* Taking a Stand: Dale Earnhardt Jr. looking to master a troublesome track * Teamwork: Roush Racing, Hendrick Motorsports all have Las Vegas momentum NEWS AND NOTES In the Loop ... Through two races, NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics ...
* Taking a Stand: Dale Earnhardt Jr. looking to master a troublesome track
* Teamwork: Roush Racing, Hendrick Motorsports all have Las Vegas momentum
NEWS AND NOTES
In the Loop ... Through two races, NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics support Jimmie Johnson's status as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings leader. Johnson leads the Driver Rating category with an average of 115.6 points -- a figure reached via formula that includes eight key categories. He also leads the Average Running Position category with a top average of 5.356. ... Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) leads the Closers category with a total of 28 positions gained during the final 10 percent of each race. ... Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) leads the Mile Leaders category with a total of 338.50 laps led. ... Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) leads the Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap category; he is the only driver to complete all 454 laps run thus far on the lead lap. ... More Loop Data statistics are available each week, providing in-depth analysis of each race, at www.nascarmedia.com.
Earnhardt Jr. Looking to Turn Las Vegas Tide ... Las Vegas Motor Speedway hasn't been kind to Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) in recent seasons and he says it's time to reverse that trend. Earnhardt has only two top-10 finishes in six races there, including a second place in 2003 and a 10th in 2000. But his last two visits to Nevada are what have stymied him -- a 37th-place finish last year and a 35th in 2004.
"I think we're on our way to getting back in the game," said Earnhardt, noting the team effort led by crew chief Tony Eury Jr. "Tony Jr. has been working real hard, and I'm working real hard to give him the best feedback I can possibly give. I know if we can get through this race, we'll be looking pretty good. We've won at eight of the next nine tracks on the schedule after Vegas."
Team Earnhardt will take Chassis No. 37, a car tested during NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas on Jan. 30-Feb. 1. During a media session that week, Earnhardt talked of a top-10 finish, or perhaps better, this Sunday.
"I think the test was good in that it gave us a solid platform to work off of," Earnhardt said. "We needed a good place to start. Everyone at the shop has worked so hard. I'm really proud of the progress we've made so far. It's obvious we've still got a lot of work to do, but we're making gains." Home Cooking: Kurt and Kyle Busch Back in Town ... As Las Vegas natives, Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) always relish the opportunity to compete before a hometown audience. They staged quite a battle in last year's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event, with Kyle finishing ahead of his older brother -- in second place behind winner Jimmie Johnson -- while Kurt finished third.
Kyle Busch eventually won 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. Kurt Busch finished ninth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. And the former once again leads the latter ahead of Sunday's UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400. Kyle Busch is in 12th place in the series standings; Kurt Busch is 25th. While Kyle Busch returns for his second season with Hendrick Motorsports, Kurt Busch is beginning his sixth season, this time with a new team -- Penske Racing South -- and as the successor to the retired Rusty Wallace.
Team Sport: Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Racing Excel at Vegas ... Sunday's event marks Mark Martin's final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event at Las Vegas -- he's retiring from the series following 2006 -- and he leads a Roush Racing lineup that has enjoyed considerable success there. Roush drivers have won five of the eight series events at Las Vegas, beginning with Martin's inaugural win in 1988 and followed by back-to-back wins by former Roush driver Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) in 1999 and 2000 and Matt Kenseth's wins in 2003 and '04.
"It's not really often over the years that I ever took a moment to let something soak in," Martin said, "but for some reason that win in 1998 really stood out. I realized that it wasn't just a win on some dirt track in Arkansas, but that we had just done something special and unlike a lot of the wins I put off thinking about the next race for a couple of minutes and just let it all soak in."
Three other drivers who have won at Las Vegas are Jimmie Johnson last season; Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Wiley X Eyewear Chevrolet) in 2002 and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in 2001. Hendrick Motorsports, which claims two Las Vegas wins with Johnson and Gordon, may challenge again on Sunday. Hendrick teammates Johnson, Kyle Busch and Gordon finished first, second and fourth, respectively, last season
Time to Deal: Jeff Gordon, Friends Play Poker for Charity ... The four-time series champion will turn cards for a good cause this Thursday as he hosts other NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers and poker greats in a fundraising tournament at Caesars Palace's Poker Room. The Jeff Gordon Foundation Poker Classic will feature Gordon, current series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Robby Gordon (No. 7 Jim Beam Chevrolet), professional bull-riding champion J.W. Hart and poker pros Chris Ferguson, Robert Williamson III and Steve Dannamann. The 2003 World Series of Poker champion, Chris Moneymaker, also will participate.
Buy-in players ($1,000 a buy-in) have an opportunity to compete against the stars, plus win the purse and a seat in the 2006 World Series of Poker, worth $10,000. The Jeff Gordon Foundation -- an official charity of the World Series of Poke -- is teaming with Harrah's on the tournament. Pit Crew Spotlight: ... Kurt and Kyle Busch may be the best-known Nevada natives currently in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage, but the Silver State has contributed other native sons. Jeff Seaberg, who drives the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge transporter for Kasey Kahne's Evernham Motorsports team, is a Las Vegas native. So is Ken Dixon, a tire specialist for Michael Waltrip's (No. 55 NAPA Chevrolet) Bill Davis Racing team.
Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers Standings ... After two races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule, Chevrolet leads the Manufacturers' Championship standings. Chevrolet has accumulated 15 points in the first two races, leading Ford (13 points) and Dodge (10 points) in competition for the manufacturers' title.
From the Archives: Recent History ... The 2005 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the most competitive of the eight NASCAR premier series events held at the 1-1/2 mile facility. A total of 12 drivers exchanged the front spot 25 times during the 2005 event with race winner Jimmie Johnson picking up the 10 point bonus for most laps led. Johnson went to the front five times for a total of 107 circuits to pick up his 15th career victory.
Las Vegas natives Kurt and Kyle Busch made headlines with Kyle, rookie teammate to race winner Johnson, finishing second for his personal best up to that time in his career. Older brother Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, finished third. According to the Busch brothers, it was the first time Kyle had beaten his older brother in competition.
On Deck: Atlanta Motor Speedway ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series moves next to Atlanta Motor Speedway on March. 19. ... Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) won last year's Golden Corral 500 while Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) claimed the Budweiser Pole. It was a memorable weekend for Edwards, who won his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series events on succeeding days. Fast Facts
Next race: UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 (Race No. 3 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season).
The track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The date/time: Sunday, March 12, 4:35 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 4 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $6,240,498
Race length: 400 miles, 267 laps
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval
2005 winner: Jimmie Johnson
2005 polesitter: Ryan Newman
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 355, 2. Casey Mears 316, 3. Matt Kenseth 308, 4. Kasey Kahne 295, 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 287, 6. Mark Martin 275, 7. Ryan Newman 273, 8. Clint Bowyer (r) 271, 9. Brian Vickers 260, 10. Elliott Sadler 259.
(r) Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.