NEWS OF NOTE * Championship update with three races to go... Tony Stewart finished fourth last Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, tightening his grip on the points lead. Stewart leads second-place Mark Martin by 146 points (4,428-4,282) coming...
NEWS OF NOTE
* Championship update with three races to go... Tony Stewart finished fourth last Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, tightening his grip on the points lead. Stewart leads second-place Mark Martin by 146 points (4,428-4,282) coming into Rockingham. The top five are separated by only 227, the second-closest margin between first and fifth, with three races remaining, in series history. If Stewart finishes ninth or better in the next three races, regardless of the performance of any other driver, he will clinch the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship.
* TV timeout... Last Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, televised by NBC, produced NASCAR's highest rating ever (5.1 national rating) when going against professional football, according to Nielsen Media Research. Through 16 telecasts this season, NBC and TNT (excluding the Daytona 500, which alternates yearly between NBC and FOX), NBC and TNT have enjoyed a 16 percent ratings increase.
* Etc. ... A medical update was released this week, regarding injured driver Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge). The update was provided by Dr. Jerry Petty, neurosurgeon, and Dr. Dom Coric, spinal injury specialist, of the Carolina Neurological and Spinal Injury Clinic. Marlin suffered a non-displaced fracture of the No. 2 cervical vertebra as a result of an accident at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 29. An MRI this week showed that the vertebra is healing well. He will continue to wear the Aspen neck collar for two more weeks and will then be reevaluated. Jamie McMurray will continue as Marlin's replacement in the No. 40. ... There have been 13 different winners in the last 13 autumn Rockingham races, a streak that began with Mark Martin's victory in 1989. ... The NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus is worth $290,000 at Rockingham, the highest amount in the program's history. It will be paid if the race winner also leads the series standings. If there is no winner, another $10,000 will be tacked on for the Nov. 10 race in Phoenix.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* Matt Kenseth followed his pit crew's lead, when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returned to Rockingham in February. Three months after his crew won the Union 76-Rockingham World Pit Crew Competition, Kenseth won the Subway 400. Kenseth also won a NASCAR Busch Series event at "The Rock" -- the 1998 Goodwrench 200.
* Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) continues to hang tough in the series standings, and Rockingham could be the place for him to mount an 11th-hour challenge for the title. Wallace has five career Rockingham victories -- third-best all-time and tops among active drivers.
WHAT'S THE WORD?
"I'd be devastated if I made a mistake that cost [my guys] a shot at winning the pit crew championship. I'm just so nervous for them because I know how badly they want to do well there. ... It seems like this pit crew challenge [for them] is kind of like me going to Indianapolis. They put so much pressure on themselves to perform well, I almost feel like they try too hard at times." -- Tony Stewart, on Saturday's Union 76-Rockingham World Pit Crew Competition.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
* Kyle Petty (No. 45 Sprint Dodge) has won eight NASCAR Winston Cup races. Three of those victories were at Rockingham -- The Goodwrench 500 in 1990 and '91 and the AC Delco 500 in '92.
Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 (NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Race
No. 34 of 36).
North Carolina Speedway, Rockingham, N.C.
1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 3.
TV: TNT (Beginning at 12:30 p.m., ET).
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.
Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.
Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m.
Final Practice, 11:15-Noon.