NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Zippo 200

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Kyle Busch was the only driver in the field that had anything for brother Kurt at Watkins Glen on Saturday, but Rowdy learned the hard way that one mistake on a road course is enough to cost a win. Racing for the lead less than halfway into Saturday’s event, Kyle got out of shape in the bus stop chicane and ended up with a grill full of grass. Forcing an earlier-than-scheduled pit stop, the No. 18 was a few laps short on fuel and forced to pit from the lead less a mere 10 miles from the checkered flag, leaving Kurt to drive away from the field on a green-white-checkered to score his second career NNS win at the Glen. Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: U.S. Cellular 250

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Roush Fenway Racing’s Mustangs had finished 1-2 four times this season prior to Saturday night’s race at Iowa, so Ricky Stenhouse Jr. beating Carl Edwards to the stripe wasn’t the most remarkable outcome statistically. But this finish was so much more. In a race that saw the two teammates trade paint and get hot under the collar for the second consecutive week, Stenhouse had nearly a second on Edwards heading into the final corner when his engine expired. Edwards, who had enough momentum to clear the No. 6 and steal the win, got caught up in the cloud of smoke and oil from the expired motor, slammed into the back of Stenhouse’s car, and in doing so secured the second career win for the current points leader. Edwards, polesitter Elliott Sadler, Josh Wise and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kroger 200

A night of complete dominance for Roush Fenway Racing that saw the team’s three cars lead 193 of the first 198 laps went up in smoke late at Lucas Oil Raceway on Saturday night. With Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne all running one-two-three inside of 30 laps to go, each ran into trouble. Edwards was busted during a late-race cycle of pit stops for visibly speeding on pit road exit, Bayne had his engine expire on lap 188 and Stenhouse, who led a career-high 189 laps was pushed from the lead on lap 198 by Brad Keselowski. The defending series champion drove hard into turn 3 and forced the No. 6 Ford towards the fence, driving off to score his second win of 2011.

Despite a few late race yellows, the majority of Saturday’s race was the cleanest seen on the bullring in Clermont, Indiana in some time, with Stenhouse dominating for most of the evening. A slightly harder tire did keep failures to a minimum, without impacting the continual side-by-side racing that the Nationwide Series has enjoyed for years on the longtime venue’s racing surface.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Federated Auto Parts 300

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They don’t call him Concrete Carl for nothing. Carl Edwards rebounded from a mid-race pit road speeding penalty to score his fifth win of the 2011 Nationwide Series season. Aside from the penalty, it was a flawless night for Edwards, who led 124 of the laps run and was largely unmolested up front after Brad Keselowski dropped a cylinder. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Friday night’s Truck winner Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

Extreme hot temperatures in the Nashville area throughout the weekend led to a very slick concrete racing surface, causing loose conditions that dominated the field on Saturday evening. Still, despite the treacherous track environment, the event was clean; only three yellows slowed the 300 miles on Saturday, with Mikey Kile’s spin through the backstretch grass the only incident of the night.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: New England 200

It wasn’t in dominating form, but Kyle Busch was there when it counted. On a day that saw Kevin Harvick and his No. 33 team all but the class of the field, Busch still found a way after lurking most of Saturday afternoon to strike past Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (who was on older tires) and weather a rash of late-race yellows to score his 49th career Nationwide Series victory, tying Mark Martin for the all-time series lead. Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Stenhouse and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

After a quiet first 100 miles that saw only two yellows for a single-car spin and debris, the rest of the afternoon’s race turned into a carnage fest, with three multi-car wrecks marring the last 20 laps alone. Of important note in the points race was the melee on the frontstretch on lap 190 that collected Reed Sorenson; after spinning, the No. 32 car was unable to refire, falling back to the end of the lead pack. Though the team rebounded to finish 15th, the incident cost them valuable ground they were set to make up on Elliott Sadler’s No. 2 team, which struggled to a mediocre 12th place result.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Feed the Children 300

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The latest fuel mileage chapter of NASCAR racing 2011 was written on Friday night, with Brad Keselowski emerging the victor of a cat-and-mouse duel between him and Kevin Harvick in the closing laps, running up to each other while saving gas over the final green flag run. It marked the first win of the season for the defending series champion, with Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and polesitter Elliott Sadler rounding out the top 5.

