The Frontstretch: Race Trax: Stater Bros. 300 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday February 23, 2006

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Race Trax: Stater Bros. 300

Amy Henderson · Thursday February 23, 2006


On Track
The Stater Bros. 300 is the second race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. The Busch Series will visit the 2-mile California Speedway twice in 2006, with the second swing coming on Labor Day weekend. California Speedway is the longest non-restrictor plate oval track on the Busch circuit, along with Michigan. It is a D-shaped oval with 14 degrees of banking in the turns, 11 degrees on the 3,100-foor frontstretch, and a very flat 3 degrees on the 2,500-foot backstretch. The field will not include either the 2005 polesitter Tony Stewart or defending race winner Mark Martin.

Under current qualifying procedures, the top 30 teams in car owner’s points are guaranteed a starting spot. Starting order is determined by a two-lap qualifying run. 46 teams are entered, competing for 43 positions, 13 of which are not guaranteed. Qualifying is set for Saturday at 3:10 pm EST, after which cars will be impounded by NASCAR until race time.

What To Expect
California marks a second beginning to the Busch Series season. With the first restrictor plate race complete, teams running the full schedule will begin to set their sights on the season championship. Currently, three of the teams in the top 15 will not be competing for the driver’s championship. Still, there are 18 Nextel Cup regulars on the entry list for this weekend.

There will probably be more cautions on Saturday than on Sunday, meaning fuel mileage may or may not come into play. The Busch Series tire rules may see teams running longer on older tires, which may contribute to the number of cautions as well as cause the cars to be widespread during the race. As in the Cup race, a lot of the close competition will be in the middle of the pack rather than up front.

Who to Watch
Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Kenseth has six top-five finishes at California, more than any other driver, and Biffle swept both races in 2004. He’ll be in a Roush Racing car on Saturday. Roush Racing also has entries for Carl Edwards and rookie Todd Kluever.

Kevin Harvick finished second one year ago, and will be driving for his own team, the No. 33 that won at Daytona last week. Reed Sorenson was impressive in this race as a rookie, and has a year’s experience to add to his aggressive style. Among the Busch regulars, Paul Menard, Ashton Lewis, Jr. and Kenny Wallace had strong runs last spring, and Wallace’s team has really ramped up their intermediate program over the offseason.

Did You Know:

  • No driver has won a Busch Series race at California from the pole?

  • This year’s race will feature three different sets of brothers? Scott and Chris Wimmer, David and Mark Green, and Tim, Jay and Johnny Sauter will all attempt to qualify on Saturday.
  • That Todd Bodine was the first Busch Series winner at California Speedway?

You Don’t Say"¦
“I always look forward to going out to California to race because the atmosphere is so exciting and different from most of the places that we race throughout the season. My wife, Kim, and I especially look forward to going shopping at the Ontario Mills Mall. I have always run pretty good at California Speedway, but we’ve never managed to be great. In the six Busch Series races that I’ve competed in, I have five top-five finishes, but this time we are looking to put the AutoZone Ford in Victory Lane. I’m very excited about the package that my new crew chief, Randy Cox, has put together for the car this weekend. We’re taking chassis #38, which is the same car that I finished eighth in at California last fall, but Randy and the guys back in the fab shop put a new body on it and have made it even better. Randy also has some ideas that should have to improve our qualifying results, so I am really looking forward to heading out west and building on our solid thirteenth place finish at Daytona.” -driver Kenny Wallace on his California car and on one of the extracurricular activities available to drivers’ families

“I think we come to Fontana feeling pretty pumped up as a team after that great qualifying run at Daytona. Even though we got wrecked out of the race, we definitely put ourselves on the map for this year as one of the surprise teams in the Busch garage. Our move to Evernham power really paid off, and we’ll just hope to build on that as we go. Our goal this weekend will be to stay out of trouble, as usual, get a solid top-15 finish, which will put us in the top-30 in the points, and then we can go racing the rest of the season.” -driver Aaron Fike, who is coming off a career-high second place qualifying effort at Daytona

“California is a great track, and we are all excited to get out there after a long week in Daytona. There is still a lot of pressure on our team since we have to qualify on time to make the race, but at least at a place like California the driver has some control over the outcome. During Daytona qualifying you just hold your foot to the floor and hope for the best.” -rookie Todd Kluever on the driver’s role in qualifying at California vs. Daytona

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Contact Amy Henderson

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