Charlotte II: News of note, schedule

Vickers set for NASCAR Winston Cup debut NASCAR Busch Series grads continue tight rookie battle Victory Lap tribute honors Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt NEWS & NOTES * Charting the NASCAR Top 10 ... NASCAR Top 10 leader Matt Kenseth had his...

Vickers set for NASCAR Winston Cup debut
NASCAR Busch Series grads continue tight rookie battle
Victory Lap tribute honors Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt


* Charting the NASCAR Top 10 ... NASCAR Top 10 leader Matt Kenseth had his worst finish of the season this past Sunday, a 36th at Kansas Speedway. But he still has a 259-point lead over Kevin Harvick with six races remaining in the NASCAR Winston Cup season. Kenseth has a series-leading 22 top-10 finishes and has led the NASCAR Top 10 for 27 consecutive race weeks, a string beginning in March at Atlanta.

* Just outside the NASCAR Top 10: Trying to make the Waldorf's stage ... Those drivers residing in the NASCAR Top 10 at season's end will be honored in the annual postseason awards ceremony, set for Dec. 5 at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York. There also is considerable monetary incentive, via the breakdown of the point fund. Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet) is 10th in points this week, but only 64 points ahead of Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet). And only 63 points separate Waltrip from 15th-place Jeff Burton (No. 99 CITGO Ford).

* Vickers steps up at Charlotte ... Brian Vickers will attempt to make his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday, driving the No. 60 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Lance McGrew, Vickers' NASCAR Busch Series crew chief, will call the race-day shots for the 19-year-old, who also is scheduled to compete in the final four races of this NASCAR Winston Cup season in the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac.

* Rookie Rundown: McMurray stays ahead of Biffle ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline Dodge) continued his consistency this past Sunday at Kansas, with a solid eighth-place finish. That also kept him ahead of his main rival for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year honor, Greg Biffle (No. 16 Grainger Ford), who finished 12th. McMurray leads the rookie points with 265, while Biffle has 240. ... Both McMurray and Biffle advanced to NASCAR Winston Cup this season, from the NASCAR Busch Series. Biffle won last season's NASCAR Busch Series championship and also is a former champion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. ... McMurray has to feel good about his chances of padding his lead over Biffle this week. He's the defending champion of the UAW-GM Quality 500. He was a surprise winner last season in what was only his second NASCAR Winston Cup start, substituting for injured Sterling Marlin in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge. "Obviously, everyone on [our team] is very excited about heading into Charlotte this weekend. It's a pretty cool feeling to know you're coming into a race as the defending winner." ... McMurray has 10 top-10 finishes this season. He has been the race's top rookie 16 times, including the last seven races and nine of the last 10.

* Victory Laps come to Charlotte; Gordon, Earnhardt honored ...

Saturday will be special and memorable for NASCAR fans as the NASCAR Victory Lap tribute program comes to Lowe's Motor Speedway, and will honor the late seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt, and four-time champion Jeff Gordon in its Saturday ceremony.

The familiar No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet driven by Earnhardt will return to the race track, driven pre-race around LMS by Earnhardt's long-time car owner and friend, Richard Childress.

Gordon is on his way to legendary status as well, with four NASCAR Winston Cup Championships and 61 victories to his credit. Driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet for Rick Hendrick, Gordon picked up his first career win at Lowe's Motor Speedway at the 1994 Coca-Cola 600 in his second NASCAR Winston Cup season.

* Night racing at Charlotte a steady progression ... This week, the Lowe's Motor Speedway autumn race is being held at night for the first time. Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 is the latest in a trend started a number of years ago at LMS. NASCAR racing at the track initially was held exclusively in the afternoons. Lights were added to the speedway in the early 1990s and the Coca-Cola 600 was run at twilight for the first time in 1993. Traditionally, the race was run in conjunction with the Indianapolis 500 since 1974, but by staging the event later in the day, it not only made the race more comfortable for the fans, the race now had a larger TV audience and it allowed drivers to attempt to race in both events on the same day. Also, The Winston, NASCAR's annual all-star event at LMS, was run under the lights for the first time in 1992.

* Newman goes for season sweep at Charlotte ... Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) won the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway this past May. He did so after starting 37th, the furthest back a race winner has started at LMS. Saturday night, Newman will try to become the sixth driver to post a season sweep at LMS. It has happened only five times: Dale Earnhardt in 1986, Richard Petty in '75, David Pearson in '74, Bobby Allison in '71 and Fred Lorenzen in '65.

* A new "Guy" in the pits for Benson ... Jay Guy has been named crew chief for Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac). For the balance of this season, Guy replaces James Ince, who left the team on Tuesday. Guy previously served as the team's car chief this season.

* RCR cars have "SOWF" decals this week ... All five Richard Childress Racing entries scheduled to compete in Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series' Little Trees 300 and Saturday night's UAW-GM 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway will carry decals of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). The SOWF began in 1980 as the Col. Arthur D. "Bull" Simons Scholarship Fund and was created after the Iranian hostage rescue attempt to provide college educations for the 17 children that survived the nine men killed or incapacitated at Desert One. A tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, SOWF is dedicated to providing college scholarships and educational counseling to the children surviving Special Operations personnel killed as a result of an operational mission or training accident. These services are provided throughout the United States, or overseas, depending upon where the surviving children reside. To date, 455 children of fallen Special Operations personnel are involved in the program, of which 65 are currently attending college. RCR's relationship with the SOWF is a continuation of the support Richard Childress and Richard Childress Racing have for the United States armed forces. Childress and long-time RCR crew member Danny "Chocolate" Myers visited with U.S. troops in Europe last January as guests of the Tennessee Air National Guard.


