* The race for 11th place: McMurray still in control, Jarrett not far behind * "The Predator"returns -- Rusty Wallace in favorite car, eyes Martinsville sweep NEWS & NOTES The race for 11th place: McMurray extends lead ... Jamie McMurray ...
* The race for 11th place: McMurray still in control, Jarrett not far behind * "The Predator"returns -- Rusty Wallace in favorite car, eyes Martinsville sweep
NEWS & NOTES
The race for 11th place: McMurray extends lead ... Jamie McMurray retains the 11th position for a seventh consecutive week and shows no sign of faltering. He also retains his lead over 12th-place Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford).
Last week, McMurray led Jarrett by 82 points; this week, the margin is 74 points. Both finished well last Saturday night at Charlotte. McMurray, who has eight top-10 finishes in his last nine races, nursed his backup car to an eighth-place finish, while Jarrett finished sixth. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) remains 13th in the standings, but last Saturday's 36th-place finish due to engine problems dropped him further back in points; Harvick now trails Jarrett by 142 points and McMurray by 216 points. Last week, he trailed Jarrett by 47 points and McMurray by 129. Below Harvick, Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) and Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) swapped spots, Labonte jumping to 14th and Kahne falling to 15th. Labonte trails Harvick by only 10 points; Kahne trails him by 36 points.
"For whatever reason, this is a track that has suited this UPS team, especially in recent years," said Jarrett of Martinsville, where he has one win and nine top-10 finishes in his last 11 races.
Rusty returns to Matinsville ... Considering this season's strange happenings, Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) couldn't be blamed for anticipating 2005. But not before he tackles Martinsville again. The 1989 premier-series champion leads all active drivers at the venerable short track. He's got seven wins, 16 top-five finishes and has led 3,551 laps, tops among active peers and third all-time at Martinsville. This week, he's also driving "the Predator," or Penske Racing South Chassis 070. (For those who don't know, Wallace always nicknames his winning cars.)
"It was really my chief pilot, Bill Brooks' idea," Wallace said of the name. "He said that the predator was the ultimate hunter and it strikes like nothing else. He thought that would be a cool name that the fans would love. This was a brand new car that won right out of the box. The car never touched a racetrack until we got it to Martinsville."
But since Wallace drove "The Predator" to victory in April, scoring his 55th premier series win, he's been plagued by mechanical woes, accidents and just plain bad luck. The most recent example came last Saturday at Charlotte, when a freak collision with Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) helped limit Wallace to a 31st-place finish.
"The car is just so fast every week," said Wallace, who announced earlier this year that 2005 will be his final season. "It drives great. It's running real, real fast, but we just can't seem to close the deal. I'm not a quitter as everybody knows. We'll work through this and that's it. Every single race is the most important to me. We're going to Martinsville, site of my last victory, which I'm excited about."
An Army of "01" ... Joe Nemechek's (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) first full year with MB2 Motorsports didn't begin very smoothly, but heading to Martinsville, Nemechek has scored four top-10 finishes in his last five races, plus he's jumped from 25th in the point standings to 19th. After winning the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events at Kansas, Nemechek finished fifth at Charlotte last Saturday -- the first back-to-back, top-five finishes of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career.
"We've been knocking at the door all year, but never could get those finishes to go along with our strong performances," Nemechek said. "Something would always seem to happen. But recently, things have been going our way."
In his 11th season, the likeable Lakeland, Fla., native has found a niche at MB2 Motorsports, which leases Hendrick Motorsports engines and pairs Nemechek with Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet). After weathering accidents and mechanical problems through the first two-thirds of the season, Nemechek and crew chief Ryan Pemberton have found their stride in recent weeks.
"What is gratifying is to see all of the guys being rewarded with this success," Nemechek said. "I've always said I am surrounded by a talented group of people who possess an excellent work ethic."
Martinsville makeover ... Competitors at the Subway 500 will be racing across a new surface, one encircled by the SAFER barrier system.
The track was resurfaced (asphalt and concrete) following the track's spring race. In the exits of Turns 2 and 4, where concrete extends onto asphalt, the concrete has been extended an extra 100 feet.
"I've heard from a few drivers that have tested there since the new pavement was laid down that there's good grip in the corners and it sounds like the speeds are a little faster," Jamie McMurray said.
