* On the "Chase" bubble: Jamie McMurray holds 10th-place spot, must fend off challengers * Another farewell: Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin prepare for final Bristol outing NEWS AND NOTES On the NASCAR Bubble: 10th Place Belongs to McMurray ...
* On the "Chase" bubble: Jamie McMurray holds 10th-place spot, must fend off challengers
* Another farewell: Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin prepare for final Bristol outing
NEWS AND NOTES
On the NASCAR Bubble: 10th Place Belongs to McMurray ... Only three races remain before the cutoff for the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." Following the Sept. 10 race at Richmond International Raceway, the top 10 drivers (and any other driver within 400 points of the leader) are eligible to compete for the series title during the season's final 10 events.
Following a 20th-place finish at Michigan, Jamie McMurray slipped one spot to 10th in the point standings. Heading into Saturday night's Sharpie 500, only 104 points separate drivers in positions 11-15 from McMurray.
Here's a look at the drivers on the cusp of 10th place, or on the "bubble":
• Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) is in 11th place, 51 points behind McMurray and 617 points behind standings leader Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Jarrett has 19 top-10 finishes in 38 career races at Bristol, including a fifth-place finish earlier this year.
• Jeff Gordon is 12th in the point standings, 58 points behind McMurray and just seven points behind Jarrett.
• Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) is 13th, 66 points behind McMurray and just eight points behind Gordon. Sadler, an inaugural "Chase" participant in 2004, had spent 17 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 until finishing 32nd at Indianapolis. Sadler finished second at Bristol earlier this season.
• Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) is 14th, 82 points behind McMurray and just 16 points behind Sadler. Harvick has five top fives and seven top 10s in nine career starts at Bristol.
• Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford) is 15th, 104 points behind McMurray and 22 points behind Harvick. The former series champion has six top-10 finishes in 11 career races at Bristol.
Harvick Looks for Season Sweep at Bristol ... Kevin Harvick missed out on last year's "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" by 57 points. Currently sitting in 14th place, 82 points out of a spot in this year's Chase, Harvick needs solid performances in the next three races to have a shot at the championship. After winning the Food City 500 in April, history may be on his side.
Harvick is looking to sweep both NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Bristol for the 15th time in track history, the most of any track on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit. A second Bristol win would likely move Harvick within striking distance of the 10th and final spot in the Chase. Although only two active drivers have swept both Bristol races -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie Minis Ford) in 2003 and Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) in 2000 -- Harvick's history at the track suggests he may up for the task. In nine career races at the Tennessee track, Harvick has five top five and seven top-10 finishes. His average finishing position is 8.5, the best among all active drivers.
Wallace Set for Last Run at Bristol ... Throughout the 2005 season, Rusty Wallace has bid farewell to tracks he has raced on for the past 24 years. This weekend might be the hardest goodbye. Wallace has nine career victories at Bristol, the most at any track for the former series champion.
"It's Bristol," said Wallace. "I love the place. I always have and I always will. What else is there to say?"
Although Wallace has not captured the checkered flag at Bristol since 2000, he may be poised for a big day. He currently sits fourth in the point standings and a good run this weekend would help solidify his prospects for the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." Wallace has 28 top-10 finishes in 43 career starts at Bristol, including 21 top fives.
"We certainly want to go out on top of our game at Bristol with a strong run and I think we're primed to come in there and do just that," Wallace said.
Mayfield's Win Comes in Typical Fashion ... Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) wasn't supposed to win the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. In fact, according to his crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe, Mayfield had a "20th-place car and robbed the bank." Thanks to a successful gamble on fuel mileage, Mayfield was able to stay on the track while leader after leader was forced to pit during the last 10 laps for fuel. But to Mayfield, the win came in typical dramatic fashion for him.
"If there wasn't drama, I wouldn't be sitting here being happy about winning," said Mayfield after the race. "Every race I've ever won in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has been like that -- right down to the wire. You just never know if its gonna be your day until its over, and today was our day."
The win was Mayfield's first since last September at Richmond. That win moved Mayfield from 14th in the standings to ninth and secured him a spot in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." While Sunday's win wasn't enough to lock Mayfield into the Chase, it certainly helped his cause. Mayfield is currently in sixth place, 167 points ahead of 10th place Jamie McMurray.
Kyle Busch Attempts the Trifecta ... The only thing harder than racing 500 laps at Bristol is racing 950 laps at Bristol, and that's just what Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) plans to do. In addition to racing in Saturday night's Sharpie 500, Busch is attempting to qualify for the NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250 on Friday night and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly 200 on Wednesday night. What would possess somebody to attempt such a feat?
