Kansas: News of note

Harvick gaining on McMurray -- The race for 11th place Dodge Charger returns to NASCAR in 2005 NEWS & NOTES The race for 11th place: Harvick gains valuable ground ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) retains the 11th position for...

Harvick gaining on McMurray -- The race for 11th place
Dodge Charger returns to NASCAR in 2005


The race for 11th place: Harvick gains valuable ground ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) retains the 11th position for a fifth consecutive week, but now, he's hearing footsteps. Twelve-place Kevin Harvick crept closer thanks to a second-place finish at Talladega, and Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) is on the move, too; his third-place finish boosted him two spots to 13th. Harvick sits within 36 points of McMurray, Jarrett within 78. It was a not-so-good weekend for Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), who fell two spots to 15th after a last-lap accident (he finished 35th). Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) remained 14th.

"We were able to make it through Talladega last weekend with a top-20 finish," said McMurray, a Joplin, Mo., native who finished 17th. "So now we can focus on these last seven races and the battle for 11th place in points. I feel like we should be strong at all the tracks left on the schedule."

This year, the point-fund payout for the 11th-place finisher tops $1 million, and accompanying the check is an invitation to the season-ending banquet in New York on Dec. 3.

"We've been struggling to get a top five and get back up, and to have a chance to win that race is what we needed to do," Harvick said of his Talladega run. "That's really the one thing that will help us go after our big goal, which is to do everything we can to be in that 11th spot when the season ends in Homestead. We had our best run last year at Kansas and finished sixth, so hopefully we can duplicate what we did last Sunday and have another chance at a win."

A legend returns ... Dodge announced earlier this week (Monday) that the Charger will be its on-track NASCAR brand in 2005. It replaces the Intrepid, which launched Dodge's 2001 return to NASCAR competition. The Charger, also scheduled to return to Dodge showrooms, packs quite a historical racing punch. It campaigned from 1966-1977, accumulating 124 total NASCAR wins (six in a winged Charger), and was the car of choice for three former premier-series champions. David Pearson drove a Charger during his 1966 title run. So did Bobby Isaac (1970) and Richard Petty (1972, 74, 75).

"Back then we didn't have specialty cars," Petty said. "The car was just good on everything. It didn't matter if it was a short track, superspeedway or road course. It was just a good overall car. This was a real universal car."

Terry Labonte's next move ... The two-time premier-series champion will announce his future plans during a media breakfast next Tuesday (Oct. 12) at Hendrick Motorsports' Museum in Concord, N.C. Also to be revealed? Plans for Labonte's current team, the No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet. The breakfast is from 9-11 a.m., and guests include HMS owner Rick Hendrick, plus participants from the Kellogg Company.

Joe Gibbs Racing teams with FedEx ... What, exactly, that partnership is will be announced next Wednesday at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. Billed as a announcement for the 2005 season, the event begins at noon and includes JGR and FedEx Corp. officials. Aside from Bobby Labonte's and Tony Stewart's (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams, JGR also fields two NASCAR Busch Series teams for drivers Mike Bliss (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) and J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet).

Andretti back behind the wheel ... Veteran driver John Andretti announced Tuesday that he's returning to NASCAR's premier series. Beginning with the Oct. 16 weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Andretti will drive for ppc Racing's new NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team. Sponsored by Victory Brand and APlus at Sunoco, the team will compete for the remainder of the 2004 season and the entire 2005 schedule. Andretti will drive the VB/APlus at Sunoco Ford -- No. 14, in honor of his godfather, racing legend A.J. Foyt -- and he hopes recent successful tests at Lowe's Motor Speedway are a good omen.

"We had a great test and we've got a small team put together right now and it's growing," Andretti said. "We're only a little more than 30 days old. We've got four race cars, been to a test, we're going to some races and we have a lot more testing in front of us."

The 41-year-old Andretti has two career premier-series wins. After parting ways with Petty Enterprises last June, he'd spent much of 2004 testing for Dale Earnhardt Inc., and making the occasional start for DEI. The owner of ppc Racing, Greg Pollex, has 11 years' experience as a NASCAR Busch Series team owner. During the past five seasons, Pollex's team has logged 27 wins, 150 top fives, 235 top 10's and finished in the top five in the NASCAR Busch Series standings for four consecutive years, including a 2000 championship (with driver Jeff Green).

Mark this Milestone ... Although well-established in NASCAR's premier series, Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) likely still appreciates the opportunity to reminisce. This weekend's Banquet 400 is one of those opportunities -- specifically, Waltrip's 600th career start. His first one came May 26 in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and since then, Waltrip has amassed five wins, including two Daytona 500s (2001 and 2003), one victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge (1996) and two poles (the 1991 spring Dover and Michigan events). He also has 35 top-five finishes and 115 top-10 finishes.

