For Nationwide Series competitors, March has been similar to spring break. This weekend will be the third open week for the series this year, and all three have come during March.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Bristol have been the two tracks that have hosted races this month. So competitors better enjoy this weekend; it will be the last free one for awhile.
April 4 at Texas will kick off a string of six consecutive race weekends for the series, the longest such string of the season thus far. And all upcoming races will be on different types of tracks. Following Texas, the last of three consecutive events, are races at the 1.33-mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway (April 11), the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway (April 17), the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway (April 25), the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway (May 1) and the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway (May 8). The series’ next break will come during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race weekend.
The six-week stretch isn’t the longest of 2009, however. Teams will compete for 17 consecutive weekends between May 23 — Sept. 11.
A lot will be determined at Texas in terms of who will have to qualify on time or will be locked into the Nationwide Series 300 at Nashville the following week. In fact, a top-10 finish at Texas doesn’t automatically guarantee a starting position at Nashville.
The O’Reilly 300 will be the last race in which teams finishing in the top 30 in the 2008 owner point standings will be guaranteed a starting spot. After Texas, the top 30 in the 2009 owner points will be guaranteed starters.
Currently, teams occupying positions 25-30 are separated by only 24 points, and 32-37 are separated by 44 points. That’s 12 positions separated by 64 points.
Full-time teams on the bubble, or those on the outside looking in, include, in order of position:
Drivers in peril: Brandon Whitt (No. 61 Specialty Racing Ford), Danny O’Quinn Jr. (No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet), DJ Kennington (No. 81 Northern Provincial Pipeline Dodge), Morgan Shepherd (No. 89 Victory In Jesus Chevrolet), Michael Annett (No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers/Hype Energy Drink Toyota) and the duo of Robert Richardson Jr./Ken Butler III (No. 23 R3 Motorsports Chevrolet) are 30 through 25 in reverse order, respectively.
On their heels: Scott Wimmer (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet), 31st; Kenny Hendrick (No. 42 Smith-Ganassi Dodge), 32nd and Brian Keselowski (No. 26 K-Automotive Chevrolet), 34th, all are within 36 points of 30th.No Comment