* Four-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch returns in "Rusty's Ride" * Top 35 car owners look to lock in starting positions after Bristol NEWS AND NOTES Setting the Field at the Food City 500; After Bristol, Top 35 in 2006 Owner's Points Locked...
* Four-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch returns in "Rusty's Ride"
* Top 35 car owners look to lock in starting positions after Bristol
NEWS AND NOTES
Setting the Field at the Food City 500; After Bristol, Top 35 in 2006 Owner's Points Locked In ... After Sunday's race, the teams ranked in the top 35 of the current 2006 car owner standings will be guaranteed starting positions each week.
Heading into Bristol, the No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Dodge, fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and driven by David Stremme, is ranked 35th in the car owner point standings. BAM Racing's No. 49 Serta Dodge, driven by Brent Sherman, is 36th. Other teams vying to come out of Bristol with their top 35 rankings intact include Evernham Motorsports' No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge driven by Jeremy Mayfield (34th in owner points) and the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge of Bill Davis Racing and driver Dave Blaney (33rd). The battle to remain in -- or advance into -- the top 35 will be extremely competitive. The 33rd-37th ranked teams are separated by just 41 points in the car owner tandings.
In the Loop -- New Stats Help Kasey Kahne's Skills Shine ... Now that NASCAR statisticians have made available the data from NASCAR's loop scoring system, a complete picture of each driver's strengths and weaknesses is revealed. The Loop Data statistics show that Golden Corral 500 winner Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is excelling in several areas. Kahne leads the series in Time Trailing at the Finish, just 2.970 seconds behind the winners of the first four races. He has made 329 Quality Passes, fourth-best in the series, and been on the lead lap 99.9 percent of the time -- second-best in that category behind Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Kahne's Average Running Position in the first four races also is one of the top statistics in the series, with an average position of 9.408. More Loop Data statistics are available each week, providing in-depth analysis of each race, at www.nascarmedia.com.
Elliott Sadler Recalls Victory With Wood Brothers Racing ... Bristol brings fond memories for Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford), who recorded his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win there while driving for the Virginia-based Wood Brothers Racing team in 2001. In addition to being Sadler's first win, it was the Wood Brothers' first win since 1993. "All wins are special, but your first win is always going to be the most special," said Sadler. "I mean, I feel like it happened yesterday. That first win is something that I think about every time we come to race here and I want to do it again. Every time I come to Bristol something special happens. I feel like we've got a great chance of running up front and really gaining some points." Following Atlanta, Sadler is ranked 13th in the standings, 229 points out of first place.
France and Jarrett's NCAA Picks Still Playing ... Before the opening rounds of the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament, some of NASCAR's top names offered their predictions for the Final Four on NASCARmedia.com. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, along with Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), Elliott Sadler and Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), formed NASCAR's version of the office pool. So far, France and Jarrett have been right on the money. All of France's and Jarrett's Final Four picks are still in contention for the championship. Both selected Duke, UCLA and UConn to advance to the finals, while their picks differed slightly in the tournament's Minneapolis Region. France selected Boston College while Jarrett went with Villanova. The two teams square off Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Sadler and Burton also picked Duke and Boston College as finalists, but losses by Kansas and Illinois foiled their bracket selections.
Raybestos Rookie of the Year Class Stands Out ... It's been called one of the best rookie classes in NASCAR history. Although the final outcome remains to be seen, these new NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stars are establishing a strong foundation for the future. Despite a disappointing 27th-place finish in Atlanta, Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet) is ranked 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. After four races, it's a fine position to be in, but one that will be infinitely more valuable when the "Race to the Chase" begins later in the season. Standings aside, Bowyer remains the top-ranked rookie in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year contest. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) is 15th in the standings. The 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year will collect a $50,000 bonus.
Pit Crew Spotlight: No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet ... As the motorcoach driver for Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Jeff Smith travels for a living. Smith's life on the road will stop close to home during the Bristol race weekend, just 23 miles from his hometown of Kingsport, Tenn. In addition to driving and maintaining Harvick's home on wheels, Smith, 40, is a mechanic for the No. 29 team on race weekends. For more team rosters and crew members updates visit www.nascarmedia.com/crew/crewhomepage.jsp.
On the Right Track: Mark Martin Strong at Bristol ... Mark Martin has scored 20 top-10 finishes in his 38 races at Bristol Motor Speedway, the most among active drivers. Martin has two wins at Bristol, in 1993 and '98. The veteran driver also leads all active drivers with seven Bud Poles at Bristol, most recently in 2001.
Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers Standings ... Following four races, Chevrolet leads the Manufacturers' championship standings, by three points over Ford (28-25). Dodge is ranked third with 23 points.
From the Archives: Jeff Gordon Among Bristol's best ... Darrell Waltrip leads all drivers with 12 Bristol wins. Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace all have nine wins. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five wins. David Pearson also had five Bristol wins during his career. Bobby Allison joins Kurt Busch as the only other driver with four Bristol wins.
"I don't think there's any doubt that any kind of racing at Bristol is exciting, whether you're in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car, a NASCAR Busch Series car or a Craftsman Truck." -- Dale Jarrett, No. 88 UPS Ford.
"I want to run up front because this is probably the most exciting place that we race at. The fans are pretty much on top of you. They're very loud. They're very vocal, so to come here and to run good and have success here is a great feeling." -- Elliott Sadler, No. 38 M&M's Ford.
On Deck: DIRECTV 500 at Martinsville Speedway ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' back-to-back short track schedule continues April 2, with the DIRECTV 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) swept both Martinsville races last season, while Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge) won the Bud Pole for last April's race.
Next race: Food City 500 (Race No. 5 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season)
The track: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.
The date/time: Sunday, March 26, 2:10 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $5,426,071.
Race length: 266.5 miles, 500 laps
Track layout: .533-mile oval.
2005 winner: Kevin Harvick.
2005 polesitter: Elliott Sadler
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 690, 2. Kasey Kahne 640, 3. Matt Kenseth 612, 4. Mark Martin 600, 5. Casey Mears 554, 6. Jeff Gordon 539, 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 534, 8. Kyle Busch 530, 9. Dale Jarrett 490, 10. Clint Bowyer (r) 471.
(r) Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.