Three new NASCAR-related books have been recently published. Here's the lineup:

* Bobby Allison: A Racer's Racer. By Bobby Allison with Tim Packman. (200 pages, Sports Publishing) First-hand anecdotes from the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, working in conjunction with former reporter Packman.

* Turning Points: Defining Moments In The Lives Of NASCAR Superstars. By Angela Skinner. (206 pages, UMI Publications.) Written by the wife of NASCAR Winston Cup driver Mike Skinner, focusing on life lessons and challenges facing NASCAR's stars.

* NASCAR Women: At The Heart Of Racing. By Denise Wood. (144 pages, David Bull Publishing.) Profiles of some of NASCAR's most visible females, including Lesa France Kennedy and Pattie Petty.


* MBNA bonus at $75,000 ... The MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award is worth $10,000 to the leader of a race's halfway point (among teams participating in the MBNA contingency award program). MBNA also pays a $5,000 bonus if the halfway-point leader goes on to win the race. If the bonus isn't collected, the $5,000 rolls over to the next event. The MBNA bonus has reached $75,000. The last time it was collected was at Infineon Raceway in June when Robby Gordon led at mid-race, went on to win and got the bonus, which had grown to $15,000 at Infineon. Bill Elliott (No. 9 UAW/Dodge Dealers Dodge) nearly swept all the MBNA cash available at Kansas. He won the Mid-Race Leader Award, but was second when the checkered flew, behind winner Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge).

* Winston Leader Bonus reaches $310,000: Only Kenseth can collect ... After 30 races this season, no one has collected the Winston Leader Bonus, thus the bonus has reached a record $310,000 going into this week's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The bonus -- paid to a race winner who also leads the NASCAR Winston Cup points -- starts at $10,000 and increases in $10,000 increments each week it isn't collected. The last time it was collected was March 2002 at Darlington Raceway by Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge). Matt Kenseth is the only driver with a chance to collect the bonus.


Among active drivers, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) are tied for the lead in Lowe's Motor Speedway victories with four each. Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) is second among active drivers with three LMS wins. ... Gordon has won seven poles in his 21 NASCAR Winston Cup races at LMS. That statistic leads active drivers at LMS and is second all-time at LMS behind retired driver David Pearson's 14 poles. Gordon had five consecutive poles from 1994-98 for LMS' spring race, the Coca-Cola 600. ... Ryan Newman has two poles and three fourth-place starts in five races at LMS, winning his last race there, the Coca-Cola 600 this past May. ... Ward Burton (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge) has posted top-10 finishes in 10 of his 19 races at LMS. Seven of those top 10s have been in the UAW-GM Quality 500.


* "Everything just seems faster and more exciting under the lights." -- Dale Jarrett, on the Charlotte fall race moving to night.

* "I've always been a fan of Saturday night races ... I enjoy having Sundays off." -- Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet).

* "It's kind of like Monday Night Football. There's just a different kind of energy." -- Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), on night racing.


The first event held at Lowe's Motor Speedway, then known as Charlotte Motor Speedway, was the World 600 in 1960. The speedway's developers, Curtis Turner and Bruton Smith, wanted to stage, in their words, "the world's longest and most-grueling late model stock car race." The event was originally scheduled for May 29, but due to construction delays, the date was pushed back to June 19. (Ironically, it was the 11th anniversary of the first NASCAR Grand National race ever held, also at Charlotte, but on the three-quarters mile dirt track.)

Paving of the new speedway continued through the qualifying trials and the asphalt had no time to cure. It continually broke up and repairs were made daily to the racing surface. The drivers figured if the track "chunked out" with one car at a time for four qualifying laps, 60 cars running race laps would be a real mess, so they had a solution. Each team mounted truck mud flaps on the rear bumpers of their cars and metal screens in front of their windshields and radiators to, hopefully, ward off any errant asphalt. Reigning champion Lee Petty said the cars looked like "army tanks."

Jack Smith had the hardest luck that day. He was leading the race by five laps with less than 50 laps to go when a piece of asphalt bounced up and tore a hole in his gas tank. Car owner Bud Moore and crew tried in vain to fill the hole with steel wool and rags. They also looked for a bar of Octagon soap to plug it, but to no avail. Jack was credited with a 12th-place finish as Chattanooga, Tenn. driver Joe Lee Johnson cruised to the biggest victory of his career.

What: UAW-GM Quality 500 (NASCAR Winston Cup Series race No. 31 of 36.)
Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
When: Saturday, Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. ET.

TV: NBC, 7 p.m. ET.
Race length: 500 miles/334 laps.
Track layout: 1.5-mile paved tri-oval.

Pre-race schedule (all times ET/local): Thursday--Practice, 2:20 p.m.-4:20 p.m. Qualifying--7:05 p.m. Friday--Practice, 4:30-5:15 p.m. and 6:10-6:55 p.m.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Richard Petty , Brian Vickers , Bobby Allison , Jack Smith , Mark Martin , David Pearson , Lee Petty , Fred Lorenzen
Teams Richard Childress Racing