*Four way battle for 10th Race to the Chase position *Hendrick, Roush, Childress Have Multiples in Top 10 *Terry Labonte Makes Final Pocono Start NEWS AND NOTES Standings Shuffle ... Six drivers are up one position in the Race to the ...
*Four way battle for 10th Race to the Chase position
*Hendrick, Roush, Childress Have Multiples in Top 10
*Terry Labonte Makes Final Pocono Start
NEWS AND NOTES
Standings Shuffle ... Six drivers are up one position in the Race to the Chase as they arrive at Pocono this weekend. Leading them is resurgent Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Chevrolet) third; Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) fifth; Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) eighth; Gordon (ninth); and Biffle 10th. Gordon and Biffle are tied with 2,342 points in the ninth and 10th positions entering Pocono. However, Stewart is only 11 points behind Biffle while June Pocono winner Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) is only seven points behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Stewart. Of those four, Gordon is the most successful at Pocono with three wins, while Biffle has yet to win there.
Martin's Quiet Pocono Success ... Although he has yet to win a race at Pocono, Mark Martin is one of the most successful drivers there. Martin has six runner-up finishes at Pocono, along with 19 top-5s and 27 top-10 finishes. He's third on the track's all-time money-won list with more than $2 million. Jeff Gordon leads the all-time Pocono winnings list with more than $2.2 million.
Kyle Busch Helps Chevrolet to 11th win ... Kyle Busch's victory at New Hampshire International Speedway this past Sunday brought Chevrolet its 11th win of the season and expanded the name-plate's lead in the Manufacturer's Championship standings. Chevrolet leads the standings with 141 points followed by Dodge, 111 points/five wins; and Ford 109 points/three wins. Roush Racing Fords (Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch) swept both Pocono events in 2005, but Denny Hamlin scored his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet in June. Chevrolet is the leading manufacturer winner at Pocono with 21.
Three New to Chase ... Three drivers are currently in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 Race to the Chase; for the first time. Entering the Pennsylvania 500, Jeff Burton, (third in points) Kyle Busch (fourth), and Kasey Kahne (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), sixth, are solid contenders to qualify for the Chase to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon, who missed the cut for the Chase in 2005, occupy seventh and ninth in the standings respectively entering Pocono. Earnhardt lost four positions after a blown engine and a last-place finish, 43rd, at New Hampshire. Gordon picked up a position with a 15th-place finish. Gordon and Matt Kenseth are the only two past NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions in the top 10 of series points as the series arrives at Pocono. Of the current top 10 in points, only Jimmie Johnson, Kenseth and Mark Martin are on track to have appeared in all three editions of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup since the format was introduced in 2004.
In The Loop: Kenseth Charging ... Matt Kenseth continues to mount a charge at NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson, and NASCAR's Loop Data shows Kenseth is a serious contender for the series lead.
Kenseth's Average Starting Position of 15.1 is nearly four spots lower than Johnson's 10.6. Kenseth makes up for his starting spot once the green flag falls, improving five positions from start to finish for an Average Finish of 10.1.
Additionally, Kenseth is building a reputation of someone who consistently runs at the front of the field. He has led 11% of all laps this season compared to Johnson's 6%. Kenseth also has completed more Laps in the Top 15 than Johnson. Johnson has completed 3,947 Laps in the Top 15, while Kenseth has completed 4,388 Laps in the Top 15, the most of any driver in the top 10.
Jeff Burton also is on a charge. Currently third in the standings, Burton has completed the second most Green-Flag Passes of drivers in the top 10 with 1,581. Burton's passes haven't been easy either; 1,076 (68%) of them have come over a car running in the top 15, making them Quality Passes.
Loop Data Analysis: From Stefan Kretschmann of STATS LLC: "Momentum is key at this point of the season for drivers hoping to make the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, and Kyle Busch has it. In the past three races, Busch leads all drivers with a Driver Rating of 119.2. He's also gained three top fives and 530 points; with the best Average Running Position of 6.718 over that span and the most Fastest Laps with 66. Busch has spent the most Laps in the Top 15 (94.6%, 698 of 738 laps) and has led 109 laps in the past three races. Last year the best driver over this period was eventual series champion Tony Stewart, who posted similar dominating Loop Data statistics (132.1 Driver Rating and 4.479 Average Running Position while compiling 535 points)."
Qualifying Extremes ... In June, Denny Hamlin became the 11th driver in 57 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events at Pocono to win the Budweiser Pole Award, and then the race. At the other end of the spectrum, Carl Edwards won the 2005 June event with the deepest-ever start for a Pocono race. Edwards started in 29th place. The previous "deepest start" by a Pocono winner was 27th, accomplished by Terry Labonte (No. 44 Kellogg's Chevrolet) in 1995. There have been 19 different pole winners in 20 Pocono races dating back to July 1996.
Terry Labonte Begins Final Farewell ... Terry Labonte opens the second half of his final "Shifting Gears" 10-race season in the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono this weekend. Labonte has a Pocono record that includes two wins, seven top fives and 21 top-10 finishes. Sunday will mark his 52nd and final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start at Pocono. His wins at the track came in 1989 and 1995. After Pocono, Labonte's schedule includes Sept. 3, California Speedway; Oct. 1, Kansas Speedway; Oct. 14, Lowe's Motor Speedway; and Nov. 5, Texas Motor Speedway in his home state. Those five starts would give Labonte 847 career starts upon his retirement. He surpassed $40,000,000 in career winnings earlier this year. Labonte's best finish so far in 2006 is third at Infineon Raceway in California, driving for Hall of Fame Racing. Labonte won NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championships in 1984 and 1996. He has 22 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins along with 182 top fives and 361 top 10s.
