Jeff Gordon Seeking Fourth New Hampshire Victory and a Spot in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" NEWS AND NOTES Jeff Gordon on a Roll ... After missing out on the Chase in 2005, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has made it clear he...
Jeff Gordon Seeking Fourth New Hampshire Victory and a Spot in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup"
NEWS AND NOTES
Jeff Gordon on a Roll ... After missing out on the Chase in 2005, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has made it clear he wants back in. He's won two races in the past three weeks and the four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion has one of the best records at New Hampshire: his three victories there are second only to Jeff Burton's four. Both of these veteran drivers are riding high after finishing 1-2 at Chicagoland and combined, they've won nearly a third of the 22 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races run at New Hampshire. Gordon leads all drivers in two statistical categories at New Hampshire: he's led 1,069 laps and has nine top-five finishes there. He's also won three Budweiser Poles, tying him with Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) for that New Hampshire record. Gordon also has the best Average Running Position as recorded in NASCAR's Loop Data statistics, with an average position of 10.620 in the first 18 races. This means Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet has been, on average, running just outside the 10th position during each race.
"In The Loop" -- Strong Early Runs Bode Well for Top 10 ... NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics -- derived from electronic scoring loops imbedded around race tracks -- provide a wide variety of information that can demonstrate exactly how, when, and where a driver won the race. In the season-to-date statistics, one key statistic also shows a common trait among the current top 10 drivers in the Race to the Chase. A "run" is the period of racing between pit stops. Exact distances vary, but teams use this period to assess the performance of their cars and decide if any adjustments are needed on their next stop.
The Fastest Drivers Early in a Run Loop Data category ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps after a pit stop. Some drivers set up their cars to run faster in this period, on new tires and full of fuel, while others get faster later, as the run goes on. Different drivers may prefer different strategies, but the top 10 all have one thing in common: their cars are fastest early in a run, just after they've pitted. The top 10 drivers are all ranked in the top 13 of this Loop Data category. Translation? If you're racing for the championship, it's better to be fast early.
The Battle for 10th ... With eight races remaining in the Race to the Chase, several drivers are fighting for a position in the top 10, or to get within 400 points of the leader, which would qualify them to compete for the series championship over the final 10 races. Jeff Gordon took over the 10th position with his victory at Chicagoland and trails points leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) by 432 points. Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford) is ranked 11th and trails Gordon by 47 points. Based on recent results, Biffle's chances to gain on Gordon look good. He finished both New Hampshire races in the top five last season.
First-Timers and Repeat Chasers ... In addition to Burton and Harvick, Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) are in the top 10 and seeking their first chances to compete in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Four of the current top 10 positions, meanwhile, are occupied by drivers who have competed in both previous editions of the Chase in 2004 and 2005. If Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) and Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) remain in the top 10 for the next eight weeks, they will qualify for the Chase for a third consecutive year.
Role Reversal: Modified Star Christopher Enters NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Field; Stewart and Edwards to Race Modifieds ... Connecticut's Ted Christopher (No. 61 Peak Performance Dodge), a star on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and one of the best-known short track racers in the nation, will attempt to qualify for his sixth career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race this weekend at New Hampshire. Christopher has swept the last four Whelen Modified Tour races at NHIS and also has won five NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series events there. While Christopher tries his hand at NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) will in turn challenge Christopher on his home turf -- both are scheduled to compete in the Whelen Modified Tour race on Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire.
Pit Crew Spotlight: New England a Hotbed for Crew Chiefs ... New Hampshire International Speedway is a home visit for many NASCAR NEXTEL Cup crew members. Crew chief Frank Stoddard, of North Haverhill, N.H., led Jeff Burton to three of his four NHIS victories when they were together at Roush Racing. While Stoddard's current team won't be at NHIS this weekend, several others will race close to home this week. Some of the notable names from New England are crew chiefs Paul Andrews (No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge) of Bangor, Maine, Kevin "Bono" Manion (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) of Boylston, Mass., Richard "Slugger" Labbe (No. 88 UPS Ford) of Saco, Maine, Steve Letarte (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) of Portland, Maine, Gary Putnam (No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet) of Hartford, Conn. and reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion crew chief Greg Zipadelli (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) of Berlin, Conn.
Some Boston-area natives working as NASCAR NEXTEL Cup pit crew members are Jim Mazza, of Upton, Mass., who works as a chassis setup and catch can man for the No. 4 Aero Exhaust Chevrolet; and D.J. Richardson, of Leominster, Mass., who is a front tire changer on the No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet.
