* The race for 11th place -- McMurray's the man, but Kahne catching Jarrett * Wooing the Lady in Black -- Rusty Wallace, Jarrett among those seeking first Darlington win races." NEWS & NOTES The race for 11th place: McMurray extends lead...
* The race for 11th place -- McMurray's the man, but Kahne catching Jarrett
* Wooing the Lady in Black -- Rusty Wallace, Jarrett among those seeking first Darlington win
NEWS & NOTES
The race for 11th place: McMurray extends lead ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) continues his late-season excellence, retaining the 11th-place spot for the 10th consecutive week. He leads 12th-place Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) by 215 points; last week, McMurray led Jarrett by 221 points. The three drivers below Jarrett also retained their spots in the points standings. Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is 13th, but thanks to his second consecutive fifth-place finish, this time at Phoenix; he trails McMurray by only 216 points, having whittled 64 off that deficit, and is only one point behind Jarrett. Kahne also can tie Ryan Newman's (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) record of most top-five finishes in a season. Newman posted 14 top fives in 2002; Kahne currently has 12.
Following a fourth-place finish at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) remains 14th in the standings and Bobby Labonte is 15th.
"We'll be in the mix to win (at Darlington)," said Kahne, who started on the pole in Darlington's March event and finished 13th. "I'd really like to win at Darlington. I like the surface. The track is difficult to drive. It's real narrow and slippery. It's just an exciting and fun race track."
Ward Burton, Haas CNC Racing part ways ... Haas CNC Racing announced Tuesday that Mike Bliss would replace Ward Burton in the No. 0 NetZero Chevrolet for the season's final two races. Bliss also drives the No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Busch Series; he's currently sixth in the points standings.
"We appreciate everything Ward has done for us during the past year and wish him the best," said Joe Custer, Haas CNC Racing's general manager. "I know this was a hard change to make and I appreciate the team's confidence in my abilities to help with its program," said Bliss, also the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion. "Hopefully I can come in and help the team build for the future."
Burton had spent the last four races of 2003 and all of this season with Haas CNC Racing. Prior to that, he spent seven seasons driving for Bill Davis Racing, where he won five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races, including the 2002 Daytona 500.
Too tough to tame: Searching for that first Darlington victory ... Venerable Darlington Raceway is known to be fickle, but the names of those who haven't visited its Victory Lane might come as a surprise. One former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) -- is among that group. Another former champion, Dale Jarrett, has three Darlington wins, but all in the spring events -- not in this week's landmark Mountain Dew Southern 500.
Wallace, who will retire following the 2005 season, has 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes at Darlington.
"There is always a first time for everything," says Wallace. "I've always enjoyed racing there and we've come really close to winning at Darlington in several races. We've finished second there twice and have a ton of thirds, fourths and fifths."
For Jarrett, the impetus is personal: His father Ned Jarrett, a two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, won the 1965 Southern 500 by a record-setting 11 laps. If Dale Jarrett wins a Southern 500, he and Ned Jarrett would be the first father-son duo to win the Southern 500.
"Knowing the history of this sport and being there with my dad when he won there in 1965 was just incredible," Dale Jarrett said. "So this is definitely the one race that I don't have on my resume right now that I'd really like to have."
One reason Darlington Raceway is so difficult is that it's simply unforgiving.
"There's no room for error," said Joe Nemechek, another NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver seeking his first Darlington win. "One little misstep and you'll have one of those infamous Darlington stripes on the side of your car."
International Motorsports Hall of Fame announces Class of 2005 ... On Wednesday, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame revealed its 2005 inductees during an event at the Hall of Fame's Talladega, Ala., site. The class of 2005 includes NHRA greats Joe Amato and Bob Glidden, powerboat great Chip Hanaver, Formula One and CART standout Nigel Mansell and three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip.
Survey Says! NASCAR on Family Feud ... The popular game show will air special NASCAR-themed episodes the week of November 15-19. Drivers representing the sanctioning body's top three national series will pit their NASCAR families of crew chiefs, crew members and family members against each other for the benefit of their favorite charities. The Family Feud lineup includes Ward Burton, who will play for The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation; Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), who will play for the Boys and Girls Club of Nashville, Tenn.; Casey Mears (No. 41 Target Dodge), who will play for Target House; NASCAR Busch Series driver David Green (No. 37 Timber Wolf Chevrolet), who will play for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Bill Lester (No. 22 Toyota Tundra Toyota), who will play for the Urban Youth Racing School. Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) and NASCAR Busch Series driver Kenny Wallace (No. 23 Stacker 2 Chevrolet) will play for the Autism Society of America. Kevin Harvick and Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) will play for the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
Chevrolet-Ford-Dodge in Manufacturers standings ... Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s (No. 18 Budweiser Chevrolet) win at Phoenix gave Chevrolet its series-high 21st victory of the season. Chevrolet has clinched the 2004 Manufacturers Championship, but keeps adding to its points total, which now stands at 251. Ford has 209 points and Dodge has 186 points. Ford has nine wins and Dodge has four. Chevrolet is the name to beat at Darlington, with 31 modern-era victories. Ford has 13 and Dodge has two wins.
CONTINGENCY CORNER ... Thanks to last week at Phoenix, Ryan Newman has clinched his third consecutive annual Bud Pole Award. Newman's run at Phoenix was his fourth straight Bud Pole, his ninth of 2004 and the 27th of his career. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) ranks second this season with six Bud Poles and Kasey Kahne is third with four. Bud Poles are a specialty for Newman, who's completing his third fulltime NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season. He won his first Bud Pole in 2001 (for the Coca-Cola 600), in only his third NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race. In 2002, Newman won the Bud Pole Award along with the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, and last year, Newman's 11 Bud Poles established a new series record. They also won him the 2003 Bud Pole Award.
"It just seems like the track goes to lunch on tires during a race at Darlington." -- Dale Jarrett.
"Darlington is one of those tracks that as a driver you look forward to going to. You don't have to worry so much about aero push. Darlington's definitely a throw-back to the way racing use to be." -- Jamie McMurray.
"It's tough enough to complete 400 miles, so 500 will definitely wear you down, but you can't let up one second. If you do, you are done." -- Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The first Southern 500 on Sept. 4, 1950, the first superspeedway race for stock cars, was the first held on asphalt for NASCAR's premier series. Curtis Turner won the pole with a speed of 82.034 mph. New Jersey's Wally Campbell had the quickest time (82.400 mph) in Wally Marks' Oldsmobile, but started 60th due to a late qualifying run. Qualifying was a rather daunting task then; each day, the five fastest cars made the field, but it took a total of 15 days to complete qualifying. Open-wheel driver Johnny Mantz, from Long Beach, Calif., eventually won the first Southern 500, but only after starting 43rd. Mantz had posted the field's slowest speed (73.460 mph) on the ninth day of qualifying. Fireball Roberts, then 21, finished second.
What: Mountain Dew Southern 500. (Race No. 35 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
Where: Darlington Raceway, Darlington, S.C.
When: Sunday, Nov. 14, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 1 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,219,075.
Race length: 500 miles, 367 laps.
Track layout: 1-366-mile oval.
2003 winner: Terry Labonte.
2003 polesitter: Ryan Newman.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 6,191. 2. Jeff Gordon 6,150. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6,144. 4. Jimmie Johnson 6,143. 5. Mark Martin 6,089. 6. Tony Stewart 6,049. 7. Ryan Newman 6,041. 8. Elliott Sadler 5,869. 9. Matt Kenseth 5,855. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5,836.