Dover: News of note

* 60th anniversary of D-Day honored by race title -- MBNA 400 "A Salute to Heroes" * Dover event will be 1000th race in Modern Era * 2001 Dover win memorable for Dale Earnhardt Jr. * Jeff Gordon makes 5th "LIVE with Regis and Kelly" ...

* 60th anniversary of D-Day honored by race title -- MBNA 400 "A Salute to Heroes"
* Dover event will be 1000th race in Modern Era
* 2001 Dover win memorable for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
* Jeff Gordon makes 5th "LIVE with Regis and Kelly" co-host appearance

NEWS & NOTES

Charting the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: Johnson closing in on points lead ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) and his pit crew coaxed his car to a sixth-place finish this past Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600; it was a top-10 finish that enabled him to cling to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 lead. Earnhardt leads Coca-Cola 600 winner Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) by only five points (1,798-1,793). The Top 10 has taken on added importance this season. After 26 races of the 36-race season, the top 10 drivers in points -- plus anyone within 400 points of the standings' leader -- will be involved in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" that will determine the series champion. (Race No. 26 is at Richmond on Sept. 11; the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup starts the following week at New Hampshire.)

On the NASCAR bubble ... The modified format for determining the series champion has created a bubble situation, between the Top 10 and those trying to join that elite group. There also is another bubble of sort, at the 400-point "cut-off." Historically, very few drivers outside the Top 10 after 26 races have been within 400 points of the standings' leader. Coming into Dover, only two drivers outside the Top 10 are within 400 points of Earnhardt -- 11th-place Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and 12th-place Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Kahne trails Earnhardt by 378 points while McMurray is 384 behind. As far as the Top 10 goes, Kahne is 78 behind 10th-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), while McMurray is 84 back. Thirteenth-place Rusty Wallace is 117 behind Harvick.

Press conference announces plans for race weekend, to honor D-Day ... On Friday at 10 a.m,, MBNA will hold a press conference in the Dover International Speedway infield media center, to discuss plans to honor war veterans during the race weekend. Sunday -- race day -- marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day, thus the race title: MBNA 400 "A Salute to Heroes." Appearing at the press conference will be D-Day veterans, representatives from the charities benefiting from the race, MBNA representatives and Dover International Speedway personnel. Also, Bobby Labonte's No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, co-sponsored this week by MBNA, will be on display outside the media center.

Mark this milestone: Dover race No. 1,000 in Modern Era ... Sunday's Dover event will be the 1,000th in NASCAR's Modern Era, which began in 1972 when the premier series schedule was shortened from 48 to 31 races. Sunday will be the 2,042nd points race in the overall history of the series. Dover 2001 win extra-special for Dale Earnhardt Jr. ... In July 2001, Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed an extremely emotional victory, winning the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, only seven months after the death of his father, Dale Earnhardt. Then, only two months after that win, the younger Earnhardt won at Dover in the first race held since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Dover event followed the postponement of a race at New Hampshire International Speedway scheduled for Sept. 16. Earnhardt's Dover victory came amid a weekend-long patriotic display at the track, particularly on race day. "I think [that] win was one of the highlights I'll never forget," Earnhardt said. "Not even so much that we won, but just the feeling among all of the fans and the drivers and teams that day." One more time with Regis and Kelly, for Gordon ... Four-time champion Jeff Gordon became a five-time "LIVE with Regis and Kelly" co-host on Wednesday, joining Kelly Ripa on the popular syndicated daytime talk show. One of the people Gordon helped interview: Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.

New bridge offers unique vantage point ... The Monster Mile now appropriately features the Dupont Monster Bridge, a walkway/viewing area 29 feet above the race track over Turn 3. The bridge is enclosed by Dupont's hurricane-resistant glass, to protect spectators from any race-related debris. The viewing area has 50 theater-style seats; each seat has audio access to NASCAR race coverage on television and radio, along with access to the major drivers' race team communications. Flat-screen televisions, a climate-controlled interior, wall-to-wall carpet and a full-service refreshment bar add to the DuPont Monster Bridge experience.

