NOTES FROM THE NASCAR NATION: 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.

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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 provisional’s.

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

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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