Fontana: Round two preview

Young NoCal Native Clauson Returns After Strong Daytona Showing Seeing Double: NASCAR Nationwide Series Shares Race Day With Trucks In The Loop: Burton Boasts 123.1 Driver Rating At California Hall Pass To The Fast Lane: Clauson Brings Big Finish ...

Fontana: Round two preview

Young NoCal Native Clauson Returns After Strong Daytona Showing
Seeing Double: NASCAR Nationwide Series Shares Race Day With Trucks
In The Loop: Burton Boasts 123.1 Driver Rating At California

Hall Pass To The Fast Lane: Clauson Brings Big Finish To California

While in one of his high school classes in late 2006, Bryan Clauson (No. 41 Energizer Dodge) approached a teacher for a hall pass.

Usually not a strange request by a student but on this day, it was indeed different.

Clauson asked to be excused in order to meet a potential sponsor for a NASCAR Nationwide Series ride.

Two months later, the young Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates development driver was locked in with sponsorship for his ride.

Now two years later, Clauson is the talk of the series following a sixth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway last Saturday to open the 2008 season.

Although he now calls Noblesville, Ind., home, Clauson was born in the northern California town of Carmichael and lived there until age 10.

His interest in racing was cultivated by the career of his father, Tim, a successful West Coast sprint car driver. Tim Clauson also worked with another California driver during his formative years -- Jeff Gordon.

Bryan Clauson's career climb began at the go-kart level then graduated to sprint cars and midgets before moving to ARCA where he registered a victory last summer at Gateway International Raceway.

In a bit of superspeedway foreshadowing, he won the ARCA pole at Talladega last fall before landing consistent top-10 times in his first visit to Daytona during NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing last month.

Saturday's race at California Speedway marks his first series event on a 2-mile track.

Seeing Double: Two Series Share California Spotlight Saturday

A two-for-one scheduling first will greet the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at California Speedway on Saturday.

The San Bernardino County 200 is up first for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starting at 3 p.m. ET while the Stater Bros. 300 follows at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Although the two series have raced on the same day in previous years due to weather postponements, Saturday marks the first scheduled doubleheader.

The final practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is sandwiched in between both races which will make for a hectic but exciting day for Kyle Busch (No. 32 Beringer Vineyards Toyota).

The 2005 NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year is entered in both of Saturday's races, in addition to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Auto Club 500 on Sunday.

NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Mike Bliss (No. 22 Supercuts Dodge) is also entered in both races on Saturday.

First Win For A Home-Stater?

Not only does Bryan Clauson lead a group of California natives into the Stater Bros. 300 this weekend, but two of his fellow Golden State stars are threats to win the event.

And a victory by a home-state driver would be a first in this race.

Two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and team owner Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet -- Bakersfield) has finished out of the top 10 only once in 10 career races at the track. Two of those results were runner-up finishes.

Jason Leffler's (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota -- Long Beach) results have been the opposite of Harvick. Although he captured a pole at California in 2004, he's only been able to register two top-10 finishes in eight races.

Long Beach Honors Leffler

A win for Jason Leffler at California would be a perfect ending to a trip that includes being honored in his hometown.

Wednesday night at Smooth's Sports Grille in Long Beach, Leffler's uniform and helmet will be set for permanent display at the establishment making Leffler a "Legend of Long Beach" as a tribute to career and, of course, his roots in the city.

"I always look forward to coming home to California but this trip is going to be even more special for me," he said. "(Owner) John Morris has made it a point to celebrate and pay tribute to other athletes from this area and I am honored to now be a part of that history."

West Series Represents

Two former NASCAR Camping World Series champions are entered in the Stater Bros. 300 at California Speedway.

Kevin Harvick won the championship in 1998, which started a climb up the NASCAR ladder that took him to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and into his current status as a star in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Eric Norris (No. 14 Music City Illinois Ford) won the 2002 West championship. He's the son of actor and martial arts legend Chuck Norris.

A Redondo Beach native, Norris also coordinates stunts and directs action scenes for TV shows and feature films. He has two NASCAR Nationwide Series career starts, one at California in 2005.

In The Loop: Virginia Native Burton More Than Comfortable At California

Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) steps back into the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend, and if the stats are any indication, he won't miss a beat.

Burton is outstanding at California. He won the last time the series went to the 2-mile track and hasn't finished outside the top 10 in any of his last three races there.

Since 2005, he has a Driver Rating of 123.1, an Average Running Position of 5.1, a series-high 119 Fastest Laps Run, an average Green Flag Speed of 173.061 mph and has run 93.5% of the laps in the top 15. Burton did not run at Daytona.

