Richmond II: News of note, schedule

* Loop Data From Richmond Favors Harvick, Stewart, Kahne * Gordon, Earnhardt Up To 4th, 6th In Points NEWS AND NOTES In The Loop At RIR: Harvick Tops Driver Rating NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics bode well for Kevin Harvick (No. 29 ...

* Loop Data From Richmond Favors Harvick, Stewart, Kahne
* Gordon, Earnhardt Up To 4th, 6th In Points

NEWS AND NOTES

In The Loop At RIR: Harvick Tops Driver Rating

NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics bode well for Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) going into Richmond. How well? This well: Using data from the last three RIR races, Harvick has the best Driver Rating, 125.5.

Harvick leads that all-encompassing category, in part, because he also leads these specific categories at Richmond:

Average Running Position: 3.855

Fastest Lap: 125.174 mph

Fastest Early In A Run: 122.635

Fastest On The Frontstretch: 129.606

Those numbers paint a concise statistical portrait, showing why Harvick has three consecutive top-10 finishes (fifth, 10th, third) at Richmond, going into this weekend.

Reigning series champion Tony Stewart will have Loop Data in his corner, on this most crucial of weekends.

Over the last three Richmond races, Stewart has a fifth-best Driver Rating of 109.9 and leads the Fastest On The Backstretrch (131.661 mph) category. Stewart is second behind Harvick in frontstretch speed (129.544).

Like Harvick, Stewart has three consecutive top-10 Richmond efforts (second, seventh and sixth).

Kasey Kahne won at Richmond in the spring of 2005, then finished eighth at RIR in September 2005. And despite a 34th-place finish there this spring, Loop Data casts his outlook for Saturday in a positive light; Kahne leads the Fastest In Turn 2 category (112.825 mph) and ranks in the top five of four other categories.

In the latest Season-To-Date Loop Data, eight of the top 10 in Driver Rating are also in the point standings' top 10. Appropriately, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, 1-2 in points, are 1-2 in Driver Rating. Kenseth leads with a 104.6, while Johnson is at 100.3 They are the only two with a Driver Rating exceeding 100.

Kenseth's overtaking of Johnson for the points lead can be partially traced to a couple of "behind-the-scenes" stats that deserve up-front notice.

Kenseth has led 12.1% of all laps run this season compared to Johnson leading 5.2%. Also, in the Laps in the Top 15 category, Kenseth has been running in top 15 80% (total of 5,675) laps of the time compared to Johnson's 72.2% (total of 5,075).

History Lesson: Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Lead Active Drivers In RIR Victories

Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) lead all active full-time drivers in Richmond International Raceway victories with three.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is next on the list with two RIR wins.

Manufacturers' Standings: Chevy-Ford-Dodge

Chevrolet continues to hold a seemingly safe lead in the Manufacturers' Championship standings, after 25 races of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season.

Dodge, meanwhile, is mounting a serious charge for the second-place spot. Kasey Kahne's victory at California Speedway helped push Dodge's point total to 142, only five points behind Ford's 147. Chevy has 186 points.

Richmond looks like any make's race. Dating back to 2003, Chevrolet has won three times at RIR, as has Dodge. Ford has one victory during that span.

Locked In: Petty Enterprises No. 45 Team Outside Top 35 - Barely

How times have changed.

Petty Enterprises has more victories at Richmond International Raceway -- 15 -- than any organization in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

That said, Kyle Petty's No. 45 Schwan's Home Delivery Dodge team will come to Richmond this weekend ranked 36th in owner points, one spot outside the sanctity of the top 35, which affords a "locked-in" starting spot for the Chevy Rock 'n Roll 400.

Petty will have to qualify for the field based on his actual qualifying speed. If he makes the field, it will mark his 775th start in the series.

This week, the 35th and final locked-in spot goes to the No. 14 Ginn Clubs and Resorts Chevrolet driven by Sterling Marlin.

Crew Member Spotlight: Houston Does Not Have A Problem, Being In Richmond

Richmond native Mike Houston will be striving before a hometown crowd to do his best work Saturday night in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.

Houston is a mechanic on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon.

On race day Houston serves as the front tire carrier on a team which finds itself fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points with one race remaining in the Race to the Chase. ...

Scott Eggleston, crew chief for the No. 14 Monte Carlo driven by Sterling Marlin, hails from Springfield, Va. which lies about one hour north of Richmond.