Johnson also comfortable at Dover ... Jimmie Johnson knows about Dover success. He swept the track's two events in 2002 -- as a rookie, no less, becoming the first rookie to pull off a season sweep. "Dover is so unique," Johnson said. "There is not a track on the circuit that is remotely close to Dover. So when you find the right set-up for Dover and the driver has the right rhythm for it, it really just applies to one place and you can fine-tune and hone in on it. A lot of people go to Kentucky and other tracks to test. But you can't take anything you learn there and apply it because Dover is so unique."

McMurray crew wins pit competition at Coca-Cola 600 ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) finished fourth last Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600, a finish aided by superb work by his pit crew. McMurray spent a total of 283.521 seconds in the pits, enabling his team to win the weekly McDonald's/POWERade Drive-Thru Pit Championship award, worth $20,000. Newman, Borland soon to reach new speeds ... Ryan Newman and his crew chief Matt Borland will visit Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz. on June 28. Newman and Borland will visit with base personnel and go through limited flight training and flying in an F-16. Media members will be welcomed to cover the visit.

Chevrolet widens lead in Manufacturers points ... Jimmie Johnson's victory in the Coca-Cola 600 gave Chevrolet its seventh victory of the season. Chevrolet widened its lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Manufacturers Championship standings, 85-74 over Ford. Dodge is third with 69 points. NASCAR TV Offers full slate ... This week on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel:

* Friday -- NASCAR Busch Series qualifying live from Dover International Speedway at 1 p.m. ET.

* Friday -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup qualifying live from Dover International Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET.

* Friday -- Live and exclusive coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race from Dover at 4 p.m. ET.

* Friday -- Trackside (7 p.m. ET) from outside Turn 4 in Dover International Speedway's "tent village" with hosts Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond and guests Bobby Hamilton, Bobby Hamilton Jr., and Scott Lasky, host of SPEED Channel's new show I Wanna Date a Race Car Driver.

* Saturday -- From the stage truck at Dover, Pit Bull (6:30 p.m. ET) features NASCAR beat writers David Poole (Charlotte Observer), Ben Blake (Racer Magazine), Marty Smith (NASCAR.com) and Mike Mulhern (Winston-Salem Journal). Pit Bull is hosted by Steve Byrnes.

* Sunday -- SPEEDNews NASCAR Edition (7 p.m. and midnight ET) hosted by Bob Varsha, Ralph Sheheen and Connie LeGrand. Bob Dillner, Robin Miller, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond are regular contributors.

* Sunday -- NASCAR Victory Lane (8 p.m. ET) Host John Roberts is joined by NASCAR drivers Kenny Wallace and Chad Little, offering post-race coverage of the Charlotte Coca-Cola 600 weekend.

* Monday -- Inside NEXTEL Cup (7 p.m. ET) with Allen Bestwick, Michael Waltrip, Johnny Benson and Ken Schrader reviewing the weekend's action.

* Monday -- The reality series NBS 24/7 (8 p.m. ET), following NASCAR Busch Series race teams from FitzBradshaw Racing (Casey Atwood, Tim Fedewa, Randy LaJoie), Akins Motorsports (Kasey Kahne) and Braun Racing (David Stremme).

QUOTABLE

"I did the 'Double' this past weekend, but me and some of the other guys in the Cup garage do a double deal almost every weekend when there is Busch and Cup racing in the same town, and some still do it even when the two series are not in the same town." -- Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), comparing his Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 twin bill last Sunday to his regular grind of running both NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series races.

FAST FACTS

What: MBNA 400 "A Salute to Heroes." (Race No. 13 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)

Where: Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
When: Sunday, June 6, 1 p.m. (ET).

TV: FX, 1 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $5,496,882.

Race length: 400 miles/400 laps.
Track layout: 1-mile banked concrete oval.

2003 winner: Ryan Newman.
2003 polesitter: Ryan Newman.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,798. 2. Jimmie Johnson 1,793. 3. Matt Kenseth 1,687. 4. Jeff Gordon 1,654. 5. Tony Stewart 1,587. 6. Bobby Labonte 1,554. 7. Elliott Sadler 1,537. 8. Kurt Busch 1,521. 9. Ryan Newman 1,500. 10. Kevin Harvick 1,498.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Casey Atwood , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Chad Little , Kasey Kahne , Buddy Rice , David Stremme , Elliott Sadler , Robin Miller