* RCR Makes Team History with Two in the Top Five
* Gordon's "Drive for Five" Very Much Alive in 2006
* Jeff Burton's Trip To Victory Lane Puts Him In Chase Lead
For the third straight week there is a different driver atop the leader board in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.
For the first time in more than seven years that driver's name is Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet).
Burton's come from behind win at Dover International Speedway last Sunday marked his first victory since Oct. 28, 2001 (Phoenix), breaking the second longest drought between victories (175 races) in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup history (longest is the 226 races between Bill Elliott's wins, 1994-2001). It also catapulted Burton to the top spot in the driver standings, the first time he has been the points leader since after the California race in May, 1999.
Burton's turnaround season also cemented a few other notable accomplishments for team owner Richard Childress.
With Burton first and teammate Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Reese's Chevrolet) currently fifth in the standings, this marks the first time that two RCR drivers have ever been in the top five in points at the same time.
Burton's victory gives RCR three consecutive wins, as Harvick cruised to Victory Lane at Richmond and New Hampshire. One has to go back to the fall of 1987 for the last time that RCR won three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races in a row, as the legendary Dale Earnhardt drove to victory in the second Bristol race, the Southern 500 at Darlington and the fall race at Richmond.
Jeff Gordon Challenging For Fifth Championship
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has put himself in a position to challenge for his fifth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship.
Gordon is the only driver to post top-five finishes in the first two Chase races and that strong showing has enabled him to jump from ninth place to second in the standings.
This marks the highest Gordon has been in the standings since after the Darlington race in May, 2005. A year ago this time, Gordon was in 14th place in the standings, not having made the Chase.
Gordon's four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championships (2001, 1998, '97, '95) rank second in the sport's history. Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty hold the record with seven titles apiece.
Gordon has enjoyed great success racing at Kansas Speedway. He holds two victories there (2001-02) and posted top-15 finishes in all five of his starts there. He has led a series high 169 laps and his average finish of 6.0 is tops among the 2006 Chase drivers.
Keys To Victory At Kansas: Getting the Setup Right
Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile banked oval that is also one of the youngest tracks on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series circuit.
NASCAR began racing there in 2001. Jeff Gordon won the first two races in 2001-02.
Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) is the defending race champion.
What are the keys to getting around Kansas?
Setting it Up. It's imperative that you get your aerodynamic setup in concert with your chassis setup. Kansas is a track that can be hit or miss for a lot of drivers. It's important that your setups are working together.
Getting in the Right Groove. Kansas Speedway is one of the youngest race tracks in the series. It still is developing multiple grooves. This could be the breakout year where drivers are able to find alternate grooves to race in.
Getting Through Turn 1. Turn 1 at Kansas Speedway can be a bit tricky. You can't go too low there. That's where the proper setup can really come into play.
In The Loop At Kansas: Statistics Back Up Gordon's Strong Start in Chase
Jeff Gordon has posted a pair of top-five finishes in the first two races of the Chase and the Loop Data statistics point towards another strong run by the four-time series champion.
Through the first two races in the Chase, Gordon sports the highest Driver Rating (114.3), best Average Finishing Position (3.0) and best Average Starting Position (1.5). He also has completed 94.3% of his Laps in the Top 15 and that is also the best in that category.
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) continues to have the highest Driver Rating on the season (105.2), followed by Gordon (99.4) and Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) (98.3). Kenseth also holds the top Average Running Position (10.596), with Gordon second (10.870).
Looking ahead to this weekend's action at Kansas Speedway, Mark Martin has the top Driver Rating (135.7) and second best Average Running Position (4.049). Martin won the 2005 race at Kansas. Biffle is also strong at Kansas, holding the top spot in five Loop Data categories, including Average Running Position (3.112), and Fastest Drivers by Turn 1-2-3. Biffle has recorded back-to-back top-five finishes at Kansas, finishing second in 2005 and third in 2004.
Four other drivers lead one pre-race Loop Data category for Kansas. They include Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford -- Speed in Traffic), Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge -- Fastest Drivers on Restarts), Kenseth (Fastest Drivers Early in a Run), and Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet -- Fastest Drivers on the Backstretch).
Martin has the highest overall Driver Rating (98.7) at the eight remaining tracks in the Chase. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) is second at 137.3.
New points leader Jeff Burton is ranked second in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (7.840). Kenseth leads all drivers in Laps Led (1,108). Harvick ranks first in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (10.679).
Chase Drivers Continue to Play Musical Chairs in Standings
Six of the top 10 positions changed following last week's race at Dover International Speedway.
Burton moved from fifth to first, while Harvick dropped from first to fifth. Gordon jumped up from fourth to second, while rookie Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEX Ground Chevrolet) slid from second to fourth.
Johnson gained one spot, improving from ninth to eighth, while Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) dropped from eighth to ninth. Kenseth (third), Martin (sixth) and Earnhardt, Jr. (seventh) remained the same.
The battle for 11th place is beginning to heat up some after last week's action at Dover. Stewart held a comfortable 313-point margin over Biffle before last Sunday, but his 33rd-place finish combined with Biffle's fifth-place showing, saw his lead cut to 217 points, a difference of 96 points.
The 11th-place driver receives a $1 million bonus at the conclusion of the season and is also recognized during Champions Week in New York.
After 28 races a year ago, Burton was 20th in points and Gordon was 14th. The top-three finishers in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship -- Stewart, Biffle and Edwards -- did not make the Chase this season and are currently 11th, 12th and 13th in the standings.
