After Steve Wallace and Kyle Busch tangled on pit road last season following the spring race at Richmond, Wallace was soon after seen sporting a t-shirt that depicted him grabbing the M&M’s driver by the horns. It was a reference to the incident where Wallace grabbed the face of Busch’s helmet.
Well, he must have given that shirt to Joey Logano at some point, because Busch’s JGR teammate has got his number in 2009.
For the fourth time this season, Logano passed Busch with less than 10 laps to go and went on to victory in the Nationwide Series. For Busch, it marked not only the fourth time this year where he lost a race late to Logano, but also the eighth time he led the most laps and failed to win (Busch dominated Saturday, leading 173 of the 200 laps run). Logano made his pass for the lead on lap 197 after a late-race wreck involving Brian Vickers and Brendan Gaughan brought the field back together late.
Despite falling one spot short of victory lane, Busch nonetheless extended his points lead in the Nationwide Series title Chase to 245 over second-place Carl Edwards.
Outside of Busch’s dominance, tire issues were of some concern on Saturday. Though most teams managed tire wear well, there was evidence of cording for a number of teams on longer runs throughout the day, while John Wes Townley and Peyton Sellers endured hard crashes as the result of blown out Goodyears.
Penske Racing had everything to smile about following the performance of their two current development drivers on Saturday. For Justin Allgaier, his sixth-place finish was exactly what has come to be expected of both the leading Rookie of the Year contender and the No. 12 team… a smooth, steady day that saw the former ARCA standout in control and in position all race long. But the bigger story was Penske’s current ARCA project… Cunningham Motorsports driver Parker Kligerman, who went out and won the pole in his Nationwide Series debut. From leading the first seven laps under green (including a daring restart on lap 6 that saw him leave Kyle Busch flat-footed) to uneventful green-flag pit stops and simply holding his own even when the car wasn’t handling, Kligerman’s 16th-place effort was an impressive first outing. The good news for Penske is that being a two-car Nationwide program like they plan to be in 2010 seems to be something that will prove successful. The bad? With Brad Keselowski taking the team’s second NNS car next year, where’s a spot for Kligerman?
On the other side of the garage, another two-car team had a solid run on Saturday…that of JD Motorsports. Veteran Mike Wallace scored his best run of the year, a lead-lap, 17th-place finish that was the best finish anywhere all year for the No. 01 team, while Jeremy Clements brought some much-needed funding to the No. 0 car and raced it into the show. What’s more, Clements was knocking on the door of the top 20 with a team that hadn’t run the distance in months before mechanical troubles parked the car after 96 laps. Still, the 32nd-place run was the best for the No. 0 since Mike Wallace last ran the distance with it back at Gateway.
It was a weekend Eric McClure would probably just as soon forget. First practice session, his No. 24 car was 50th of 50 cars. Happy Hour, his car’s left front was damaged, leaving him in the garage for much of the final session… and 50th of 50 cars on the speed chart. McClure then started 42nd after falling back on owner points to make the field, only to run in the pack all day long and finish 25th, four laps down. McClure told Frontstretch in an interview (that will run later this week) one of the best parts of his new home at Rensi-Hamilton Racing has been his ability to pass cars this season. Unfortunately, only two of the cars he finished ahead of this week were actually running at the finish.
Michael Annett‘s crew told him to “do something to get on TV” this weekend, as the No. 15 car was absent sponsor decals. Annett did just that early in the race, with ESPN actually highlighting him as he ran near the top 10 (funny how the TV coverage comes after the smaller guys are losing sponsors, not when they have had them and are running decent). Unfortunately, he garnered the wrong type of attention in the middle of the race, getting very loose and nearly smacking the frontstretch wall… and then again on lap 184 when a wreck finally ended his day. The 30th-place finish was not indicative of how Annett ran, and marked the second week in a row the No. 15 team had a wrecked race car (he crashed during qualifying at Dover last week).
While ARCA stars in the Penske ranks took to the Nationwide Series at Kansas like ducks to water, the same could not be said for all the drivers in the field with ARCA backgrounds. Patrick Sheltra lasted all of two laps driving the No. 81 before contact with the No. 23 car and Robert Richardson sent him tagging the wall; he would finish only 18 laps all day in coming home 37th. Meanwhile, Michael McDowell had the roughest day he’s had in a while, failing to qualify K-Automotive’s No. 96 car for the first time since he’s been driving for the team. In danger of missing his first start of 2009, McDowell’s old team JTG/Daugherty Racing put him back in the No. 47 car – but only to start-and-park. McDowell completed 12 laps before parking with a 39th-place finish, possibly the lowest point all season for a driver fighting to stay in the top 10 in points.
Underdog Performer of the Race: K-Automotive’s No. 26 Car. While the team endured some definite hardships with both of their moneymaker cars (Nos. 92 and 96) missing the show at Kansas, Saturday also saw the No. 26 take to the track with sponsor decals on the hood. After spending the summer with NEMCO Motorsports, Kevin Conway brought his ExtenZe sponsorship to the Keseslowski garage in a deal that purportedly will last not only through the end of 2009, but as a full-season deal next year as well. Conway didn’t run that poorly either, scoring a 24th-place finish, three laps down for a team that has been consistently start-and-parking in recent weeks while the team’s No. 96 car instead ran the distance. Regardless of what our own Jeff Meyer has to say about Conway’s sponsor, there’s no negatives to seeing a team that has toiled all season with blank cars finally cash a sponsorship check.
The Final Word
Again, this is being dedicated to news and notes, because this championship chase is dead.
- Seriously, what is Penske Racing going to do? Allgaier has lived up to expectations and then some in the No. 12, Keselowski has been promised a full-time Nationwide Series ride in addition to his Cup car, and now this Kligerman guy has taken his act from ARCA to NASCAR and proven up to the task. Right now, all I can say is that Penske had better be darned sure that their commitment from Keselowski is more than just a few years until Hendrick Motorsports finally gets an opening. Because if they have to let Kligerman look elsewhere because Keselowski insists on running for a Nationwide title despite having a full-time Cup ride, they’re going to be gaining a lot of exposure…but losing a highly talented prospect that will make some noise at the next level.
- While the number of cars that start-and-parked was down to nine this weekend, there’s now three teams… K-Automotive, MSRP Motorsports and now SK Motorsports running at least two start-and-park cars on any given weekend. This is why start-and-park is different from what it used to be… we’ve got multi-car teams doing it now. And its well known what the advantages of having a teammate are… imagine being a single-car team actually trying to race, knowing teams that have setups meant to last 10 laps are now finding allies in the garage to bounce more info off of. Especially at a time where such a driver, for example, Matt Carter, finds the garage is “more hush-hush than ever.”
- Jason Keller has three top-15 finishes in a row for the first time since April following a 13th-place run at Kansas. CJM Racing is still ad-hocing their driver lineup as they go. Keller’s still driving well and the No. 11 car’s still running well. Hint hint CJM… who says you can’t go home again?