NASCAR’s Nationwide Series will be running a stand alone event, meaning they are racing at a track separate from the Sprint Cup schedule, this weekend. Sadly Saturday’s race, the Five Hour Energy Drink 250, will be NASCAR’s farewell appearance at the Gateway International Raceway. This difficult decision was made by the raceway’s parent company, Dover Motorsports, earlier this year based on current, and projected, harsh economics.
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
With the Nationwide Series racing at the Illinois based Gateway International Raceway and their Sprint Cup counterparts racing halfway across the country, at Martinsville-Virginia, it appears that there is a very good chance that a bonafide Nationwide Series team could actually win this race. There are only five double duty drivers, or those who are competing in both series’ races, on the entry list
That’s the good news for the full time Nationwide Series teams. The bad news is two of those double duty drivers are Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards who are running the full schedules in both series this year. They are currently running first and second in the championship standings but that’s just basically a formality because Keselowski goes into next Saturday’s race with a whopping 450 point lead over Edwards. Mathematically speaking, if Keselowski can leave the Gateway event with a lead of 587 points then he will automatically clinch the Nationwide championship despite the fact there will still be three races left in the season.
Meanwhile Edwards will be looking to sweep Gateway after winning the race there last July. That race is not a very fond memory for Keselowski. On the final lap of the race there was contact between the two drivers. Edwards got the checkers while Keselowski got the wreckers.
Considering the travel distance and the tight schedules between the two race locations, these double duty drivers are going to need some help. This is especially true of Saturday morning. The Cup schedule calls for final practice sessions at Martinsville around the same time the Nationwide schedule will be holding the qualifying session for the Gateway race. That means the Cup drivers will have to depend upon substitute drivers to handle things in Illinois during their absence.
Penske Racing development driver Parker Kligerman will be at Gateway to sub for Keselowski. Edwards will be counting of help from Roush Fenway Racing development driver Erik Darnell during his absence. Other subs include Colin Braun filling in for Paul Menards Ford while Jeff Fuller will be helping out Joe Nemechek. McDonald Motorsports has yet to pick a sub driver for Michael McDowell.
There is another matter regarding the need of a substitute driver for a very special reason. Brendan Gaughan, driver of the #62 Toyota for Rusty Wallace Racing, may need to return home to his native Las Vegas. His wife Tatum may be delivering the couple’s first child, a boy, just about any day now. Wallace said he has driver David Stremme on standby in case Gaughan has to get gone.
There’s one thing we know for sure about the Nationwide Series race this Saturday: it will not have a repeat winner. 2009 winner Kyle Busch will remain at Martinsville and the same goes for his team mate Joey Logano. That means there will be none of the massive domination of Nationwide Series races from Joe Gibbs Racing that we’ve seen so much of this year. JGR has opted to place their development drivers, Brad Coleman and Matt DiBenedetto, in their Toyotas this Saturday.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Five Hour Energy Drink 250 is 200 laps/250 miles around the Gateway International Raceway’s 1.25 mile oval.
The race has 49 entries vying for the 43 starting berths.
19 of the entries are on the go or go home list and do not have a guaranteed starting berth because they are currently outside of the top 30 in owner’s points. These teams will have to ely on qualifying speed to make the race.
The Five Hour Energy Drink 250 will be broadcast live by the ESPN2 network beginning at 3 pm eastern time.