Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250: Winners and Losers

Patti RodischAnalyst IJuly 19, 2009

MADISON, IL - JULY 18:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 New Balance Toyota, performs a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway on July 18, 2009 in Madison, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With the Sprint Cup guys enjoying a much deserved weekend off, the nationwide guys take center stage on Saturday night at Gateway. Check out who made this week’s winners and losers.

Winners

Kyle Busch

Once again Kyle Busch finished in the top two, and once again he pulled into victory lane. Busch is proving he can run well in the Nationwide series in 2009.

Busch didn’t have the best car tonight but when it counted he was able to improve the car and run up front and keep up with the changing conditions.

Busch is leading the championship standings in the one series you wouldn’t expect after 2008. They are the organization to beat, they want to separate themselves from everyone else, if they continue to build the point lead, Busch could cruise to a title.

Busch is bushwhacking the field, even when he isn’t the best car out there.

Michael Annett

I was so happy to see Michael Annett's finish today. It was a much needed top 10 finish in seventh. This team doesn’t usually run as well as this finish says.

They have the potential to run well consistently. Nights like this could be exactly what they need.

Annett was able to work on the car all night long, while others had issues both mechanical and crash related, they were able to avoid all the trouble and show improvement throughout the night.

Annett has a lot of talent and when given the equipment finishes like these wouldn’t be so surprising. Tonight was a great momentum builder for next week heading into ORP.

I am not sure what to think of this finish, it all depends on how they run next week.

Mike Bliss

Mike Bliss was worried about he restarts on Saturday, with good reason in the last two races at Gateway he has been involved in accidents during a restart, all but ending his runs.

Tonight would be different, even with the new double file restarts, Bliss was able to survive and come home with a top five finish in fifth.

Bliss quietly runs his race week in and week out. On Saturday Bliss just wanted to be there at the end. He was able to avoid wrecks, and work on his car and get a strong finish.

They struggled with handling early but were able to work on the car and make proper adjustments.

Bliss to me is very old school. He races hard and earns every finish. He won’t be a contender for the championship this year, but he races clean and there is a reason why he is respected in the garage.

Losers

Kevin Harvick

You know you have to give Kevin Harvick credit; he has nothing to lose and everything to gain when he races his own car. Harvick has said that he wants to know what  Joe Gibbs Racing is doing to beat the field.

Harvick is trying everything he can to get better as an organization every week.

Harvick came out for the win and he looked like the car to beat until they miscalculated fuel and ran out one lap to many. He finished one lap down and watched what could have been slip through his fingers again.

He finished 17th.

Harvick better study those JGR cars really hard, for next year.

Stephen Wallace

Stephen Wallace had high hopes coming into Saturday night’s race, but he should be glad to leave Gateway.

After having to go to a backup after a practice accident on Friday.Wallace had a good car for most of the first part of the race; they were making adjustments and moving forward.

It wasn’t until contact with Scott Lagasse Jr. that ended his day.

Instead of coming in to work on the car Wallace decided to make sure Lagasse knew he was unhappy with him. NASCAR took care of that, after the race.

What looked to be a promising night for this crew turned into a disappointment.

Tonight was a prime example of why Wallace still has a lot to learn; giving up valuable time to work on the car,to express how upset he was with Lagasse.

He finished 24th.

Trevor Bayne

After a strong qualifying run that had him sitting in the top 15, Trevor Bayne quickly slid backwards and from that point on his night was over.

Bayne is still learning how to explain the issues with his car, and some weeks he is able to do it well and others we get a result like this.

They were never able to get the handling on this car and were quickly a lap down and soon Baynes hit the wall and they never recovered.

Bayne is the future of the Michael Waltrip Racing, but he still has a lot to learn.

Lucky Dog

Brian Keselowski finished two laps off the pace but he finished in 20th. Keselowski is doing it the hard way, running his own team each week. This week was even tougher his already well used engine had issues during practice.

They only ran four laps during practice and were holding their collective breath for qualifying.

He qualified well but had to go to the rear for an engine change, they were able to recover and earned a top 20 run and gained valuable points and money.

When many cars were parking before lap 10, this team and driver battled for a good top 20 finish, which is refreshing to see.

Final Laps…

It was another rare opportunity for the Nationwide drivers to steal the spotlight while cup drivers have a week off.

As usual though it was the cup drivers who stole the spotlight, Brad Keselowski was the only Nationwide regular to lead a lap tonight and that was lap one.

Just over halfway through the season now and it is clear really the top three guys in the standings is who this championship will come down to.

It might only be the top two if Keselowski continues to lose ground to the leaders.

That is a problem for NASCAR, this is why the Sprint Cup series changed to a playoff type series, really fourth on back are not  a factor in the championship and those are the regulars.

If the leaders continue to pull away from the everyone else expect the ratings for the series to continue to drop as fans have no reason to tune in when their drivers are not a factor each week.

Next up: ORP