* Newest Winner: Mears Solidifies Team's Top 35 Standing * Loop Data: Greg Biffle May Be The Dover Driver To Beat Shaking Things Up: Mears Climbs In Top 35 Standings; Sauter Assumes Crucial Cutoff Spot How much difference does a win...
* Newest Winner: Mears Solidifies Team's Top 35 Standing
* Loop Data: Greg Biffle May Be The Dover Driver To Beat
Shaking Things Up: Mears Climbs In Top 35 Standings; Sauter Assumes Crucial Cutoff Spot
How much difference does a win make?
Ask Casey Mears, who jumped five spots from 35th to 30th in this week's car owner standings thanks to last Sunday's victory in the Coca-Cola 600.
Not only did Mears snare his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win, he climbed out of "bubble" danger in the top 35. Those teams ranked in the top 35 of the owner standings each week are guaranteed starting positions. Those who are not must qualify on time -- Mears' near-predicament until last weekend.
This week's bubble team -- in position No. 35 -- is the Gene Haas-owned No. 70 Chevrolet driven by Johnny Sauter.
Another driver who distanced himself from 35th last week is Ricky Rudd. His No. 88 Ford owned by Robert Yates jumped three spots, to 31st, thanks to Rudd's seventh-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600.
Meanwhile, the watch remains for former series champion Bill Elliott, who came out of semi-retirement last week to drive the No. 21 Ford owned by Glen Ford. Past champions have six provisional starting spots they can use in a season; Elliott qualified for the Coca-Cola 600 and has four career wins at Dover.
In The Loop: Biffle, Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing Dominant At Dover
Since the season's eighth race at Phoenix, Hendrick Motorsports has won five in a row and looked impressive.
This weekend, the streak may end. Over the past four races at Dover International Speedway, only Jimmie Johnson has a win for Hendrick.
Over the past two years, Roush Fenway Racing has risen to the top, with Matt Kenseth winning this race last year -- almost turning the Dover sweep -- and Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) winning in spring 2005. Since that win, Biffle has had Dover finishes of 13th, eighth and fifth. He's been the class of Dover fields over the past two years, earning the top rankings in Driver Rating (117.2), Average Running Position (6.953), Fastest Laps Run (175), Green Flag Speed, Laps in the Top 15 (1,484), Quality Passes (122), Speed in Traffic and Closer -- total of 15 positions improved in the last 10% of laps.
Kenseth, Biffle's Roush Fenway teammate, is right behind him in several categories. Kenseth ran out of gas at the end of last fall's Dover race, but led a race-high 215 laps. Kenseth has an Average Running Position of 7.670 (third-best among drivers competing Sunday) and a Driver Rating of 112.3 (second-best). He also has accumulated 129 Fastest Laps Run (third-most), 1,429 Laps in the Top 15 (third-most) and 110 Quality Passes, second-most.
Ginn Racing's Mark Martin also could end Hendrick's dominance. Martin, who did his previous Dover work in a Roush Ford, has the second-best previous Dover work in a Roush Ford, has the second-best Average Running Position (7.214) and the third-best Driver Rating (106.7). His 130 Fastest Laps Run is second only to Biffle, as is his 1,441 Laps in the Top 15.
But this Sunday's event is a Car of Tomorrow race. Hendrick has won all five races featuring the new car, and the victory burden may again fall on Johnson. Johnson last won at Dover in 2005; he has the fourth-best Driver Rating at 104.5.
Joe Gibbs Racing also has excelled in the new car and Tony Stewart has two wins and nine top fives at Dover. Lately, he's struggled, finished 25th and 33rd last year to drop his Dover Driver Rating to 64.1, his lowest at any track.
Game On: Montoya, Ragan Continue Battle For Rookie Points Lead
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/ Havoline Dodge) continues to hold off David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford) in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, but Ragan is sticking close.
Prior to last week's Coca-Cola 600, Montoya led Ragan by only four points in the rookie standings. He added two more points post-race, but the battle certainly remains worth watching.
... The latest Manufacturers Championship standings correspond with Chevrolet's winning streak. Thanks to Casey Mears, Chevrolet holds a 41-point spread over second-place Ford.
NNCS, Etc. ...
Following Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series event at Dover International Speedway, fans have the opportunity to tackle the Monster Mile themselves -- all for a good cause.
The fourth annual NASCAR Foundation Track Walk allows fans to walk Dover's high-banked one-mile surface. It also kicks off the Foundation's charity walk season, which raises funds via walks that benefit the organization and its Family of Charities.
Participating fans won't walk without some stars in their midst. Drivers Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Ward Burton (No. 4 State Water Heaters Chevrolet) and Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota) will join in to support the Foundation and their own non-profit organizations. The Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports and volunteers from Central Delaware YMCA also will participate.
Jamie McMurray apparently welds a mean chef's apron. On Friday, he'll make a return appearance on Dover Downs is Cooking, a popular local program featuring celebrity chef Fred Bohn. The show is taped in the Rollins Center at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, which is located adjacent to the track.
McMurray first visited the show last season, following the lead of other drivers who have appeared on the show -- Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota) and Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Ginn Resorts Chevrolet).
Two members of the entertainment world will participate in Sunday's pre-race ceremonies. Actress Catherine Bell will serve as the honorary Grand Marshal which means uttering the most famous words in motorsports: "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!" Bell is known for her work in the television series, JAG. She's now a part of the new Lifetime Television series, Army Wives.
Reprise Warner Brothers recording artists Tiffany Affair will perform the National Anthem prior to Sunday's event. The members of the group are Ayanna, 18; Bianca, 18 and Gabrielle, 16.
"Psychogang Extreme Motorcycle Racing Team" and "Hell on Wheels" BMX riders will entertain race fans during pre-race festivities, as will parachute jumpers, fireworks and a flyover featuring four F-16s from the 149th Fighter Wing.
The Race: Autism Speaks 400 presented by Visa
The Place: Dover International Speedway, Dover, Del.
The Date: Sunday, June 3
The Time: 1:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 1 mile oval
The Distance: 400 miles; 400 laps
The Purse: $5,781,700
2006 Winner: Matt Kenseth
2006 Pole: Ryan Newman
Pre-Race Schedule (local/ET time): Friday -- Practice, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Qualifying -- 3:15 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 10-10:50 a.m. and 1:20-2:20 p.m.