Darlington II: Penultimate race preview

* Taking care of business -- Teams ride late-season surges, fine-tune for 2005 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2004) -- Forget lifting before season's end, or riding out the string. For those NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in 11th place and...

* Taking care of business -- Teams ride late-season surges, fine-tune for 2005

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2004) -- Forget lifting before season's end, or riding out the string. For those NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in 11th place and beyond, the final 10 races are all about making the most of myriad opportunities.

Two dates remain -- this week's visit to Darlington Raceway and next week's season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In between, there are goals to reach, checklists to punch and points to gain for the best possible 2004 finish.

"It's good to end the year on a high note," said Jeff Burton (No. 30 America Online Chevrolet), who's doing just that. "I think I've built a lot of confidence. The team has built a lot of confidence in me. I think going through the winter, we'll use that confidence to our advantage getting ready for next year."

Certainly Burton has optimism. Since joining Richard Childress Racing in mid-August, he's jumped from 22nd to 16th in the point standings. He's got one top-five, three top-10 and 10 top-15 finishes in 11 races with RCR; next season, he'll switch to the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet.

But he's not the only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver gaining ground for 2005. Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) has quite a streak going, too -- one win (Kansas), one pole, three top-five and five top-10 finishes in his last eight races. Nemechek also has climbed from 25th to 19th in the point standings.

"I wish I could say it was my driving, but I haven't changed anything," Nemechek said. "Nor did the team wake up one morning and all of a sudden had a light-bulb moment. The fact of the matter is that this has always been a talented and inspired team. We just had too many weird and crazy things happen to us this year when we had top-10 and top-five cars."

Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), who finished second to Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) in the March event at Darlington, is aiming for Victory Lane this week. And he, too, has momentum, building off a ninth-place effort at Phoenix; his last top-10 finish was seventh in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

"We got our first top 10 in what seemed like forever last week," Labonte said, "so hopefully, we can build on that and get a victory in the last two races."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte , Joe Nemechek , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Richard Childress Racing