Coleman, Gale Gear Up for "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo"
Baker Curb Racing driver Brad Coleman and Kevin Harvick, Inc., wheelman Cale Gale scorched the Kentucky Speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval in Ford Shelby Mustang pace cars with local media today to provide an in-depth preview of the June 14 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
Both drivers plan to continue their recent success at the track while competing against stout field made up of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings leader Kyle Busch, NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader Clint Bowyer, two-time Kentucky Speedway race winner Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway racer David Ragan and Michael Waltrip Racing competitor David Reutimann.
Coleman drove a Joe Gibbs Racing entry to a second-place "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" finish behind first-time series winner Stephen Leicht last season and plans to add to a solid Kentucky Speedway resume that includes a July 7, 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series win and a second-place series showing earlier that season on May 13. "I've raced here three times and my worst finish is second. I really love this place. I first raced here in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and I was second to Steve Wallace. I won my next ARCA race here. I beat Frank Kimmel on three or four green-white-checker restarts, which was really nerve wracking because that guy is just a great racecar driver.
"Last year, I was leading (the 'Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo') with 15 laps to go and Stephen Leicht passed me. It was a heartbreaker because I wanted to get the (Joe Gibbs Racing) No. 18 guys their first win because they got second here the year before. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it and it just hurts inside.
"I'd love to keep the top-twos going here and I'd love to get a win here so I can say that I've won in every series I've raced here. This track is one of the most fun tracks out there. It's really wide and fast, a fun place to come if you're testing or racing." A solid Kentucky Speedway race would provide a needed to boost to Coleman and his new team that enters the May 24 NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Lowe's Motor Speedway 17th in the series standings after having cracked a race top 10 only once this season through 12 starts.
Coleman placed ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the third series race of the season, but averaged a 26th-place finish in the eight races that followed. He showed signs of life, however, with his 12th-place performance last time out at Darlington Raceway May 9. "It's been and up and down season. The beginning of the year we had that top 10 at Las Vegas and it really was a survival race. It was a tough weekend because on Lap 2 of practice I decided to back our primary car into the wall, so we had to skip the whole first practice had to bring out the back-up. It was good race, we avoided all the wrecks and finished ninth, but it definitely took a lot of work.
"The next week went to Atlanta and blew a right front tire; that ruins our race. We go to Bristol the next weekend and were running up near the top 15 with a really good car and get caught up with a lapped car on Lap 10. It's part of racing. You're going to have good luck and bad luck. This last race we had good luck, so it was a good week for us," Coleman said.
Gale is scheduled to make his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series start of the season in the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." He also looks forward to visiting a track where captured a second-place ARCA RE/MAX Series finish and a 13th-place NASCAR Nationwide Series last season.
He took his only top-10 finish of 2008 through four NASCAR Nationwide Series starts by grabbing eighth-place at Nashville Superspeedway March 22.
"We started out the season at Daytona, went to Atlanta, Nashville and our last race was at Talladega. We feel like we've gotten better each race. Every time I get behind the wheel of the car I feel better and better, so, we're making progress.
"I'm excited about coming back to Kentucky. I finished 13th here last year and it was my best (Nationwide Series) finish until I ran eighth at Nashville. I like Kentucky a lot. After I run Charlotte, I'll run Nashville and then I'll run here, so I'll have a little bit of time behind the wheel before I come back.
"The last two years, Stephen Leicht and David Gilliland made a name for themselves by winning the 'Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo,' so hopefully we can come out here and do the same," Gale said.
He added the fact that he's driving a Kevin Harvick, Inc., machine increases his chances of racing toward the front the pack.
"I tell people that stock car racing is about 60 percent machine and 40 percent driver, so to go out there and have good, winning equipment under you means a lot. We have the right people in place at Kevin Harvick, Inc., all the way from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to the Nationwide Series," Gale said.
While both drivers hold high hopes for their upcoming Kentucky Speedway starts, they know the road to reaching their goals will be challenging in an increasingly competitive series.
"There are 20 guys you can name right off that can win this race. That's all part of it, it makes you better and better. You've got Mike Bliss, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, David Ragan, Jason Leffler and the list goes on and on. David Stremme is running good this year and Steve Wallace has come around. You just have to out there and give it your all. Hopefully, we show them what we're made of and come out on top," Gale said.
Coleman asserted that to be the best, one must compete against the best.
"It's a really tough series, especially this year with the Joe Gibbs Racing cars. It's been domination, unbelievable. Any given weekend there could be 20 Cup drivers in the race. If you get a 15th-place finish, you might be second or third out of the Nationwide-only drivers. It's tough racing against those guys, but if you want to be a Sprint Cup racer one day, you've got to race them eventually. You might as well learn as early as you can."
A full day of "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" activity begins when gates open at 2:00 p.m., June 14. NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying will follow at 5:00 p.m., rock group Smashmouth will be in concert at 6:30 p.m., and drivers will take the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" green flag at 8:30 p.m. The third of six event weekends at the track begins June 13 with practice sessions on "Nationwide Series Day." Gates open at 5:00 p.m., and guests will receive free infield access.
Tickets for the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" and "Nationwide Series Day" can be reserved online through the tickets page of this Web site, by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223), through Meijer stores and Tickets.com outlets or by visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices at 400 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 100, in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., next to the Montgomery Inn Restaurant or the Sparta, Ky., Fan Center located off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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