* Catch them now: Future NASCAR stars on display during Phoenix weekend * Just ahead: NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge a month away * History lesson: Phoenix International Raceway a traditional NASCAR host NEWS AND NOTES Through The...
* Catch them now: Future NASCAR stars on display during Phoenix weekend
* Just ahead: NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge a month away
* History lesson: Phoenix International Raceway a traditional NASCAR host
NEWS AND NOTES
Through The Looking Glass: Future Stars On Display ... Prior to Sunday's Subway Fresh 500, both fans and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series participants will have the opportunity to watch the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. Its Thursday-evening event, the Casino Arizona 150, is officially the first race under Phoenix International Raceway's new lights, and among the field will be former open-wheel star Sarah Fisher. This season, Fisher is driving the No. 20 Domino's/NAPA Chevrolet for Bill McAnally Racing and also is a member of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program. Thursday's event marks her third start this season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series; her best finish thus far is a 16th-place effort at Mesa Marin Raceway.
The West Series has long nurtured talent. Bakersfield, Calif., native Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) won the 1998 West Series title and Brendan Gaughan, who currently competes in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, captured back-to-back West Series titles in 2000 and 2001. Fisher's team owner, Bill McAnnally, a former driver, has a driver development partnership with Richard Childress Racing. He also fielded Gaughan's championship teams, and currently fields a Late Model team for another Drive for Diversity participant, Allison Duncan.
Mark Your Calendars: NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge ... The 21st annual all-star event is just over a month away, and defending champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) leads the list of current qualifiers. He's followed by 2004 race winners Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet), Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Tony Stewart and Rusty Wallace; 2005 race winners Carl Edwards (No. 99 Scotts Ford) and Kevin Harvick; past event champions Terry Labonte (1999) and Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) (1996); and past series champions Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) and Dale Jarrett.
Here's a quick reminder of format, and eligibility requirements:
• The 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge showcases race winners from the previous and current seasons, plus past event champions and series champions from the past 10 years (1995-2005) who are active drivers and have competed in at least one series event during the 2004 or 2005 season. Also eligible:
• The winner of the NEXTEL Open, a preliminary event for teams not qualified for the all-star event, and another NEXTEL Open driver who wins a fan vote into the all-star event.
• To qualify for the NEXTEL Open event, drivers must be in the Top 50 of the final 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, or in the Top 50 of the current point standings as of March 14, 2005.
• The all-star evening begins with the 30-lap NEXTEL Open. The winner, plus the winner of the fan vote, will transfer to the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge -- a 90-lap/135-mile event divided into 40-, 30- and 20-lap segments.
• No driver will be eliminated after the first two segments. But during the 10-minute pit stop between the first and second segments, a random drawing will determine whether as few as six or as many as 12 cars will be inverted.
Bowyer Aiming For Series Debut at PIR ... Clint Bowyer, who drives Richard Childress Racing's No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series, plans on doing the double at Phoenix this weekend. But it's especially significant for Bowyer, who hopes to make his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup debut in Sunday's Subway Fresh 500. Bowyer, who's currently third in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, will attempt to qualify the No. 33 Sylvania Chevrolet for the Subway Fresh 400.
Nextel's Wake Up Call ... This week's guest is Greg Biffle. He'll visit with media at the Phoenix International Raceway infield media center beginning at 10 a.m. Friday.
Personal History In The Making ... Two drivers are expected to mark career milestones this weekend. They are:
• Dale Jarrett -- his 575th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start. • Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) -- his 375th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start.
Owner Points Update: Top 35 Heading to Phoenix ... Beginning in 2005, teams outside the top 35 in car owner points must qualify on speed for each week's 43 starting spots. The top 35 designation guarantees a spot in the field for those teams; beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500 and running through the Food City 500 on April 3, the top 35 in 2004 owner championship points was the yardstick. Beginning with the Advance Auto Parts 500 on April 10 -- the season's sixth race -- the current top 35 teams in owner championship points became the yardstick.
