Busch leads NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10; Wallace first "on the bubble" driver Back-to-back wins give Ford lead in Manufacturers Championship points NEWS & NOTES * Charting the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: Busch bolts to front ... A victory...
Busch leads NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10; Wallace first "on the bubble" driver
Back-to-back wins give Ford lead in Manufacturers Championship points
NEWS & NOTES
* Charting the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: Busch bolts to front ... A victory at Bristol followed by a sixth-place finish at Texas, and suddenly Kurt Busch (No. 97 IRWIN Ford) found himself atop the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Martinsville. Reigning series champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), the points leader for three consecutive race weeks, is second, 19 points behind. ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 takes on added importance this season. After 26 races of the 36-race season, the top 10 drivers in points -- plus anyone within 400 points of the points leader -- qualify for the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" that will determine the series champion.
* On the NASCAR bubble: Wallace on top-10 doorstep ... The new format for determining the series champion makes it especially interesting to follow the results of those drivers just outside NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 -- on the "NASCAR bubble." This week, positions 11-15 in the points all are within 33 points of the top 10. Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), the 1989 premier series champion, is 11th, nine points behind his Penske Racing South teammate, 10th-place Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is 12th, also nine points out of the top 10; Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge) is 13th, 16 points back; Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) is 14th, 17 back; and Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) is 15th, 33 back.
* Mark this milestone for Ricky Rudd ... Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford) will be making his 50th start at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. Rudd ranks fifth all-time in Martinsville starts behind Richard Petty (67), Dave Marcis (55), Darrell Waltrip (52) and Terry Labonte (51) (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). ... At Texas, Rudd made his 810th career start, moving into sole possession of third place on the all-time list for NASCAR's premier series.
* Ford now leads manufacturers title hunt ... Ford has taken the lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Manufacturers' Championship points, on the strength of four race victories, two coming at the last two races, Bristol and Texas. Ford has 48 points, Chevrolet 43 and Dodge 42. ... Chevrolet has won the championship 27 times, while Ford has won 15 times. Per-race points are awarded in the following manner: First place -- nine points; second place -- six points; third place -- four points; fourth place -- three points. There has been no clear-cut dominating manufacturer over the past 18 races at Martinsville. Ford has claimed eight victories there since 1995 while Chevrolet has won seven times. Pontiac posted the other three victories in the 18-race span. Dodge has not posted a Martinsville victory since Dave Marcis won in a Dodge in the fall of 1975.
* Kahne could be tough to catch in rookie chase ... Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) has a substantial 32 points over second-place Scott Wimmer (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge) in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings. After seven races, he has been the top rookie finisher in five races (Rockingham, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Darlington, and Texas) and the top rookie qualifier five times (Rockingham, Las Vegas, Darlington, Bristol and Texas).
Craven craves return to Martinsville ... Ricky Craven (No. 32 Tide Chevrolet) has two victories in NASCAR's premier series to his credit and the first came at Martinsville, in October 2001. For that reason, the half-mile track will always be special. "Martinsville is a place I enjoy and a place where I've run well, so both those things work in our favor each time we return there," Craven said. "Having that type of mentally when you get to a race track already puts you up on your other competitors. ... Racing at Martinsville is a throw-back to the old days. It reminds me of racing in New England. You are on the gas, you drive deep in the corner, then you are on the brakes and you set the nose to try to roll through the corner and carry as much speed as possible. You exit the corners as straight as possible so you can accelerate down the straight. You are on the gas 1,000 times and on the brakes 1,000 times. From my seat, it's as much fun as anything we do all year."
* Kevin Harvick: call him consistent ... Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) has been running at the finish for 46 consecutive races -- the longest active NASCAR NEXTEL Cup streak without a DNF. He has replaced Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) as the category's active leader; Labonte ended a streak of 48 consecutive races without a DNF when he failed to finish at Texas.
* NASCAR TV Offers full slate ... This week on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel:
* Friday -- "NASCAR LIVE!" (2 p.m. ET) hosted by Steve Byrnes.
* Friday -- Live NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying (3 p.m. ET) from Martinsville Speedway.
