NEWS & NOTES On the NASCAR Bubble: 10th-place still belongs to Harvick ... The new format to determine the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion creates a standings "bubble" between the Top 10 and the rest of the field, leading up to the final 10 races....
NEWS & NOTES
On the NASCAR Bubble: 10th-place still belongs to Harvick ... The new format to determine the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion creates a standings "bubble" between the Top 10 and the rest of the field, leading up to the final 10 races. This week, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) is 10th in points, but unlike last week, now he has a bit of breathing room -- specifically, 82 points between him and 11th-place Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline Dodge). Last week, only 26 points separated Harvick and the then-11th-place Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Now in 12th place, Kahne trails McMurray by only one point, and Harvick by 83 points. Kahne's Evernham Motorsports teammate, Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), is 13th and trails Harvick by 123 points.
Just behind Mayfield are two former premier series champions, Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) and Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), and one of the series' most recent race winners, Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford). The three are separated by only 50 points -- Jarrett in 14th place with 1,803, Martin in 15th with 1,789 and Wallace in 16th with 1,753 -- yet all remain within striking distance of the 10th-place Harvick. Jarrett trails Harvick by 171 points, Martin trails Harvick by 185 points and Wallace trails Harvick by 221 points.
Charting the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10; Johnson continues to set pace ... After zooming past Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 lead a week ago, Jimmie Johnson maintained his top spot with a fifth-place finish this past Sunday at Infineon Raceway. That result also marked Johnson's series-high 11th top-five run this season. ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) jumped two spots to fourth place thanks to his victory Sunday at Infineon -- the 67th of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career. Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), who finished 33rd at Infineon, tumbled three spots to seventh place.
Cola for a good cause ... Special paint schemes promote many things, but one planned for this week at Daytona may be particularly beneficial. Eight drivers -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Bill Elliott (No. 98 Dodge), Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford), Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), Jeff Burton (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford), John Andretti (No. 1 Coke C2 Chevrolet) and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet) -- will drive cars emblazoned with red and black Coca-Cola C2 colors.
The paint scheme promotes The Coca-Cola Company's new soft drink, Coca-Cola C2. If one of those drivers wins the Pepsi 400, the Coca-Cola C2 brand will underwrite the cost of a $250,000 cabin at the Petty family's Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina. Also, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Coca-Cola C2 merchandise will be donated to the camp.
Victory Junction Gang Camp was founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their late son Adam. It provides year-round camp sessions for children ages 7-15 with life-threatening illnesses.
Celebrating a milestone ... Aside from the recent opening of the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Pettys will observe another significant moment in family history this week. The 46th annual Pepsi 400 weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Richard Petty's 200th career premier series win -- a feat witnessed in person by then-President Ronald Reagan on July 4, 1984. During Saturday's pre-race festivities, Richard Petty will take a lap in his No. 43 STP Pontiac, and receive several special gifts and recognitions. The souvenir Pepsi 400 race program will look back at Petty's 200th win, as will NEXTEL Vision, which will employ historical footage to mark the occasion.
"Looking back now, you would have to figure that 200th would come at Daytona or Richmond or Martinsville, places where he had a lot of wins," said son Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge). "Obviously, it could have come anywhere. But it was pretty special for him, for all of us, that it came in Daytona, came on the Fourth of July and came in front of the President."
Chevrolet-Ford-Dodge in Manufacturers standings ... Jeff Gordon gave Chevrolet its ninth victory of the season, by winning at Infineon, allowing Chevrolet to extend its lead in the Manufacturers Championship standings. Chevrolet leads with 113 points, followed by Ford's 97 and Dodge's 94. Chevrolet has a series-high nine victories while Ford has five and Dodge has two. ... At Daytona, Chevrolet drivers have won 12 of the last 19 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races, a 61% winning rate. Ford has six victories during that span, and Dodge has one.
NASCAR Drivers: 360 -- Episode 8 ... This week's FX reality show NASCAR Drivers: 360, goes back to the season-opening Daytona 500 for its final episode. NASCAR Busch Series driver Kenny Wallace goes in search of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup sheet metal for a fundraiser hosted by his wife, Kim, while at the home of DeLana Harvick's parents, her husband, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Kevin Harvick, displays his knack for aggravation by teasing his mother-in-law over dinner. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rookie driver Brian Vickers goes to a dentist appointment, where the hygienist reassures him that he won't be harmed by the X-ray machine. Later, his mother Ramona watches her son weather an accident in the final laps of his first Daytona 500. ... Episode 8 will be aired three times: 10 p.m. ET on Friday; 6 p.m. ET Saturday; and 12 a.m. ET on Sunday.
