With his 2010 Nationwide Series driver’s title all but locked up (he only needs to finish 21st or better Saturday), Brad Keselowski can shift his focus in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway to capturing the first NASCAR national owner’s title for team owner Roger Penske. Heading into this weekend’s race, Keselowski’s No. 22 team holds a 71-point deficit to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team, with primary driver Kyle Busch.
“Regardless of how this season turns out, I’m proud of this team,” Keselowski said. “To come out of the box like we have with a brand new team is pretty remarkable.”
Gaining owner points on Busch and the No. 18 team won’t be easy. Busch comes into Texas with five-consecutive wins. He’s going for a sixth-straight Texas victory this weekend to take sole possession of a series record he currently shares with Dale Earnhardt and Jack Ingram. Earnhardt posted five-consecutive victories in Nationwide competition at Daytona International Speedway, and Ingram accomplished the same feat at South Boston Speedway. With six in a row, Busch will best the two.
“I always enjoy breaking records,” Busch said. “I don’t go after them, but they just seem to fall in place for me. In the Nationwide race, going for six in a row, it’s going to be awfully exciting.”
With three races remaining, counting this weekend’s event at TMS, Busch is expected to finish out the year behind the driver’s seat of the No. 18 Nationwide car. Unless Keselowski can chisel away and diminish the 71-point lead currently held by the No. 18 team, 2010 will mark the fourth time in series history that the driver’s title and owner’s championship have gone to different organizations.
Also, with a No. 18 title, Joe Gibbs Racing can tie a series record with three-straight owner’s championships. It would be the second in a row for the No. 18 team, which won both championships last year with Busch also taking the driver’s title. JGR’s No. 20 team won the owner’s title in 2008 when Richard Childress Racing driver Clint Bowyer claimed the driver’s championship.
Other years that the owner’s and driver’s championships went to different teams were 2007, when Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards won the driver’s title and the No. 20 team of RCR claimed the owner’s championship, and 2003, when Hendrick Motorsports driver Brian Vickers won the driver’s title and RCR’s No. 21 team took the owner’s championship.
Of course, unlike the driver’s championship, the owner’s championship isn’t pretty much already decided. There’s still time for Keselowski and the No. 22 team to pull out an owner’s championship for Penske, but it’s not really looking all that good. To do so, they’ll have to hope for a string of at least a couple of bad races by Busch and the No. 18 over this final three-race stretch.
Television coverage for Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge is slated for a 12 p.m. ET start on ESPN2.
To be notified when new articles are posted, follow me on Twitter or become a fan of NASCAR Examiner on Facebook.