Eggleston also worked with Marlin on the FitzBradshaw Racing No. 12 NASCAR Busch Series Dodge.

The veteran crew chief also worked for Andy Petree Racing in 2002 with Mike Wallace as driver. Eggleston previously worked as crew chief for BAM Racing and served as crew chief for Michael Waltrip's victory in the 2001 Daytona 500. ...

Richmond native Mark Robertson will be a busy guy this weekend at his home track in his role as spotter for Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet.

Robertson will have his work cut out for him on Saturday night as Stewart will rely on his spotter's keen eye to get him through the pack and into the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

During the week Robertson's position is that of fabricator on the Joe Gibbs Racing team.

Rookie Report: Hamlin In A Runaway Thus Far

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) looks like a virtual lock to win the 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, thanks to a season that started with a win at Daytona in the Budweiser Shootout. That was a non-points event but it sent a signal that Hamlin was no ordinary rookie.

Coming into Richmond -- where he finished second in March -- Hamlin has two victories and an excellent shot at making the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup field, as he's seventh in the series standings. Hamlin's season is especially impressive when considered alongside his rookie-class peers, starting with Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet), who is 18th in the series points and second in rookie points, 47 (250-203).

Hamlin has been the Raybestos Rookie of the Race 13 times this season. Bowyer and third place Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) have held that honor five times each.

Where In The World Is Ken Schrader?

Ken Schrader (No. 21 Air Force Ford) continues to be, arguably, the busiest auto racer in the country, finding time to race in a variety of disciplines in addition to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

This weekend will be a rarity; he'll race only once, on Saturday night.

Ken Schrader's 2006 race totals
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- 25
NASCAR Busch Series -- 7
Budweiser Shootout -- 1
Copper World -- 2
Short track (dirt, late-model, etc.) -- 56

Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Looking 'Semi-Secure'

The 2005 season was forgettable, to say the least, for two of NASCAR's biggest names -- Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Gordon, a four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion and Earnhardt, considered a future series titlist, both failed to make the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Gordon went on to capture the approximate $1 million awarded for finishing 11th in the points, his first final standing outside the top 10 since his 1993 rookie year when he was 14th at year's end.

Earnhardt finished 19th, his lowest final standing since becoming a full-time series driver in 2000.

That was then. This is now: Gordon and Earnhardt are fourth and sixth, respectively, in the series standings, going into the final "Race to the Chase" event.

By no means are they locked in. But at least they're not locked out.

While there are various clinching scenarios "out there" for the nine drivers still alive in the battle for Chase berths, here are two simple ways for Gordon and Earnhardt to qualify:

Gordon will clinch a spot if he finishes 25th or better on Saturday night. Earnhardt will clinch with a finish of 16th or better. Earnhardt won this season's spring Richmond race, back on May 6, the latest of his three career victories at RIR.

"For us, I'm not sure there's a better track on the schedule than Richmond," Earnhardt said. "It's a very good track for me and I have a lot of fun racing there. Every time we go, we know it's an opportunity to win. I know we'll have a good car, so I think I can put it up front and win again.

"That's the mind set. But anything can happen to you. You can get involved in crashes or do something stupid, so we'll try to be smart, and we'll try to lock ourselves into the Chase."

On Deck: The 'Chase Begins At New Hampshire International Speedway

For the third consecutive year, the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will begin at New Hampshire International Speedway, with the Sylvania 300 on Sunday, Sept. 17. (12:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

In the brief history of the Chase, the format's opening event at NHIS has proven to be vital to how the championship plays out. In 2004, Kurt Busch won the race and went on to become the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion under the Chase format. Last year, Tony Stewart finished second at New Hampshire -- and went on to capture the series title.

New Hampshire started hosting NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events in 1993. As far as Chase contenders go at NHIS, Jeff Burton has four victories there, followed by Jeff Gordon (3), Jimmie Johnson (2) and Stewart (2).

Fast Facts

The Race: Chevy Rock 'n Roll 400

The Place: Richmond International Raceway

The Date: Sept. 91
The Time: 7:40 p.m. (ET)

TV: TNT 7 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: .75-mile oval

Purse: $4,955,081

2005 Winner: Kurt Busch
2005 Pole: Kevin Harvick

Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Qualifying, 6:10 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Andy Petree , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports