BUSCH: Phoenix: News of note, schedule

* RCR closes in on owners championship * Mike Wallace, Biagi Bros. Racing get GEICO extension * Former astronaut, race fan Gordon to attend Phoenix weekend NEWS & NOTES * Childress close to clinching owners' ...

* RCR closes in on owners championship
* Mike Wallace, Biagi Bros. Racing get GEICO extension
* Former astronaut, race fan Gordon to attend Phoenix weekend

NEWS & NOTES

* Childress close to clinching owners' championship ... It has never happened in NASCAR's modern era, but this year's NASCAR Busch Series championship car owner and championship driver will likely come from different teams. Richard Childress Racing's No. 21 PayDay-sponsored operation has a solid 216-point lead over Brewco Motorsports' No. 37 Timber Wolf-backed outfit, and could realistically clinch the championship Nov. 8 at North Carolina Speedway. NASCAR Winston Cup regular Kevin Harvick and Johnny Sauter have split this year's schedule in Childress' entry, while David Green is the current leader in the driver standings. Such a feat, though rare, is not unprecedented. In 1954, in what's now the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Herb Thomas was the champion car owner and Lee Petty the champion driver. In 1963, Wood Brothers Racing took the owners title, while Joe Weatherly was crowned the championship driver. Childress also fields the No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet driven by Ron Hornaday, who is just 35 points out of first place in the driver championship chase. "What would be great is if we could win it with Ron Hornaday as a driver and the other two drivers win the owner's championship". Childress said. With [three] races to go, there are no guarantees. We just have to keep doing what we have to do, keep working hard, keep focused and try to win that championship."

* GEICO to sponsor Mike Wallace again in 2004 ... Officials of the GEICO auto insurance company have agreed to extend the company's sponsorship of Mike Wallace and Biagi Bros. Racing into next season, when they'll partner for at least half of the NASCAR Busch Series' 34 races. GEICO first sponsored Wallace's Biagi Bros. Racing effort in 10 races in 2002. This year, the company is slated to back the organization in a total of 29 NASCAR Busch Series events.

* Former astronaut Dick Gordon to attend Phoenix events ... An avid race fan, Gemini and Apollo astronaut Dick Gordon will attend this weekend's NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Winston Cup events at Phoenix. Gordon was the command module pilot for Apollo XII on Nov. 14, 1969, when the six-million pound Saturn V rocket was struck by lightning seconds after launch. Gordon was also the fourth American to make a space walk on his first space flight, Gemini XI, in September 1966. Gordon will be available to media for interviews.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Scott Wimmer (No. 23 Stacker2/YJ Stinger Chevrolet) won last year's race at Phoenix, after starting 18th. That's the worst starting position of any Phoenix NASCAR Busch Series winner. ... No pole sitter has ever gone on to win a NASCAR Busch Series race at Phoenix, but Jason Leffler (No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet) qualified first and finished third in 2000. That ties him with Ken Schrader for the best a NASCAR Busch Series pole winner has ever fared at the track. ... Greg Biffle (No. 7 Kleenex/Scott Products Chevrolet) and Ron Hornaday each have two top-five finishes at Phoenix. Hornaday and Jason Keller have three top-10s at the one-mile facility. ... Biffle has led the most laps at Phoenix, with 297 circuits at the head of the pack.

QUOTEBOOK

* "I've had Nov. 1 circled on my calendar for a while now. Ever since last season, my Nesquik teammates and I have wanted to get back here and show what we can do. We're bringing our best short track car to Phoenix, and we're really excited about it. It's been to victory lane once this year, back in May, and it's time to

get it back there again." -- Scott Riggs, whose engine expired early in last year's race at Phoenix, relegating him to a 40th-place finish.

* "Finishing 31st didn't help us any in the points, that's for sure. It seems like whoever has the lead is jinxed, race after race. There are three races left and our GMAC team is not going to give up. That's just not our style. We were faced with the same challenge three races ago when we finished 32nd at Kansas, and then battled back to lead the points after Memphis. Now, we've got three races to go for the title. Don't count us out." -- Brian Vickers.

* "We dodged a bullet at Atlanta. The other drivers keep leaving the door open, but we just haven't been able to capitalize. Although we didn't have the finish we wanted, the effort by the team was tremendous. Our pit stops are better than they have ever been and so is our communication. I've run well at Phoenix every year I've been there and I've won at Rockingham. Neither one of those tracks is going to be easy, but it helps knowing I can run well there. Homestead is going to be the unknown in all of this. It is going to be a level playing field for each team. I haven't worried about Homestead and that has allowed me to focus on the two things that I know -- Phoenix and Rockingham." -- Jason Keller. A win by Keller at Phoenix will mean a $100,000 donation by Yoplait Yogurt to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation on behalf of Keller's primary sponsor, Albertsons. Yoplait will donate $75,000 if Keller finishes second, $50,000 for third, $35,000 for fourth and $25,000 for fifth.

* "Phoenix International Raceway is such a fun place to race. The track gets so slick due to the sun and heat they have out there and the pavement is older, which makes for an interesting combination to race on. You need a good balance on your car there. The fastest way around the track is the bottom groove, but the corners are different, so you have to attack them differently. You'll never be perfect in both corners, so you have to give up something in one to be better on the other end." -- Scott Wimmer, who'll run the same car at Phoenix that he used at New Hampshire, both Nashville races, the second Bristol and the second Dover events.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

No driver has ever repeated as the pole or race winner in four NASCAR Busch Series races at Phoenix International Raceway. Ken Schrader, Jason Leffler, Jimmy Spencer and Greg Biffle have scored Bud Pole Awards between 1999 and 2002, while Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Biffle and Scott Wimmer took the checkered flags.

FAST FACTS

What: Bashas' Supermarkets 200 (Race No. 32 of 34 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.
When: 1 p.m. (local), 3 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Nov. 1.

Track layout: 1-mile paved oval.
Race length: 200 laps/200 miles.

TV: TNT, 3 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thursday--Practice, 10-11:55 a.m.; Qualifying, 1:35; Friday -- Final practice, 9:15-10:15 a.m.

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , David Green , Scott Riggs , Johnny Sauter , Scott Wimmer , Lee Petty
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Wood Brothers Racing