The Frontstretch: Race Trax: Federated Auto Parts 300 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday June 8, 2006

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Race Trax: Federated Auto Parts 300

Amy Henderson · Thursday June 8, 2006

 

On Track
The Federated Auto Parts 300 is the fifteenth race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. This is the final time the Busch Series will visit the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway in 2006; they ran here in April as well. The current Nashville track has hosted the Busch Series races each year since 2001, when it replaced the old Nashville USA on the schedule, and the first winner on the new track was Greg Biffle. The track is a fairly flat tri-oval with 14 degrees of banking in the corners, nine on the frontstretch, and just six degrees on the backstretch. Drivers will race 225 laps for the checkered flag. The field will include June 2005 race winner Clint Bowyer; qualifying for that race was rained out and the field set by owners’ points.

48 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Sunday, 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 includes eight full time Nextel Cup drivers. The Busch Series qualifying record at Nashville is 166.515mph, set by Martin Truex Jr. in 2004.

The points battle in the Busch Series reads largely like a Nextel Cup leaderboard, with the top five positions still being held by full-time Cup drivers. Leader Kevin Harvick holds a 297-point advantage over Carl Edwards; Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch fill the top five after Dover. The top Busch regular is Paul Menard in eighth, and Busch-only drivers Johnny Sauter and Jason Leffler are in ninth and tenth.

What To Expect
Nashville is a unique track on the Busch Series circuit. It is slightly shorter than most of the big, flat tri-ovals they visit, but faster and grippier than the one milers. Part of this owes to the track’s concrete surface, which provides excellent grip while not being prone to the temperature changes that asphalt undergoes over the course of a day.

Whether it’s the track or the relative inexperience of many of the drivers (there will be fewer Cup regulars and more part-time and Busch-only teams in the field this week), Nashville tends to produce cautions. The fewest a 300-mile race has ever seen is six, or one about every 50 laps, and there have been as many as eleven caution periods in a single race. In fact, teams may not see a green-flag pit stop all day. This means they’ll have time to make adjustments – and proper adjustments will be critical if a car isn’t racy right out of the hauler. A car that handles Nashville’s concrete surface and sweeping turns well will run up front all day.

Who to Watch
Three of the last four races at Nashville have been won by drivers who were (at the time) Busch Series Regulars. In fact, only two winners in the track’s short history were Nextel Cup regulars at the time of their win. This includes Jason Leffler in the fall of 2004, Reed Sorenson last April, and Clint Bowyer one year ago. Kevin Harvick won the April race this year. All four have to be considered favorites for a second trip to Victory Lane. Bowyer is a threat everywhere, as is Harvick, and Leffler and Sorenson always seem to run well at Nashville. Kenny Wallace also has three top-ten finishes in the last three races at Nashville, including a pair of runner-up finishes in 2005. Toss Greg Biffle in the mix, too.

Did You Know:

  • That twice only eight cars have finished on the lead lap in Nashville? It happened most recently in 2004.

  • Nashville is one of only three concrete tracks in the top NASCAR circuits (Cup, Busch, CTS)? The others are Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.
  • The deepest in the field a winner at Nashville has started is 22nd?
  • The winningest car owner at Nashville is Greg Pollex? PPC Racing has two wins at the track. (And two entries on the card this week in Wallace and John Andretti)

You Don’t Say"¦
"Our last run was a good one until about lap 220. I believe that is when we brushed the wall, and it sent us sailing outside the top 10. We weren’t on our way to winning the race, but we were definitely going to grab the second-best finish of the day. The guys found a puncture in the tire after that, so we must’ve picked up debris on the track. That is definitely one of those situations you can’t really control, but everything we did control went really well that weekend." driver Reed Sorenson on the incident that took him out of contention for a Nashville repeat in April

"The guitar is one of the main reasons why I wanted to run full-time in the Busch Series. To have one now is really neat. Hopefully, we can win this weekend and I will have two." driver Kevin Harvick on Nashville’s unique trophy

"When Kevin and DeLana (Harvick) called, I was really surprised and very happy. I’ve been waiting a long time for an opportunity like this. I’ve only been driving stock cars for a few short years, and basically I only have about 50 races under my belt. I believe that I learn and get better each time out." driver Aaron Fike, who signed with Kevin Harvick, Inc. for Nashville and beyond earlier this week

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Contact Amy Henderson

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