Charlotte II: GM Racing preview

Concord, NC - The tenure of the Monte Carlo SS in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) racing is winding down with just four events remaining for the legendary Chevrolet nameplate. Team Chevy drivers are looking forward to this weekend's Bank of...

Concord, NC - The tenure of the Monte Carlo SS in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) racing is winding down with just four events remaining for the legendary Chevrolet nameplate. Team Chevy drivers are looking forward to this weekend's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS) back behind the wheel of the model that has carried many of them to victory lane throughout the years.

With the 2007 NNCS season winding down to just six races remaining heading to the 1.5-mile track just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, the battle for the 2007 NNCS championship continues to rage led by Team Chevy and Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) drivers Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS and Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS. Just nine points separate the pair with Gordon on top of the standings four races in to the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

A combined total of nine points-paying wins, 10 pole positions and five victories in the All-Star Challenge non-points race are in the record books for the four-time NNCS champion Gordon and defending NNCS champion Johnson at LMS.

Gordon, with four wins at LMS, is looking to rebound from an early departure in the spring race as a result of getting caught-up in a multi-car accident on lap 61: "I think I heard that maybe they made some tire changes. So hopefully there's a little bit more grip when we go back there. We had a lot of issues with a super hard tire because the track was so fast. That would be nice. But I don't know. I didn't run well the last race. Honestly, I never really focus on who the guy is to beat as much as I do how we make our car the best we can make it. If we do our job right, then I know we will be a contender for the win. You hope that if you're off a little bit that it's only a little bit and you're still a top five car. Right now, I just want to get to the finish of a race at Charlotte. It's been a while since we've done that."

For Johnson, returning to LMS where he leads all active drivers with five victories including a stretch of four wins in a row in 2004 and 2005 adds a level of confidence for his entire Chad Knaus-led team: "In general we're excited to go back. It's a track that regardless of the surface and kind of the design of the track we run well so I have a lot of excitement looking forward at that race. When we get there to the track and we're off a little bit, sometimes it creeps into our heads 'well it's not working out, something's changed' and we put a little bit more pressure on ourselves than if we're having a tough practice. But leading into it we're typically excited about it and I am this year. I think it's a good opportunity for us to possibility get a win and score some more points in the Chase."

Johnson will also make his third NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) appearance of 2007 on Friday night driving the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet.

At third in the standings, just 63 points down to Gordon, Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Monte Carlo SS, has quietly run consistently not only in the Chase, but all season to emerge as a contender for the 2007 championship.

"Charlotte's not a race track where I've been particularly successful," said Bowyer. "We've always run well there - been up front and run in the top 10; we've just never finished like we've run. We've wrecked a lot there and gotten caught up in stuff. In the spring race we got caught up in that wreck. We just have to do better. If we can do what we've done everywhere else and improve on our finishes, we'll be just fine. The sky is the limit from here on out for the Jack Daniel's Chevrolet. Bottom line is we knew going into this thing we would have to step up our program in a big way and I think we've certainly answered that call."

Bowyer will also contend in Friday night's NBS race in the cockpit of the No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS, would like to find the combination that vaulted him to the win in May's Nextel All-Star Challenge. Although the Richard Childress Racing driver sits 202 points down to Gordon in fifth, the team's determination and focus strong heading to LMS: "Our approach hasn't changed. We go and try to be as aggressive as we can every week and make our car run as fast as we can to put ourselves in a position to win. If you can't do that, then you have to make the best day possible out of the days that you're having. Charlotte seems to be a track where we just haven't had the finishes we need. We have always run pretty well there but just haven't been able to put everything together. During the Coca-Cola 600 we were running pretty good and just got caught up in a wreck. We have to find a way to keep everything together. If we can do that, I think we can leave Charlotte with a top-five finish ."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, is counting on home-field advantage to find the way to victory lane Saturday night. After contending for the majority of the race at Talladega only to retire with an engine issue, Junior is ready to come back strong at Charlotte. With the departure of Tony Eury, Jr. as crew chief to prepare for the 2008 season for both of them, Tony Gibson will take the reins at LMS.

"The race at Talladega was emotional for all of us since it was the last one with Tony (Eury) Jr. as crew chief," said Junior. "But the thing I felt good about was seeing the fans on their feet when we were leading. The guys tell me it's so loud the fans drown out the sound of the cars. I can't hear 'em inside the racecar, but I can sure see them - and I'd love to see the same thing this weekend. The fans here have been very supportive of us. The Charlotte races always have a little different feel for me because it's so close to home. A lot of the teams are based here and a lot of the drivers live here now, but I don't know too many who grew up 20 minutes from the track. So, to say this is my home track is really true. I can remember watching my dad so many years sittin' up there in the condos in turn one. When I was little, I wanted to go to as many races as I could to be around my dad and watch him every single lap. And I got to do that a lot here since it was so close to h ome.

"Tony (Gibson) and I talked a little bit after we dropped out of the Talladega race. It meant a lot to me. He's a great guy and we're going to be all right in these last six races. He's a lot of fun to be around and one of those guys that you just wanna win with. If you're going into battle, he's one of the guys you want right next to you. He deserves the shot to be in charge and he showed what he could do when Tony Jr. was suspended earlier this season. (Gibson was interim crew chief when Eury Jr. missed six races after technical violations at Darlington.) We did really well in those races, and we'll do just as well with him for the rest of the season."

-credit: gm racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Clint Bowyer , Chad Knaus
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports