On Your Side: Nationwide Zooms to the Bluegrass State

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IJune 11, 2009

SPARTA, KY - JUNE 14:  Joey Logano (C) driver of the #20 GameStop Toyota leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series Meijer 300 race presented by Oreo at the Kentucky Speedway June 14, 2008 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

th the "Guitargate" of Nashville now in the rear-view mirror, the NASCAR Nationwide Series agents head on over to 1.5 mile Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY for this Saturday night's Meijer 300 presented by Oreo (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m.).

Last year, Logano drove his No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry from the pole position, leading for 76 circuits (including the final 53 laps) in a race that was dominated by the Joe Gibbs Racing contingency. 

It was a Logano and Kyle Busch show, with Shrub at the point for 85 laps and a shot at the win until crashing in turn two on lap 165, handing the lead to the Connecticut sensation.

Much will be made about the JGR duo once again, with memories of Dover still fresh on their minds as well as the 73,000+ fans who will flock to the nine-year old facility.

Will we see more of the same at Kentucky between Logano and Busch? Based on their equipment and performances in the Nationwide Series, it's a sure-fire thing!

Despite the relatively low turn-out of Insurance Frauds aka the Cup drivers who will be competing this Saturday night, don't expect the Agents to have such an easy assignment on the asphalt arena.

However, if history holds true, we will most likely see another fresh face in Victory Lane.

The trend started when David Gilliland drove to an improbable victory for a low-budget team in 2006, which propelled the Californian to the Cup series later that year.

In 2007, Stephen Leicht urged the No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford Fusion by Yates Racing into the winner's circle.

This year, Logano looks to put that fresh face winning streak to a halt with a win, but he's got a bunch of other drivers that will be right there for the scheduled 200 laps.

Sure-Fire Claims

As previously mentioned, you may want to go with Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, who have been very stout this season with Shrub in the points lead "Sliced Bread" with a win at Nashville this past April.

You may want to keep an eye on Jason Keller, who recently turned 39 and will be making his 470th start, giving the popular driver the dubious title of being the "Iron Man" of the N'widers.

Keller also will be looking to log in his 100,000th mile in his 19-year career in the series, which has seen its fair of low moments but plenty of highs.

Justin Allgaier has all the potential right now to become a true force in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as he's sat solidly all year long in the top 10 in points. If he stays out of trouble, there's no doubt that the No. 12 Verizon Dodge will be a key player for first place.

Mike Bliss has to be thrilled with his 2009 campaign with his gamble-and-win moment at Lowe's last month. Bliss has to be even more enthusiastic about the tour racing over to Kentucky, finishing eighth last year and ninth in 2007.

As one of the stout regulars of this series, look for the No. 09 Chevrolet to give the JGR tandem some fits for the win.

Last but not least, watch for Erik Darnell, Ricky Steinhouse Jr., and Brad Keselowski to be factors in the 200-lap event.

Fast Notes...

Ardent followers of singer/actress Hillary Duff might be tuning into Meijer 300—well, at least for the pre-race ceremonies.

Duff will be performing the race's national anthem as well as promoting the charity group known as "Blessings in a Backpack," which aids children from kindergarten through grade 5 qualified for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program have food on the table during weekends.

In the "You already knew it, I'm just reminding you" department, Richard Petty Motorsports will partner with Braun Racing for five races this season.

Probably more on the line of promoting the RPM brands of sponsorship, look for Kasey Kahne and the other RPM driver roster to drive for the tandem.

At the rate that Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch has been performing, it can be safely said that the rest of the manufacturers will have a hard time trying to mount a charge against Toyota.

Toyota leads all manufacturers in this year's standings with 86 points, followed by Chevy, who trails by five points, Ford in third with 78 markers, and Dodge sitting in a lowly, distant fourth spot with just 41 points.

Things have really tightened up in the battle for Rookie-of-the-Year honors, as Justin Allgaier leads all freshman drivers by just one point.

Allgaier, with 132 points, leads Brendan Gaughan by a single marker, with Michael McDowell sitting third at 127 points and Scott Lagasse, Jr. in fourth with 117 points.

Rounding out the top five rookie drivers is Michael Annett, who has collected 94 points in his No. 15 Germain Racing Toyota.

The Race: Meijer 300 presented by Ritz
The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: Saturday, June 13
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles / 200 laps
TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: Sirius NASCAR Radio / MRN
2008 Race Winner: Joey Logano
2008 Polesitter: Joey Logano

Event Schedule (all times ET): Friday—Practice 5-6:15, Final Practice—6:45-8 p.m.; Saturday—Qualifying 5:10 p.m.

Top 10 in Points

       Driver                   Points
1)   Kyle Busch            2,031
2)   Carl Edwards         1,966
3)   Jason Leffler         1,843
4)   Brad Keselowski     1,838
5)   Joey Logano          1,670
6)   Mike Bliss              1,520
7)   Jason Keller           1,519
8)   Justin Allgaier        1,468
9)   Michael McDowell   1,465
10)  Brendan Gaughan   1,455

On the Horizon:

The Nationwide boys will head up north for some Milwaukee Mile action and another Saturday night harbinger with the NorthernTools.com 300 on June 20, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

Carl Edwards is the defending winner of the race with Brad Keselowski looking to duplicate his pole-winning efforts of a year ago.


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