Cup Drivers Leading Field
February 21, 2008 | 12:57 P.M. EST
Defending Stater Bros. 300 race winner Matt Kenseth will not return to defend his victory this year, while Jeff Burton, who won the fall race at California, will attempt to win two straight Nationwide races there.
Roush-Fenway Racing teammate Jamie McMurray is filling the seat of the No. 17 CitiFinancial Ford in replace of Kenseth. The race will mark the first time McMurray has raced with the No. 17 team and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer.
"(Drew) won this race last year with Matt Kenseth so I'm really looking forward to getting in the car and seeing what we're able to carry over from his win in 2007," McMurray said. "They tell me that California Speedway is statistically my best track on the circuit, but you can't always go on statistics.
"I don't know what it is about this speedway, but it's one that I really enjoy coming to."
McMurray raced in both Nationwide races at California last year, finishing 15th with the No. 37 team in the spring and eighth with the No. 26 team in the fall.
In both races last year, current NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers held down the top-10 finishing spots.
Burton posted a seventh-place finish in the spring race and followed that up with the win in September. It was the first year he ran both of the Nationwide races at California in the same season.
"Richard Childress Racing was incredible last fall at California. We were unbelievably fast. I love this race track and it is a lot of fun to race, especially the Nationwide cars," Burton said. "With the low engine power, we are going to be wicked fast. It is much slower down the straightaways but that just means that you are going to be faster in the corners. It is going to be an interesting race."
The part-time driver of the No. 29 RCR Chevrolet is one of the stat leaders in the series at California. He has the best driver rating of 123.1 and leads all other drivers over the past three years in laps led (118), fastest laps in competition (119) and average running position (5.1).
In eight starts there, Burton has posted three top-10 finishes with current car owner Richard Childress and two second-place finishes driving for Jack Roush in 1999 and 2000.
Burton knocked off one more track on the to-win list for RCR, with his win at California last fall. The organization has now won at 23 of the 26 tracks on the 2008 schedule, and is only missing wins on the road course, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the short track, Darlington Raceway, and the superspeedway, Talladega Superspeedway.
With a field again full of Cup regulars, Burton and McMurray will have their work cut out for them. Eight Cup drivers who posted top-10 finishes in at least one of last year's California race are on the entry list for Saturday's Stater Bros. 300.
The weekend's race action begins with practice Friday morning (12:45 p.m. ET). The Nationwide Series has a final practice that evening (8:45 p.m. ET), with qualifying opening the day at the track Saturday at 12:35 p.m. (ET).
Saturday sees the first scheduled double-header at the track with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing prior to the Stater Bros. 300 at 7 p.m. (ET).