In an event that was a departure from previous Kentucky races and full of green flag runs, Sadler managed to wrestle the points lead away from Reed Sorenson on a night that saw Turner Motorsports struggle both on track and in the pits. Coupled with an early spin for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the former Cup regular scored his series’ regular leading ninth top-5 finish to take the point heading to Loudon.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Subway Jalapeno 250

The JR Motorsports duo jumped too early. The Rusty Wallace Incorporated duo didn’t have enough steam. And that opened the door for, go figure, a Joe Gibbs Racing entry to swoop in and steal the Subway Jalapeno 250, with Joey Logano leading only one lap en route to his first Nationwide Series victory of 2011. Jason Leffler, Reed Sorenson, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top 5.

Unlike back in February, when it was expected that the Nationwide Series COT cars would not lend themselves to the same tandem-racing that has dominated recent Cup plate events, the tandem-racing was seen from the drop of the green this Friday evening. What was perhaps unexpected was the reduction of yellow flags; after an incident-filled Thursday practice, the race was void of any “big ones” until the final lap.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Bucyrus 200

When the yellow flag flew on lap 56 for Aric Almirola’s machine being stuck in a gravel trap after the afternoon’s third and final attempt at a green-white-checker finish, Justin Allgaier and crew celebrated the win over the radio. Then, disaster struck as the No. 31 team ran out of gas coming back to the line to take the checkers.

10 minutes and countless reviews later, Allgaier’s Turner Motorsports teammate Reed Sorenson returned to victory lane for the first time since 2007, handed the trophy after it was determined that Ron Fellows, who crossed the finish line first under the lap 56 yellow, passed Sorenson under yellow only because the No. 32 car had slowed to caution speed. Fellows was credited for a runner-up finish, with Jacques Villeneuve, Elliott Sadler and Mike Wallace rounding out the top 5.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Alliance Truck Parts 250

There wasn’t a soul in the garage or the stands coming into Michigan race weekend that would dare question just how stout the powerplants in Roush Fenway Racing’s Ford Mustangs were, and that strength was on display in the Big Three’s backyard. As expected, Carl Edwards strolled to victory in his fifth consecutive top-2 finish, with teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne also bringing home top-5 results. Kyle Busch and polesitter Paul Menard were the other top-5 finishers.

The Roush Fords combined to lead 101 of the 125 laps run Saturday during a race that, typical of Michigan, was short on caution flags. What was different on the track this Saturday was both the importance and efficacy of drafting down the tracks sweeping straightaways, as two car pairs could be seen working on the straights throughout the race. The event was also devoid of the tire failures that plagued the ARCA Racing Series event run at the facility the day before.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: STP 300

With 25 laps to go, Carl Edwards stormed past race leader Elliott Sadler, seemingly poised to steal another Nationwide Series trophy on a standalone weekend. This time, the regulars were having none of that. Edwards ran out of gas on the backstretch coming to the checkered flag, allowing a hard-charging Justin Allgaier to pass him…only to run out of gas himself exiting turn 3. But with third-place driver Trevor Bayne having to nurse a nearly-empty fuel tank home himself, Allgaier was able to limp his Chevrolet across the stripe to score his second career Nationwide Series victory. Edwards, Bayne, polesitter Aric Almirola and Jason Leffler rounded out the top 5.

Allgaier’s victory marked the first race a Nationwide Series regular has won on a 1.5 mile oval since Mike Bliss won a rain-shortened event at Charlotte back in the spring of 2009, and also snapped a three-race win streak for Roush Fenway Racing. The event was largely without incident, slowed for only 18 laps on four cautions, three of which did not involve contact of any kind.

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