* On the "Chase" bubble: Four drivers chasing 10th-place Jeff Gordon * California leads all states, in producing NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers NEWS AND NOTES Fighting for Five ... Four of Jack Roush's five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers...
* On the "Chase" bubble: Four drivers chasing 10th-place Jeff Gordon
* California leads all states, in producing NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers
NEWS AND NOTES
Fighting for Five ... Four of Jack Roush's five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers arrive at California Speedway inside the top 10 in series points. They are: third-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Post It Ford); fifth-place Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford); seventh-place Kurt Busch; and eighth-place Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford). With Kenseth's jump to 11th place last week, he'll be fighting to join his teammates inside the top 10.
Business as Usual for Stewart, Others "Cramming" ... Tony Stewart says the second-to-last chance to make the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will make some drivers and teams anxious, especially if they haven't yet qualified for the title run.
"If you are solidly in the top 10, it will be business as usual," Stewart said. "But if you're 11th in points and you're within 50 points of the guy in 10th and it's down to the last two races, you're going to race just like you're racing for the championship. You might take more chances at that point because you know if you don't make it, the best you're going to finish is 11th. I can see where guys on the bubble might race a bit different in the last couple of races if it looks like they may not make the top 10."
On the Bubble: Two to Go ... Two races remain before the cutoff for the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." Following the Sept. 10 race at Richmond International Raceway, the top 10 drivers (and any other driver within 400 points of the leader) are eligible to compete for the series title during the season's final 10 events.
Only 117 points separate drivers in positions 11-15. Here's a look at the drivers "on the bubble' or close to it.
• Matt Kenseth is 11th, only 11 behind 10th-place Jeff Gordon. The 2003 series champion has two top fives and three top 10s in six California Speedway starts. His best finish there is third.
• Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Home 123 Dodge) is in 12th place, 12 points behind Gordon. McMurray has yet to win this season, but has four top fives and seven top 10s. McMurray has been here before, and doesn't like it. He placed 11th in the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points race. This year he'd like to qualify for a spot in the Chase.
• Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) remains in 13th place in points. A 13th-place finish at Bristol cut his points deficit behind 10th place in half to 34 points.
• Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) fell from 11th to 14th in series points after a couple of Bristol skirmishes left him with a 31st-place finish. Jarrett, the 1999 series champion, enters the California race 78 points outside the top 10.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) rallied at Bristol, with a solid ninth-place finish. Earnhardt moved up to 15th in the standings, 117 behind Gordon.
This Week's Series Leaders ... Through eight races of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season:
• Points leader -- Tony Stewart. Total: 3,410
• Money won -- Jeff Gordon. Total: $5,138,937
• Laps led -- Tony Stewart. Total: 1,190
• Miles led -- Tony Stewart. Total: 1785.41
• Victories -- Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle (5)
• Poles -- Ryan Newman (5)
• Top-five finishes -- Tony Stewart (11)
• Top-10 finishes -- Tony Stewart (16)
• Races led -- Greg Biffle (16)
• Weeks in Top 10 -- Jimmie Johnson (24)
Quick Qualifier ... Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award contender Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) scored his first career pole at the Auto Club 500 in February at California Speedway. His first pole came in only his eighth career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start. Busch led two early laps of the event, but ultimately finished 23rd, one lap off the pace.
Biffle Back Where Hot Streak Started ... Greg Biffle entered the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series campaign with three career wins. When he won the second race of the 2005 campaign at California Speedway in February, it seemed to be a launching pad for a career-best season. Biffle since has gone on to score four more wins, at Texas, Darlington, Dover and Michigan. Biffle and Tony Stewart lead the series with five wins each.
Doing Double Duty ... Ten drivers will attempt to qualify for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Ameriquest 300 and Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series SONY HD 500 at California Speedway. They include: Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, Mike Wallace, Carl Edwards, Jeremy Mayfield, Greg Biffle, Joe Nemechek, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson.
Ford Tightening Manufacturers Standings ... Ford is closing in on Chevrolet as the two manufacturers and their teams race for the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Manufacturer's Championship. With Bristol winning Ford driver Matt Kenseth leading the way, Ford closed to within 16 points of Chevrolets lead, 176-160. Chevrolet has 12 race wins so far this year, compared to Ford's 12 and two held by Dodge. Chevrolet won the in 2004 Manufacturers Championship.
Is it Something in the Water? ... California has produced more NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers than any other state. A total of 388 California race drivers have competed in NASCAR's top series since 1949. Included on that list is NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Busch Series champ Kevin Harvick, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr. and Daytona 500 winners Gordon, Ernie Irvan and Marvin Panch. Johnny Mantz won NASCAR's first superspeedway race -- the 1950 Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C. -- and was a California-based driver as was 1959 NASCAR Sportsman Division champion Rick Henderson and Indy 500 winners Parnelli Jones, Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward. All participated in NASCAR's top series. Drivers from California have won a combined 173 premier series races since Mantz's 1950 Darlington win. Jimmie Johnson's win at Lowe's Motor Speedway this past May is the most recent victory for a California driver.
From the Archives ... The 2004 edition of the SONY HD 500 saw 33 cars in competition at the finish, with 28 on the lead lap. It was the largest number of cars to finish the entire 500 miles in California Speedway history.
Rookie Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet) picked up his second career pole in this event last year. He was flanked by 2000 race winner Jeremy Mayfield (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) in Ray Evernham's Dodge.
The 2004 race set a track record of 29 lead changes among 13 drivers, but it was Elliott Sadler who pushed his Robert Yates Ford through the field from the 17th starting spot to take the win by 0.263-second over Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). It was Sadler's third trip to victory lane.
On Deck: Richmond International Raceway ... Race No. 26 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule and the final "Race to the Chase" will be Saturday, Sept. 10 -- the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. It will be the final opportunity for drivers to gain entry to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Richmond, a .750-mile oval has been on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule since 1953. Richard Petty is the track's all-time leading race winner with 13. Dodge teams may be encouraged as they arrive at Richmond. Dodge driver Jeremy Mayfield is the defending champion of the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, while Evernham Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne won the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond in May.
The race: SONY HD 500 (Race No. 25 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. (2.00-mile oval.)
The date/time: Sunday, Sept. 4, 7:15 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 7 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,840,067.
Race length: 500 miles, 250 laps.
Track layout: 2-mile oval.
2004 winner: Elliott Sadler
2004 pole sitter: Brian Vickers
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Tony Stewart 3,410. 2. Jimmie Johnson 3,197. 3. Greg Biffle 3,186. 4. Rusty Wallace 3,139. 5. Mark Martin 3,014. 6. Jeremy Mayfield 2,983. 7. Kurt Busch 2,982. 8. Carl Edwards, 2,849. 9. Ryan Newman 2,819. 10. Jeff Gordon 2,799.