Bristol II: Round 23 preview

*Edwards Seeking Second Consecutive Win; Third In Four Races *Johnson Among Drivers Who Could Clinch Chase Berths At Bristol *NASCAR CAM: Kevin Harvick *'On The Bubble': No Room For Mistakes Among Chase Contenders *In The Loop: Five Drivers...

*Edwards Seeking Second Consecutive Win; Third In Four Races
*Johnson Among Drivers Who Could Clinch Chase Berths At Bristol
*NASCAR CAM: Kevin Harvick
*'On The Bubble': No Room For Mistakes Among Chase Contenders
*In The Loop: Five Drivers Seeking First 2008 Win Also Excel At Bristol
*Bristol Celebrates 30th Anniversary Of August Night Race

Edwards To Test Winning Momentum On Bristol's High Banks

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) is on a hot streak, perhaps the perfect set-up for a hot August night in Bristol, Tenn.

Saturday's Sharpie 500 -- the 30th anniversary of such an event at Bristol Motor Speedway -- is known simply as "the night race," where fenders bang, nerves fray and results are crucial to those drivers vying for a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

This weekend's action  --  Week 8 of the Race to the Chase, the 10-race stretch
that precedes the Chase  --  promises to be as pivotal as ever.

Currently the series' hottest driver, Edwards has won two of the last three races, including last weekend's event at Michigan International Speedway. He's also the defending champion of Saturday's Sharpie 500 and sits second in the series standings behind leader Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota).

More importantly, Edwards also ranks second to Busch in Chase bonus points.

Drivers get 10 bonus points for each win in the first 26 races, and Chase seeding is done according to bonus-point totals. A total of 30 bonus points -- and three races -- remain until the 2008 Chase begins Sept. 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch's series-high eight victories gives him the lead with 80 Chase bonus points. Edwards is second with five wins and 40 bonus points (his team lost 10 bonus points due to a post-race inspection infraction at Las Vegas earlier this season).

2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Schedule Announced

The 2009 schedules for all three NASCAR national series -- the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Truck Series -- were released Tuesday.

Three realignment changes highlight the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.

The second 2009 event at Auto Club Speedway will move from Labor Day weekend to Sunday, Oct. 11, becoming the fourth event in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The fall race at Atlanta Motor Speedway moves to Sunday, Sept. 6, ensuring the return of a longtime NASCAR tradition -- Labor Day weekend racing in the southeast.

Talladega Superspeedway's fall event moves to Atlanta's former slot, on Sunday, Nov. 1, becoming the seventh event in the 2009 Chase.

The 2009 series schedule also contains four off weeks, an increase from three on the 2008 schedule.

"The announcement of our three 2009 national series schedules has some significant news in it," said NASCAR President Mike Helton of Tuesday's across-the-board announcement. "We think this news and these moves benefit all the industry, including the tracks and the teams, but most importantly our fans."

Four Drivers Could Clinch Chase Berths At Bristol

Heading into Saturday's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, only one driver -- standings leader Kyle Busch -- has clinched a berth in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

He did so last weekend at Michigan, also ensuring his position as the top seed with a series-high eight wins and the accompanying 10 bonus points per victory.

Others, however, may join him this week.

Four drivers can clinch Chase spots following Saturday night's race, depending on their finishes or those of other contending drivers.

Second-place Carl Edwards leads the list. He can lose 108 points to 13th-place Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) and 14th-place David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford), who are tied for 13th (Bowyer earns the tiebreaker with one win this season to Ragan's none).

But regardless of what Bowyer and Ragan do, Edwards clinches if he finishes 25th or better, finishes 27th and leads at least one lap or finishes 30th and leads the most laps.

Third-place Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) can lose 27 points to Bowyer and Ragan and still clinch. He also clinches if he finishes second or better Saturday night, finishes third and leads at least one lap or finishes fifth and leads the most laps.

Fourth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) can lose 16 points to the Bowyer/Ragan duo and clinch. But Earnhardt will clinch regardless if he wins Saturday night and leads the most laps.

Fifth-place Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) can lose 20 points to Bowyer and Ragan and clinch. He'll also clinch if he wins and leads the most laps, regardless of their performances.

On The Cam: Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Pennzoil Platinum Chevrolet), a former Bristol winner and current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contender, was the guest Tuesday on the weekly NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference.

Following are some excerpts.

Q: On improved summer performances:

Harvick: "You know, there's just better cars, better engines, better everything. Everything just seems to be going our way now, and we're getting some breaks and doing things right in the shop. Not that we were doing them wrong before, it just seems like everything is transferring over to finishes now.