Manufacturers' Standings: Chevy Adds On To Lead In Manufacturers' Championship
Chevrolet continues to build upon its lead in the 2006 Manufacturers' Championship, as Jeff Burton's victory at Dover marked the 17th win of the year for the automobile manufacturer.
Chevrolet had previously clinched the 2006 Manufacturers' Championship after Kevin Harvick's victory at New Hampshire. The championship is the 30th for Chevrolet, including the last four in a row. Chevrolet now holds a commanding 213-161-158 lead over Ford and Dodge. Ford has claimed five wins on the season, while Dodge has been to Victory Lane six times on the year.
In the previous five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at Kansas Speedway, Chevrolet leads the way with three victories. Ford and Dodge have one win each at the track.
Locked In: Sterling Marlin Continues To Hold On To Last Guaranteed Spot
The battle to secure a starting spot in each week's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event continues this week at Kansas, with the No. 14 Ginn Clubs and Resorts Chevrolet driven by Sterling Marlin continuing to hold down the all-important 35th and final locked-in position.
The No. 14 is 42 points ahead of the No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge driven by Kyle Petty. The No. 45 Dodge will have to earn a position in Sunday's race at Kansas based on its qualifying speed.
The No. 40 Lone Star Steakhouse Dodge driven by David Stremme is in the 34th position, 117 points in front of 35th. Stremme posted an 18th-place finish last Sunday at Dover.
Crew Member Spotlight: Chris Tidwell of the No. 29 Team is a Kansas Native
Chris Tidwell, a team member for the No. 29 Reese's/GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, is from Emporia, Kan. Tidwell works as a mechanic and pit support for driver Kevin Harvick's crew.
Other Kansas natives who work as team members in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup include: Eric Bailey, mechanic for the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge who is from Olathe; Bryan Kincheloe, a tire specialist for the No. 32 Tide-Downy Chevrolet who is from Glen Elder; and Sean Yaussi, a mechanic and eighth man for the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge who is from Hiawatha.
Rookie Report: Hamlin Looks To Make Series History
Denny Hamlin continues to be the leading candidate for the 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. Hamlin, currently fourth in the standings, is also looking to make NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series history by becoming the first rookie to win the series championship.
Hamlin has posted two wins on the year, sweeping both races at Pocono. He has 15 top 10's and five top-five finishes, to go along with his three poles. Hamlin has been the highest finishing rookie in 14 of the 28 races this season. He has been running at the finish in his last 22 races. His only start at Kansas was a year ago, where he finished 32nd.
Hamlin currently leads Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) by a 263-214 margin. Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) is third with 190 points, while Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet) is fourth with 177 points. J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) is close behind in fifth with 176 points.
Where In 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.
Schrader will be on the road once again this week, competing at Heartland Park's dirt track in Topeka, Kan., on Sept. 27 and at the Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway on Sept. 28-30, before returning to Kansas to compete in the Banquet 400 presented by ConAgra Foods on Sunday.
ETC. ... There have been five different Budweiser Pole winners in the five races at Kansas. All five races at Kansas have been won from a top-20 starting position ... Mark Martin is the only driver in the Chase that has yet to claim a victory in 2006. Martin's last win came at Kansas one year ago ... All 28 victories in 2006 have been captured by drivers ranked in the top 14 in the standings ... Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge) has turned in some of the best performances of his career over the past month or so. Blaney has posted three straight top-15 finishes and has been in the top 15 four of the last five races.
Trip To Kansas Marks A Reunion Of Sorts
NASCAR's annual trek to America's heartland means a reunion for several of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers.
Clint Bowyer is from nearby Emporia, Kan. Bowyer is coming off of one of the best weekends of his career, having won last Saturday's Dover 200 NASCAR Busch Series race followed by an eighth-place finish in the Dover 400 on Sunday. Bowyer is currently second in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year competition and is part of the trio of drivers that has been instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the Richard Childress Racing team in 2006.
Carl Edwards grew up in Columbia, Mo., and is coming off a second-place finish last Sunday at Dover. Edwards is currently 13th in the standings. Edwards was third in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings in 2005.
Jamie McMurray (No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford) is from Joplin, Mo. McMurray is currently 18th in the standings.
Former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Bill Elliott will be reunited with the Melling family this weekend at Kansas Speedway. Elliott competed under the Melling sponsorship from 1982-91, a period during which he won 34 races, claimed 39 poles, won the 1985 Winston Million Dollar Bonus and the 1988 series championship. Elliott will be driving the No. 37 R&J Dodge at Kansas, paying tribute to the 25th anniversary of his original relationship with the Melling family.
On Deck: The Chase Moves on to Talladega Superspeedway
The fourth event in the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday, Oct. 8 (1:30 p.m. NBC).
Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) is the defending winner while Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) was last year's pole winner.
Of the 10 drivers in this year's Chase, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) has the most wins at Talladega (five), while Jeff Gordon has been to Victory Lane four times at Talladega. Jimmie Johnson won this year's spring race at Talladega (May 1).
The Race: Banquet 400 presented by ConAgra Foods
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Oct. 1
The Time: 2:10 p.m. (ET)
The Distance: 400 miles/267 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval
TV: NBC 1:30 p.m. (ET)
2005 Winner: Mark Martin
2005 Pole: Matt Kenseth
Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 12:05-1:35 p.m. Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 8:30-9:30 a.m. Final practice, 10:05-10:50 a.m.