Kurt Busch Attempting To Stake 12th-Place 'Bubble' Claim *Car Of Tomorrow, Round 10: Return To Bristol Bristol-Bound: Pressure Builds On 12th-Place Contenders DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 22, 2007) -- Tuesday's victory in the twice-rain-delayed...
Kurt Busch Attempting To Stake 12th-Place 'Bubble' Claim
*Car Of Tomorrow, Round 10: Return To Bristol
Bristol-Bound: Pressure Builds On 12th-Place Contenders
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 22, 2007) -- Tuesday's victory in the twice-rain-delayed event at Michigan International Speedway helped Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) strengthen his hold on 12th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings.
But now it's grab-as-many-points-as-you-can with three races to go.
And only 163 separate Busch and 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), who finished 12th at Michigan. Right behind Earnhardt -- by eight points -- is Busch's Penkse Racing teammate, Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge).
Fifteenth-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 Dish Network Ford) has a larger mountain to climb -- he trails Newman by 125 points -- but no one is particularly comfortable as the series heads for Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"The cleanest car usually has a shot going to Victory Lane," Busch said of the .533-mile short track, which will host the 30th anniversary running of its night race on Saturday.
"That's the approach I've taken there every year and I've had some wins."
Expect Busch, who trails 11th-place Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) by 33 points, to be fierce at Bristol. He and standings leader Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) lead all active drivers with five wins there.
Earnhardt has one Bristol victory.
Race To The Chase, Round 8: Every Point Becomes Precious
As the "Race to the Chase" winds down, add two important variables to this week's Sharpie 500 at Bristol: A new concrete racing surface installed after the March event, and the return of the Car of Tomorrow -- NASCAR's next-generation race car -- to the track where it made its competitive debut.
Bristol's new surface is smoother, three feet wider and comes with variable banking to ease transitions all around the track.
On Saturday, NASCAR's new car will run the 10th of 16 scheduled events this season, in preparation for a fulltime schedule in 2008.
Combine all of that with drivers battling for Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup eligibility, and to clinch potential Chase spots. The already-clinched include standings leader Jeff Gordon, who did it two weeks ago at Watkins Glen, and second-place Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) who clinched a berth following Tuesday's Michigan event.
Next up as a potential "clincher" -- third-place Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), who can clinch by starting Saturday night's race. The "magic number" for drivers is 391; anyone that far ahead of the 13th-place driver coming out Bristol will clinch a Chase berth. A total of six drivers (positions 3-8 in the points) have a chance to clinch this week.
Seeding Update: Drivers Battling For Bonus Points
Aside from solidifying his hold on 12th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points, Tuesday's win at Michigan also boosted Kurt Busch's seeding chances, should he qualify for the Chase for the NASAR NEXTEL Cup.
Busch now has two '07 victories, becoming the third driver with multiple wins this season. Thirteen different drivers have won races thus far. And for those pursuing Chase berths, every victory matters.
Following race No. 26, the cutoff event at Richmond International Raceway, the 12 Chase-eligible drivers will have their point totals "reset" to 5,000. They then will have bonus points -- 10 for each victory during the 26 races preceding the Chase -- applied. Of the 13 race winners, nine are in the series standings' top 12. The only driver outside the top 12 is Jamie McMurray (No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford), who won the Pepsi 400 last month at Daytona International Speedway. McMurray is 17th coming into Bristol.
Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) are tied with a series-high four wins each. They're first and sixth, respectively, in the standings heading to Bristol but with 40 bonus points each, they would begin the Chase as the top two seeds. Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) would be seeded third with 30 bonus points via his three wins. Busch would be seeded third with 20 bonus points via two wins.
Seeding ties are broken by the comparison of drivers' best finishes beyond victories.
Defending and two-time race champion Matt Kenseth may be the next multiple-victory candidate. A win Saturday night would tie him with three-time series champion Darrell Waltrip -- the only driver to win three consecutive night races at Bristol. Only one other driver has won back-to-back Bristol night races -- Dale Earnhardt in '87 and '88.
Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing's second-year driver who's vying for his first Chase berth, is the only current Chase-eligible driver who hasn't won yet this season; he's also seeking his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory.
On The Line: Bowyer, Crew Chief Gil Martin Discuss Bristol On Weekly Teleconference
We are joined on today's call with Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and his crew chief Gil Martin. Guys I appreciate you taking the time to be with us today especially after that extended weekend we had at Michigan.
Q: Let's start off with an overall outlook for the chances at Bristol for your team from both the driver and the crew chief points of view. Clint why don't you lead off, then we will hear from Gil about overall what you think about Bristol this week.
Bowyer: Well you know I am looking forward to it. Obviously anything can happen at Bristol. It is one of those tracks that you can get caught up in just about anything anywhere on the race track. So you got to be conscious, but you have to race hard. We have to do the things that got us here. We ran well there in the spring in the first Car of Tomorrow race. Obviously they have changed the track since then. We have had a couple of tests in the Busch car since then and we have another one tomorrow. So we will be atleast be fond of the race track before we get there. So we are looking forward to the challenge.
Q: Gil, how about you. I guess Bristol is a little bit nerve racking for a crew chief?
Martin: Well, I think it is because anything can happen at Bristol. But like Clint said, we ran well there in the spring. We had a good test there even though the track has changed. We have spent the last seven hours today on the seven post running a lot of runs in preparation for the race this weekend. So I mean, because anything can happen, you can't worry about that because we have some good success at Bristol and we are going there with a lot of really high thoughts this weekend.
Season-High Finish Propels No. 22 To 35th Spot In Owners Points
Dave Blaney and his No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota team owned by Bill Davis had to wait two extra days for their best finish of the '07 season, but in the end, it was worth it.
Blaney's sixth-place finish Tuesday in the twice-rain-postponed 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway boosted the team into 35th in the car owner standings.
That means the team is guaranteed a starting berth for Saturday's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway -- the first time the No. 22 has been in the top 35 in owner standings since the season-opening Daytona 500.
Teams outside the top 35 in owner points must rely on qualifying times to make the race.
"It's a big relief to get into the top 35, but you have to enjoy a nice run like this even more than that," Blaney said. "When you can run like this, you're not going to be out of the top 35 very long."
The No. 22 switched spots with the No. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford driven by Bill Elliott and owned by Glen Wood. The Wood Brothers Racing team had seized the 35th spot following last week's event at Watkins Glen International. Elliott finished 35th Tuesday at Michigan, which drops the No. 21 back to 36th. His team trails Blaney's by 55 points in the owner standings. Blaney's team now trails the 34th-place No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge (owned and driven by Kyle Petty) by 24 points.