Loudon II: Round 27 preview

* The Chase Is On; Storylines Are Abundant * New Hampshire Site For Opening Chase Event * Owners' Championship Battle Lines Are Drawn Chase Field Set; Competition For 2007 Title Should Be Fierce DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2007) -- The...

* The Chase Is On; Storylines Are Abundant
* New Hampshire Site For Opening Chase Event
* Owners' Championship Battle Lines Are Drawn

Chase Field Set; Competition For 2007 Title Should Be Fierce

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2007) -- The field is set. The stakes are high. Ten races; 12 drivers competing for one prize: The 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship.

This year's lineup for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup could very well deliver the most wide open and competitive championship race in recent memory. Consider these top-line stories:

* Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) is the top seed in the Chase with 5,060 points. Johnson's season-best sixth win came last Saturday night at Richmond and was also his second straight victory. Johnson took advantage of the revision to the Chase format with the additional emphasis on winning over the first 26 races, racking up 60 bonus points, or 10 points per win. Johnson attempts to become the first driver since Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet - 1997-98) to repeat as series champion.

* Gordon, the second seed in the Chase, seeks his fifth series championship. Only Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt (both with seven) have won more series championships than Gordon. In a season that has seen him as a poster boy for consistency with four wins, 15 top fives, and 21 top 10s, Gordon led the point standings for 22 straight weeks this year. He is scheduled to start his 500th consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday at New Hampshire, the longest active streak on the circuit. Gordon's first career start came in the 1992 series finale at Atlanta (Richard Petty's final race) and he hasn't missed a race since.

* Four of the top-five seeds have won series championships, including Gordon (1995, '97-98, 2001); Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet -- 2002, 05); Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge -- 2004); and Johnson (2006). Stewart and Kurt Busch both return to the Chase field following a year's absence in 2006.

* There are two first-year participants in the Chase -- Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet). Truex won his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race earlier this year at Dover and his performance (one win, five top fives, 10 top 10s) has overshadowed that of his more recognizable DEI teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), who is 13th in points and did not qualify for this year's Chase. Bowyer is the lone Chase participant without a victory on the season, but he has been in the top 12 for 22 straight weeks and is the only Chase driver without a DNF through the first 26 races.

#@New Hampshire Site Of Opening Chase Race

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to New Hampshire International Speedway for the second time this season and the 1.058-mile oval is the first of 10 races in the Chase to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

* Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) is the defending race champion. Harvick, who has 11 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories, won the 2007 Daytona 500 and the 2007 NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Chevrolet) won at New Hampshire back in June to post his third career victory and his lone victory thus far in 2007. Hamlin's average finish at New Hampshire is a stellar 3.7.

* Kurt Busch won the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire in 2004 and used that victory as a springboard to garner that season's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship. Busch swept both of the New Hampshire races that year.

* Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) are the only two drivers that have qualified for the Chase all four years. Johnson won the 2006 title. Kenseth is a former series champion (2003) and his best finish in the Chase format is second in 2006.

* Johnson has been in the top 12 for 24 straight weeks this season, while Gordon has led 17 races on the year, most of any driver.

* Tony Stewart won three races in the Chase last year, despite not being in the Chase field. The 2002 and 2005 series champion posted Chase wins at Kansas, Atlanta and Texas a year ago.

* Johnson and Stewart have led the most laps on the year -- 863 of a possible 6,999 laps.

* Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fenway Sports Group Ford) is back in the Chase after missing it last year. Edwards has come on strong the second half of this season, winning at Michigan (June 17) and Bristol (Aug. 25). Edwards' best finish in the series championship is third in 2005.

* Eight of the 12 Chase drivers have won at New Hampshire and seven of the top 12 are in the top 10 of the Driver Rating standings at New Hampshire.

* Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) leads all active drivers with four wins at New Hampshire. Currently the #10 seed in the Chase, Burton has one victory (Texas), seven top fives, and 12 top 10s in 2007.

* The Car of Tomorrow, NASCAR's new race car that features improved safety systems, has shown to deliver a competitive level of performance, and has provided teams with the opportunity to run the same chassis at multiple tracks, will race for the 12th time this Sunday at New Hampshire. The new car will race at a total of 16 events on the season; including five of the 10 Chase races (New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega, Martinsville, and Phoenix) before running the entire NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule beginning next year.

* Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet) is in the Chase for the second straight year. Kyle has performed well at New Hampshire, with one win and two top fives.

* Stewart is a two-time winner at New Hampshire, to go along with his nine top fives and 10 top 10s.

Owners' Championship Heats Up This Week At New Hampshire

While the majority of the attention is directed towards the 12 drivers that are competing in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, there is an owners' championship at stake over the next 10 weeks, as well.

Just as with the drivers, the top 12 owners had their points reset to 5,000 and 10 bonus points added for each victory. Jeff Gordon, owner of the No. 48 Chevrolet, sits atop the leader board with 5,060 points. The rest of the top 12 consists of Rick Hendrick (No. 24 Chevrolet, 5,040 points); Joe Gibbs (No. 20 Chevrolet, 5,030 points); Georgetta Roush (No. 99 Ford, 5,020 points); Roger Penske (No. 2 Dodge, 5,020 points); J.D. Gibbs (No. 11 Chevrolet, 5,010 points); Teresa Earnhardt (No. 1 Chevrolet, 5,010 points); John Henry (No. 17 Ford, 5,010 points); Rick Hendrick (No. 5 Chevrolet, 5,010 points); Richard Childress (No. 31 Chevrolet, 5,010 points); Richard Childress (No. 29 Chevrolet, 5,010 points); and Richard Childress (No. 07 Chevrolet, 5,000 points).

Johnny Sauter's (No. 70 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) career-best fifth-place finish last Saturday at Richmond, allowed that team to move up a notch from 34th to 33rd, while Kyle Petty's No. 45 Victory Junction Gang Camp Dodge slipped from 33rd to 34th following the Richmond race.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Johnny Sauter , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Roger Penske , Kyle Busch