Kansas: News of note, schedule

Talladega posts auto racing's best-ever rating vs. pro football Winston Leader Bonus reaches $300,000 NEWS & NOTES * TV Timeout: Talladega delivers auto racing's best-ever rating against pro football ... NBC Sports' broadcast of the EA Sports...

Talladega posts auto racing's best-ever rating vs. pro football
Winston Leader Bonus reaches $300,000


* TV Timeout: Talladega delivers auto racing's best-ever rating against pro football ... NBC Sports' broadcast of the EA Sports 500 from Talladega delivered the highest-ever national rating (5.5; 12 share) for any auto race against pro football competition. The rating was a 15% increase over last year. The Talladega national rating reflects a 19% increase over the previous best national rating against pro football competition (5.2; 11 share) posted for the 2002 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. An average of 5,982,000 households tuned in to this year's event, an 18% increase last year; 8,940,000 viewers tuned in this year, also an 18% increase from 2002. ...Over the past three years, since NBC and TNT began televising the second half of the NASCAR Winston Cup season, NASCAR Winston Cup racing from Talladega has seen a ratings increase of 83% percent. (Figures from NBC, Nielsen Media Research.)

* Charting the NASCAR Top 10 ... NASCAR Top 10 leader Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) had his worst finish of the season this past Sunday, a 33rd at Talladega Superspeedway. But he nonetheless has a 354-point lead over Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) with seven races remaining in the NASCAR Winston Cup season. Kenseth has a series-leading 22 top-10 finishes and has led the NASCAR Top 10 for 26 consecutive race weeks, a string beginning in March at Atlanta.

* Just outside the NASCAR Top 10: Trying to make the banquet stage ... Another battle rages just outside the NASCAR Top 10, among drivers trying to make the elite group and in the process earn a trip to the Waldorf=Astoria stage on the night of Dec. 5, at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Awards Ceremony. Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) is 11th in series points this week after winning at Talladega, only 10 points behind 10th-place Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet). Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) is 12th, merely 75 points behind Labonte.

* Jeff Gordon out for three-peat milestone ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has won the first two races in Kansas Speedway's brief history. No driver has ever won the first three races at a track, in NASCAR history. In fact, since 1988 there have been only three occurrences of a driver winning a new track's first two races. In addition to Gordon, Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) won at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 1999 and 2000, while Kevin Harvick won at Chicagoland Speedway in 2001 and 2002. Since 1988, 10 new tracks have joined the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule.

* Power in the pits: Stewart's crew wins weekly award ... Tony Stewart's third-place finish at Talladega was aided by pit-crew hustle. As a result, his crew won the McDonald's/POWERade Drive-Thru Pit Championship Award for the event, worth $20,000 to the team. Stewart spent a total of 238.941 seconds in the pits, the lowest total among teams competing in the program.

* MBNA bonus at $70,000 ... The MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award is worth $10,000 to the leader of a race's halfway point (among teams participating in the MBNA contingency award program). MBNA also pays a $5,000 bonus if the halfway-point leader goes on to win the race. If the bonus isn't collected, the $5,000 rolls over to the next event. The MBNA bonus has reached $70,000. The last time it was collected was at Infineon Raceway in June when Robby Gordon led at mid-race, went on to win and got the bonus, which had grown to $15,000 at Infineon.

* Winston Leader Bonus reaches $300,000: Only Kenseth can collect ... After 29 races this season, no one has been able to collect the Winston Leader Bonus, thus the bonus has reached a record $300,000 going into Kansas. The bonus -- paid to a race winner who also leads the NASCAR Winston Cup points -- starts at $10,000 and increases in $10,000 increments each week it isn't collected. The last time it was collected was March 2002 at Darlington Raceway by Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge). Kenseth, obviously, is the only driver with a chance to collect the bonus.


* Gordon has two victories at Kansas Speedway, but don't count out the following drivers, either, based on their runs at the 1.5-mile track in 2001 and '02:

* Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), who has finished second to Gordon the last two years at Kansas.

* Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), fourth in 2001 and third in '02.

* Dale Earnhardt Jr., the polesitter and sixth-place finisher last year.


"The fans [at Kansas Speedway] are my kind of fans because they all follow Sprint Car racing. They know Danny Lasoski, my World of Outlaws driver, and they know me more from my time spent in Sprint Cars than anything else. They make our time spent in Kansas well worth it." -- Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart.


Although NASCAR Winston Cup racing is relatively new in Kansas, there is a connection of sorts that can be traced to its very first race for the series. Jim Roper, from Halstead, Kansas, noticed mention of a big "strictly stock" car race at Charlotte, N.C. in the Smilin' Jack comic strip back in 1949. The strip's creator, Zack Mosely, was a big fan of auto racing and promoted the sport in the strip at every opportunity. According to Mosely, the race was to be held on June 19 on the three-quarter-mile dirt track outside Charlotte. It was going to pay $2,000 to win, with a total purse of $5,000. Roper thought that sounded pretty good, so he loaded up his new Lincoln and drove it to Charlotte, entered the race, and won. He ran one more race in the Strictly Stock (later NASCAR Winston Cup) Division and called it quits. ... Over the years, Kansas has produced other NASCAR Winston Cup drivers such as the 1975 Rookie of the Year Bruce Hill from Topeka. Terry Bivins from Shawnee Mission competed in 28 races from 1975-77. Bill and Tubby Harrison, also from Topeka, competed in the 1950s and Mike Kempton, from Merriam, raced in the 1970s and '80s.


What: Banquet 400 (NASCAR Winston Cup Series race No. 30 of 36.)
Where: Kansas Speedway; Kansas City, Kan.
When: Sunday, Oct. 5, 1 p.m. ET.

TV: NBC, 12:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite

Race length: 400.5 miles/267 laps.
Track layout: 1.5-mile paved tri-oval.

Pre-race schedule (all times CT/local): Friday--Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m. Qualifying--3:05 p.m. Saturday--Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11:10-11:55 a.m.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Danny Lasoski