Setting the Field: Top 35 in 2006 Owner Points "Locked In" ... Each week, teams ranked in the top 35 of the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car owner point standings are guaranteed starting positions, creating a "bubble" between the top 35 and those teams outside of 35th, trying to reach that position. There are no overall changes to the top 35 in the owner points this week -- the same 35 teams are still locked-in to the field. A few teams have given themselves a little breathing room by moving up a few positions, while a few others find themselves sliding downwards. Bill Davis' No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge team improved three positions in the car owner standings, thanks to Dave Blaney's 17th-place finish at Chicagoland. The No. 21 Little Debbie Ford team of Glen Wood, however, dropped to 34th in the standings.
Chevrolet Maintains Manufacturers' Lead ... Jeff Gordon's Chicagoland victory was another feather in Chevrolet's cap, as the manufacturer picked up its 10th victory of the season. As a result, Chevrolet added to its lead in the manufacturers' championship standings. While Chevrolet, which won the 2005 manufacturers' title, continues its stronghold on the standings, the series' other two brands fight a close battle for second place. Dodge is ranked second in the standings with 107 points while Ford is very close behind with 103 points.
Raybestos Rookie Update ... Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) was the top-finishing rookie at Chicagoland, marking the fourth time this season he's been the best finisher of the rookie class. Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Chevrolet) and Clint Bowyer remain 1-2 in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings. This year's rookie drivers have made their presence known, in the winner's circle and on the track. According to NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics, they've also passed more often than their peers have been able to pass them. In the category of Consecutive Passes Without Being Passed, rookies Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) and David Stremme (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) are ranked 1-2-3.
Where In The World Is Ken Schrader? ... If it has gas, four tires and faces a green flag, Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) will drive it. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' oldest -- and arguably the busiest -- competitor just can't resist racing, driving in a variety of series each season, despite the inherent demands of NASCAR's top series.
The chart below illustrates Schrader's schedule thus far. Prior to competing in Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 300, Schrader is keeping up his hectic short track schedule. Schrader is scheduled to race in Farmington, Mo. on Wednesday before departing for New England, where he'll race in short track events in Barre, Vt. on Thursday night and also in Wiscasset, Maine on Friday. No word on whether he'll join Stewart and Edwards in Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event...
Schrader's 2006 race totals to date
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- 18
NASCAR Busch Series -- 6
Budweiser Shootout -- 1
Copper World -- 2
Short track (dirt, late-model, etc.) -- 30
Etc. ... Mark Martin is expected to make his 600th consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start at New Hampshire. Martin won the Budweiser Pole for the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race held at New Hampshire in July of 1993. ... Matt Kenseth has not finished outside the top 10 at New Hampshire since July 2002. ... In eight New Hampshire starts, Ryan Newman has five top-five finishes, including two victories. Newman has led 499 laps there and is the only driver that has led in every race that he has competed in at New Hampshire.
From The Archives: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Returns to New England in '93 ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series made its first appearance at New Hampshire International Speedway in 1993. The July 11 event was the first time the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series had appeared in New England since Bobby Isaac won an event at Thompson, Conn. on July 9, 1970. A field of 40 cars took the green flag at New Hampshire behind pole winner Mark Martin. Rusty Wallace, coming from 33rd starting position, made his way to the front of the pack by Lap 168 and led the field for the following 76 laps. Wallace gained the lead again on Lap 271 and held on for the remainder of the race for his 26th career victory.
On Deck: Pocono Raceway ... The Race to the Chase continues July 23 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. The Pennsylvania 500 will be televised on TNT beginning at 1:30 EDT. Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) is the defending race winner while Jamie McMurray (No. 26 LENOX Industrial Tools Ford) won the Bud Pole for last year's Pennsylvania 500.
The race: LENOX Industrial Tools 300 (Race No. 19 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season)
The place: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
The date/time: Sunday, July 16, 2:10 p.m. (EDT)
TV: TNT (1:30 p.m., EDT)
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $5,204,946
Race length: 300 laps, 317.4 miles
Track layout: 1.058-mile oval
2005 winner: Tony Stewart
2005 polesitter: Brian Vickers
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,651, 2. Matt Kenseth 2,600, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,394, 4. Jeff Burton 2,327, 5. Kasey Kahne 2,303, 6. Mark Martin 2,291, 7. Tony Stewart 2,274, 8. Kyle Busch 2,265, 9. Kevin Harvick 2,253, 10. Jeff Gordon 2,219.
Practice/Qualifying Schedule: Friday - Practice 11:35 a.m. to 1:05 p.m.; Qualifying 3:10 p.m. Saturday - Practice 8:40 to 9:40 a.m. and 10:05 to 10:50 a.m.