Mark this milestone: Spencer set for 450th career start ... Jimmy Spencer (No. 4 Chevrolet) is set to make his 450th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start this weekend at Daytona. He'll do it driving for the Morgan-McClure Motorsports team.
Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) has won three of the last seven races at Daytona, and he's on a roll entering the Pepsi 400 weekend. After a slow start, Waltrip has posted five top-10 finishes in his last six races and has climbed from 30th to 18th in the point standings. Winning the Pepsi 400 pole, however, might not be a good omen. The last driver to win the July race from the pole was Cale Yarborough in 1981 -- 23 years ago. ... Waltrip's Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is the reigning Daytona 500 champion and eying a season sweep, but doing so apparently is as rare as winning the Pepsi 400 from the pole. Bobby Allison is the last driver to win both Daytona events in a single season. He did it in 1982 -- only the fourth sweep in 45 years of Daytona competition. ... Six drivers have competed in every restrictor-plate race since 1988. They are Waltrip, Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader (No. 49 Schwan's Home Service Chevrolet), and Rusty Wallace. ... DEI's restrictor-plate domination remains impressive. Earnhardt Jr. has won six of the last 14 restrictor-plate races while Waltrip has won four. Jeff Gordon and defending Pepsi 400 winner Greg Biffle are the only non-DEI drivers to win in the last nine restrictor-plate races.
This past week at Infineon Raceway, Jeff Gordon earned $75,000 by winning the MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award. First, Gordon won the $10,000 MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award by leading at the halfway point -- the second time this season he's won the halfway bonus; he also did it April 16 at Martinsville. By going on to win the race -- his third victory this year -- Gordon also earned the MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award's $65,000 race-win bonus. For this weekend's Pepsi 400 at Daytona, the MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award race-win bonus will reset to $5,000.
"Any NEXTEL Cup Series race under the lights is exciting. I think that is the same whether you are a fan or a competitor. It is a day-long event that culminates under the lights. By the time the race starts everyone is pretty well keyed up and ready for some excitement." -- Dale Jarrett on night racing.
"Once the race starts, there is next to no difference at all between the fastest car out there and the slowest. There is a lot of guesswork involved. Pick the fastest line and be patient -- two things that aren't always easy to do at the same time." -- Kyle Petty on Daytona strategy.
"I like night racing. It's fun at Daytona because of the lights and people. It's always been fun to watch, and it'll be fun to be in, too." -- Kasey Kahne.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Richard Petty's 200th victory on July 4, 1984 ranks as one of Daytona International Speedway's marquee moments. The driver known as "The King," practically grew up on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. His father, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in 1959, and Richard won it for the first time in 1964. Richard Petty would go on to win the Daytona 500 a record seven times, but he also won three of Daytona's July races. His last career victory -- and his last at Daytona -- came on the same day that then-President Ronald Reagan visited the racetrack. It was the first NASCAR event witnessed by a sitting president; Air Force One landing at the Daytona Beach airport, behind the backstretch grandstands, remains a lasting image from that day. Another witness to Petty's feat was his son, Kyle, who also competed in that race. But Kyle Petty didn't get to see his father take the historic checkered flag. Engine problems had forced the younger Petty out of the race with 15 laps remaining, but he did make the family's post-race celebration.
This weekend, Kyle Petty, 44, hopes to make a little personal history of his own. He's anticipating his 695th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start. Currently, he ranks 10th on the all-time list for premier series career starts, and fourth among active drivers.
What: Pepsi 400. (Race No. 17 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL
When: Saturday, July 3, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 7 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,854,363.
Race length: 400 miles/160 laps.
Track layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
2003 winner: Greg Biffle.
2003 polesitter: Steve Park.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,375. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,348. 3. Matt Kenseth 2,143. 4. Jeff Gordon 2,123. 5. Tony Stewart 2,068. 6. Elliott Sadler 2,067. 7. Bobby Labonte 2,018. 8. Kurt Busch 1,993. 9. Ryan Newman 1,980. 10. Kevin Harvick 1,974.