Here's a quick rundown on those drivers at, or near, the No. 35 position in current owner points:
• No. 35 -- Mike Wallace (No. 4 Lucas Oil Chevrolet). Owner: Larry McClure. Point total: 515.
• No. 36 -- Bobby Hamilton, Jr. (No. 32 Tide Chevrolet). Owner: Cal Wells III. Point total: 475.
• No. 37 -- Bobby Labonte. Owner: Joe Gibbs. Point total: 465.
• No. 38 -- Kevin Lepage (No. 37 R&J Racing Dodge). Owner: John Carter. Point total: 447.
• No. 39 -- Robby Gordon (No. 7 Harrah's Chevrolet). Owner: Jim Smith. Point total: 356.
• No. 40 -- Hermie Sadler (No. 66 Peak Fitness Ford). Owner: Jeff Stec. Point total: 313.
Back In Front: Chevrolet Alone Atop Series Manufacturers Standings ... After seven races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Chevrolet remains out front in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings, with Ford in second place and Dodge running third. Chevrolet holds the lead for a third consecutive week, but Greg Biffle's victory last Sunday at Texas allowed Ford to creep closer in the win column. Chevrolet now has four wins; Ford has three. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned thusly: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series point leader. Greg Biffle, second in points, is the top Ford driver. Rusty Wallace is the leading Dodge driver, standing third in the points.
From the Archives: Phoenix A Traditional Hub Of Southwest Racing ... While Phoenix International Raceway is a relative newcomer to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule -- it joined the lineup in 1988 -- NASCAR's biggest stars competed in the "Valley of the Sun" as early as the late 1970s. The occasion was an event in what is now the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. Staged a few days after the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season finale at Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, Calif., the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series event attracted NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams en route from California -- a tradition that endured from 1977 through 1982.
In 1977, three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Cale Yarborough had just clinched the second of his three consecutive series titles when, several days later, he won the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series' inaugural Phoenix 250 on Nov. 27. Neil Bonnett was the runner-up, followed by Bobby Allison in third place. In 1978, Richard Petty won the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series event at Phoenix with Allison and Bonnett finishing third and fourth, respectively. In 1979, Bonnett won the event, with Allison as the runner-up. In 1980, Petty again won the Phoenix event, with Allison finishing second and Richard's son, Kyle Petty, finishing third. In 1981, Richard Petty won his second consecutive NASCAR Grand National Division, West Division race in Phoenix, and in 1982, Allison closed out NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regulars' participation by winning the event.
The Phoenix event served as the season finale for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series until 1985, when it was moved to California's Riverside Raceway. Four-time NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series champion Bill Schmitt was his series' most consistent performer during the 1977-1985 events at Phoenix. He won the 1984 race and totaled four top-five finishes.
On the Right Track
• Phoenix International Raceway opened in March 1964. Its first race was an open-wheel event won by A.J. Foyt. This week's event is the 18th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Phoenix.
• Roush Racing has four Phoenix wins, including three straight in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
• Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each have back-to-back victories at Phoenix. They, along with the late Davey Allison, are the only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers with that distinction.
• Fourteen NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers -- and eight series champions -- have won Phoenix races.
On Deck: Talladega Superspeedway ... Race No. 9 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, May 1 -- the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Talladega, a 2.66-mile tri-oval, has been part of the schedule since 1969 when the race winner was Richard Brickhouse. ... Jeff Gordon is defending champion; Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford) was last year's polesitter.
The race: Subway Fresh 500. (Race No. 8 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz. (1-mile oval.)
The date/time: Saturday, April 23, 7:55 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $4,795,076.
Race length: 312 laps, 312 miles.
Track layout: 1-mile oval.
2004 winner: Inaugural event
2004 polesitter: Inaugural event.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 1,142. 2. Greg Biffle 1,007. 3. Rusty Wallace 905. 4. Kurt Busch 897. 5. Jeff Gordon 895. 6. Sterling Marlin 883. 7. Mark Martin 882. 8. Elliott Sadler 879. 9. Ryan Newman 873. 10. Dale Jarrett 853.