The weather was 91 degrees F for the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series 300 race Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California.

Phil Koehgan
Phil Koehgan. Photo by Lynne Huntting
The Grand Marshal for the NNS race was PHIL KOEGHAN, host of Amazing Race. The engaging, outgoing Kiwi was pumped about being the Grand Marshal. His sole motor sport racing experience was driving in the Celebrity race at the 2005 Clipsal 500 V8 Supercars race in Adelaide, Australia. His driver coach, DAVID BRABAM, told him if he didn’t bring back the car full of dents, Koeghan didn’t race hard enough. Koeghan did, and then some.

This weekend’s race is Koeghan’s first live NASCAR race. Previous experience was limited to TV. His “Drivers, Start Your Engines” was preceded “Are You Ready To Go Racing?”

Pre-Race Stretch
Pre-Race Stretch. Photo by Lynne Huntting

Pit lane speed is 65 mph, and the NNS field was split for the start, with two Pace Cars. The purpose is to allow all 43 cars to experience the speed limit prior to the race.

RICKY STENHOUSE, Jr./No.17 Ford leads the NNS Rookie standings, and at seventeenth was the highest qualifying Rookie.

Consistency is what DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Chevrolet NNS seeks. That word peppered her Friday press conference. “The IndyCars are very consistent, while the Cup car keeps changing during a race. I need to be consistent. I’m still figuring out how to be consistent and am looking forward to being consistent.”

Danica Patrick
Patrick, who continues to be trailed by masses of photogs, qualified fourteenth for the NNS race.

Patrick was pleased to hear from the media at her conference that ARIC ALMIROLA would be her NNS teammate next season. She said she had not heard. “It would be great to have someone else drive my car and then get out and then tell me about it when I get in.”

Regarding MARK MARTIN/No.5 Chevrolet Cup driver offering to be a driver coach, Patrick said “I would take anything Mark has to offer. Whoever it is, I’ll take any help.”

Almirola qualified eighth.

Patrick showed her puckish side in the conference by jibing herself and a journo, for her being so boring he was falling asleep. She also joked about how little she knew about NASCAR – “I’m so close to not knowing anything about NASCAR.” She likes the two-mile Auto Club speedway – “The longer track gives me more time to get calm.”