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Nationwide Notes: MIS Is New Car Showroom

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 13 2010

Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski raced the new Nationwide cars at Daytona earlier this summer. The cars are back on track for the first time since at Michigan today. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Brooklyn, Mich. – The sights and sounds of the new Nationwide Series cars filled the air at Michigan International Speedway on Thursday during a six-hour practice session on the 2-mile, D-shaped oval.

The new car, which debuted last month during Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory at Daytona, will see action for the second time this season in Saturday’s CARFAX 250 in NASCAR’s junior circuit.

Richmond and Charlotte will also play host to the new Nationwide Series car, which is scheduled to go full-time beginning in 2011.

“It’s good to get the new Nationwide car back on the race track,” Nationwide Series director Joe Balash said. “Walking through the garage and talking with some of the drivers, we have a good feel for the car. The balance is good on the car.

“Probably the majority of the garage started just a tick tight today. And there’s has been a number of teams making some adjustments on the car by using the earpieces on the rear spoiler.

“That’s one of the things we gave to the teams with the new Nationwide car to make some adjustments. And I think we’ve seen a lot of the teams taking advantage of that this morning.”

A full field of 43 cars will take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. in Saturday’s 125-lap event.

Forty-four Nationwide Series cars are on-hand for this weekend’s activities at MIS.

“I’m impressed with the quality of the field,” said Brett Bodine, the director of competition for NASCAR research and development.

“The cars look great and have that look that the new Nationwide car is famous for. This is very difficult for our team owners, in the middle of the season, to have four races that are different cars out of their fleet.

“But the participation has just really been great.”

Under overcast conditions, Carl Edwards turned a lap of 178.103 mph to pace the morning session.

Current points leader, defending race winner and Michigan native Brad Keselowski was sixth-fastest.

“We’re trying to make the car a little bit better,” Keselowski said. “I think we’re just OK. We’ve got a little work to do.

“Obviously, the cars are slower than the Cup cars. But that’s the intent of these cars, to give a place to train where you can make it to the Cup level and make that next step. It feels a little slow, but that’s because I’m used to driving the Cup cars.”

Following six hours of practice on Thursday, the Nationwide cars return to the track again on Friday for a single hour of practice at 2:30 p.m. to prepare for qualifying on Saturday morning at 10.

But because of the lengthy inspection process, the Nationwide teams will start rolling their new cars through tech shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday.

“One of the things we looked at with the new cars is does our inspection process change?” Balash said. “And with a change in the inspection process, we need to get the teams trained to what the level of expectations is at each one of the stations.

“We started at Daytona, which is a long inspection process, and there’s more steps at Daytona.

“We wanted to make sure we have ample time to get all the cars inspected before we go on the race track (on Friday). We didn’t want to have that practice session start and have a car not ready to go because of an inspection issue.”

Trevor Bayne has been on a roll in recent weeks in the No. 99 Toyota fielded by Diamond-Waltrip Racing.

He credits part of his success to former NASCAR driver Johnny  Benson.

“Johnny’s been great for us the past few weeks,” said Bayne, who won three consecutive poles earlier this season. “He started working with us at ORP. We’ve been doing better since then, so it must be working out.

“Johnny has a lot of knowledge about racing in general. Anything I have a question about he’s been able to help me with. He thinks about a lot of things that would never have crossed my mind.

“He brought up the way the wind was blowing at the start of the race at Iowa. He’s been an extra set of eyes up there with my spotter.”

IZOD IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick is back behind the wheel of the No. 7 Chevrolet fielded by J.R. Motorsports this weekend.

But she’s traded in the familiar green colors of sponsor Go Daddy for a multi-color paint scheme featuring the popular kids’ toy Hot Wheels.

“I definitely had some Hot Wheels when I was a kid,” Patrick said. “I probably had more Barbies, though. I think I had about 30 Barbies. But I definitely had Hot Wheels too.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 13 2010
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