News and notes Championships X 3 Ford Championship Weekend ... The championships of all three NASCAR national series -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- will be determined this weekend...
News and notes
Championships X 3 Ford Championship Weekend ... The championships of all three NASCAR national series -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- will be determined this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is an unprecedented season-finale weekend, one kicked off by Friday night's Ford 200 (SPEED Channel, 8 p.m. ET), in which Ted Musgrave will try to protect his 58-point lead over Dennis Setzer. This marks the 10th time in the trucks' 11 seasons that the championship will be determined at the season finale. On Saturday afternoon in the Ford 300 (TNT, 4 p.m. ET), defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will try to hold off Clint Bowyer and repeat; Truex leads Bowyer by only 64 points.
Race for 11th Place: Resurgent Gordon has the edge ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) downplays the importance of finishing 11th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings, instead emphasizing his team's focus is on preparing for 2006 -- and leaving an obviously disappointing '05 campaign far behind. Nonetheless, the extra $1 million (point fund payout plus a $250,000 bonus) paid to the 11th-place points finisher won't hurt those aspirations.
As the four-time series champion, Gordon's low-key approach to his points finish is understandable. But disappointment hasn't translated into disarray. His team has rebounded nicely after failing to make the Chase, evidenced by a victory at Martinsville and a third-place finish this past Sunday at Phoenix.
Coming into the Ford 400, Gordon leads Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline/Texaco Dodge) -- last year's 11th-place points finisher -- by 10 points. Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) is 13th, 41 points behind.
Wallace ready for career finale at Homestead ... A remarkable NASCAR career ends this weekend at Homestead-Miami. Former series champion Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) will compete in his final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event Sunday. He is retiring following the 2005 season, concluding a 22-year career that began with his first fulltime season in 1984.
Wallace's career highlight is his 1989 series championship. He also was the series runner-up twice, in 1998 and 1993, and the 1984 Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
"But when we fire the engines, I'll guarantee you that it'll be business as usual," Wallace said of Sunday's Ford 400. "There's nothing I'd like better to win in my last race."
Wallace, who ranks eighth on NASCAR's all-time win list (55), is participating in his first Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. He's currently in eighth place. Recent poor luck has plagued him, but he has five top-15 finishes in six career Homestead starts. His Chase participation also assures he will finish in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 for the 17th time in his career.
Wallace's retirement also means the end of one of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage's longest driver-team associations. He has driven for owner Roger Penske -- and Penske Racing South -- since 1991, a total of 15 seasons.
Martin motoring toward a top-five points finish ... Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) will not win an elusive first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship this season. He comes into the Ford 400 trailing Tony Stewart by 162 points -- just outside the 156-point cut-off for mathematical eligibility at the finale. So, the veteran now sets his sights on a top-five finish in the standings, something he has accomplished 11 times previously.
Homestead-Miami Speedway has been a nondescript venue for Martin. In six races there, he has three top-five runs with the best a third-place finish in 2000.
Pit Crew Spotlight: Johnson's team looking for an edge ... Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, began their NASCAR NEXTEL Cup careers together in 2002. They've formed a winning combo ever since, finishing as series runner-up the past two seasons. Knaus, a Rockford, Ill., spent his early years in the sport at Hendrick Motorsports, making his crew chief debut in Johnson's rookie season. They're joined by car chief Ron Malec, a Franklin, Wisc., native. Team advisor Robbie Loomis is the team's nod to this week's Florida locale. Loomis hails from Forest City, Fla. For more on Johnson's team and all team rosters, visit www.nascarmedia.com/crew/crewhomepage.jsp.
The NASCAR Leaderboard ... Tony Stewart leads the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points and a look at the weekly "NASCAR Leaderboard" shows why -- emphatically.
Start with winnings; Stewart has a series-high $6,873,949. Race victories? Stewart and Greg Biffle are tied for the series lead with five apiece. Stewart also has the most top-five finishes (17) and the most top 10s.
From the Archives: In '01, Bill was awesome, again ... Homestead-Miami Speedway's history is relatively brief but it produced some memorable moments nonetheless. Such was the case in the 2001 season finale when former (1988) series champion Bill Elliott turned back the clock and posted an unlikely -- and immensely popular -- victory.
Elliott hadn't won since the 1994 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, a slump that coincided with his becoming an owner/driver. That unsuccessful period came to an end when he joined Ray Evernham's new Dodge operation in '01. Elliott started the season dramatically, winning the pole for the Daytona 500. He then went about a solid comeback campaign.
Elliott started the Homestead weekend by winning the pole. He led the first 52 laps of the race and ended up beating Michael Waltrip by 1.420-seconds at the finish. It was the 41st finish of his storied career.
On Deck: NASCAR, New York Celebrate 25th Anniversary ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony will be held on Friday, Dec. 2 at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City, a tradition that began in 1981. The first awards ceremony at the Waldorf was held in the hotel's Starlight Roof facility. Every year since, the ceremony has been held in the Waldorf's Grand Ballroom, with the exception of 2002, when it was held at the famed Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center.
The awards ceremony will be televised on Dec. 2, starting at 9 p.m. (ET and PT) on TNT.
The race: Ford 400
The track: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Fla.
The date/time: Sunday, Nov. 20, 4:10 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,174,014
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval.
Race length: 400.5 miles, 267 laps.
2004 winner: Greg Biffle.
2004 polesitter: Kurt Busch.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Tony Stewart 6,415. 2. Jimmie Johnson 6,363. 3. Carl Edwards 6,328. 4. Greg Biffle 6,313. 5. Mark Martin 6,253. 6. Ryan Newman 6,208. 7. Matt Kenseth 6,187. 8. Rusty Wallace 6,016. 9. Kurt Busch 5,974. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5,939.