Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NATIONWIDE SERIES On The Road Again

6/21/11
\NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES


It’s back to the stand-alone portion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with a Saturday afternoon stop at 4.048-mile Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The course is the longest track on which NASCAR’s national series will race this season.
It’s also back to a closely-contested championship. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leads the standings by two points over Elliott Sadler. Reed Sorenson is third, four points out of the lead while Justin Allgaier is 17 points back in fourth. Driver championship contenders have won the last two stand-alones – Stenhouse won at Iowa and Allgaier followed up with a victory at Chicagoland.
The Bucyrus 200 is the first of three road-course races on this year’s schedule and represents the fourth of eight stand-alones. It also will be the first road-course event for the series’ new car, which is being fully integrated this year.
Carl Edwards won last year’s inaugural event at Road America, posting a perfect 150.0 Driver Rating in the process. He’ll be back to defend and is the only full-time double-duty driver who’ll make the long trek from Infineon Raceway. Edwards won last week at Michigan.
To The Victor Goes The … Harley? Yes!
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the coveted Martinsville grandfather clock is its signature trophy.
In the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the trophy that’s been most coveted is Nashville’s Gibson guitar with its original hand-painted design by Sam Bass.
Road America’s Victory Lane keepsake might top them all – a Harley Davidson motorcycle is the prize.
Revenge For Villeneuve?
Last year, Jacques Villeneuve drove the Road America course like a man possessed. His deft work on the 14-turn course was breathtaking at times, especially one three-wide pass late to capture the lead for a brief period. A mechanical problem ended his opportunity for a win, opening the door for Carl Edwards to ride off on the Harley trophy.
Edwards is back. And so is Villeneuve. Revenge, anyone? Villeneuve will drive the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge for reigning series champion Brad Keselowski, who will focus on the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Infineon.
Villeneuve is one of three well-known road-course aces in the field. Ron Fellows, last year’s Road America runner-up, returns to run for JR Motorsports. Max Papis will drive the flagship No. 33 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. In his most recent series race last August in Montreal, Papis was edged by Boris Said by .012 seconds, the fifth-closest finish in series history.
Ricky Carmichael represents the other end of the "road-course ringer" spectrum. The 15-time motocross champion and full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series season debut at Road America, which also will be his NASCAR national series debut on a road course. In 2008, he finished ninth and 12th, respectively, at road courses while driving in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
Dash Adds More Drama
Not that the first road-course race in the new car -- among a field full of driver championship contenders scraping for wins and points -- needs any more drama. To the contrary.
Saturday’s Bucyrus 200 will be the last event before the first of four "Dash 4 Cash" races, July 1 at Daytona. Introduced in 2009 by Nationwide Insurance and NASCAR, "Dash 4 Cash" is a one-of-a-kind bonus program that rewards the highest-finishing eligible driver in designated races with a $100,000 bonus above and beyond the race purse.
Only the top four driver championship contenders in the standings heading into Daytona will be eligible for the bonus. That means ultra-competitive racing among the top drivers in the standings at Road America, setting the stage for Daytona.
The highest-finishing eligible driver at Daytona earns the bonus and automatically qualifies for the next "Dash 4 Cash" event in August at Iowa. The three highest-finishing drivers to collect NASCAR Nationwide Series championship driver points at Daytona also qualify for the bonus at Iowa. That same qualifying procedure will be in place for the remaining two events, at Richmond in September and Charlotte in October.

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