NEWS & NOTES * TV Timeout: The Winston was fans' event of choice ... The Winston, televised on FX last Saturday night, had a 3.9 cable rating, with 3,080,000 households tuned in. The weekend's only other motorsports event, the Indianapolis...
NEWS & NOTES
* TV Timeout: The Winston was fans' event of choice ... The Winston, televised on FX last Saturday night, had a 3.9 cable rating, with 3,080,000 households tuned in. The weekend's only other motorsports event, the Indianapolis 500 Time Trials last Sunday afternoon, had a 2.6 overnight network rating on ABC.
* Charting the NASCAR Top 10: Kenseth keeps tenuous grip ... Matt Kenseth has been No. 1 in the NASCAR Top 10 for eight consecutive weeks (since Atlanta) and has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 10 of this season's 11 weeks of racing. ... Sixth-place Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) and seventh-place Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) are tied for the most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, at 11.
* Martin: Defending champion trying to crack NASCAR Top 10 ... NASCAR's longest day in 2002 was one of the best days of 2002 for Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford), Kenseth's Roush Racing teammate. A victory in the Coca-Cola 600 vaulted the veteran back to where many fans feel he always belongs -- in the thick of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship chase.
A year later, Martin needs another springboard. He comes into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 on the cusp of the NASCAR Top 10 -- he's 12th in series points -- but trying to keep the leaders in sight.
Martin isn't optimistic about getting back into the title picture, but he is confident about advancing in the points.
"After 11 races we've already had two engine failures and been in three wrecks, so I don't know [about my championship chances]," Martin said. "We're sort of behind the 8-ball there. But can we still have a great season? Absolutely."
* Robby Gordon trying daunting "Daily Double" again ... For the fourth time, Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) is preparing to race in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. In Gordon's first two attempts, his efforts were hindered by rain delays (see chart below). Last year was the first time he raced the entire distance of both events on the same day. Gordon sounds like he's more than ready. "It's not that big of a deal," he said.
* Elliott donates $10,000 to students ... Students at Union County Primary School in Blairsville, Ga. received a $10,000 donation from Blairsville resident Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) on Monday. The school's library will receive new books as part of the donation, given by Elliott via his winning the 2002 Grands! Biscuits NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award. Elliott's son Chase is a first-grader at Union County Primary School. At the start of the school year Elliott challenged the school's students to meet accelerated reading goals and promised to reward them with Monday's event if those goals were met. In addition to the donation, students were able to have photos taken with Elliott alongside one of his team's show cars.
* Kenseth's crew wins Mechanix honor ... The pit crew for Matt Kenseth's No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford, the world championship-winning crew in 2001 and '02, has been named the first quarter winner of the Mechanix Wear Pit Crew of the Year Award. At season's end, the overall winning crew gets $75,000.
* Biffle back: 2002 champion returns for NASCAR Busch Series race at LMS ... Greg Biffle (No.16 Grainger Ford) plans to run in Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series (Carquest Auto Parts 300) at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It will be the first NASCAR Busch Series event of the season for Biffle, who won that series' championship last season before moving to NASCAR Winston Cup this year. Biffle will drive the No. 9 Uh-Oh! Oreo Ford.
* Cook-Off for charity ... The Hendrick Marrow Program Fast Food Cook-Off is set for Wednesday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Hendrick Motorsports Complex in Concord, N.C. Celebrity cooks -- Carol Mears, Kim Labonte, Martha Nemechek, Andrea Nemechek, Gary Johnson, Cathy Johnson and Teresa Weber -- will have dishes judged by a panel to include Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president of corporate communications. Recipes for dishes will come from the recently-published book "Fast Food: Fueling the Guys in the NASCAR Winston Cup Garage."
* Petty/Fittipaldi get three-race deal ... Two great racing names soon will be back in partnership. Christian Fittipaldi, nephew of open-wheel legend Emerson Fittipaldi, will attempt to qualify a Petty Enterprises No. 44 Dodge in three upcoming events, via sponsorship from Bugles. The car will have a Sam Bass-designed Bugles paint scheme. The car will be entered in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, the EA SPORTS 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sept. 2, and the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Oct. 11. The agreement also includes Bugles sponsorship of the No. 44 Dodge for a race early in the 2004 season.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), the reigning NASCAR Winston Cup titlist, has five consecutive finishes of sixth or better at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) follows with three consecutive top-10 finishes. These are the two longest current finishing streaks at Lowe's Motor Speedway. ... Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) has finished among the top three in seven of the last 11 NASCAR Winston Cup races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has led in 15 of the last 16 races there. ... Defending Coca-Cola 600 champion Mark Martin has finished in the top 10 in 13 of the last 15 races at Lowe's, including 11 top-five finishes. ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Chevrolet) leads active drivers in Coca-Cola 600 victories, with three. Jeff Burton (No. 99 CITGO Ford) is next with two.
* "The ones (races) you win nowadays are meant to be. You can't will it. They're just meant to be." -- Mark Martin, defending champion of the Coca-Cola 600.
* "I think night racing is the way to go. The atmosphere at a night race just seems to be more energetic all the way around." -- Greg Biffle (No. 16 Grainger Ford), who will race in the Coca-Cola 600 which will start in late afternoon and end under the lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
* "It may not be the Daytona 500 but the Coca-Cola 600 has a lot of history and a ton of tradition." -- John Andretti (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge).
* "If you really love racing, this weekend is like Christmas and a couple of birthdays rolled up into one." -- Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge), on the Coca-Cola 600 and Indianapolis 500 being held on the same day.
* "The Coca-Cola 600 is our longest race of the year and that in and of itself is the challenge of the race. It's a race that you have to be mentally and physically prepared for." -- Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Dale Earnhardt won the Coca-Cola 600 three times during his career, a total tied for second all-time. How appropriate that Earnhardt was successful in NASCAR's longest event. Three of his first five NASCAR Winston Cup starts were in the race. He made his NASCAR Winston Cup debut in the 1975 race, then called the World 600. His second race also was the 600, in 1976. His fifth series start came in the 1978 race.
Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
Race: 5:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, May 25.
TV: FOX, 5 p.m. ET.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thursday--Practice, 3-5 p.m. Qualifying, 7:05 p.m. Saturday--Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11:10-11:55 a.m.