Leader with three races remaining is six-for-nine in titles won -- but not in '03 NEWS & NOTES Sizing up the championship battle ... With three races remaining, the points leader has gone on to win the championship six of nine times.
Leader with three races remaining is six-for-nine in titles won -- but not in '03
NEWS & NOTES
Sizing up the championship battle ... With three races remaining, the points leader has gone on to win the championship six of nine times. Brendan Gaughan, however, held a 30-point lead in 2003 but finished fourth to Travis Kvapil (No. 24 LINE-X Toyota). Greg Biffle failed to protect a 10-point advantage in 1999 while Sprague saw an 18-point cushion evaporate in 1998. The gap between first and second places with three races left has been 30 points or less in five seasons. Among the top four championship contenders, Hamilton is the only competitor with a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. His 1996 Dura Lube 500 win came in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Etc. ... A Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender never has won at Phoenix International Raceway where Biffle's second-place finish in 1998 is the best by a series rookie. Kelly Sutton (No. 2 Team Copaxone Chevrolet) is the only rookie contender with a series start there. She finished 35th in last year's race. ... The margin of victory has been .968 of a second or less in five-consecutive series races at Phoenix. Harvick edged Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) by .022 of a second in 2002 in the track's closest finish. ... Musgrave, No. 3 in the points standings, won last year's Bud Pole with a record average speed of 129.427 m.p.h. but finished second. The Bud Pole winner has scored four victories at Phoenix, most recently in 2000 (Joe Ruttman). Craftsman's win from the pole bonus, unclaimed in 13 races, is $28,000. ... Harvick has won two straight races at Phoenix but is not expected to compete in this year's event. ... Bill Lester will carry Waste Management sponsorship on his No. 22 Toyota this week. Lester was the race's No. 2 qualifier in 2002. ... Scott Lynch, winner of two NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series races at Phoenix, will pilot the No. 59 Harris Trucking Dodge at Phoenix. Lynch is the division's 2003 champion.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Sprague wins in Phoenix stats battle ... Sprague has completed every lap -- 1,707 -- of the 11 events in which he's competed at Phoenix International Raceway. He leads significant statistical categories: Wins (three), Bud Poles (four), money won ($253,762), top fives (eight), top 10s (10) and miles led (692).
Others in the Phoenix spotlight ... Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford) has completed 1,429 of a possible 1,433 laps in nine Phoenix appearances. Crawford posted back-to-back third-place finishes in 2001-02. ... Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Tundra Toyota) has led two of the three races in which he's competed. Benson finished second in 1996's fall event. ... Kvapil's average finish at Phoenix is 7.3 -- three positions better than his average start of 10.7.
Hendrick Marrow Program information ... Fans looking to show their support for those affected by the recent Hendrick Motorsports aviation tragedy can turn to the Hendrick Marrow Program. For a $1 donation, fans will receive a blue wristband with the inscription "LIFE IS A TEAM SPORT." All proceeds from sales of the wristband, which was worn by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) during his win last week in the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, helps support those diagnosed with leukemia, or one of 70 other life-threatening blood diseases. Wristbands will be available on NASCAR.COM as well as through Hendrick Motorsports.
"Our team has been in position to win there the last three years and then we were bit by things out of our control late in the race." -- Dennis Setzer, whose Phoenix setbacks have included a cut tire, a bad engine and a jack that failed on his final pit stop.
"So all we've got to do is win or get a top five in the last three races and we should be fine. The last few races are good for our team, so we'll see how it plays out." -- Bobby Hamilton, who finished fifth at Phoenix in 2003 and is the defending winner at Darlington Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Every year it seems like it comes down to the last race for the championship. We're getting close and hopefully we can pull this out." -- Ted Musgrave.
"We made a gain in the points at Martinsville and I still think we have a shot at this championship. If anyone has trouble we should be right there to capitalize on it. This team has been determined to win all year and we're not giving up yet." -- Carl Edwards, No. 99 Superchips Ford, who cut a 173 point deficit to 122 at Martinsville Speedway.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Five of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' six champions have scored a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. Three -- Mike Skinner (1995), Ron Hornaday Jr. (1996, 1998) and Jack Sprague (1997) -- won on the Desert Mile in their championship seasons. The track's other winning champions are Mike Bliss and Greg Biffle.
What: Chevy Silverado 150 by Valley Chevy Dealers (Race No. 23 of 25).
Where: Phoenix International Raceway.
When: 5:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Nov. 5.
Track layout: One -mile paved.
Race length: 150 miles/150 laps.
Posted awards: $463,344.
TV: SPEED Channel, 5:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2003 winner: Kevin Harvick.
2003 polesitter: Ted Musgrave.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Wednesday -- Practice 11 a.m. --1:00 p.m. Qualifying 3 p.m. Thursday -- Final practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:45 a.m.
Top 10 in Points: 1. Dennis Setzer 3,189. 2. Bobby Hamilton 3,188. 3. Ted Musgrave 3,098. 4. Carl Edwards 3,067. 5. Matt Crafton 2,912. 6. Travis Kvapil 2,822. 7. Chad Chaffin 2,813. 8. David Starr 2,802. 9. Steve Park 2,734. 10. Jack Sprague 2,716.