"Hopefully, we're hitting our stride at the right time and we can carry that into the next three weeks and hopefully onto the Chase. "

Q: On handicapping the 2008 Chase:

Harvick: "It seems like everybody has closed the gap on the 18 (Kyle Busch). Obviously they've been running really good every week, but it seems like the 99 (Carl Edwards) has been running really well all year.

"I feel like we've closed up the gap. We've got a little bit more work to do to get to where we need to be. But hopefully over the next three weeks we can get everything done that we need to get done on the racetrack and then really throw everything at it for the Chase. Hopefully in an underdog role you don't really have anything to lose, so that's hopefully what we're looking forward to."

Q: On the re-paved Bristol, a year later:

Harvick: "I think they've done a great job with the race track and just making some of the grooves. The first time we went there, I think the tires were a little bit too hard and you could run all the way up at the wall.

"The last time we went there, it was more like the old Bristol, but you still had a couple options from the bottom to the middle. I think once they got the tires squared away, the race track kind of came back around and the racing was a lot more normal the last time."

Q: On the re-pave affecting aggressiveness:

Harvick: "That's almost funny to hear somebody say that because I don't know that there is a tame race at Bristol.

"I think if everybody is running over the top of each other, people are going to complain about that. Now that there's places to pass, people are going to complain about that. Let's write a happy story about it. They did a hell of a job on the race track, and I think they should be commended for that, and I think the racing is good and it was really good at the first race this year. Just because you don't have 20 cautions in one race doesn't make it an abnormal Bristol. "

In The Loop: Five Drivers Winless In '08 Thrive At Bristol

The list includes some of NASCAR's most prolific drivers: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), Greg Biffle (No. 16 DISH Turbo HD Ford).

Those five drivers have three things in common. They're all in the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' top 12 standings. They all rank in the top five in pre-race Driver Rating at Bristol. And they all are winless in 2008.

That last "tie that binds" may end this week.

Going down the Driver Rating line:

Matt Kenseth, 109.0 Driver Rating. He's won twice at Bristol, and always seems to run up front. He boasts series-high marks in Average Running Position (7.3), Fastest Laps Run (218) and Laps in the Top 15 percentage (93%). His most impressive Bristol performance came in August 2005 when he led a startling 415 laps.

Greg Biffle, 103.2 Driver Rating. Though without a Bristol win, Biffle looks on the verge of one. He has finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven races and has an Average Running Position of 10.7 and 178 Fastest Laps Run (third).

Kevin Harvick, 102.6 Driver Rating. Harvick finished second at Bristol in March and has the talent and gutsiness to grab his second Bristol win -- his first came in the spring race of 2005. In the last seven races (four of which were top-10 finishes), Harvick has an Average Running Position of 10.3, 158 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 78.1%.

Tony Stewart, 102.4 Driver Rating. Stewart has led the most laps in three of the last six Bristol races and has exactly zero wins to show for it.

He does have one Bristol win (summer 2001) and was on his way to another this past March before a tussle with Harvick ended his hopes. Since 2005, Stewart has an Average Running Position of 11.6, 195 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 65%.

Jeff Gordon, 101.4 Driver Rating. Gordon has five wins at Bristol, but has finished outside the top 10 in each of the last two races. But, he always seems to save his best for the brightest stage: the night race. Four of his Bristol wins came in the night event, and he finished third at this race last year.

On The Bubble: Battle For Final Chase Spots Tightens

Last week's action at Michigan International Speedway acted like a cement mixer for drivers in positions six through 12 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.

With only three events remaining until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 14 at New Hampshire, points-jockeying is in full swing.

While the top five positions remained unchanged, seven others changed, some to dizzying highs and lows.

Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota) and Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) each dropped three positions thanks to DNFs (did not finish) at Michigan.

Gordon fell to ninth, Hamlin to 12th and Kahne to 11th.

Conversely, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick each jumped three spots thanks to top-10 Michigan finishes -- Biffle to seventh and Harvick to eighth.

Matt Kenseth, who finished fifth, jumped two spots to 10th.

Nearly lost in all that movement was Tony Stewart's quiet move to sixth, a one-spot improvement.

Intrigue also thickened just below the 12th-place cutoff for the Chase.

Clint Bowyer, a 2007 Chase participant, is 13th, followed by David Ragan in 14th.

