Jane Miller: Nationwide Series takes the spotlight

Jane Miller

Because of the way the Sprint Cup schedule falls, the Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday gets much more attention than many events in that series.

It comes on the last remaining off weekend on the Cup schedule, which means a lot of the crossover drivers won't make the trip.

And it's at track in the Heartland that has flustered many a driver and team.

"This stand-alone event, coupled with a weekend off for NASCAR Sprint Cup and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing earlier Saturday, gives our series regulars the national spotlight," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director.

Only six Cup drivers have entered Saturday's race: Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Reed Sorenson and David Reutimann, but if you're picking a favorite, take Sorenson.

The 22-year-old Georgia native is one of only three drivers to have won this race twice (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the others).

But don't count out the points-leading Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20. Young phenom Joey Logano is in the seat this week.

The track becomes a big player in a driver's success this weekend.

"Gateway is an egg-shaped oval that's very individual in its design," Balash said. "It's a driver's track that will leave some crew chiefs scratching their heads trying to figure out where to make the car better yet not take away from the car on other parts of the track.

"It will definitely be a battle of compromise and balance - to find the right combination to make the car fast at both ends of the track and manage the many differences it presents."

The race starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available at or by calling 866-35-SPEED.

Helping flood victims

Track walks have become a popular way to raise money for charity. Gateway International Raceway has one planned for Saturday morning before the Nationwide Series race to benefit Missouri and Illinois victims of the recent floods.

The walk is scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. Participants should register at the infield tunnel and must make a $25 donation. Children 12 and younger may walk for free.

All proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross.

Some Nationwide Series drivers also will take part in the walk.

Working so far

The first NHRA 1,000-foot nitro event went off without a hitch last weekend at Denver.

Now the drivers come down to earth.

"Coming into Seattle is going to be our first experience at sea level with the new Goodyear tire and the new 1000-foot distance," said last year's winner, Jack Beckman.

"I tell you, if we have a few more successful races like we had in Denver, the NHRA may think twice about going back to 1320 feet (quarter-mile), but I think the reason they will eventually go back to the quarter-mile is because using two different finish lines in a season is going to be so complicated."

Good news, bad news

Sarah Fisher, who suffered heartbreaking sponsorship woes at Indianapolis, has a sponsor for two upcoming IRL races. Dollar General, which sponsored the Nationwide Series race last weekend, will provide funding for Fisher's car at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 9 and Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 7.

The bad - General Motors executive said Tuesday its cost-cutting measures could even affect its NASCAR program, which is especially not good news for Tony Stewart's new race team.


The Monster Midwest Tour (UMP Late Models and Modifieds) visits Peoria Speedway on Tuesday, Spoon River on Wednesday, LaSalle on Thursday, Farmer City on Friday, Fairbury on Saturday and Lincoln on Sunday.

Jane Miller is the Peoria Journal Star motorsports columnist. She can be reached at