Road Course Brings Unpredictability During Summer Stretch
The hot summer months ahead pack a big punch of unpredictability, and the BUCYRUS 200 presented by Menards at Road America, the longest series road course (4.048-miles), presents itself as one of the biggest wild cards of the season.
Not only will the drivers be faced with navigating 14 different turns at high speeds, but this also will be the first of three road course events on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule and the road course debut for the new car.
The door is wide open. The series could see another first-time winner this weekend. Already through the first 15 races there have been eight different winners and seven different Coors Light Pole award winners.
One driver that could be a standout this weekend is Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, who posted top-10 finishes at both Road America and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal) last season. Bayne is 12th in the standings, having posted three top fives and seven top 10s this season. He is ranked fifth in the pre-race Driver Rating with an 85.9 heading into this weekend.
Bayne’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, is the only full-time double duty driver that will be making the trek from Northern California’s Infineon Raceway to Wisconsin’s Road America. Edwards won the series’ inaugural race at Road America last season, leading 35 of the scheduled 50 laps and posting a perfect Driver Rating (150.0). Edwards won last weekend at Michigan; his fourth victory of the season.
Stenhouse Jr. Leads Tight Championship Race After First 15 Races
It’s back to the stand-alone portion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule which draws even more attention to the already 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 standalones – Stenhouse at Iowa and Allgaier at Chicagoland.
This weekend at Road America could prove to be a challenge for the series’ top four championship contenders. Stenhouse finished 26th at Road America and 24th at Montreal last season. Allgaier also struggled at Road America, finishing 35th, but managed to find his stride at Montreal, where he finished ninth. Sadler and Sorenson did not enter last year’s event at Road America and will both be making their first laps at the track during practice on Friday, June 24.
"Going up to Road America this weekend is going to be a new challenge for me,” Sorenson said. “It's one I'm looking forward to, though. I think the first thing I need to do is make sure I have a handle on mapping out the track and which way the turns come at me. Finding out where the passing zones are will be huge as well.”
An unfamiliar dark horse who could steal the checkered flag this weekend: Steve Wallace of Rusty Wallace Racing. He currently is eighth in the standings and has the highest ranked pre-race Driver Rating of the championship contenders with 89.7. He also finished ninth at Road America and ninth at Watkins Glen last season.
Road Course Aces Stack Already Stout Field
One man who will be on a mission this weekend is Jacques Villeneuve. The former F1 champion was leading in the closing laps of last year’s event at Road America, but subsequently lost the lead on a restart to a charging Carl Edwards. A failing alternator wire landed him a 25th-place finish.
Villeneuve is entered in the Penske Racing No. 22 Dodge in place of 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski.
Villeneuve is joined by several skilled road course talents this weekend, including Max Papis driving the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 33 Chevrolet. In Papis’ most recent series race, last August in Montreal, he was edged by Boris Said by 0.012 seconds, the fifth-closest finish in series history and the closest in series history on a road course.
Another standout is Ron Fellows, who will be driving the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet. Fellows finished second to Edwards in this event last season. Fellows also won at Montreal in 2008 driving for JR Motorsports.
NASCAR Canadian Tires Series star Andrew Ranger will be piloting the No. 53 Dodge for owner Robert Torriere, and also J.R. Fitzpatrick will be in the No. 67 owned by Steve Meehan. Fitzpatrick finished in the top 10 in last season’s event at Road America.
NASCAR Nationwide Series
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. … Ricky Carmichael, 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. … NASCAR Nationwide Series road course qualifying procedures: Cars are assigned a qualifying group based on the official practice times. Each qualifying group will be approximately seven minutes. A drivers’ best lap time during his/her group will be the lap time of record.