"They did a great job on the race track, but they almost did too good of a job," said Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford), who recently tested there. "The track is sort of even for everybody, it doesn't take a lot of experience as far as set-ups -- a lot of the old set-ups won't work anymore. So, I'm a little bit concerned to see how that plays out."
The SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers, installed last month, extend 832 feet on the outside wall of the first and second turns; 640 feet on the outside of the third and fourth turns; 706 feet along the inside front stretch wall; and 569 feet along the inside of the back stretch wall.
TV Timeout ... Last Saturday's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway scored more than just points in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. An average of 5,421,000 households tuned in to the NBC broadcast, a 16% increase over the average of 4,667,000 households that tuned in last season. Also improved: An average of 8,170,000 viewers tuned in to the prime-time event, a 9% increase over the average of 7,479,000 viewers last season. And that's not all. The 2004 UAW-GM Quality 500 ranks 11th among the top
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events experiencing the largest increase in average number of households tuned in from 2002 through 2004 to date. It also ranks fourth among the top five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events experiencing the largest increase in average number of households tuned in from the 2003 season through 2004 to date.
Chevrolet-Ford-Dodge in Manufacturers' standings ... Jimmie Johnson's (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) win at Charlotte gave Chevrolet its series-high 18th victory of the season. It also clinched the 2004 Manufacturers' Championship for Chevrolet, which now has 28 manufacturers' titles. Chevrolet leads the standings with 224 points, followed by Ford's 195 and Dodge's 170. Ford has nine wins and Dodge has four. No clear-cut favorite can claim dominance at Martinsville. In the past 19 events, Ford has eight wins, Chevrolet has seven and Pontiac has three. Rusty Wallace's April win was Dodge's first Martinsville victory since Dave Marcis triumphed in the fall of 1975.
CONTINGENCY CORNER ... Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Jasper Eng. & Trans./Kodak Dodge) has won four consecutive Raybestos Rookie of the Race awards and if he does it again at Martinsville, he'll tie Kasey Kahne's season-high streak of five consecutive Raybestos Rookie of the Race awards. However, the early favorite is Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet), who earned the award in the April race at Martinsville. ... Thanks to his pole-winning run last Saturday in Charlotte, Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) has tied Jeff Gordon for the most Bud Poles (six) this season. By winning the Bud Pole in two out of the last six races, Newman has caught Gordon, whose last Bud Pole came at Bristol in August. ... Just two weeks ago, many contingency sponsors competed in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series' Bailey's 300 late-model event at Martinsville. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series shares many contingency sponsors with the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, and those sponsors are: JE Pistons, Mobil 1, 3M, Clevite, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Goodyear Tires, Holley, MechanixWear, POWERade, McDonalds, USG and Waste Management.
"Martinsville's always a fun track to race on. It takes you back to the days of racing on the local short tracks back home." -- Jamie McMurray.
"The key to Martinsville is keeping the brakes on the car and to keep good track position. If we can have both of those things happen, then we can be there at the end to contend for the win." -- Kevin Hamlin, crew chief for Jeff Burton (No. 30 America Online Chevrolet).
"The track is small, so the racing will still be tight. It's hard to get a good finish without having something happen to you. Our goal is to survive, keep the fenders on it and radiator in it, and be there for the win." -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Martinsville Speedway is the oldest track on the NASCAR circuit, having hosted NASCAR events since 1948. Its first premier series race on Sept. 25, 1949, took place during the first season of what's known today as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The 200-lap event was the sixth of a nine-race schedule. Fifteen cars started behind pole-sitter Curtis Turner, who led the first 18 laps over the then-dirt-surface, half-mile track. Fonty Flock, one of three racing Flock brothers, took the lead from Turner and held it until lap 103. Red Byron, NASCAR's 1948 premier series champion, took the lead on lap 104 and eventually won by three laps over second-place finisher Lee Petty. A crowd of 10,000 witnessed Byron's win.
What: Subway 500. (Race No. 32 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
Where: Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Va.
When: Sunday, Oct. 24, 1 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $4,695,147.
Race Length: 500 laps, 263 miles.
Track layout: .526-mile oval.
2003 winner: Jeff Gordon.
2003 polesitter: Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 5,850. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,826. 3. Jeff Gordon 5,776. 4. Elliott Sadler 5,693. 5. Mark Martin 5,664. 6. Tony Stewart 5,646. 7. Matt Kenseth 5,635. 8. Jimmie Johnson 5,623. 9. Ryan Newman 5,579. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5,501.