The Frontstretch: Race Trax: O'Reilly 300 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday April 6, 2006

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Race Trax: O'Reilly 300

Amy Henderson · Thursday April 6, 2006

 

On Track
The O’Reilly 300 is the seventh race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. The Busch Series will visit the .1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway twice in 2006…they’ll return in October for the Fall event. Texas has hosted the Busch Series races each year since 1997. The track is a moderately banked quad-oval track with 24 degrees of banking in the corners and five degrees on the backstretch, as well as through the dogleg on the frontstretch. Drivers will race 200 laps for the checkered flag. The field will not include 2005 spring polesitter Shane Hmiel. Last spring’s race winner, Kasey Kahne, starts eighth.

46 teams competed for 43 starting spots for Saturday, with the Top 30 in car owner points guaranteed a starting position. Qualifying runs consist of two laps, with the fastest lap setting a team’s time. The entry list included 17 full time Nextel Cup drivers. The Busch Series qualifying record at Texas is 193.483mph, set by Jeff Green in 2002. Denny Hamlin captured the pole for Saturday’s race with a speed of 187.905 mph.

The points battle in the Busch Series reads largely like a Nextel Cup leaderboard, with the top five positions being held by full-time Cup drivers. Leader Kevin Harvick holds a 121-point advantage over J.J. Yeley. The Top 5 is rounded out by Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Carl Edwards. The top Busch regular is Johnny Sauter in sixth, and Busch-only drivers Burney Lamar, Jon Wood, and Jason Leffler are in seventh, eighth, and ninth.

What To Expect
Texas is one of the fastest tracks on the Busch Series schedule. However, its wide racing surface is fairly forgiving to tires and inexperience drivers, and the record for caution periods is a modest ten, so TMS could be a test of teams’ strategies and green-flag pit stops as well as handling and horsepower. The last fulltime Busch-only driver to win at Texas was Jeff Purvis in 2002, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., back in 1998 was the only other Busch-only driver to win, the year in which he won his first Busch Series title.

Who to Watch
Texas places a clear advantage on teams with superior handling and horsepower, which should play well into the hands of the well-funded and equipped Cup-owned teams. Point leader Kevin Harvick has two Texas Busch wins, including an emotional victory last fall; Matt Kenseth has one, and Mark Martin three. Last year’s winner, Kasey Kahne has a win this year and should be in the mix as well.

Among the Busch regulars, Paul Menard has DEI horsepower at his disposal, and has been strong since midway through 2005. Johnny Sauter and Jon Wood are both in the Top 10 in points, based largely on their consistency this year, so they should have solid runs as well.

Did You Know:

  • Both Busch Series regulars to win at Texas did it while leading the fewest laps? Both Earnhardt, Jr. and Purvis led just six laps en route to their victories.

  • Jeff Green is the only Busch driver to have had multiple poles at TMS.
  • No Busch Series driver has won from the pole at TMS.

You Don’t Say"¦
"It’ll be great to get back to racing. We’ve been ready to go since we finished up with one of our best efforts of the year so far at Bristol. We had a good test at Richmond and have used the weekend off to get things ready to go for this weekend at Texas. We had one of our best efforts of the season there last November before a shock mount broke and set us a couple of laps off the pace. We’re bringing a brand new car that I hope will get us back up front, and keep us there. We’re pumped up and ready to go!" Busch Series regular Aaron Fike on getting to TMS after an off-weekend

"I am always excited to get back to Texas. The whole place has such a big atmosphere and we always get the opportunity to do fun things while we’re in town. Last fall I had an awesome time introducing the Los Lonely Boys at the concert that Texas Motor Speedway had Wednesday night at the track. Eddie Gossage and the TMS staff are always coming up with exciting events for us to be part of, so we always look forward to Texas race weekends!" Busch Series Regular Kenny Wallace on fun in Texas

“I think it will be a fun challenge to understand how to drive a Busch car as a rookie. I have not tested the Busch car, because with the new testing procedure, that doesn’t give the option to us. I always thought I made a quick transition from Truck to Cup and if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have stayed an extra year in Truck and done a couple of years in Busch to gain more experience." ""driver Kurt Busch, who is making his first series start on Saturday at TMS

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Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

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