*Nothing Beats a Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks to build off of Chicagoland triumph *Going Up: After a sluggish start, Matt Kenseth trying to compete for 'Chase' bid *History lesson: Jeff Burton leads all drivers at New Hampshire NEWS AND ...
*Nothing Beats a Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks to build off of Chicagoland triumph
*Going Up: After a sluggish start, Matt Kenseth trying to compete for 'Chase' bid
*History lesson: Jeff Burton leads all drivers at New Hampshire
NEWS AND NOTES
On The NASCAR Bubble: 10th Place Belongs to Busch ... With eight races remaining in the "Race for the Chase," the spotlight is on 10th place, and the "bubble" of drivers battling for that spot, or to remain within 400 points of the leader. Kurt Busch is this week's 10th-place driver. He dropped one position after finishing eighth last week at Chicago. Busch has spent four consecutive weeks, and 17 total weeks, in the top 10 this season. Heading into the New England 300, only 126 points separate drivers in positions 11-15 from Busch.
Here's a look at the drivers on the cusp of 10th place, or on the "bubble:"
* Dale Jarrett is 11th in the point standings, just 33 points behind Busch and 409 points behind standings leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet).
* Carl Edwards (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford) is 12th, just 99 points behind Busch and 33 points behind Jarrett.
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) is 13th, just 115 points behind Busch and 16 points behind Edwards.
* Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) is 14th, just 120 points behind Busch and 5 points behind Earnhardt Jr.
* Jeff Gordon is 15th, just 126 points behind Busch and 6 points behind Harvick.
Earnhardt Jr. Back on Track ... After enduring an off-season team swap that left more questions than answers, the No. 8 Budweiser team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been struggling in their quest to make the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup". A crew chief change before the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway did little to change the immediate fortunes. But after two consecutive top-five finishes at Daytona International Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. again is a factor in the "Race for the Chase".
"I've been saying it over and over - we have to focus on running well before we worry about points or the Chase," Earnhardt Jr. said.
While Sunday's win at Chicagoland moved Earnhardt Jr. up three spots to 13th in the point standings (and only 115 points behind 10th place Kurt Busch), it had greater impact on the team.
"The satisfaction for Sunday's win is in the face of my team. I've won races, and I want to win a whole lot more. But to see what they felt Sunday, it means more to me than taking the trophy home and setting it on the mantle. It's awesome to give it to those guys, and I'm glad I'm a part of it," Earnhardt Jr. said.
Kenseth Climbing Each Week ... The 2005 season hasn't exactly gone according to plan for former series champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford). He began his season with a blown engine in the Daytona 500, which left him in 42nd place and facing an uphill battle. It was the first time since Kenseth finished 20th in the 2003 Daytona 500 that he was not among the top-10 drivers -- a span of 71 races.
After the first 12 races this year, Kenseth had three DNF's (did not finish) and only one top 10. He sat 23rd in the point standings, 598 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 292 points behind 10th place Kurt Busch.
Since then, Kenseth has caught fire, scoring four top-ten finishes in the past six races, including two top fives. He has jumped to 16th in the standings and cut Busch's advantage to 206 points.
"I am happy about the progress we've made over the past several weeks," Kenseth said. "We're gaining on the top 10 on our way to working ourselves back into the Chase. I know we have the equipment and the personnel to get it done, and right now it seems like it's all coming together."
Kenseth looks to continue his climb this weekend at New Hampshire, where he has six top-10 and four top-five finishes in 10 career starts.
Diversity Developmental Program Drivers Deliver Results ... Drive for Diversity driver Allison Duncan won the Western Late Model event at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. on Saturday night. Duncan, in her second year in the Drive for Diversity program, drives for the Bill McAnally Racing/Richard Childress Racing driver development program. The win was Duncan's second win of the season in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. She is currently third in the track's point standings.
Erin Crocker earned her second pole of the season in just her third start in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Kentucky Speedway on Friday. She finished second in the race, her highest finish of the season. Crocker, who is a developmental driver for Evernham Motorsports, is expected to make her NASCAR Busch Series debut later this season.
Chevrolet Extends Lead Over Ford In Manufacturers Standings ... After 18 races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Chevrolet got its ninth victory of 2005 last Sunday thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win at Chicago. The win extended Chevrolet's lead in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings to nine points (133-124) over Ford, which has eight wins. Dodge is third with one win and 85 points. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned in this fashion: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series leader. Greg Biffle, in second place, is the top Ford driver. Rusty Wallace is the leading Dodge driver, fourth in the points.
Milestone Markers ... Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) should make his 625th career start at New Hampshire International Speedway this weekend. Waltrip is currently 16th on the all-time starts list, 11 starts behind Buck Baker. He is sixth among active drivers behind Ricky Rudd (857 starts), Kyle Petty (731), Rusty Wallace (688), Sterling Marlin (658) and Ken Schrader (650).
On the Right Track
* The two New Hampshire races have been swept each of the last two years. Kurt Busch swept both races last season and Jimmie Johnson swept both races in 2003.
* Dale Jarrett has scored 14 top-10 finishes in his 20 races at New Hampshire, the most of any driver.
* Jack Roush, of Roush Racing, leads all owners with six wins at New Hampshire.
* Jeff Gordon is the only driver who has led 13 of the 20 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at New Hampshire. He led the most laps in six of those races.
From the Archives: Burton Claims First of Four Track Victories ... In 1997, Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), who now drives for Richard Childress Racing, was in his second season driving for Roush Racing. Burton came into the first New Hampshire event of the season with one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win and seven top-five finishes.
Ken Schrader put Andy Petree's Chevrolet on the pole for the Jiffy Lube 300 with a new track record of 127.423 mph. Burton started 15th alongside Geoffrey Bodine and just ahead of Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin. Burton moved steadily to the front, taking the lead on Lap 174 in an event which saw eight different drivers lead the pack.
Burton took the lead for the final time on Lap 292 of the 300-lap event and held it to win by a margin of 5.3 seconds over Dale Earnhardt. The race was slowed only twice by caution flags for a total of 10 laps as Burton posted a new event speed record of 117.134 mph, which still stands.
Jeff Burton won three more times at New Hampshire to lead all drivers with four wins there.
On Deck: Pocono Raceway ... Race No. 20 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, July 24 -- the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. Pocono, a 2.5-mile triangular-shaped track, has been part of the schedule since 1974 when the race winner was Richard Petty. ... Jimmie Johnson is defending champion. Casey Mears was last year's polesitter. Carl Edwards won the Pocono 500 on June 12 earlier this season.
The race: New England 300 (Race No. 19 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H. (1.058-mile oval.)
The date/time: Sunday, July 17, 2:10 p.m. (ET).
TV: TNT, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,148,147.
Race length: 300 laps, 317 miles.
Track layout: 1.058-mile oval.
2004 winner: Kurt Busch.
2004 polesitter: Ryan Newman.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,548. 2. Greg Biffle 2,440. 3. Tony Stewart 2,397. 4. Rusty Wallace 2,300. 5. Elliott Sadler 2,230. 6. Mark Martin 2,202. 7. Ryan Newman 2,196. 8. Jamie McMurray 2,190. 9. Jeremy Mayfield 2,179. 10. Kurt Busch 2,172.