This weekend could also be a great opportunity for Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) . The reigning series champion sits 11th in the points standings, but will race at one of his favorite venues Saturday. He won there in 2005, racking up a race-high Driver Rating of 141.8.

Overall since 2005 -- which includes three top-five finishes -- Edwards has an average Driver Rating of 107.0, an Average Running Position of 9.4, 80 Fastest Laps Run, a series-high 290 Green Flag Passes and a series-high 736 Laps in the Top 15 (81.8%).

What also may prove interesting this weekend is the impressive runs by Kyle Busch. He placed in the top 10 in all three of NASCAR's national series at Daytona last week and will try to accomplish the feat again this weekend. He'll run both legs of the NASCAR Nationwide-NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series double-header, and the stats suggest he'll have an opportunity to once again run up front.

In the two California races last season, Busch ran third and second, respectively. He has a Driver Rating of 104.6, an Average Running Position of 9.6, 47 Fastest Laps Run and 439 Laps in the Top 15.

The Director's Take: California Speedway

"We're looking forward to our race at California Speedway, our first with the tapered spacer. It gives us an opportunity to start our engine program that, in the long run, will help contain costs for the series.

"This is the first race that we believe allows the teams to start utilizing their components for more than one race and make their engine budget dollars go farther.

"The tapered spacer -- unlike a restrictor plate -- funnels the air from the carburetor into the intake manifold, helping the air/fuel mixture circulate better than a restrictor plate would. "It's designed to reduce some horsepower and that's how engine components can be used more than once. That, along with the gear rule that reduces RPM, puts less stress on the engine allowing parts to be used again.

"California is a 2-mile track and puts it in the middle of a superspeedway like Daytona and a 1.5-mile track like we have next week at Las Vegas.

"Teams will try to balance the downforce to help the car turn and still reduce some of the drag on the car to make it go fast.

"It's also an opportunity for our fans to see two of NASCAR's top series race on the same day."

California Speedway

Most Wins: Matt Kenseth (4)
Most Poles: Clint Bowyer (2)

Quick Fact: In 15 previous races, no driver has won from the pole at California.

NNS Etc.

KHI and one of its sponsors,, will partner with the "Million Thanks Foundation" this year. The foundation collects letters of support for U.S. troops, past and present. Prior to Saturday's race, Kevin Harvick will place the first letter in a drop box to kick off the campaign between the team, sponsor and the foundation. KHI will make drop boxes available at all show car appearances throughout the season.

A return to California is special for new series sponsor Nationwide Insurance. In addition to serving its customers in their time of need and providing humanitarian relief to the area, the company had a hand in raising funds for the victims of the wild fires that raged through San Diego County and other parts of Southern California last November, a week before the Nationwide Tour Championship. Nationwide partnered with the PGA TOUR to donate $206,000 for the Red Cross Fire Relief Fund.

Stephen Leicht (No. 21 RCR Chevrolet) gets his first chance to race since finishing seventh in the series standings last year. Leicht, who won his first career race last season at Kentucky, has reason to be considered among the favorites at California. He'll be driving the No. 21 car has posted a driver championship, two owner titles and 21 wins over the last five seasons.

Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at California Speedway in the fall of 2006. After competing in Saturday's race, he'll travel to El Centro, Calif., to fly with the Navy's Blue Angels on Monday, Feb. 25. In honor of his flight, Keselowski will wear a gold visor this weekend and next at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; the Blue Angels wear gold visors on their helmets. It will be a family affair at California as Brad's older brother Brian makes his debut in the No. 28 Chevrolet. The brothers' dad, Bob, will serve as crew chief for Brian's team.

Dale Ferguson, the lead engineer for Rusty Wallace Racing, has been named interim crew chief for the No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet, which is shared by the trio of David Stremme (in the car at California), Chase Austin and Max Papis. Ferguson replaces Steve Darne. On Deck: Las Vegas

The NASCAR Nationwide Series continues its westward swing with its annual stop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Saturday, March 1. EPN2 will carry the Sam's Town 300 live beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.

The 1.5-mile track hosted NASCAR Preseason Thunder for the NASCAR Nationwide Series late last month.

Jeff Burton won this race last year and his three victories at LVMS are the most of any series driver. Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin each have won two poles, the most at Las Vegas.

The Race: Stater Bros. 300

The Place: California Speedway
The Date: Saturday, Feb. 23

The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET

Track Layout: 2-mile oval

2007 Winner: Matt Kenseth
2007 Pole: Dave Blaney

Friday -- Practice 9:45-11:50 a.m.; Final Practice 5:45-6:45 p.m. Saturday -- Qualifying, 9:35 a.m. (Impound).

-credit: nascar

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