* Not so long gone: No give in the competition despite Harvick's lead * Four series drivers among all-time 25 in NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series NEWS OF NOTE Catching Kevin -- no give in the competition ... Despite his 347-point lead over his ...
* Not so long gone: No give in the competition despite Harvick's lead
* Four series drivers among all-time 25 in NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series
NEWS OF NOTE
Catching Kevin -- no give in the competition ... Despite his 347-point lead over his nearest competitor, points leader Kevin Harvick (No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet) remains a marked man. "He's very good in [NASCAR] Busch [Series] cars and he's very consistent," said Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet), Harvick's teammate with Richard Childress Racing. "He does everything you need to do to win a championship. He's out there quite a ways, but obviously anything can happen. I shrank a 200-point deficit last year pretty quick and all it took was some bad luck on Martin's (Truex Jr.'s) part. You can't hand him the trophy yet, but we need to get things turned around pretty quick." Kyle Busch's crew chief, Chad Walter, agrees. "We could be taking risks right now in a desperate fight to catch up, but we're thinking more conservatively and playing the safe role," he said. "We need solid top-five finishes. That's what we're aiming for. If we get those, and he has some bad luck, we'll be right there to challenge him."
Hamlin hopes to end month on strong note ... The fast start by Kevin Harvick has somewhat overshadowed solid performances by other series drivers, Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) being one. The 25-year-old from Chesterfield, Va., is third in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, only 32 points behind Clint Bowyer. Hamlin has posted his first two series wins this year at Mexico City and Darlington, making him the only driver other than Harvick with multiple victories. He also leads the series with three Busch Poles, and had two in succession at Texas and Nashville. Despite an injury to his hand that required 19 stitches three weeks ago, he comes to Charlotte on the heels of his Darlington win and refreshed to boot. "Other than my hand, I've had a really good May," he said. "It was really exciting to run so well at Richmond and then to win Darlington after starting on the pole, especially representing a team [that has] such a large presence in South Carolina, was big. Last week, I had some friends from Chesterfield come down and we spent the week getting away from racing. I feel my batteries are recharged for the long summer ahead."
Series drivers well-represented in another NASCAR anniversary celebration ... In commemoration of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series' 25th season in 2006, NASCAR and NASCAR Insider magazine have named the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series All-Time Top 25 drivers, and some current NASCAR Busch Series drivers are among that elite group. Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) was a two-time track champion at the former Portland (Ore.) Speedway and Tri City Raceway in Washington and was runner-up for the 1995 NDWS Regional championship. From 1994-96, Biffle recorded 54 Late Model wins and 67 top-five finishes in 98 starts. Clint Bowyer won his first track championship in 2001, then came back to win two more in 2002 -- one on dirt and another on asphalt in the same season. He was the 2002 NDWS Regional champion. Denny Hamlin won more than 50 feature races from 1997-2004 and was the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Mini Stock track championship at Langley Speedway (age 16). He was also the 2003 Late Model track champion at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, N.C. Mark McFarland (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) won more than 90 feature races throughout the Southeast region and won the 2003 NDWS national championship and the richest payout in series history at $213,500. He was the first Virginian to win the national championship, the third-youngest driver to win the title at age 25, and the first asphalt Late Model Stock Car driver to claim the title since 1997.
Message delivered: Tim Sauter aids in fundraising for local youngster .... The No. 36 Lester Buildings Chevrolet of Tim Sauter will carry a special message this weekend. His car will display a photo of 14-year-old Raine Angelley, a Charlotte-area boy who has been stricken with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a disorder that causes the formation of cysts in the kidneys and requires a transplant. Angelley was born with the disorder and his kidney function is now below 20%. Several donors have been located for a transplant, but the family will have to bear the medical costs. Sauter's car will also carry the phone number for donations to a fund established for Angelley. He and his father will be at the track Saturday as guests of Sauter's team. Sauter heard about the situation from long-time friends Vic and Donna Gelzoff. "[They] have been involved in motorsports for years, all the way back to Vic being Dick Trickle's crew chief for many years back in Wisconsin," he said. "They helped me in both ASA and the NASCAR Busch Series. Donna called me a few weeks ago and I thought we could help raise some awareness for Raine's condition." Monetary donations can be made to: Raine Angelley Fund, Triplett United Methodist Church, 838 Mazeppa Rd., Mooresville, N.C., 28115, (704) 663-4619.
IN THE LOOP: Charting "Shrub's" climb ... Kyle Busch has improved seven positions in the point standings over his last seven races, and NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics show the reasons behind that marked improvement. Busch has gained two places in his Driver Rating over that span, from seventh to fifth, and carries a rating of 95.2, up one point from his 94.2 mark after Bristol. He has also jumped his Average Running Position from eighth (16.084) to sixth (13.270). Two other telling catagories are his improvements in Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap and Time Trailing at the Finish. Busch was languishing in 19th place among drivers running on the lead lap, having completed only 70.41%. Eight races later, Busch was up to 11th, and had run 84% of his laps on the lead lap. And although he's only moved up one position, from 12th to 11th, his incremental gains in time have been monumental. Through the first six races of the year, Busch had trailed 147.264 seconds at the finish. Since then, his Time Trailing at the Finish total is 159.608, a loss of just 12.344 seconds.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Mark Martin (No. 6 Ameriqeust Ford), who looks to make his first NASCAR Busch Series start at LMS since 2000, holds a majority of the series track records, including most wins (6), most top fives (13), most top 10s (13), most races led (18) and most laps led (1,257). Martin's 26 races are tied for sixth all-time; another start would put him into a tie for third. His last NASCAR Busch Series win at LMS was in the May race in 1999.
