Some midweek observations on NASCAR's No. 2 series from Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer:
UP - DAVID STREMMEHe's having a remarkable season despite no full-time ride.
UP - JOE GIBBS RACING
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The team's drivers have won six of the season's 10 races.
DOWN - DARIO FRANCHITTI
Bad crash and ankle injury cause rough start to his first season.
3 to Watch
1 - DENNY HAMLIN: Looking to become JGR's third driver to win in the series this season. The last time a non-JGR driver won a series race was a month ago at Nashville, Tenn.
2 - CLINT BOWYER: Not even an early crash at Talladega (Ala.) could pry the series points lead from Bowyer, who won the spring race at Richmond, Va., a year ago.
3 - BOBBY HAMILTON JR.: His third-place finish at Talladega moved him into 10th in the series standings despite not competing in the race in Mexico City.
ESPN scored big with its broadcast last weekend of the Talladega race on ABC. The race earned a 2.6 rating, a 28 percent increase over last season's race (also on ABC). The race also earned the largest audience for a series event on ESPN's networks since it began airing NASCAR races again in 2007.
Franchitti's injury and his recovery time will likely open the door for Bryan Clauson and Cale Gale to make a serious challenge for the rookie title. Franchitti leads Clauson 89-52 with Gale at 44 points. Clauson is the only one of the three entered in Friday's race.
Jeff Green hopes to make his season debut this weekend driving for Key Motorsports. The team has been running predominately in NASCAR's Truck Series over the past five years.
This week's race
LIPTON TEA 250
WHERE: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
LAST YEAR'S WINNER: Clint Bowyer
TOP 10 IN POINTS: 1. Clint Bowyer, 1,427; 2. Carl Edwards, 1,400; 3. Kyle Busch, 1,388; 4. David Reutimann, 1,298; 5. Mike Bliss, 1,282; 6. David Ragan, 1,274; 7. Brad Keselowski, 1,252; 8. Jason Leffler, 1,227; 9. Mike Wallace, 1,173; 10. Bobby Hamilton Jr., 1,055.