* Chase Standings Jumbled As Teams Head To Kansas * Bowyer, Edwards Hope For A "Hometown" Win * Montoya Rallies Back In Rookie Battle Tight At the Top: No Error Room For Chase Leaders At Kansas DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2007) -- Two races...
* Chase Standings Jumbled As Teams Head To Kansas
* Bowyer, Edwards Hope For A "Hometown" Win
* Montoya Rallies Back In Rookie Battle
Tight At the Top: No Error Room For Chase Leaders At Kansas
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2007) -- Two races into the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, and drama appears unceasing.
Expect another dose as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway and Sunday's LifeLock 400 -- the third Chase event.
Snarled standings set the stage: Miniscule margins -- a total of four points -- separate the top three drivers. Ten points divide the top four and only 18 separate the top-five drivers.
The log jam continues down to seventh, where only 46 points separate seventh-place Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) from leader Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet).
The impact? All 12 eligible Chase participants remain a title threat.
One important development: Last Sunday's winner at Dover International Speedway -- Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) -- was penalized 25 points Tuesday for his car being too low in the right rear during post-race inspection.
The penalty drops Edwards from third place in the Chase to sixth, 28 points behind Gordon.
Only two points separate Gordon -- at the top -- from two-time series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), who's second.
Third-place and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) trails Gordon by four points.
The 10-point gap between first and fourth is the closest such margin -- after two events -- in the Chase's four-year history.
The top four were separated by 18 points following the first two Chase events last year. That margin was 21 points in '05 and 57 points in '04.
Going For Two: Stewart Chasing Second Consecutive Kansas Victory
The defending champion of Sunday's LifeLock 400 seeks to become the second driver with consecutive victories at Kansas Speedway, a still-youthful 1.5-mile track that debuted in 2001.
Tony Stewart didn't qualify for the '06 Chase; he finished 11th in the final series standings. But his first victory at Kansas last September also was the first of three in 10 Chase events. It also came dramatically -- coasting to the checkered flag on fumes.
Jeff Gordon is the only driver with multiple Kansas wins ('01 and '02). Stewart leads one significant pre-race NASCAR Loop Data statistic for Kansas -- Average Running Position (5.697).
Chase Notebook: Expect Kansas To Play Role In Title Drama
With two races complete and eight remaining, the '07 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is living up to its moniker. Excitement and shifting fortunes were the rule at New Hampshire International Speedway two weeks ago, with first-time Chase participant Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) winning his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event in this season's Chase opener.
Fast-forward to last Sunday's event at Dover International Speedway, where all 12 Chase-eligible participants switched positions.
This week at Kansas Speedway? Stay tuned for more ups and downs.
The 1.5-mile oval just west of suburban Kansas City has contributed to several championship battles despite its youth (the track hosts its seventh series event on Sunday).
In '01, then-standings leader Jeff Gordon won the first series event at Kansas, regaining 10 points he'd lost the previous week. He departed with a 222-point lead over then-second-place Ricky Rudd, the closest anyone got until he clinched his fourth series crown two months later.
In '02, then-standings leader Sterling Marlin saw his title hopes derailed by an accident that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
In '03, then-standings leader Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) finished 36th due to engine problems, allowing then-second-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) to creep within 259 points.
Other notes of interest:
* Jeff Gordon regained the standings lead from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson following last week's event at Dover.
* Johnson has the best pre-race Driver Rating (118.0) at Kansas, according to NASCAR's Loop Data statistics.
* Three Chase drivers fell three standings spots post-Dover -- Johnson (to fourth), Kenseth to 10th and Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Chevrolet) to 12th.
Kansas City, Here They Come: Midwest Natives Bowyer And Edwards Head For "Home" Track
Sunday's LifeLock 400 at Kansas Speedway comes at a perfect time for two '07 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup participants.
Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards won the first two Chase events at New Hampshire and Dover, respectively, and now head for the third event at a track they call "home."
Both are Midwest natives who cut their racing teeth on regional dirt and short tracks.
Bowyer hails from Emporia, Kan., approximately 90 minutes south. Edwards is a Columbia, Mo., native who still spends time there, approximately three hours east.
Neither driver has won a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup or NASCAR Busch Series event at Kansas.
"It would be so cool to be able to celebrate a victory with everybody who has helped me and supported me during my career," Bowyer said. "I've got so many family and friends who will be there and then there's everyone who I used to race with. It's just everything that goes along with racing an hour-and-a-half away from where I grew up."
"I don't think there could be a bigger win on the Cup schedule," said Edwards of the possibility of a win Sunday. "The Daytona 500 would be spectacular and the Brickyard 400 would be as well, but to win that close to home at Kansas would be just as big."
Edwards got a taste, last year, finishing sixth behind '06 winner Tony Stewart and leading once for seven laps.
"We were racing right there with him," Edwards said of the finish. "He stayed out, we stopped for fuel and he rolled across the finish line, won the race. One of the biggest disappointments in my career was realizing that we could have maybe won that race too."
Bowyer also excelled, finishing ninth and leading three times for 43 laps.
Of the two, Edwards leads in the home-track milestone department: He won the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Kansas.
"Hit the wall on the first lap and pretty much destroyed the right side of the truck," Edwards said. "I still have the right-side suspension pieces that were bent and we ended up winning that race. That was just unreal. That was probably the coolest drive home I've ever had from a racetrack."
Rookie Battle: Montoya Gains Two Points, Leads Ragan By 15
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) held his ground in the Rookie of the Year race following last week's event at Dover. Second-place rookie candidate David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford) had crept to within 13 points of the leader.
But Montoya's 10th-place Dover finish -- his first top 10 since late July -- helped him regain two points. He leads Ragan by 15 heading to Kansas.
Rookie points are calculated based on a rookie driver's finish compared to other rookies. The highest finishing rookie gets 10 points, second finishing rookie gets nine points, etc.
Each driver's top-17 races count towards the Rookie of the Year standings.