Carl Edwards. He padded that lead with an additional 52 points last weekend, at the Montreal race, with an impressive fourth place finish on a road course while his rival languished in the pits with a broken track bar.
With ten races left, 365 points is not exactly insurmountable but it’s also not likely that Keselowski will not suffer the kind of free fall Edwards is going to need to steal the series’ title. The time to call the NASCAR trophy engraver will be coming soon because it appears that this young driver is going to present team owner Roger Penske with a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.
Keselowski may also be presenting Penske with a Nationwide Series owner’s championship as well. However, this coveted title is going to be a lot harder because the points spread in this competition is still too close to call.
Team owner Joe Gibbs, and his #18 Toyota, leads the standings with 4,030 points going into Saturday night’s race. Needless to say those numbers are based on the amazing performance by driver Kyle Busch. The numbers associated with this driver and team are simply astounding especially in light of the fact that the driver is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule like he did last year when he won the championship. In 25 series races Busch has 20 starts, 10 wins, 16 top five finishes and 17 top tens. He’s also third in the series’ driver standing despite the five races he didn’t start.
As strong as these numbers are, they are not enough to walk away with the owner’s championship at this point in time. Team Gibbs only has a 35 point lead over Jodi Geschickter who is the owner of record for Brad Keselowski’s #22 Penske Racing Dodge. Look for this battle to go all the way to the season ending race in November.
Also very interesting is the competition for the series’ Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year title. Going into Saturday night’s race Brian Scott, driver of the #10 Braun Racing Toyota, has a very slim 15 point lead over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. the driver of the #6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
This rookie competition has always been regarded as being prestigious and has often become a career defining moment for a young driver.
NASCAR Nationwide Series team owner Jay Robinson, who fields the #28 Chevrolet for driver Kenny Wallace, has endured a full season of obtaining sponsors virtually on a race to race basis. Of course it helps when one of NASCAR’s most popular personalities is sitting in the driver’s seat, but still it’s an arduous process that detracts from matters of equal importance.
It appears that Robinson and Wallace has once again found a unique sponsor for their Atlanta efforts. It’s the FX television network and their hit show “Sons Of Anarchy.” This wildly popular show about the gritty life of a southern California motorcycle gang will be using the Robinsion/Wallace ride to promote the start of their third season which begins on September 7th.
The always fun Wallace said “Sons Of Anarchy is a great show, one of the best on television. I create anarchy all around me and it follows me where ever I go so we’re a good match.”
The frustration and stress level of an underfunded team owner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series can often push someone right up to the proverbial ragged edge. That’s pretty much what happened to team owner Johnny Davis who was involved in a pit road altercation following last Sunday’s Nationwide Series race at Montreal.
The details of that altercation are not exactly clear but NASCAR’s reaction were crystal clear on Wednesday morning when they announced that Davis was in violation of their rule known as “action detrimental to stock car racing.” The result was a $5,000 fine and probation until December 31st.
Here’s hoping that the team owner’s driver, Mike Wallace, can create a strong enough finish at the Atlanta race to help pay for Montreal misgivings.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Great Clips 300 is 195 laps/300.3 miles around the Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.54 mile oval.
The race has 44 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 14 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning these teams do not have a guaranteed start in the race because they are currently outside of the series’ top 30 in owner’s points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to earn a starting berth in the race.
The 2009 defending race winner is Kevin Harvick. The driver of his self owned #33 Rheem Heating, Cooling and Water Heating Chevrolet is one of the Sprint Cup double duty entries in the race and will be looking for his third series win of the season.
The Great Clips 300 will be broadcast live by the ESPN2 Network beginning at 630 pm eastern time.