DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- NASCAR’s top developmental drivers from coast to coast will converge on Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa this week for the Long John Silver’s 200 on Sunday, May 17.
Drivers of the NASCAR Camping World Series East and NASCAR Camping World Series West go head to head in their only points-paying combination race of the season.
But there’s much more at stake in this annual event than championship points. Just ask Joey Logano, who edged Kevin Harvick to win the inaugural combination race at Iowa in 2007, or Brian Ickler, who topped Kasey Kahne in last year’s event.
It’s a chance to gain the prestige of beating the best NASCAR Camping World Series drivers from across the country, as well as a star driver from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This year, Kyle Busch hopes to do what Harvick and Kahne were not able to accomplish – win the race and snatch the top honors.
There are plenty of talented drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Series who want to keep that first-place trophy within their own ranks, however.
Ickler is returning to Iowa in hopes of a repeat win. “Everyone picks up their game when you have the two series running together,” he said. “Then the Cup guys that win every weekend come in and race with us – it’s always fun to run against guys like that.”
Ickler raced in the NASCAR Camping World Series West in 2006 and 2007, before moving to North Carolina to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Series East in 2008. Although on a limited schedule, he won the season opener.
A driver not to be overlooked at Iowa is Jesus Hernandez (No. 12 Chivas/Telmex/Z-Line Designs Dodge). As a regular in the NASCAR Camping World Series East the past two years, he was the only driver to finish in the top five in both combination races there.
Austin Dillon (No. 3 Mom & Pop’s Country Ham/Camp Debbie Lou Chevrolet) will also be looking for another strong performance at Iowa. Dillon, the grandson of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner Richard Childress, won the Coors Light Pole Award and finished sixth in last year’s combination race.
Many of the top competitors from the NASCAR Camping World Series West, meanwhile, have yet to register a top-10 finish in the combination event.
Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota), who leads the championship standings of the NASCAR Camping World Series West in his bid to win his third title in four years, is hoping to come home from Iowa with his first good finish there. He finished 38th in 2007 and 27th last year. Also looking for a better outcome at Iowa is Jason Bowles (No. 6 Sunrise Ford Ford), who finished a close second to Holmes in the championship standings last year. Bowles, with Iowa finishes of 22nd in 2007 and 18th in 2008, is currently second in the standings.
Greg Pursley (No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet), who finished 26th at Iowa last year, returned to full-time competition in the NASCAR Camping World Series West this season and is third in the standings. Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Toyota), who is fourth in points, is looking to do better at Iowa after finishing 20th there in 2007 and 15th in 2008. Fifth in the standings is David Mayhew (No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet), who had finishes at Iowa of 13th in 2007 and 42nd in 2008.
Some of the top NASCAR Camping World Series East drivers, meanwhile, are looking forward to taking the green flag for the first time at Iowa. Alan Tardiff (No. 38 Bestway Disposal Chevrolet), who is third in the overall championship standings, tops the list of newcomers.
Other Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates from that series expected to be at Iowa include Kristin Bumbera (No. 94 Wide Open Energy Drink Dodge), Dominick Casola (No. 61 A Casola Farms Chevrolet), Jason Cochran (No. 72 Cochran Realty/Clark Tire Chevrolet), Jarit Johnson (No. 23 Jarit Johnson Racing Chevrolet), Alex Kennedy (No. 37 Media Master Chevrolet), Matt Kurzejewski (No. 10 American Campus Communities Dodge), Brett Moffitt (No. 44 BrettMoffitt.com Chevrolet) and Ryan Truex (No. 00 NAPA Toyota).
Defending series champion Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino Chevrolet) is among a handful of drivers in the series this year that raced in both previous combination races at Iowa. Kobyluck, who is looking to move up from sixth in the championship standings, finished 36th there in 2007 and eighth last year.
Drivers faced a tough challenge just to make the race last year, with 54 cars attempting to qualify for 44 starting spots. Jody Lavender (No. 88 H&R Block Chevrolet), who currently leads the standings in the NASCAR Camping World Series East, was among those who did not qualify last year
Meanwhile, series veteran Eddie MacDonald (No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet), who is fifth in the championship standings, hopes his return to Iowa nets a better result than his 37th-place finish last year.
Other drivers in the top 10 of the championship standings in the NASCAR Camping World Series East who are on the entry list for Iowa include veteran driver Steve Park (No. 35 Waste America Recycle America Chevrolet), who finished seventh last year at Iowa; Dustin Delaney (No. 39 Delaney Infrastructure Chevrolet) and Ryan Duff (No. 7 Pine Branch Coal/Laughlin Performance Chevrolet), who were both among last year’s non-qualifiers.
Series veteran John Salemi (No. 63 John Salemi Racing Chevrolet) has had mixed results there. He finished 12th in 2007, but failed to qualify last year. Also making his third trip to Iowa is Jonathan Smith (No. 16 Fadden Racing Chevrolet), who finished 14th there in 2007 and 36th last year.
The Iowa entry list also includes a handful of other veteran drivers from the NASCAR Camping World Series West who have been to both previous visits there. Included are Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford), who finished fourth in 2007 and 28th last year; Brett Thompson (No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet), who finished 7th in 2007 and 40th last year; Daryl Harr (No. 71 WestWorld Computers Chevrolet), who finished 17th in 2007 and 34th last year; and Moses Smith (No. 16 HASA Pools Products/White Flyer Toyota), who after not qualifying in 2007, finished 17th last year.
The NASCAR Camping World Series West has several talented young rookies challenging for the Sunoco Rookie title, who will be getting their first look at Iowa Speedway. They are Paulie Harraka (No. 12 NAPA AutoCare/Adaptive One Brakes Toyota), who is currently sixth in the overall championship standings; Blake Koch (No. 21 GodSpeaks.com Chevrolet), who is ninth in the standings; and Jonathon Gomez (No. 60 Heritage Cattle/D4D Chevrolet), who is 11th in overall points. Other series drivers making their first visit to Iowa Speedway are Wes Banks (No. 3 Valvoline Ford), Billy Kann (No. 18 Interstate Battery Center Chevrolet) and Chris Johnson (No. 50 TCR Ford).
Among drivers getting their second look at Iowa are Jason Patison (No. 17 Lucas Oil/E3 Sparkplugs Chevrolet), who finished 16th there last year; Jim Warn (No. 10 MJ2 Racing/GPI Performance.com Chevrolet), who finished 31st last year; and Jamie Dick (No. 88 Viva Auto Group/Johnnie Walker Performance Center Chevrolet), who finished 35th last year.