* Kasey Kahne Looks To Add To Victory Total * Loop Data Shows Martinsville Tough For Chasers * Jeff Gordon Seeking That Martinsville Magic News And Notes: Kasey Kahne Adds To Victory Total Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) added ...
* Kasey Kahne Looks To Add To Victory Total
* Loop Data Shows Martinsville Tough For Chasers
* Jeff Gordon Seeking That Martinsville Magic
News And Notes: Kasey Kahne Adds To Victory Total
Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) added another victory to his 2006 resume, by claiming the Bank of America 500 last Saturday at Lowe's. With the win, Kahne completed a sweep of both races at Charlotte's 1.5-mile track.
Kahne's victory -- his series leading sixth of the season -- enabled him to move up a spot in the standings, from ninth to eighth. He is 160 points behind Burton and 58 points out of fifth place.
Kahne's six wins is the most for a Dodge driver since the 2003 season, when Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) was an eight-time winner. In just his third season at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series level, Kahne has seven career wins, 29 top fives, 38 top 10s and 11 poles. Kahne got off to a slow start in the Chase, finishing 16th (New Hampshire), 38th (caught up in an accident at Dover), and 33rd (at Kansas) in the first three races. He has responded over the past two weeks to finish second at Talladega and first at Lowe's.
Chase Shuffle -- While Burton continued to set the pace in the points race, there continued to be significant movement in the standings following Saturday's race at Lowe's. Eight of the drivers swapped positions, with Burton and Kenseth the only two to maintain their spots from the previous week. ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) had the biggest drop, falling three places from seventh to 10th. Half of the Chase field posted top 10 finishes at Lowe's and for the fourth time in the last five races a Chase driver was the race winner.
Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) is the only non-Chase driver to win a race during this year's Chase, getting the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway earlier this month.
Harvick Halfway There -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) clinched his second NASCAR Busch Series championship last Friday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Currently third in the Chase standings and 89 points behind Chase leader and teammate Jeff Burton, Harvick is attempting to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series titles in the same year.
Keys To Victory: Saving Your Equipment Key At Martinsville
Martinsville Speedway presents the prototype short-track challenges that drivers wrestle with and fans enjoy watching unfold.
The .526-mile oval features 12 degree banking in the corners. The frontstretch and backstretch are both 800 feet in length, with no banking.
Tony Stewart holds the qualifying record of 98.083 miles per hour, set on Oct. 21, 2005. Jeff Gordon holds the race record, averaging 82.223 mph on Sept. 22, 1996.
Save The Equipment -- The constant braking that the driver must do over 500 laps certainly puts stress on the car's brakes. Managing that wear and tear to a minimum is a key to success at Martinsville.
Don't Beat Yourself -- With a great deal of rubbing and bumping going on, it's important that the driver keep his car intact and not take himself out of the race early.
Track Position -- At a short track like Martinsville, it's imperative that the driver maintain good track position and avoid getting lost in the shuffle. It's easy to get lapped at Martinsville; it's difficult to make up that type of track position.
In The Loop: Martinsville Has Been Unkind To Some Chase Drivers
A look at the pre-race Loop Data shows that several of the Chase drivers have not fared well of late at Martinsville.
Seven of the 10 Chase drivers have a Driver Rating ranked outside the top 10, including points leader Jeff Burton, whose Driver Rating (83.5) is only 13th best among drivers. Driver Rating takes into account eight different statistical categories and is a good barometer to use when measuring overall race performance. Other Chasers with a Driver Rating outside the top 10 include Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) (85.9, 13th); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (82.6, 16th); Matt Kenseth (82.0, 17th); Kevin Harvick (81.3, 19th); Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) (78.0, 20th); and Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Chevrolet) (74.1, 22nd).
Burton's Average Running Position over the past three Martinsville races is just 19.103, which ranks only 21st best among drivers. Hamlin (22.168) is 26th in Average Running Position, while Kahne (17.705) is 20th, Martin (17.566) is 19th, Harvick (17.311) is 18th, Earnhardt (17.033) is 17th, and Kenseth (14.914) is 14th.
Tony Stewart has the best Driver Rating (136.3), with Chase Drivers Jeff Gordon (121.9) second, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) (106.8) fourth, and Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) (89.3) ninth all ranked among the top 10.
Jeff Gordon: Looking To Regain That Martinsville Magic
While Jeff Gordon has slipped all the way from third to 10th in the standings over the first half of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the four-time series champion is counting on rekindling the previous success he's had during his career at Martinsville Speedway.
Gordon leads all active drivers with seven victories at the Virginia short track. He swept both races in 2005 and a return visit to Victory Lane would give him a much needed shot in the arm. Gordon has experienced a series of misfortunes over the past several weeks, having posted three DNFs in the first five Chase events. Heading into Martinsville, he is 216 points out of first place and 110 points out of fifth. Gordon has 21 top-10 finishes in 27 races at Martinsville, where he has a 7.629 average finish, best among Chase drivers. He has finished first or second in five of his last seven races at Martinsville and has top-10 showings in his last seven races there. His Average Finishing Position of 1.3 at Martinsville over the past two seasons is highest among all series drivers.
