The Frontstretch: Busch Breakdown : Federated Auto Parts 300 by Thomas Bowles -- Saturday June 9, 2007

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Busch Breakdown : Federated Auto Parts 300

Thomas Bowles · Saturday June 9, 2007

 

In A Nutshell: A self-admitted music fanatic, Carl Edwards claims he wants to learn how to play the guitar someday.

Well, if he ever wants to practice, he's got plenty of options to choose from.

Edwards took control late in the going to cruise to his third straight win at Nashville Saturday night. Taking hold of the winning guitar in Victory Lane, Edwards put together a musical masterpiece of a race, one that saw the fat lady sing to the rest of the field once he passed Clint Bowyer with 34 laps left. From there, Edwards never looked back, cruising to a 1.656 second margin of victory in his No. 60 Dish Network Ford. Bowyer held onto second, with Jason Leffler coming home third, the best finish of the season for a Busch Series only full-timer. Scott Wimmer and Regan Smith rounded out the Top 5 finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Edwards. There's no question Edwards earned this victory, although perhaps an assist should be given to the Roush Racing jet and helicopter pilots. Edwards flew straight from Pocono to Nashville and then was helicoptered to the speedway; the whole process took less than two hours, giving him a chance to qualify his car. Running 4th in the qualifying order, he ran like the wind from the helipad to the sign-in truck at the Busch Series hauler, adding the 800-meter dash to his list of athletic accomplishments while he dashed to the No. 60 just in time. Although the team had to pull his car out of line, Edwards was going to make it back just as the 5-minute clock was running out; then, without a lap of practice in the car, Edwards clocked in with the 7th-fastest lap.

That track position was the key, giving Cousin Carl the leg up he needed to never get caught in traffic. While the No. 60 team didn't have the fastest car at the beginning of the race, as the laps wound down it was Edwards who improved more than anyone else with each segment. By the final stop, he was clearly the best car on the track even though Bowyer led 116 of the first 191 laps of the race.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend

1) Do the Busch regulars have any realistic shot at winning these standalone events?

At first glance, the answer is simply not with drivers like Edwards and Bowyer still in the field. The two combined to lead 165 of a possible 225 laps, leaving the rest of the Busch-only regulars in the dust to battle for the scraps left behind. However, all the Buschwhackers benefited from being able to fly in from Pocono and qualify their own cars, as explained by Carl Edwards' story above; that kept them from starting at the back of the field. Once we get to Milwaukee in two weeks, these drivers definitively won't have that luxury, as Infineon is too far for each wheelman to travel back and forth; that will leave each driver with another obstacle they need to overcome. In my opinion, circle that date on the calendar as the best chance the Busch regulars have to finally put one in the win column.

2) Can Jason Keller's team give us hope for the future of this series?

Absolutely. Driving the No. 11 CJM Racing Chevrolet, Keller has made the racing world take notice with three consecutive Top 15 finishes after debuting this car last month, peaking with a season-best sixth place run on Saturday night. Leading one lap on the day, Keller ran in the Top 10 throughout the race, making a strong statement that he's back in the series to stay with a team that's committed to running for a championship in 2008. What's important to note here is that this is a team that began the year attempting the full Nextel Cup schedule and went through a successful Busch Series transition. Will other single car teams struggling in Nextel Cup look at this team and do the same thing? Only time will tell…but when you're failing to qualify at the track each week, it's certainly tempting to step down a notch and wind up with a chance to contend each and every race you enter.

3) Is Kertus Davis blowing his big break?

Running for years with an independent family-owned team in the Busch Series, Davis worked hard to simply finish each race, gaining the respect of his peers by bringing home underfunded cars with Top 25 runs. However, since hooking up with Kevin Harvick, Inc. to run a limited schedule in top-notch equipment, he's actually done worse than when he was racing his own No. 0 car. In four starts, Davis has yet to finish better than 30th, and his third-lap wreck at Nashville ripped his car to shreds and sent him scurrying to the garage.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:

Edwards' fourth victory of the season also keeps him at a perfect 100% when it comes to concrete tracks this season. Every race the Busch Series has run on that surface - Bristol, Dover, and both Nashville events - has ended with the No. 60 coasting into Victory Lane.

