Series off-week news 2010-07-13

Little Wiggle Room For Those Around Top-12 Bubble Here are a few numbers to chew on going into this weekend's break: 7 -- Races remaining until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. 4 -- Number of drivers within 100 points of the top 12. 15...

Little Wiggle Room For Those Around Top-12 Bubble

Here are a few numbers to chew on going into this weekend's break:

7 -- Races remaining until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

4 -- Number of drivers within 100 points of the top 12.

15 -- The points gap between 12th and 13th.

It all adds up to one tight fight to the finish.

This Race to the Chase -- the 10 races preceding the Chase -- just might be the most competitively balanced since 2007, when the Chase field grew to 12.

There have been three different winners in the first three Race to the Chase races: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) at New Hampshire, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) at Daytona and David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron's Toyota) at Chicagoland.

The "four drivers within 100 points of 12th" stat is the most over the last four seasons after 19 races.

The 15 points separating 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) and 12th-place Clint Bowyer (No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet) is the second-closest after 19 races. Last year through 19 races, 10 points separated 13th-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) and 12th-place Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Crown Royal Ford).

But even large deficits are not insurmountable. Case in point: Brian Vickers in 2009. Through 19 races last season, Vickers stood 16th, 146 points outside the top 12. Once the checkered flew in the Chase cut-off race at Richmond, Vickers had earned his first Chase berth.

That should give Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) some hope. Kahne is currently in 17th, 120 points outside the top 12. He also has momentum on his side, scoring four top-10 finishes in the last five races.

A look at the four drivers within 100 points of 12th-place Bowyer:

Earnhardt: Over the upcoming seven tracks, Earnhardt has six wins, 34 top fives and 74 top 10s, as well as a Driver Rating of 88.6 and an Average Running Position of 14.9.

Mark Martin (No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): At the next seven tracks, Martin has 13 wins, 101 top fives and 160 top 10s. Since 2005, he has a Driver Rating of 90.7.

Reutimann: He has two top fives, five top 10s and a Driver Rating of 67.5 at the upcoming seven tracks.

Ryan Newman (No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet): In his career at the next seven tracks, Newman has four wins, 19 top fives and 40 top 10s.

Owner Waltrip Says Reutimann's Win Was No Fluke

The feel-good aura from David Reutimann's victory last Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway lingered into Monday, when his team owner, Michael Waltrip of Michael Waltrip Racing, weighed in from Daytona Beach, Fla.

In town along with older brother Darrell to promote Daytona International Speedway's repaving project, the younger Waltrip spared no joy.

"I love his heart," said Michael Waltrip of Reutimann. "He's just a guy that likes to race a car and to get the break that he got at the age he got it, I don't know that we'll ever see that again. That's something that David should be very proud of. I think that's something that Darrell and I should be proud of too because we were able to give him that opportunity when maybe he wasn't just the stereotypical kid you were going to give that chance to.

"David's just a blessing. He loves what he does. He appreciates the sport. He has respect for the sport and for the team, and that means the world to me."

Last Saturday's win was Reutimann's second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and perhaps the more cherished of the two. The 40-year-old native of Zephyrhills, Fla. -- in both his and MWR's fourth fulltime season -- won last May's rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But nabbing his next win under a checkered flag rather than an umbrella meant a different triumph.

"MWR is a young team," Waltrip said. "Obviously winning our first pole, winning our first race, our first time we got to compete, all those are significant marks in our history, but maybe our most significant was Saturday night because of the way that we performed and the way we won. That's how you do it right there. There was no fuel mileage involved. There was no rain involved. No one stayed out and got two tires. That was a race.

"That was, 'Okay, who's got what? Let's go race and see.' And David Reutimann, from just down the road here, was the guy that had the most for them."

Waltrip's schedule dictated that he root from afar last Saturday because of broadcasting obligations at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Iowa Speedway. And with seven events remaining in the Race to the Chase -- the 10-race stretch that determines the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- Reutimann's now nipping at some top-12 heels.

He heads to next week's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway 15th in the series standings, only 96 points out of 12th, the final Chase-eligible spot.

"He's there," Waltrip said. "Performance is what will make the difference. So heads up if you just go race each other. I like David's chances. Toyota has stepped up our engine program some. We got a little bit of a boost in power Saturday night that we really needed so everything seems to be positioning itself nicely going into the last seven."

(No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet).

Time Out: A Look At Passing And Other Competition Numbers

Through 19 races, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has seen some of the tightest competition in years.

Passing is at its highest point since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 (see graphic in the center).

There have been a total of 66,643 passes through the first 19 races this season, the highest total in six years. The previous high was 63,110 in 2007, 3,533 fewer passes than this season.

The same holds true for the racing up front. There have been 787 green flag passes for the lead, which takes into account lead changes all along the track -- and not just at the traditional start/finish line. That, too, is a high since 2005. The previous high was 509 in 2007, 278 fewer than this season.

