Charlotte II: News of note, schedule

In The Loop: Data Tells The Tale Of Johnson's Recent Dominance At LMS The see-saw battle at the top of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings will almost assuredly continue -- according to NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data statistics. Hendrick Motorsports...

In The Loop: Data Tells The Tale Of Johnson's Recent Dominance At LMS

The see-saw battle at the top of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings will almost assuredly continue -- according to NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data statistics.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have engaged in a tug-of-war for the points lead since the start of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Johnson held the lead after weeks one and three of the Chase; Gordon after weeks two and four. Gordon currently sits in first, nine points ahead of Johnson.

But if past history is any indication, that slim lead will evaporate after Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

With five wins in total -- including season sweeps in both 2004 and 2005 -- Johnson sits atop practically every key Loop Data category over the last five LMS races.

Gordon, meanwhile, has faltered during that span. He suffered five DNFs in those five races, notching a top finish of 24th in this race last season. His average finish over the last five races is 33.8.

Gordon has an LMS Driver Rating of 76.3 (20th-best) and an Average Running Position of 22.0 (27th-best). Another oddity for Gordon: he has run only 41.9% of the total laps run at LMS over the past five races in the top 15.

He does have four wins there, but none since the 1999 season.

Gordon is in good company, however -- most of the other Chase competitors also struggle at LMS, according to Loop Data. Only four of the 12 Chase drivers rank in the top 10 in Driver Rating, and only two have Driver Ratings above 90.0 (Johnson and Kyle Busch). Additionally, five Chase drivers rank outside the top 20 in Driver Rating (Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.).

NNCS, Etc.

On The Line: Hamlin On Weekly NASCAR Teleconference

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Chevrolet) was the guest on Tuesday's weekly NASCAR Teleconference. Hamlin comes into this week's Bank of America 500 in ninth place, in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings -- a difficult spot to be in, with six races remaining in the season.

Hamlin did rebound slightly this past Sunday, with a fourth-place run at Talladega.

Following are some highlights from the teleconference:

Q: "What is your strategy this week to continue climbing up those standings and keeping the momentum going?"

Hamlin: "That is going to be the most important thing for us. We have had a really tough last couple of months, even the month leading up to the Chase. Just a string of bad luck ... it seemed like we couldn't go one week without having a pit road incident or bad luck with flat tires or something on the race track or blown motors.

"Talladega was still eventful. We had an incident. We didn't get a ton of damage but we did get enough to the rear to really kind of effect the car when it was by itself. We battled back from that to get a fourth-place finish. That was a huge accomplishment for this team even for being on a superspeedway because we have a tough time finishing those races.

"So, we will definitely try to take this one and try to carry that momentum on to Charlotte."

Q: At Lowe's this weekend, would you say that this is one of the most important races of your career?

Hamlin: "It's pivotal, yeah, but I don't think it's the most important. Last year, Homestead was definitely our most important race, because we were still part of the championship picture. We were only 90 or so behind, so a good day or bad day on one other person's part was going to put us right back in the Chase or right back in the championship.

"A goal of my career is to be top five in points every single year; I don't want to be outside of it. You know, right now, we're heading back on track to get that. We know this weekend at Charlotte is going to be a huge stepping stone for us to get back in. We are only 60 behind fifth right now. So if we can have a good, strong run this weekend; we know there's going to be attrition ... it's important for us, especially this weekend, to get away unscathed. "

Montoya Maintaining Rookie Points Lead

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) continues to lead the Raybestos Rookie of the Year point standings over David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford).

Montoya's solid 15th-place run at Talladega boosted his lead to 15 points (225-210).

Former NFL Great At LMS, Taking Break From Charity Walk

Former standout New York Giants lineman George Martin is stopping at Lowe's Motor Speedway this week, talking a brief break from his cross-country charity walk to benefit 9/11 rescue and responder personnel now experiencing health problems.

Martin is amidst a walk from New York to San Francisco. To contribute to this cause, fans can go to www.ajourneyfor911.info.

Patrick Hickey: A Special Sort of 'Flagman'

Patrick Hickey has been described as a cross between Florence Nightengale and Indiana Jones.

Strange, but true -- and admirable.

Hickey is one of only 150 people to have scaled the tallest mountain on all seven of the world's continents. He has done so to raise money for nursing scholarships, in response to a growing shortage in nurses.

His latest climb was to the top of Mt. Everest. When he reached the summit, Hickey planted the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series flag into the ground. Saturday, during pre-race ceremonies for the Bank of America 500, Hickey will present that flag to NASCAR President Mike Helton.

Hickey didn't plan on taking NASCAR to the top of the world. As with so many things that go down in this sport, this one went up following a groundswell of fan reaction.

In his blog during 64 days on Everest, Hickey wrote that he could deal with the cold, isolation and constant danger. But he lamented being cut off from NASCAR. What was happening with Jeff Gordon, he wondered?

We're talking a devoted fan here.

Soon, updates from total strangers started pouring in.

"All kinds of hits came in from so many NASCAR fans, giving race results, points updates, and news like Junior leaving DEI," Hickey said.

"Co-workers were amazed to learn I was a NASCAR fan, when I had no idea they were fans, too. Of course, the best part was hearing Jeff was doing so well."

Hickey noticed something else: NASCAR fans were giving generously to The Summit Scholarship he had created to support nursing students at the University of South Carolina.

The goal is to raise $29,035 -- or a buck for every foot of altitude of Mt. Everest.

(Fans can make donations at www.sc-edu/nursing/summitscholarship.)

Fast Facts

The Race: Bank of America 500

The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
The Date: Saturday, Oct. 13

The Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: ABC, 7 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN; SIRIUS Satellite Radio, Channel 128

The Track: 1.5-mile oval
The Distance: 501 miles, 334 laps

The Purse: $5,185,096

2006 Polesitter: Scott Riggs
2006 Winner: Kasey Kahne

Pre-Race On-Track Schedule (ET): Thursday -- Practice, 3-4:30 p.m. Qualifying, 7:10 p.m.; Friday -- Practice, 3-3:50 p.m. and 6:20-7:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Hendrick Motorsports