NOTES FROM THE NASCAR NATION: A SATURDAY AFTERNOON ON ROAD AMERICA

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be spending this Saturday afternoon taking on the always challenging road course at Road America at Elkhart Lake-Wisconsin. The series made its official debut at this mammoth road course last year. If the finish of the 2010 event is any indication, then Saturday’s Bucyrus 200, presented by Menards, is going to be extremely competitive and very exciting.

THE STORY BREAKDOWN

[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”230″][/media-credit]The pre-race favorite has to be Carl Edwards who made a late race surge to win last year’s inaugural event. Edwards is one of the small group of NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who has been campaigning full time in both series although a new NASCAR policy says he cannot win the Nationwide Series title.

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Edwards will be the only double duty Cup driver in Saturday’s race at Road America. He will be spending his off time flying back and forth between Wisconsin and Sonoma-California, the site of the Cup race at Infineon Raceway and the site of NASCAR’s other road course race this weekend. The seemingly frantic pace for the driver of the Roush Fenway Fords is actually not as bad as it seems. That’s largely due to the presence of Roush Air. Jack Roush’s flying armada can literally get any driver to any location in record time.

But the question remains: why should Edwards put himself in the middle of this hectic schedule when he’s only eligible to win the Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship? The answer is the NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Points Championship and that’s a trophy Jack Roush wants to add to his collection.

Edwards, based on four wins including last Saturday’s race at Michigan, leads the owner’s standings in his #60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang. However, going into next Saturday’s race, he only holds a 13 point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing and their #18 Toyota normally driven by Kyle Busch.

Saturday’s Nationwide Series race will be Busch-less. Driver Michael McDowell will be behind the wheel of Gibbs’ #18. Their second series team, the #20 often driven by Joey Logano, will be sitting idle this Saturday.

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There’s another points battle that Roush Fenway Racing will be defending this weekend as well. It’s of course the series’ championship. Roush protege Ricky Stenhouse Jr is leading those standings going into this weekend. However, he only holds a two point advantage over Elliot Sadler with Reed Sorenson only three points away in third. Also not to be overlooked here is the presence of Justin Allgaier who is ranked fourth in the standings only 17 markers from the top.

Stenhouse and Allgaier found their debut at Road America last year to be somewhat of a struggle after finishing 26th and 35th respectively. Meanwhile, Sadler and Sorenson will be taking on this challenging road course for the very first time this Saturday.

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The points contenders may find themselves having to deal with an impressive list of road course ringers this Saturday. These are the drivers, who excel in this type of racing, that have been brought in by team owners just for the road course races.

The Road America ringers list will be led by the presence of Jacques Villeneuve. The ex Formula 1 racing champion will be behind the wheel of the Roger Penske Racing #22 Dodge normally driven by Brad Keselowski. Villeneuve was a major player in last year’s race and appeared to be on the way to the win before a defective alternator wire sidelined him during the final laps.

Also in this race is Max Papis who will be driving the #33 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. Road race veteran Ron Fellows, who finished second last year, will be carrying the hopes of the Junior Nation by driving the #7 Chevrolet for J R Motorsports.

Other road race ringer entries include Andrew Ranger, a star from the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, who will be driving the #53 Dodge for team owner Robert Torriere. J R Fitzpatrick will be behind the wheel of the #67 Go Canada Racing Ford for owner Steve Meehan. Tommy Drissi is the newest member of Rick Ware Racing’s Nationwide Series operation and will make his debut this Saturday in the #37 Ford. Drissi is the 2009 Trans Am Series champion and has been racing lately in the Rolex Grand American Series as well as the American Lemans Series. Also of interest here is the Nationwide Series debut of Ricky Carmichael which will take place at Road America this Saturday. The 15 time motocross champion has been building his NASCAR career in the Camping World Truck Series this year for Turner Motorsports. Saturday will be the first of four Nationwide events this year for Carmichael in a Turner Chevrolet.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Bucyrus 200, presented by Menards, will be 50 laps/200.4 miles around Road America’s massive 4.048 mile, 14 turn, road course. It’s the first of three road course events on the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule.

The race has 41 entries meaning all entries will be guaranteed a start in a race that can accommodate 43 cars. The starting line up will be based on Saturday morning’s qualifying sessions.

The race is also the official debut of the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ newly configured race car on a road course.

If season statistics are an indicator then the race should be highly competitive. 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series races so far has turned up eight different winners and seven different Coors Light Pole winners.

The Bucyrus 200, presented by Menards, will be broadcast live by ESPN on Saturday beginning at 5 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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