Both drivers have identical point totals  --  Bowyer wins the tiebreaker, thus
the 13th spot  --  and both trail the 12th-place Hamlin by only 26 points.

Just below is Michigan pole winner Brian Vickers (No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota), who jumped two spots to 15th thanks to last Sunday's seventh-place finish. He trails Bowyer and Ragan by 140 points and Hamlin by 166.

Ragan, a second-year driver for Roush Fenway Racing, and Vickers, the 2003 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion in his second year with Team Red Bull, are vying for their first Chase berths.

The bottom line?

Only 82 points separate the ninth-place Gordon from the 14th-place Ragan.

The Night Race: A 30th Anniversary Celebration

Renowned to many fans as the toughest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ticket, this weekend's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway marks a special milestone

It's the 30th time drivers will gather for the Saturday night race in August, an event that's earned a place in the sport's lore.

The first took place in August 1978, an event won by former series champion Cale Yarborough.

Forty-three drivers fighting for space on Bristol's high-banked, half-mile usually guarantees fireworks and standings shifts.

Not surprisingly, Saturday night marks the 53rd consecutive sellout for Bristol, a venue that seats over 160,000."

In that setting, Saturday's crowd will attempt another historical footnote: A representative for the Guinness Book of World Records will be there to document what organizers say will be the largest fan wave in sports history.

Nestled in the mountains of the most northeastern corner of Tennessee, Bristol draws heavily from neighboring North Carolina and Virginia.

It hosted its first NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 1961 and its record books are dotted with stock-car racing's biggest names.

Yarborough leads all drivers with nine poles at Bristol. Another former series champion, Tennessee resident Darrell Waltrip, leads all drivers with 12 victories there.

"The King" -- seven-time series champion Richard Petty who celebrated his 50th anniversary in NASCAR last month -- also reigns at Bristol. He leads all drivers with 26 top fives and 37 top 10s.

NSCS, Etc.

Tennessee Natives ... The Volunteer State contributes plenty of talent to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage:

Charlie Brock (Brentwood), No. 84 car chief; Gil Martin (Nashville), No. 07 crew chief; Mike Ford (Morristown), No. 11 crew chief; Chris Carrier (Bristol), No. 77 crew chief; Stewart Cooper (Nashville), No. 45 crew chief; Phil Jimenez (Germantown), No. 84 engineer; Mark Wilkinson (Memphis), No. 5 engine tuner; Adam Roberts (Cleveland), No. 24 tire specialist and Bryan White (Knoxville), No. 12 jack man.

Busch Brothers At Bristol ... They're pretty good there, an understatement.

Both Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) have excelled on the high-banked half mile. Kyle Busch won the March 2007 event, while Kurt and Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers with five wins each at Bristol.

"I learned from the very first race that you have to be around at the finish to do well at Bristol," said Kurt Busch, who started 39th and finished 42nd in March 2001. "It really is a situation of surviving the first 400 laps -- keeping the fenders on the thing and staying out of the wall. Then, if you're in good shape after four-fifths of the race, it's time to really get down to business during the final 100 laps."

Kyle Busch has one win, two top fives and four top 10s in seven career starts at Bristol.

Kurt Busch has five wins, one pole, five top fives and nine top 10s in 15 career starts there.

Gordon has five wins, five poles, 12 top fives and 18 top 10s in 31 career starts there.

Milestones ... David Gilliland (No. 38 Yates Racing Ford) will make his 75th career start at Bristol. Kyle Petty (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge) could make his 50th career Bristol start Saturday, the most among active drivers.

Up Next: Race To The Chase, Week 9 At Auto Club Speedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Auto Club Speedway next week for the Pepsi 500 on Sunday, Aug. 31.

Jimmie Johnson is the defending champion. Kurt Busch is the defending pole winner.

Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with three wins and six top fives at Auto Club Speedway. He and retired series champion Rusty Wallace lead all drivers with six top 10s each there.

Busch leads all drivers with three poles there.

The Race: Sharpie 500
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, Aug. 23
The Time: 8 p.m. (ET)

The Track: 0.533-mile oval
The Distance: 266.5 miles/500 laps

TV: ESPN, pre-race at 7 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS Satellite.

2007 Winner: Carl Edwards
2007 Polesitter: Kasey Kahne

Pre-Race Schedule:
Friday -- Practice, noon-1:30 p.m. Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Final Practice, 6:15-7:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Mark Wilkins , Clint Bowyer , David Gilliland , Mike Helton , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Cale Yarborough , Kyle Busch , Chris Carr
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Yates Racing