NASCAR's minor league finally gains a little consistency this week, as the young guns (and Cup regulars) head to Tennessee for the first stand alone race of the season.
Bleacher Report is On Your Side with news and notes from the Nationwide Series.
Dash 4 Cash and stand-alone races kick off
Up until this weekend, the Nationwide Series has only raced where the big dogs played. This weekend at Nashville Superpeedway, the traditional start of the stand-alone season begins.
Nashville is the first of nine tracks in which the Nationwide drivers visit that the Cup stars do not—well at least not all 43 of them.
This weekend is also the series' inaugural "Dash 4 Cash" race, where eligible drivers (full-time series regulars and part-time or limited series-only regulars) can pocked a $25,000 bonus with a win.
Also this season, Kentucky Speedway, Iowa Speedway, and Memphis Motorsports Park will take part in the "Dash 4 Cash" promotion.
Home Sweet Tennessee
OK, so the song goes..."Home sweet Alabama..." But this weekend, it's about about the Volunteer State—again.
Seven drivers and crew members call the Volunteer State home, most of which come from the No. 27 team.
The list includes: Bobby Hamilton Jr. (Nashville)—No. 24 co-owner; Jeff White (Nashville)—No. 27 engineer; John Reese (Mt. Juliet)—No. 27 car chief; Butch Waugh (Smyrna)—No. 27 rear tire carrer; Brad Teague (Johnson City)—No. 52 driver; Casey Atwood (Antioch)—No. 05 driver, and Burney Lamar (West Sacramento, CA native; Nashville resident)—No. 32 driver.
Can Kyle Busch win at Nashville?
Busch won—again—in Texas last weekend. He now has 23 wins in 143 career races, which puts him seventh all-time.
The win put Busch back within striking distance of standings leader Card Edwards, at only 38 points out.
Busch definitely has the "Big-M" on his side, but he has yet to tame the Nashville Superspeedway.
In fact, the track has been nothing but problems for the younger Shrub, who has only one top-10 finish in six starts—a sixth-place in his first race there in 2004.
Last year, Busch captured the pole at the track and led a race-high 125 laps, but a self-inflicted wound—a spin on lap 62—took him out of contention and he brought home a 16th-place finish.
Edwards—on the other hand—earned his nickname "Concrete Carl" thanks in lart part to basically owning the track.
Edwards is the all-time leader in wins at the track with three, and has finished out of the top five only once—last June when he was 13th.
Can Brad Keselowski compete for a championship?
Before the season ever started, Keselowski and the No. 88 team were pegged as the nationwide-only team that could compete with the big boy Cup regulars.
After struggling—most, if not all of which was not of his doing—in the first couple races, Keselowski had a season-best third-place finish this past weekend at TMS.
The top-five moved him into the top 10 in points (seventh) for the first time this season.
Keselowski visited Victory Lane the last time he took to the Nashville oval, capturing his first career win last June.
This season is somewhat similar to 2008, in which Keselowski was outside the top 10 after the first four races, and rebounded to move into eighth after the fifth race. He never looked back and remained in the top 10 the rest of the season.
Keselowski, in fact, battled most of the year for runner-up in the championship standings, before finishing third behind champion Clint Bowyer and Edwards.
Rookies remain in top 10 in points
Yet again, a trio of rookies remain in the top 10 in points, led by Justin Allgaier in fifth. Brendan Gaughan is eighth, and Scott Lagasse Jr. is 10th.
Jason Leffler (fourth), who won his first career rae at Nashville in 2004, leads the six ranked series-only regulars, while Keselowski and Jason Keller (ninth) round out the top 10. Only 32 points separate places 9-15.
USAC and ARCA star Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his NASCAR national series debut for Roush Fenway Racing, while Tim Andrews, son of long-time NASCAR crew chief Paul Andrews (who will oversee his son's car at Nashville), will attempt to make his series debut for Rick Ware Racing.
Defending race winner Scott Wimmer returns to Nashville
Wimmer may be the defending race winner, but this year he will have a lot tougher mountain to climb if he wants to visit Victory Lane.
Last year, he won the race while driving the powerful No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevy.
After being released from the team following the 2008 season, Wimmer is now driving the No. 40 Chevy for Key Motorsports—as well as select races for JR Motorsports.
Wimmer enters the race on the bubble of the top-30, and must qualify his way into the race.
The No. 40 car is 33rd this week. Other full-time teams that fell below the top 30 line were the No. 81, No. 05, No. 52, No. 26, and No. 09.
No weekend off
Edwards, Busch and three other Sprint Cup regulars will spend their weekend off racing in Nashville.
Among the others are: Joey Logano—who won the pole for the 2008 June race at Nashville—David Ragan, and Michael Waltrip—who won this race in 2004.
Top 10 in points
|10||--||Scott Lagasse Jr.*||538||-261||5||0||0||0||1||176,653|