An Owensboro, Ky., native and brother of three-time former series champion Darrell Waltrip, Michael Waltrip says he's doing exactly what he's always wanted to do.

"With a lot of help from a lot of people and a never-quit attitude, I was able to start my Cup career," Waltrip said. "Since that point, it has been a fun ride. Winning is what it is all about. Being able to win several NASCAR Busch Series races and a couple of Daytona 500s has given me a sense of accomplishment and gives me the drive to continue being a winning race car driver."

Kyle Busch adds NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races ... Hendrick Motorsports will enter Kyle Busch in two additional NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event this season, according to Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick. Busch, who drives the No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series, will attempt to qualify the No. 84 CARQUEST Chevrolet for the Oct. 16 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event at Lowe's Motor Speedway and the Oct. 31 event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Those would be his fifth and sixth races, respectively, in NASCAR's premier series. Busch's next NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event is Sunday's Banquet 400 event at Kansas Speedway. A 19-year-old Las Vegas native and Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Busch Series, Busch currently ranks second in the NASCAR Busch Series standings with four poles, five wins, 12 top five and 18 top-10 finishes.

Bestwick back in action ... Allen Bestwick, NASCAR on NBC and TNT's play-by-play voice, will return to the booth at Kansas Speedway after missing last week's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The one-week absence wasn't Bestwick's choice; an avid hockey enthusiast, he suffered a broken left leg during a game last Wednesday night near his Coventry, R.I., home. The mishap required surgery on Thursday, and pre-race host and lead pit reporter Bill Weber filled in for Bestwick at Talladega, calling the race alongside analysts Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach.

NASCAR's Hunter to speak ... NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter will be a special guest speaker on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's annual convention, at the Greenbrier Resort in West Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Hunter's presentation is entitled "NASCAR: Tradition Minded, But Forward Thinking." Prior to working in the auto racing industry, Hunter was a longtime sportswriter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Chevrolet-Ford-Dodge in Manufacturers standings ... Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) win at Talladega gave Chevrolet its 16th victory of the season. Chevrolet also retains the lead in the Manufacturers Championship standings with 206 points, followed by Ford's 183 and Dodge's 162. Chevrolet has a series-high 16 victories while Ford has nine. Last year, Dodge drivers finished first, second and third at Kansas. They were Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Bill Elliott and Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), respectively.

CONTINGENCY CORNER ... This week is a homecoming of sorts for Goodyear Belts and Hoses, which manufactures the engine belts used by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams. Goodyear Belts and Hoses' headquarters is located in Lincoln, Neb., just three hours north of Kansas Speedway. The company sponsors the Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Award, which is worth $5,100 to the driver who posts a race's fastest lap. At season's end, Goodyear Belts and Hoses awards $75,000 to the driver who wins the most Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap Awards. ... The 2004 NASCAR Prize Money and Decal Program will celebrate another milestone in Kansas. This week's Banquet 400 will mark the program's year-to-date contribution of over $4 million to competitor prize money. The total 2004 NASCAR Prize Money and Decal Program contribution will top $6.3 million, the largest ever.


"Our intermediate track program has really come a long way as we've seen at tracks like Michigan, California and Chicago. We feel like we're taking our best car with us this weekend and it would be great to see the UPS Ford in Victory Lane." -- Dale Jarrett.

"We've been a factor in all the races at Kansas and think we can put the big numbers on the board in Sunday's race." -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge).

"Coming off of Talladega, where RCR was so strong, I'm looking forward to this weekend. Kevin [Harvick], Jeff [Burton], and I really packed some punch Sunday and I hope that carries on to this week and throughout the remainder of the season." -- Robby Gordon.


NASCAR's premier series got off to an exciting start in its inaugural Kansas appearance with the lead changing 19 times among 12 drivers in the first eight laps of the Protection One 400 (Sept. 30, 2001). Earlier, then-rookie Jason Leffler surprised everyone by putting his Dodge on the pole with a speed of 176.499 mph. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) sat on the outside pole. Leffler led the first eight laps and Gordon led five times for a total of 53 laps, including the last 22. His win -- by a margin of only .413 of a second over Ryan Newman -- was the 58th victory of his career.

Fast Facts

What: Banquet 400. (Race No. 30 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)

Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.
When: Sunday, Oct. 10, 2 p.m. (ET).

TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $5,696,382.

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

2003 winner: Ryan Newman.
2003 polesitter: Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 5,530. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,518. 3. Jeff Gordon 5,482. 4. Mark Martin 5,432. 5. Matt Kenseth 5,393. 6. Tony Stewart 5,391. 7. Ryan Newman 5,384. 8. Elliott Sadler 5,377. 9. Jimmie Johnson 5,371. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5,263.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Jeff Green , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , J.J. Yeley , Benny Parsons , Elliott Sadler , A.J. Foyt , Jim Hunter , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , David Pearson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing