The Frontstretch: Race Trax-Hershey's Kissables 300 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday February 16, 2006

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Race Trax-Hershey's Kissables 300

Amy Henderson · Thursday February 16, 2006

 

On Track
The Hershey’s Kissables 300 is the first race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. The Busch Series will visit the 2.5-mile Daytona international Speedway twice in 2006. DIS is the second-longest oval track on the Busch circuit. It is a tri-oval with 31 degrees of banking in the turns, 18 through the tri-oval, and 3 on the straightaways. The field will include the 2005 polesitter Joe Nemechek and defending race winner Tony Stewart.

Under current qualifying procedures, the top 30 teams in car owner’s points from 2005 are guaranteed a starting spot. Starting order is determined by a two-lap qualifying run. There are entrants for 43 positions. The Busch qualifying record at DIS is 194.389 mph, set in 1987 by Tommy Houston in the days before restrictor plates slowed speeds.

What To Expect
This is the first race of a long Busch Series season. There are 18 full-time Nextel Cup drivers entered in the race, a trend which will continue throughout the season as several drivers have voiced intent to run for both championships. In the past, having the Cup drivers in the field has brought out the best and worst in the Busch Series regulars. They race the Cup guys hard for bragging rights as well as points, and mistakes happen because of this. “The Big One” is a constant threat, although the Busch Series races at DIS are often punctuated by several smaller crashes as well.

This race is not quite the tonesetter for the season that the Daytona 500 is for the Cup crowd. The Busch Series visits restrictor plate tracks only three times this year, all in the first half of the season. With the extra teams trying to make the Daytona race along with the unpredictable nature of plate racing, the teams that do well at Daytona may not be in the title hunt at the end of the year, and vice versa. In fact, the Daytona spring race winner has gone on to win the championship only once-Randy LaJoie, nine years ago.

Who to Watch
The second-winningest Busch Series driver in Daytona history. Only his father, the late Dale Earnhardt had more Busch Series wins at Daytona than Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Junior has four of them to date, and would dearly love to add to that total.

Second-year driver Reed Sorenson has had a fast car all week-faster, he says, then his ninth-place car from a year ago. Sorenson also brings more experience and could figure heavily in the outcome. Busch regular Paul Menard really came into his own late in 2005, and he’s running with DEI equipment. Veterans like Ken Schrader and David Green could also play the spoiler, although Green had to go to a backup car after a practice crash. Joe Nemechek is always a threat at the plate tracks, provided he can stay out of trouble, and Tony Stewart has become a perennial threat at Daytona

Did You Know:
-That “Front Row Joe” Nemechek has more Busch Series poles (5) at DIS than any other driver?

-That in July 2004, Mike Wallace led only one lap to win the Winn-Dixie 250 at DIS?

-That winning the pole is not a guarantee of a top finish? Three polesitters have won at DIS in the Busch Series, while one winner came from all the way back in 42nd. The outside of the front row has produced five winners, the most of any starting position.

You Don’t Say"¦
“We started last season as the underdogs. Nobody expected us to finish second at the end of the year, but we did it and we surprised everyone,” said a confident Bowyer. “We consistently improved and week after week we got better and better. That’s what I love about our race team. We never give up and continue to be better than we were the week before.” -Driver Clint Bowyer on his team

“At Daytona and Talladega, it’s just such a ‘luck of the draw’ thing. I always seem to qualify pretty well, but other than an ARCA win, I don’t have a top-10 here. I’m looking forward to the day I come out of here with a top-five. My luck’s got to change at some point at this place. I’m hoping this weekend starts a new trend.” -Driver Kyle Busch on restrictor plate racing

“I enjoy racing at the restrictor-plate tracks and unlike most guys I like being in those big packs. You won’t see me riding around at the back unless I feel like we’ve got the car to win and I don’t want to tear the fenders off of it. Otherwise I’ll be right in there mixing it up trying to get the most I can out of it.”-Driver Jason Leffler on plate racing

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Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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