* Friday -- "Trackside" LIVE (7 p.m. ET) from SPEED Channel's new 53-foot traveling stage truck located outside Turn 4. Hosts Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond will welcome Jeff Gordon, Mike Skinner and Elliott Sadler. Fans are encouraged to attend.
* Saturday -- From the stage truck at Martinsville, "Pit Bull" features commentary from NASCAR beat writers David Poole (Charlotte Observer), Marty Smith (NASCAR.com) and Mike Mulhern (Winston-Salem Journal). The show will be Live to tape at 4:30 p.m. ET and will air at 6:30 p.m. ET.
* Sunday -- "NASCAR Victory Lane" (8 p.m. ET) hosted by John Roberts with Kenny Wallace and Chad Little.
* Monday -- "Inside NEXTEL Cup" (7 p.m. ET) with Allen Bestwick, Michael Waltrip, Johnny Benson and Ken Schrader reviewing the weekend's action.
* Monday, April 19 -- SPEED Channel's reality series "NBS 24/7" (8 p.m. ET). The weekly show follows the NASCAR Busch Series race teams of FitzBradshaw Racing (Casey Atwood, Tim Fedewa, Randy LaJoie), Akins Motorsports (Kasey Kahne) and Braun Racing (David Stremme).
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
In addition to Jeff Gordon, watch out this week for:
* Rusty Wallace, who has six victories at Martinsville;
* Terry Labonte, who has 27 top-10 Martinsville finishes in 51 races;
* Kurt Busch, who won the 2002 Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville after starting 36th, the furthest back a race winner has started in 110 races at Martinsville. Busch has won four of the eight short-track races since that October 2002 Old Dominion 500. ... Five of his nine career victories have occurred on short tracks.
* Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), on the effect of Martinsville's "curb" (on the inside of the track's corners):
"Most of the time it's a disadvantage to get on the curb ... you always have to run right up against the curb. It's like standing on the edge of a cliff. If you get around it just right you get a pretty nice view. If you go overboard, you're going to fall."
* Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Kodak Easy Share Dodge), on advice from "tutor" Buddy Baker regarding short-track racing:
"I've been telling Buddy the past two weeks how much I didn't like short tracks and he's been growling back at me. He's been telling me 'I'm gonna make you love Martinsville'."
* "We know that it's going to be close-quarters racing. It's those close quarters that can bring out the best and worst in a driver." -- Jeff Green (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge).
* "To be successful [at Martinsville], you have to have tremendous RPMs and unbelievably tough brakes. Martinsville is one of the few tracks we go to where brake power is just as important as acceleration." -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge).
* "You have to go into Martinsville knowing that anything can happen." -- Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Jeff Gordon is going for his fourth straight Martinsville win this week. Can history repeat itself? Fred Lorenzen scored four straight at Martinsville in the early 1960s. The former carpenter from Chicago was NASCAR's original "Golden Boy."
Many have called Lorenzen the Jeff Gordon of his generation. Both were young, articulate, successful and Hollywood-good looking. In 1963, Lorenzen became the first NASCAR driver to win over $100,000 in a single season and he did it running a limited schedule, competing in only 29 of the season's 55 races.
Lorenzen scored his first NASCAR career win at Martinsville in 1961 and came back in 1963 for his first of four consecutive victories, winning the fall race. Lorenzen drew angry remarks from teammate Nelson Stacy and veteran Junior Johnson for his aggressive driving style, to which Lorenzen explained, "I played a little bumper tag with Junior. He's been known to do that, you know."
The next two victories came via a sweep of the 1964 races as Lorenzen led all but 13 laps of the 500-lap spring event and edged out Richard Petty by one-third of a lap in the fall race. The 1965 spring race rounded out Lorenzen's "four-peat" as he beat Marvin Panch by two car lengths.
The Golden Boy's final Martinsville win came on Sept. 25, 1966 but not without controversy. It was thought the Holman-Moody Ford had an illegal fuel tank and Lorenzen's victory was in question for a time, but after further inspection, the fuel cell, new to NASCAR competition, was declared legal.
What: Advance Auto Parts 500 (Race No. 8 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
When: Sunday, April 18, 1 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Race length: 500 laps/263 miles.
Track layout: .526-mile oval.