"It's about getting more laps under my belt and more seat time," Busch said. "I've only raced at Bristol three times (twice in the NASCAR Busch Series and once in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series), so I definitely jumped at the opportunity to get more laps around this place and become more comfortable. Racing at Bristol is a lot of fun, too, so that's a pretty cool bonus."
This isn't the first time this season that Busch has competed in all three national series races in one weekend -- he did the same thing at Dover International Speedway in June. That weekend Busch won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, finished 36th in the NASCAR Busch Series race after a mid-race accident, and was the runner-up in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race.
Seventeen Drivers Look for Weekend Sweep ... Until last year, no driver had ever won the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series races at Bristol on the same weekend. That changed when Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) took the weekend set last August. His accomplishment was replicated when Kevin Harvick won both Bristol races in April. Earnhardt was glad that he was first.
"I considered it a pretty big accomplishment personally, because for me Bristol is probably the toughest track on the circuit," Earnhardt said.
This weekend 17 different drivers are attempting to follow in their footsteps and compete in both NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Sharpie 500 and the NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250.
Chevrolet Extends Lead In Manufacturers Standings ... After 23 races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Chevrolet has extended its lead over Ford in the Manufacturers' Championship standings to 19 points -- a season high. Chevrolet, which won the title in 2004, currently has 170 points and 12 wins. Ford Motor Company is ranked second in the standings with 151 points; Dodge is third with 116 points. Tony Stewart leads the Chevrolet camp with five wins in his Monte Carlo, while Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) leads the Ford ranks, also with five wins in his Taurus. With his win at Michigan, Jeremy Mayfield became the second Dodge driver to score a victory this season. Mayfield and Evernham Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) each have one victory in their Dodge Chargers.
Milestone Markers ... Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford) is expected to make his 56th career start at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. Rudd is currently second in all-time starts at Bristol behind Richard Petty (60). Dave Marcis (54), Terry Labonte (53) and Darrell Waltrip (52) round out the top five.
On the Right Track
• Rusty Wallace has scored nine victories in 43 races at Bristol, the most of any full-time driver.
• Kevin Harvick has scored seven top-10 finishes in his last eight races at Bristol.
• Jeff Gordon has a 4.8 starting average and an 11.9 finishing average in 25 career races at Bristol.
• Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch each have six top-10 finishes in the last seven races at Bristol.
From the Archives: Bristol Not Only Concrete Track ... The late Larry Carrier, builder and former owner of Bristol Motor Speedway, installed the concrete racing surface at the speedway in 1992. While it is a stunning sight, Bristol was not the first track to sport a surface of this kind.
The world's first superspeedway was the Brooklands circuit in England. The 2.75 mile high-banked oval opened in 1907 with a concrete surface. The track also was the world's first permanent racing circuit. The first 24-hour motorsports event took place at Brooklands shortly after the facility opened. At night the perimeter of the track was lined with 300 red railroad lanterns, a far cry from today's state-of-the-art lighting systems. The facility closed in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II. Part of the old race course still exists with historic gatherings being held each year.
Monza, Italy's famed circuit, was known for its high-banked "parabolic curve" which was featured in James Garner's movie, "Grand Prix." The curve was an ultra-high banked turn. The banked section of the track was closed several years later when drivers boycotted the track due to expansion strips between the concrete sections. Monza is still on the Formula 1 circuit.
Today, Bristol Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway are the only totally concrete-surfaced race tracks. The inside lane of the turns at Martinsville Speedway have been concrete for more than 20 years.
On Deck: California Speedway ... Race No. 25 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, Sept. 4 -- the SONY HD 500 at California Speedway. The 2-mile oval has been on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule since 1997 and has had seven different winners. Jeff Gordon is the track's only repeat winner with three victories. Last year marked the first time that the track hosted two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events in one season. Elliott Sadler is the defending champion. Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet) was last year's polesitter.
The race: Sharpie 500 (Race No. 24 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn. (.533-mile oval.)
The date/time: Saturday, August 27, 7:40 p.m. (ET).
TV: TNT, 7 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,928,193.
Race length: 500 laps, 266.5 miles.
Track layout: .533-mile oval.
2004 winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 polesitter: Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Tony Stewart 3,268. 2. Jimmie Johnson 3,142. 3. Greg Biffle 3,016. 4. Rusty Wallace 2,979. 5. Mark Martin 2,899. 6. Jeremy Mayfield 2,869. 7. Kurt Busch 2,848. 8. Ryan Newman 2,773. 9. Carl Edwards 2,758. 10. Jamie McMurray 2,702.