This week marks the first race at which co-crew chiefs Stewart Cooper and Shawn Parker will work together. BREWCO Motorsports announced last week that Parker would share duties with Cooper on David Green's No. 27 Kleenex Ford. ... Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) made its NASCAR Busch Series debut at LMS in this race in 2004. Tony Stewart, who will drive the No. 33 Old Spice Chevrolet for KHI this weekend, finished fifth in the team's inaugural race. Harvick, meanwhile, was "highly encouraged" by Stewart to visit the Dale McDowell Dirt Track Driving School on Monday to improve upon his 2-2 record (two accidents in two tries) on the dirt prior to the June 7 "Prelude to a Dream" Late Model charity race at Stewart's Eldora (Ohio) Speedway. ... Boris Said will attempt to start his seventh NASCAR Busch Series race and only his second series event on an oval this weekend driving the No. 4 GEICO-BRYMAK Dodge for Biagi-DenBeste Racing. The team announced last week the addition of Auggie Vidovich II, a standout in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series, as the driver of the No. 4 following this weekend's race replacing Mark Green. ... Robby Gordon (No. 55 Harrah's Chevrolet) will attempt his first series start of the year at Charlotte. ... Two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Kraft Ritz/Oreo Chevrolet) looks to make his second series start of the year. In his last outing, he won at Talladega. ... Ford (14) has the most NASCAR Busch Series wins among manufacturers at LMS, but hasn't won there since the 2003 May race by Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ameriquest Ford). With four Roush-prepared Fords entered -- including Mark Martin, the series leader in wins at LMS -- Ford may have a good opportunity to post its second win of the season and climb closer to Chevrolet in the Bill France Performance Cup standings. Chevy leads with nine wins and 93 points, Ford is second with one win and 69 points and Dodge is third with two wins and 66 points.
"It's a good feeling to have had such great success this season. We haven't had the best car in all those races, but we have been in position to win races and take an advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself." -- Kevin Harvick.
"There are a lot of California drivers in NASCAR now and it definitely gives me a boost of confidence. I've always known that I could run with these guys and I'm excited to get the opportunity to do it." -- David Gilliland (No. 84 Hype Manufacturing Chevrolet), who is a native of Riverside, Calif.
FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" ARCHIVES
The spring 1984 NASCAR Busch Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway featured NASCAR legend Bobby Allison in one of his infrequent series starts. He qualified his self-owned Oldsmobile eighth in a field of 42. L.D. Ottinger won the Busch Pole with a speed of just over 162 mph. The outside of the front row was occupied by Tim Richmond in a Rick Hendrick Pontiac.
Richmond dominated most of the race with Allison finally going to the front on Lap 179 of the 200-lap event. But four drivers overshadowed Richmond over the final 20 laps, resulting in a stirring duel for the win.
Lake Speed took over on Lap 184 for two circuits. Dale Earnhardt led Lap 186 with Allison again taking the lead on Lap 187. Darrell Waltrip led Laps 194-199 as the white flag flew. Allison pulled alongside Waltrip as the two battled down the backstretch. Allison prevailed, nipping Waltrip by three feet at the line to pick up his first of two career NASCAR Busch Series victories in a career that would encompass 43 starts.
NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" QUOTEABLES
"Harry Gant started about the same time [I did] and we started winning races about the same time. So I would have to say Harry Gant was my toughest competitor along with Butch Lindley. Of course, we went to a lot of race tracks; at Hickory, you'd have Tommy (Houston) to contend with; Nashville, Tennessee, you'd have to contend with Darrell Waltrip. But as far as being able to run good or win at most places, I'd say Harry was my toughest competitor." -- Jack Ingram on Harry Gant, who won the first NASCAR Busch Series race at Charlotte in 1982.
ON DECK: DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
Dover is the next stop for the NASCAR Busch Series. The StonebridgeRacing.com 200 will be contested on June 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Martin Truex Jr., a native of nearby Mayetta, N.J., won this event last year en route to his second consecutive series title. There was no Busch Pole winner as qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather.
What: CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 (Race No. 13 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
When: 8 p.m. ET, Sat., May 27.
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval.
Race Length: 300 miles/200 laps.
Posted Awards: $1,227,316.
TV: FX, 7:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.
2005 Winner: Kyle Busch.
2005 Polesitter: Kasey Kahne.
2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 1,945. 2. Clint Bowyer 1,598. 3. Denny Hamlin 1,566. 4. Carl Edwards 1,559. 5. Kyle Busch 1,490. 6. Paul Menard 1,483. 7. Greg Biffle 1,469. 8. J.J. Yeley 1,432. 9. Jason Leffler 1,322. 10. Johnny Sauter 1,302.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thur., May 25 -- Practice, Noon-1 p.m.; Rookie Practice, 1:20-1:50 p.m.; Final Practice 1:50-2:50 p.m. Qualifying 9 p.m. (Impound).