But why? A number of factors could have contributed to the boost in competition.

* A deeper, talent-laden field. Consider this: At this point last year, points leader Kevin Harvick was 25th in points.

* Double-file restarts -- shootout style. Implemented in the middle of last season, 2010 is the first full season of double-file restarts. Clearly, it has boosted passing numbers up front.

* Three attempts at a green-whitecheckered finish has led to tighter finishes. The average MOV is 1.263 seconds. The last time a full season had an MOV under a second was 2007.

Here are some other numbers gleaned from the first 19 races of the 2010 season:

12 -- Races that have ended with a margin of victory under one second. That's the highest number through 19 races since 2001 (14).

1 -- Races that have ended under caution. That's the lowest number through 19 events since 2005 (1).

12 -- Average number of different leaders this season, an all-time high through 19 races.

27 -- Average number of lead changes, an all-time high through 19 races.

46 -- Number of different drivers who have led at least one lap. That matches the all-time high through 19 races.

31 -- Number of drivers who have scored at least one top-10 finish.

23 -- Number of drivers who have scored at least one top-five finish.

3 -- Number of drivers with a Driver Rating over 100.0: Jimmie Johnson (109.7), Jeff Gordon (107.3) and Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet).

NSCS Etc.: "Off" Week? Not So Much For Competitors

These guys can't get enough. Though some drivers are taking advantage of the open weekend with a much-deserved vacation, others are racing.

Here's a sampling of what's on tap for a few NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors:

Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski (No. 12 Penske Dodge), Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford), Paul Menard (No. 98 Menards Ford), Reed Sorenson (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota) will pull double duty, driving in the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway.

For the fourth time, Edwards has organized a charity bike ride that begins in his hometown of Columbia, Mo. and finishes at Gateway for the race. The distance between the two points is approximately 200 miles.

On Sunday, Keselowski also will run a short track race at Oxford Plains (Maine) Speedway.

Harvick, Keselowski and Max Papis (No. 13 Geico Toyota) will run the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' CampingWorld.com 200 at Gateway.

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and AJ Allmendinger (No. 43 Best Buy Ford) will compete against the best in karting in the SUPERKARTS! USA Summer Nationals in Shawano, Wis. from July 16-18.

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet) and Kasey Kahne will race at Eldora Speedway during the King's Royal weekend. They'll be taking on the National Racing Alliance (NRA) Sprint Invaders on Friday.

David Ragan (No. 6 UPS Ford) will compete in the Legends Million Dollar Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.

Marcos Ambrose (No. 47 Kingsford Toyota) will race in a Late Model Pro Stock event at Riverside (Nova Scotia, Canada) International Speedway.

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and his wife Eva will vacation in Italy, heading to Rome, Venice and Tuscany.

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&Ms Toyota) and Scott Speed (No. 82 Red Bull Toyota) will go on a couple's weekend to the Bahamas. While there, Busch's fiance Sam Sarcinella and Speed's wife Amanda will tape segments for the Racing Chef.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet) and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet are getting ready for new additions to their families. Montoya and his wife, Connie, are planning to induce labor on Monday, July 19th. The baby girl will be named Manuela Montoya Freydell.

Said Gordon, whose wife Ingrid expects their second child, "We're going to get away and take this last off week before the baby comes and just try to relax as a family and I'm really looking forward to that. This is a special time for us right now as we plan for number two coming for us and it's also a hectic time. "

Travis Kvapil is heading home to Wisconsin -- and tweeting. From
traviskvapil: "I'm in WI on a vacation with my family. We've been riding 4 wheelers, fishing, hanging out and relaxing."

Up Next: Race 20 @ Indianapolis

Following this open week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action July 25 with one of NASCAR's crown jewel events: the Brickyard 400 at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Historically, the race could foreshadow the eventual 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

Eight times, the winner of the Brickyard 400 has gone on to win that season's championship. It happened again last year, as Jimmie Johnson was the race winner, and the eventual champion.

The other instances: Jeff Gordon (1998, 2001), Dale Jarrett (1999), Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2005) and Johnson (2006, '08 and '09).

The winners in the track's 16-race NASCAR history are a who's who. There have been nine different race winners; seven of them have won at least one series championship.

The two who haven't: Ricky Rudd and Kevin Harvick.

Harvick might not have to wait much longer. The current points leader is enjoying a career year, and at Indy, he has one win, three top fives and six top 10s in nine starts.

Fast Facts

The Next Race: Brickyard 400
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile rectangle)

The Date: Sunday, July 25
The Time: 1 p.m. (ET)

Race Distance: 160 laps/400 miles

TV: ESPN , Noon ET
Radio: IMS and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128

2009 Polesitter: Mark Martin
2009 Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Schedule prior to race day:
Friday -- Practice, 2-3 p.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 10:10 a.m.; Practice, 2--3 p.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing