Three Drivers’ Championship Hopes Shine Under The Lights
Anticipation building and competitors focused, the Dollar General 300 looks to be a Friday night fight under the lights that will have fans on their feet cheering. Standings leader Elliott Sadler will have his hands full trying to hold off the charge of 2011 series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sunoco Rookie of the Year sensation Austin Dillon at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Just nine points separate Sadler and Stenhouse, but Dillon is still not out of it, 25 points behind Sadler.
Richard Childress Racing’s Sadler has made 11 starts, posting three top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 18.4. His teammate Dillon has made one series start at the 1.5-mile speedway – starting second and finishing 11th earlier this season. Roush Fenway Racing’s Stenhouse has made six starts at Charlotte, posting one Coors Light pole (spring 2011), one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 22.1. Stenhouse will run double duty this weekend, strapping into RFR’s No. 6 in Saturday’s NSCS Bank of America 500 as part of his transition to that series next season. In the last five races of the 2011 season, Stenhouse had a better average finish (5.4) than Sadler (6.8), and he also led four times (117) as many laps as Sadler (25). Stenhouse also had a better average Driver Rating (116.6) compared to Sadler (104.1) over that same span of races.
Since Dillon is a rookie this season, his statistical sample size is significantly smaller, but at three of the tracks the series returns to in these final five races (Charlotte, Texas, Phoenix) he averaged a finish of 6.7 compared to Sadler’s 6.0 and Stenhouse’s 10.0. Dillon could become the first Sunoco rookie to win the series title or even tie Kyle Busch for the record of highest series rookie points finish (second).
Of the top three in the standings, Dillon has the best pre-race Driver Rating (98.7) compared to Sadler (90.1) and Stenhouse (81.0).
Fifth And 10th Places Being Hotly Contested
As the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads into the final stretch with just five races remaining, the battles for fifth and 10th place in the standings are heating up. When Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett hit the Charlotte track for the Dollar General 300, they will only be separated by 10 points (926 vs. 916). Allgaier, fifth in the standings, has one win, six top-five and 17 top-10 finishes on the season. In eight events at CMS, he has four top-10 finishes.
Annett’s best finish in seven events at the track is 13th (October 2009). He sits in sixth place in the standings with six top fives and 14 top 10s.
The battle for 10th place is even closer with Danica Patrick (675) only three points behind Joe Nemechek(678). Nemechek has one top-10 finish this season (eighth at Richmond). In 32 NNS appearances at Charlotte, he’s won once (May 1997) and has four top fives and eight top 10s.
In 2012, Patrick has one pole and two top 10s. In two races at Charlotte, she finished 21st and 13th.
Wallace To Make 750th National Series Start On Friday
Mike Wallace made his first appearance in one of NASCAR’s national series on Oct. 28, 1990, in an NNS event at Martinsville Speedway. He finished sixth that day, after starting 24th.
Twenty-two years later, Wallace approaches a milestone that is indicative of the longevity of his career. This Friday, when Wallace competes in the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte it will be his 750th start among NASCAR’s top three series.
In 444 NNS starts, Wallace has captured four checkered flags along with 22 top-five and 64 top-10 finishes. His most recent victory came at Daytona in 2004. In 28 starts this season, he has one top-10 finish (seventh in Montreal). His best finish in 31 races at Charlotte was ninth in 1996.
Wallace has started 190 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with three top fives and 14 top 10s. His best NSCS finish at Charlotte is 12th in 1995. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he’s started 115 races, winning five of them to go with 33 top-five and 56 top-10 finishes. He has never competed in a truck race at Charlotte.
NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
Chevrolet can mathematically clinch the Bill France Performance Award Friday. If Chevrolet leads the standings by 25 points leaving the race, it will clinch. Chevrolet currently holds a 25-point lead over Toyota. …Danica Patrick will be supporting Breast Cancer Awareness this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway; her No.7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet will have a special “Pink” paint scheme. Current NNS points leader Elliott Sadler will also run a special pink paint scheme in honor of his mom (Bell Sadler) who is a breast cancer survivor. He will also wear a pink fire suit and driving shoes. … Three better halves participating in Thursday night’s Better Half Dash Charity Bandolero race at CMS are associated with NNS drivers: Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins Pastrana (wife of NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana), Ashley Allgaier (wife of NASCAR driver Justin Allgaier) and Kristen Yeley (wife of NASCAR driver JJ Yeley). … All-time NNS wins leader, Kyle Busch, has yet to post a victory this season, which could end an eight-year win streak – the longest running win streak in the NNS.
NASCAR PR, photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com