All-time leaders at Pocono ... Among active drivers, Jeff Gordon and No. 88 UPS Ford driver Dale Jarrett lead the way for Pocono wins with three each. Bill Elliott is the all-time win leader with five, followed by Rusty Wallace with four.
Pocono First Timer ... Robert Yates Racing's developmental driver Stephen Leicht (No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford), 19, of Asheville, N.C., will attempt to qualify for his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start this weekend. Leicht has been driving in selected events for Yates in the NASCAR Busch Series this year. In eight starts so far, he has one top-10 finish in the CitiFinancial Ford. He made two NASCAR Busch Series starts in 2005. It was only last month that first-time Pocono starter Denny Hamlin won in his first career Pocono start. The "fastest-to-win" record was set by Jamie McMurray in 2002 when he won at Charlotte in his second career start.
Gotta Hustle ... During the first four seasons of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career, Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge team have won 37 Budweiser Pole Awards, a dozen races and always finished in the top 10 in the series points race. Newman is going to have to hustle to make the Chase to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup this year. He has yet to win, and was unable to capitalize from the pole position at New Hampshire. He finished 39th after an early race incident, and dropped to 19th in series points, 376 points outside the top 10 and 823 points behind points leader Jimmie Johnson.
Double Dippin' Drivers ... Eight full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers are expected to commute between Pocono and Martinsville, Va. On Saturday, July 22, Martinsville Speedway is scheduled to host its first NASCAR Busch Series event since October 1994. Drivers expected to take the double-dip trip include NASCAR Busch Series point leader Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet), Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. In order, Harvick, Edwards, Bowyer, Hamlin, Yeley and Biffle occupy the top six positions in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, while Busch is eighth. In addition, Robert Yates Racing driver Stephen Leicht has entered both events.
Raybestos Rookie Update ... Through the season's first 19 races, Denny Hamlin continues to lead the Raybestos Rookie standings with 208 points. Clint Bowyer holds down the second spot with 174 points. Reed Sorenson is third with 165 points followed closely by Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) with 151, J.J. Yeley with 149, and David Stremme (No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Dodge) with 126 points.
Hamlin had the best overall rookie performance at New Hampshire, qualifying 12th and finishing sixth.
Pit Crew Spotlight: Pennsylvania NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Crew Member ... Pat Tryson, crew chief for Roush Racing's AAA Ford driven by Mark Martin, is a Pennsylvania native, born in Bryn Mawr, Pa. His father, Joe, was a drag racing engine builder. Pat was once car chief/mechanic for Kenny Bernstein's NHRA Top Fuel dragster. He became a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup mechanic in 1997. Since joining Roush and Martin, the team returned to Victory Lane and finished fourth in the series point race in 2004 and 2005.
Where in The World is Ken Schrader? ... When not driving in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event in the Wood Brothers Ford, Ken Schrader is probably racing elsewhere or at least plotting his next short track race. Following Sunday's New Hampshire NASCAR race, Schrader headed for Quad City Speedway, a quarter-mile dirt track in East Moline, Ill., on Tuesday, July 18. Following Budweiser Pole Award qualifying at Pocono on Friday, July 21, he's off to another quarter-mile clay oval, Ohio Valley Speedway, just south of Parkersburg, W.V.
RCR VP Hutchens wins Modified Feature ... Richard Childress Racing's Vice President for Competition Bobby Hutchens, 46, of Lexington, N.C., scored a convincing and popular win in the NASCAR Modified feature at historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on July 15. It was Hutchens' third career NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series victory, but his first since July 2003. Hutchens won the 25-lap race over Junior Miller. Miller, 55, of Walnut Cove, N.C., is known as the "King of Southern Modifieds" and holds a record 66 career Modified wins at Bowman Gray. Hutchens and Miller also compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
From the Archives ... Bill Elliott swept victories in both Pocono NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races in 1985. The pair of wins were part of Elliott's career high 11-win, 11-pole season behind the wheel of Harry Melling's Ford Thunderbirds. Despite the winning record, Darrell Waltrip, driving steady Junior Johnson Chevrolets won the 1985 series championship with three wins. Elliott has a total of five career Pocono wins, including one in 1988 when he won the series title.
On Deck: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard ... Race No. 21 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule will be Sunday, August 6 (2 p.m. EDT, NBC) -- the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart is defending champion while Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&Ms Ford) is the defending pole winner.
Next race: Pennsylvania 500 (Race No. 20 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season)
The track: Pocono Raceway, Pocono, Pa.
The date/time: Sunday, July 23, 2:10 p.m. (EDT)
TV: TNT, 1:30 p.m. (EDT).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $4,836,658
Race length: 500 miles, 200 laps
Track layout: 2.5-mile
2005 winner: Kurt Busch
2005 polesitter: Jamie McMurray
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,789. 2. Matt Kenseth 2,721. 3. Jeff Burton 2,478. 4. Kyle Busch 2,455. 5. Mark Martin 2,451. 6. Kasey Kahne 2,445. 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,428. 8. Kevin Harvick 2,408. 9. Jeff Gordon 2,342. 10. Greg Biffle, 2,342.
Practice/Qualifying Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 12:05 p.m. -- 1:35 p.m., Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday -- Practice 9:30 a.m. -- 10:30 a.m. Final Practice 11:05 a.m. -- 11:50 a.m.