Charlotte II: News of note, schedule

• Tight Standings Portend Drama, Heighten Stakes • Johnson, Kurt Busch Lead Pre-Race Loop Data • Final Series Test At Homestead-Miami Next Week News And Notes Jeff Burton Clings To Chase Lead If the first four events in the 2006 ...

• Tight Standings Portend Drama, Heighten Stakes

• Johnson, Kurt Busch Lead Pre-Race Loop Data

• Final Series Test At Homestead-Miami Next Week

News And Notes

Jeff Burton Clings To Chase Lead

If the first four events in the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup are any barometer, expect more wholesale movement in the standings following Saturday's event at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Seven of the 10 Chase competitors switched positions following last week's event at Talladega -- a trend forecast by previous events at Kansas Speedway and Dover International Speedway, where six drivers changed positions, and the opening event at New Hampshire International Speedway, where all 10 drivers switched spots.

Other Chase facts heading to Lowe's:

• Jeff Burton Still Leads, Barely -- Tire problems in last Sunday's closing laps shaved the standings' leader's margin to six points over second-place Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Carhartt Ford), much tinier than his 69-point margin over second place last week. Burton has led the Chase standings for three weeks.

• A Tight Top Five -- Only 51 points separate the top-five drivers in the Chase standings, the closest such margin after four events in the Chase's three-year history. Third-place Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) trails Burton by 10 points. Fourth-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) trails by 33 and fifth-place Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Chevrolet) trails by 51.

• Etc. -- Only 185 points separate the top 10 Chase competitors, the closest such margin after four events in the Chase's three-year history.

• Double-Duty for Kevin Harvick -- Aside from pursing the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title, Kevin Harvick could clinch the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series title Friday night. One of seven drivers running full schedules in both series, Harvick leads second-place Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), another double-duty driver, by 729 points in the NASCAR Busch Series standings.

Harvick will clinch that title if he gains 32 points on the second-place driver following Friday night's series event at Lowe's.

The 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion, Harvick could become the first driver to win that title and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title in the same season.

Keys To Victory: Smaller Fuel Cell, Smart Strategy Key At Lowe's

As the home track for most NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams, Lowe's Motor Speedway presents the opportunity to excel before family and friends.

This week, it presents an opportunity to excel, period, particularly for Chase participants.

Lowe's 1.5-mile asphalt was repaved prior to the Coca-Cola 600 in May and several months' seasoning under the summer sun should only enhance an already-competitive surface. That means drivers and teams will run their second consecutive event on new pavement; last week's event at Talladega also took place on fresh pavement.

As was the case for the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams will run a small fuel cell in Saturday's event -- approximately 14 gallons compared to the regular 22 gallons.

The smaller fuel cells mean teams must be sure of their race strategy -- pay closer attention to decisions about such things as taking two tires or four tires during pit stops.

Also key is having a car that's easily adaptable to changing track conditions during the course of the event, particularly in light of the smaller fuel cell.

And finally, making the right adjustments at the right time. Having that adjustable strategy means less stress over pit-stop variables.

In The Loop: Jimmie Johnson A Factor, Kurt Busch The Data Leader

Given Jimmie Johnson's career dominance at Lowe's Motor Speedway, his elevated status in NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data statistics there is foregone.

Johnson leads three important categories -- Closers, Quality Passes and Driver Rating (119.2) -- but he isn't the pre-race Loop Data leader. That's Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), who leads six categories.

Busch ranks first in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run, Late in a Run, on the Frontstretch, in Turn 1, Turn 3 and Turn 4. He's also second in Fastest Drivers on the Backstretch and in Turn 2.

Johnson is second in Average Running Position (8.769) and fifth in Speed in Traffic.

Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard-Subway Ford) leads Average Running Position (8.097). He's second in Closers and Driver Rating (113.1). Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Chevrolet) leads two other categories -- Fastest Drivers on the Backstretch and in Turn 2. He also ranks second in six other categories.

Finally, Mark Martin, who's third in Driver Rating (100.6) in pre-race Loop Data, also has the highest Driver Rating (100.2) at the remaining six tracks, beginning with Lowe's this week. Johnson is second (98.4).

On Deck Next Week: Final 2006 Series Test, Drive For Diversity Combine

Approximately one month before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams will gather at the track from Monday, Oct. 16 through Wednesday, Oct. 18 for the final of six NASCAR-sanctioned tests this year.

Teams may test two of the three days. Each day's session begins at 1 p.m., with a dinner break from 5-6 p.m. The evening session ends at 9 p.m. Visit www.nascarmedia.com later this week for more information about each day's media opportunities with participating drivers.

The Drive for Diversity program will be holding its fourth annual Driver Testing and Evaluation Combine on Oct. 16-17 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. Twenty up-and-coming drivers from throughout the United States have been invited to the combine to showcase their skills for established team owners. The drivers will complete a series of on-track and off-track activities in hopes of being selected for one of the eight available positions. ... In 2007, eight Drive for Diversity teams will compete in either the NASCAR Grand National Division -- which includes the Busch East and AutoZone West Series -- or the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series.

Locked In: Sterling Marlin Retains Lock On Final Guaranteed Spot

As the weeks dwindle, any opportunity to improve one's position in the standings also shrinks, magnifying the importance of the final "locked-in" starting spot for each of the remaining six NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events.

Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet) is the driver in the spotlight because his car owner, Bobby Ginn, is 35th in the current car owner point standings for the second consecutive week.

Any teams outside the top 35 will be forced to rely on qualifying speeds, to make the field, which includes Saturday's event at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Beyond Saturday's event, the top 35 in final owner points will be used to help set the field through the first five events of 2007 -- added impetus for those teams challenging the No. 14 team for that final, locked-in position.

Crew Member Spotlight: North Carolinians, Concord Natives Abound In Series Garage

Given that the suburban Charlotte, N.C., area is home to most NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams, it's no surprise that many crew members also call the Tar Heel state home.

The crew rosters at www.nascarmedia.com are overwhelmingly North Carolinian, with hundreds of crew members listed as natives.

Concord, N.C., the home of Lowe's Motor Speedway, located just northeast of Charlotte, also claims its share of NASCAR natives.

Two members of Denny Hamlin's team, rear tire changer Barry Cook and mechanic Shawn Warren, are Concord natives. So is Matt Kenseth's second gas man, Shawn Kemper, and Sterling Marlin's scorer, Terry Lane.

Other Concord natives include Raymond Fox III of Robert Yates Racing; Hendrick Motorsports' Director of Engine Engineering, Jim Wall; Kyle Busch's (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) catch can man, Jason Dalrymple and David Stremme's (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) transporter driver, Tom Czoka.

Rookie Report: Hamlin Continues His Dominance, Bowyer His Pursuit

While Denny Hamlin seems a lock for the 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, don't say so to his closest rival, Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet).

Bowyer continues to chip away at Hamlin's lead, gaining 10 points on Hamlin following last Sunday's event at Talladega. Both drivers saw their day marred by accidents -- Hamlin finishing 21st and Bowyer 35th.

Yet Bowyer kept pace, not losing any points in the rookie race. He continues to trail Hamlin by 45 points heading to Lowe's Motor Speedway this week.

Last week's top rookie, Martin Truex Jr., (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), finished fifth at Talladega and remains fourth in the standings behind third-place Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge).

Where On The World Is Ken Schrader?

Ken Schrader (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford) continues to be, arguably, the busiest auto racer in the country, finding time to race in a variety of disciplines in addition to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition.

This week, he'll race twice during the week -- Wednesday (Lowe's Short Track); and Sunday (Golden Isles Speedway in Waynesville, Ga.)

Ken Schrader's 2006 race totals
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- 30
NASCAR Busch Series -- 8
Budweiser Shootout -- 1
Copper World -- 2
Short track (dirt, late-model, etc.) -- 62

Reutimann Set For NASCAR NEXTEL Cup In 2007

Michael Waltrip Racing announced today that current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver David Reutimann completes the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series lineup for the organization. Reutimann will become the full-time driver of the No. 00 Toyota Camry co-sponsored by Burger King Corporation and Domino's Pizza in 2007.

"David's competitive spirit, proven on track performance and verve for racing made David our top choice for the No. 00 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Toyota," said car owner Michael Waltrip. "Dale Jarrett and I both feel strongly that David is the ideal candidate to cap off our driver line up. Like my and Dale's backgrounds, David appreciates coming from a deep-rooted and well respected racing heritage. It is my privilege to welcome him into the top NASCAR series. I know everyone at Domino's and Burger King Corporation will be pleased with what David can do on and off the race track."

An interesting note: The Reutimann family has long been associated with the No. 00, mainly because of Reutimann's father, modified/late model short-track legend Buzzie Reutimann.

Said Reutimann: "'I've always thought how cool it would be to drive a car with my family number in the top series in the world, but what are the chances that would happen? It's right here in front of me. My grandfather, my father, my uncle and my cousins have all raced a car with the '00' number. It's our family number and if you're a Reutimann that's the number you race. I can't describe it. It's just such a great feeling. It's surreal and a thrill not only for me, but for my entire family."

Manufacturers' Championship Update: Battle Ongoing For Second Place

Brian Vickers' (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet) victory at Talladega gave Chevrolet its 19th win of the season and a total of 231 wins to date.

And while Chevrolet clinched its 30th Manufacturers Championship in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series four weeks ago at New Hampshire International Speedway, much remains to be decided in the second-place battle between Ford and Dodge.

Heading to Lowe's, the margin remains one point -- Dodge's 170 points versus Ford's 169 points -- but the position has changed: Dodge supplanted Ford for second following Talladega.

Dodge has six wins this season, Ford has five.

On Deck: Martinsville Speedway Hosts Sixth Event in 10-Race 'Chase'

Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., will host the Subway 500 -- the sixth event in the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- on Sunday, Oct. 22. (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

Chase participant Jeff Gordon is the event's defending champion. He swept both Martinsville events in 2005 and leads all active drivers with seven wins there.

Reigning series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) was last year's event polesitter. He also won this year's spring Martinsville event.

Fast Facts

The Race: Bank of America 500

The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway

The Date: Oct. 14
The Time: 7:10 p.m. (ET)

TV: NBC, 7 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 1.5-mile tri-oval
Race Distance: 501 miles (334 laps)

Purse: $5,078,500

2005 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
2005 Pole: Elliott Sadler

Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Thursday -- Practice, 3:35-5:05 p.m. Qualifying, 7:10 p.m. Friday -- Practice, 2:30-3:30 p.m. and 4:05-4:50 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , David Reutimann , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Michael Waltrip Racing , Yates Racing