*On the NASCAR Bubble: Gordon and Harvick battle to keep championship hopes alive *Elliott Sadler on track for strong season *Terry Labonte returns to the track at Chicagoland NEWS AND NOTES On The NASCAR Bubble: Gordon In As "Race for the...
*On the NASCAR Bubble: Gordon and Harvick battle to keep championship hopes alive
*Elliott Sadler on track for strong season
*Terry Labonte returns to the track at Chicagoland
NEWS AND NOTES
On The NASCAR Bubble: Gordon In As "Race for the Chase" Begins ...
Thirteen drivers are currently eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, which begins Sept. 18 at New Hampshire International Speedway. With nine races remaining in the Race for the Chase, several drivers are battling to remain within 400 points of the leader. Meeting this standard following the Sept. 10 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway would qualify them to compete for the 2005 championship over the final 10 races.
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is within the cutoff yet "on the bubble" this week, in 13th place. He is 396 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet).
Here's a look at some of the drivers on the verge of making it into the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup:
• Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) is 432 points behind Johnson. The outlook is good for Harvick at Chicagoland, where he has won two of the four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races there.
• Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) is ranked 15th, 487 points behind Johnson and 55 behind Richard Childress Racing teammate Harvick. Burton has a top finish of sixth at Chicagoland, while driving a Roush Racing Ford in 2003. RCR owns five top-10 finishes at Chicagoland with Harvick and former team driver Robby Gordon.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) improved two positions this week, to 16th, following his third-place finish at Daytona. Still, he needs to make up 106 championship points, or six more positions, in the next nine weeks to earn a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Elliott Sadler Showing Strength ...
Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) earned a spot in the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, yet never rose higher than fourth in the standings. This year, Sadler is on track for a career season. He's already ranked fourth with 18 races remaining on the schedule -- and nine to go before the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup begins in New Hampshire. He's finished in the top 10 in nine of 17 races this season.
Labonte Returns at Chicago ...
Two-time series champion Terry Labonte (No. 44 Pizza Hut Chevrolet) will make his seventh start of the season at Chicagoland, one of several selected races he's planning to run before officially retiring after the 2006 season. Labonte's best finish at the track is 24th. His son, Justin, also is looking forward to the weekend, as the defending NASCAR Busch Series winner at Chicagoland. Following Chicago, Labonte has three remaining races scheduled for '05 at Indianapolis, Kansas and Texas.
Kyle Busch Leads Raybestos Rookie Class ...
Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) leads the 2005 Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year candidates with a 219-177 rookie point margin over Travis Kvapil (No. 77 Kodak Dodge). Busch, who is scheduled to participate in Thursday's "Racin' the Bases" charity softball game at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, Ill., will sign autographs from 4:30-5 p.m. (CT) prior to the 6 p.m. celebrity game benefiting the Victory Junction Gang Camp. On the track, this will mark his first visit to Chicagoland Speedway. Raybestos Rookie candidates have done well at the track, namely Kevin Harvick's 2001 win and top-five results by Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) and Jimmie Johnson in 2002. A Raybestos Rookie has led at least one lap in all four races at Chicagoland.
Milestone Marker: 650 for Schrader ...
Sunday's USG SHEETROCK 400 marks the 650th career start for veteran Ken Schrader (No. 49 Schwan's Home Service Dodge). "Six-hundred and fifty is just a number," said Schrader. "Just like turning 50 years old was just a number. It's nice to be able to do something that you love doing, for this long. To make start number 650 means we've been able to race at this level for a long time, and I guess, that's something to be proud of. Being number 650 makes me think back to when Mr. Langley (Elmo) gave me my first shot back in '84. He told me if I didn't tear his car up, I could run a few more races that season." After making his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut in 1984, Schrader has logged 64 top-five finishes, 82 top-10 finishes and 23 poles.
On the Right Track
• Kevin Harvick has won two of the four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races held at Chicagoland Speedway.
• Jimmie Johnson hasn't finished outside the top-three in his first three races at Chicago.
• Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) is coming off two consecutive victories and headed to a track where he has three consecutive top-three finishes, including a win in 2004.
From the Archives ...
A total of 54 Illinois natives have competed in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The first NASCAR race in which Illinois drivers appeared was the 160 mile event held on Daytona Beach in February 1951. Les Snow from Bloomington, Eddie Sheeler from Chicago and Eddie Anderson who hailed from Blue Island all competed. Snow faired the best of the three, with a ninth place starting spot and a sixth-place finish in a field of 54. ... Three Illinois speedways have hosted NASCAR's premier series. The first venue was Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs. The race, a 100 miler on a half-mile dirt track, was held in 1954 with Dick Rathmann winning in a Hudson Hornet. The second site was Chicago's Soldier Field. Fireball Roberts, driving a DePaolo Engineering Ford, took his third career win there in 1956. Chicagoland Speedway, which opened in 2001, has hosted the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series on four occasions.
On Deck: New Hampshire International Speedway ...
New Hampshire International Speedway, in Loudon, N.H., is the site of the 20th race of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule on Sunday, July 17. The New England 300 marks the series' 21st visit to NHIS, which will also host the first race of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in September. Last season, Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford) swept both races at "The Magic Mile" en route to his 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title.
The race: USG SHEETROCK 400 (Race No. 18 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill. (1.5-mile oval.)
The date/time: Sunday, July 10, 3:35 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,845,750.
Race length: 400 miles, 267 laps.
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval.
2004 winner: Tony Stewart.
2004 polesitter: Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,378, 2. Greg Biffle 2,305, 3. Tony Stewart 2,242, 4. Elliott Sadler 2,178, 5. Rusty Wallace 2,173, 6. Ryan Newman 2,115, 7. Jamie McMurray 2,093, 8. Mark Martin 2,068, 9. Kurt Busch 2,030, 10. Dale Jarrett 2,030.