* Points leader Tony Stewart sees opportunity at New Hampshire * Rusty Wallace and four-time NHIS winner Jeff Burton seeking first victories of 2005 * Drivers vie for $1 million point fund bonus for 11th place NEWS AND NOTES Stewart sees...
* Points leader Tony Stewart sees opportunity at New Hampshire
* Rusty Wallace and four-time NHIS winner Jeff Burton seeking first victories of 2005
* Drivers vie for $1 million point fund bonus for 11th place
NEWS AND NOTES
Stewart sees opportunity at New Hampshire ... Tony Stewart won the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series first visit to NHIS in July, the third in a series of five victories from June through August that helped catapult him into the points lead. The 2002 series champion, Stewart enters Sunday's race with the memory of a 39th-place finish in last year's event, which knocked him out of contention for the title. Stewart, however, remains focused and relaxed -- philosophical, even -- as he heads back to New Hampshire.
"Every year if you look back in the history of NASCAR, there's never been two years that have been identical," he said. "Every year is kind of like a snowflake -- they're all different. You've just got to take the circumstances you're dealt each week and work to consistently finish in the top five. If you can do that every week, you'll put yourself into a position to win the championship."
Stewart ranks as a favorite heading into this week's race. If he wins Sunday, he'll become the third consecutive driver to complete a New Hampshire season sweep. Busch accomplished the feat last year while Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) won both events in 2003.
Outside the "Chase" -- 11th place wins $1 million ... For drivers outside the top 10 in points, there is another substantial post-season prize up for grabs. The 11th-place driver in the final point standings wins a $1 million bonus and a trip to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series awards ceremony in New York. Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M & M's Ford) currently controls 11th place. He gained two spots in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings following his 17th-place finish last week at Richmond.
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is in 12th place, 17 points behind Sadler. He remained 12th following a 30th-place finish at Richmond. This is Gordon's third week in the 12th-place spot. ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), who finished 11th last season and claimed the $1 million bonus, is in 13th place. McMurray tumbled three spots in the standings following a 40th-place finish at Richmond. McMurray also trails Sadler by 17 points; Gordon earned the tiebreaker with three wins this season.
Several drivers still seeking victories ... Among the top 25 drivers in the standings, 13 enter Sunday's race still seeking their first win of the season. Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) and Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) each qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup without winning a race. Meanwhile, four-time NHIS winner Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) is among 10 other drivers who have not reached Victory Lane in 2005. Wallace, who has 55 career victories, has led 258 laps and recorded seven top-five finishes. He won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at NHIS, held in 1993.
Support races are highlight for New Hampshire fans ... Friday's NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events are an annual highlight for those series and their fans, as well as an annual audition for the drivers. Notable names such as Mike McLaughlin, Ricky Craven, Steve Park, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Moore have emerged onto the national scene after finding success at NHIS, with another generation of future stars on the track today. Mike Stefanik -- a six-time Whelen Modified and two-time Busch North winner at NHIS, says it's one of the biggest dates on his schedule. "A win there makes your season," Stefanik said. "A win at NHIS is like two or three wins somewhere else."
Manufacturers championship update ... Chevrolet and Ford continue their tight battle for the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Manufacturers' Championship. The two companies swapped the lead this week, with Chevrolet now leading at 191 points. Ford has 175 points and Dodge is ranked third with 128 points. Each manufacturer is represented in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup field; Ford has five cars in the Chase, along with three Dodges and two Chevrolets.
From the Archives: Burton finds success at NHIS ... Virginia native Jeff Burton has been right at home in New Hampshire during his NASCAR driving career. Burton recorded one NASCAR Busch Series victory and four of his 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career victories there. Burton's four wins leads all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers at the track -- and includes three straight victories in New Hampshire's summer event.
The first of Burton's three consecutive summer wins came in July 1997, when he led the most laps and beat Dale Earnhardt by over five seconds. During Burton's second victory, in July 1998, he again led the most laps and finished 7.5-seconds ahead of Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin. Burton finished off his hat trick in July 1999, when he started the race in 38th spot, the deepest for any New Hampshire winner.
During Burton's successful run for Roush Racing, one of his key crew members was Connecticut native Greg Zipadelli, now crew chief for Tony Stewart. Zipadelli led several Busch North Series and Whelen Modified Tour teams to victory at New Hampshire before advancing his career to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
On Deck: Dover International Speedway ... On Sept 25, the 28th race of the 2005 season takes place at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, which hosts its 72nd NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event since 1969. Chase contender Ryan Newman is the defending champion of the MBNA RacePoints 400, which marked his third win at the one-mile track during the 2003-04 seasons. Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), a first-time Chase contender, won the spring race at Dover for his fourth win of the season.
The race: Sylvania 300 (Race No. 27 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season).
The track: New Hampshire Int'l Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
The date/time: Sun., Sept. 18, 1:10 p.m. (ET).
TV: TNT, 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,138,010.
Race length: 300 laps, 317.4 miles.
Track layout: 1.058-mile oval.
2004 winner: Kurt Busch
2004 pole sitter: Jeff Gordon (by points; qualifying rained out)
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Tony Stewart 5,050, 2. Greg Biffle 5,045, 3. Rusty Wallace 5,040, 4. Jimmie Johnson 5,035, 5. Kurt Busch 5,030, 6. Mark Martin 5,025, 7. Jeremy Mayfield 5,020, 8. Carl Edwards 5,015, 8. Matt Kenseth 5,015, 10. Ryan Newman, 5,010.