Meanwhile, in the gritty performance category, Regan Smith put together one of the best runs of his young career at Nashville. Getting caught a lap down on an early caution, he got it back the hard way - by passing the leader - and then charged up through the field to a 5th-place finish.

Kudos also to David Green, the 1994 Busch Series champion who finished 11th in just his second start with Riley-D'Hondt Motorsports. Unfortunately, his teammate Bobby Santos did not have the same type of impressive performance as his Richmond debut produced; the No. 92 Toyota spun out on lap 66 and ended up parked for the rest of the day with a faulty transmission.

Finally, while David Ragan was the highest finishing rookie in 7th, Kelly Bires should get kudos for the best performance by someone with a yellow stripe. Bires crashed the primary No. 47 car usually driven by Jon Wood but came back with no laps on the backup machine to drive from the rear of the field to 15th place. Bires is also scheduled to drive the next week at Kentucky, with mystery and speculation continuing to surround Wood’s continued absence from the No. 47. A source close to the team tells Frontstretch.com Wood will attempt to make a return to Milwaukee, and while drugs have been ruled out, the reason for his disappearance is a well-kept secret to the point most members of the team don’t even know what’s going on.

In the points department, Carl Edwards has established a section all his own - and there's no one else even remotely close to finding it. Holding a gargantuan 662-point lead over last year's champion Kevin Harvick, Edwards is almost virtually guaranteed to increase that margin in the coming weeks as Harvick will not be running either of the next two events. Dave Blaney maintains third place, already 745 behind Edwards, while David Reutimann and Regan Smith round out the Top 5.

Behind them, Matt Kenseth drops two spots to sixth after skipping Nashville, while Bobby Hamilton, Jr. moves up to seventh on the heels of a 13th-place performance Saturday night. David Ragan, Clint Bowyer, and Greg Biffle round out the Top 10. As the Buschwhackers continue to make a mockery of the standings, it should be duly noted that four of the drivers listed above haven't even run all the events, a sure sign that the Nextel Cup veterans are running roughshod over the other drivers and teams that show up just to run on Saturdays each week.

Buschwhacker Watch:
Buschwhackers in this race: 9
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 286 of 598
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 4
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 110 of 140
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 14 of 14
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 8

Quotable:

“We fell back at the beginning, made some adjustments, had great pit stops and then at the end we had that long green flag run. It’s a great feeling to come to this track and run so well three times in a row…I feel like I’ve won the lottery three times in the last week.” Carl Edwards

“I’m real happy with everybody at Braun Racing — we’ve really turned it around. We’ve had a really up and down season, mainly down. The guys did a great job tonight. It was fun racing (Scott) Wimmer at the end and we caught him on the last lap and were able to pass him. I have to thank everyone at Great Clips and of course Toyota for all their help, you know Fans1st and of course all the guys back at the shop did a good job. If we keep doing this, we’ll be happy.” Jason Leffler

“There’s something about 10th over 11th. From where we came in Charlotte, this feels like a win. People will see that and say, ‘well that’s 11th, it’s not a win.’ But, we basically have one or two guys on this team with any NASCAR experience; most of them are from the Riley sports car team. We are a brand new team. The Bill Davis Racing truck guys pitted our car. Once we get out of the new team blues, we’ll be fine. The engine package, the body and everything involved with the information that Toyota shares, I think it should be a testimony for a team like ours that is totally brand new. In the second race, for us to do what we did even with the issues that we had — to me that’s very exciting and very encouraging.” David Green

Next Up: The June stretch of Busch standalone races now prepares to enter its second week, as the series heads from Tennessee to neighboring Kentucky for another intermediate track showdown under the lights. The 1.5-mile oval in Sparta will host the Meijer 300 by Oreo, with TV coverage beginning at 8:00 PM EST on Saturday, June 16th on ESPN2. The race will also be broadcast on your local MRN radio network.

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