Gordon also has claimed five poles at Martinsville, tops among active drivers. His most recent pole there came at the spring race of 2004.
Locked In: Sterling Marlin On The Bubble For Third Straight Week
With five races remaining in the 2006 season, several teams continue to jockey for position and get inside the top 35 in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series owner points.
Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Ginn Clubs & Resorts Chevrolet) continues to be a focal point again this weekend because his car owner, Bobby Ginn, is 35th in the current car owner point standings for the third consecutive week.
Any teams outside the top 35 will be forced to rely on qualifying speeds, to make the field, which includes Sunday's running of the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
At season's end, the top 35 in final owner points will be used to help set the field through the first five events of 2007 -- making it even more important for those teams near "the bubble" to do all they can to improve their position over the next five races.
Crew Member Spotlight: The 31 Team Has a Virginia Flavor
Jeff Burton's race team certainly has a Virginia flavor to it. Not only is the current points leader a native Virginian, calling South Boston his home, five other members of the 31 team are from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Curt Bowman is a mechanic from Meadows of Dan; Jeff Curtis is a team engineer from Fairfax; Greg Meredith works with gears and transmissions and is from Fancy Gap; Franky Nester is the transport driver and is from Ridgeway; and Gary Stoots sets up the pit box and works in the parts department and is from Thomasville.
In addition, Ward Burton, Jeff's older brother, will return to the race track this weekend and attempt to qualify for Sunday's race in the No. 4 Lucas Oil Chevrolet for Morgan-McClure Motorsports. Burton, the 2002 Daytona 500 winner, is an 11-year NASCAR veteran but has not competed in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race in nearly two years.
From The Archives
Martinsville Speedway is the last charter race track still on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule. There have been many changes to the .526-mile facility since it hosted its first NASCAR premier series event in 1949. That first race at the dirt-surfaced speedway covered 200 laps with 15 cars in the field. Today's races at Martinsville cover 500 laps with 43 cars competing. A crowd of 10,000 attended that first race, while an estimated 65,000 were in attendance at the race this past April. Red Byron won the initial race in 1949, pocketing $1,500 for the victory. Tony Stewart took home $220,786 in prize money for his win in April.
Rookie Report: Hamlin Maintains Lead Over Bowyer in Rookie Standings
Despite having to spend a good deal of the night in the garage watching his No. 11 FedEx Freight Chevrolet getting repaired, Denny Hamlin managed to maintain his comfortable lead over Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.
Hamlin finished 28th last Saturday at Lowe's, his lowest finish in the five Chase races. Hamlin, the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Chase, has 15 top-10 finishes on the year, the most among rookies. His two Martinsville starts include an eighth-place finish in this race last year and a 37th-place DNF in April.
Bowyer finished 23rd at Lowe's and trails Hamlin by 44 points (266-222). Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) is third with 193 points, while Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) is fourth with 191. J.J. Yeley (No. 19 Imitrex/GSK Chevrolet) is fifth at 180. David Stremme (No. 40 Lone Star Steakhouse Dodge) was the highest-finishing rookie last Saturday at Lowe's, recording a 15th- place finish.
Where In The World Is Ken Schrader?
Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) continues to be, arguably, the busiest auto racer in the country, finding time to race in a variety of disciplines in addition to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition.
This week, he'll be participating in the test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway Monday and Tuesday, before competing in the Subway 500 Sunday at Martinsville, where he will be making his 700th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start.
What Else To Look For Heading Into Martinsville
Loop Data II -- NASCAR's pre-race Driver Rating, a new statistical category that considers wins, Average Running Position, Average Speed, Fastest Laps, Laps Led, Lead-Lap Finishes and Top-15 Finishes, has proven to be a good barometer in forecasting a driver's performance. The top-rated pre-race driver has gone on to win seven events this year. In addition, the driver with the best pre-race Driver Rating has finished in the top five in 18 of the 31 races run thus far. With that in mind, two drivers to keep your eye on this Sunday at Martinsville would be Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, who rank 1-2 in pre-race Driver Rating.
Numbers Game -- Jimmie Johnson has posted eight straight top-10 finishes at Martinsville, the longest current streak ... Jeff Gordon has competed in 27 races at Martinsville without posting a DNF, more than any other driver ... Ryan Newman has a 4.0 starting average in nine races at Martinsville, best among active drivers. ... Five Chase drivers posted top-10 finishes in the spring race at Martinsville -- Gordon (second), Jimmie Johnson (third), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth), Kyle Busch (fifth), and Kevin Harvick (seventh). ...On the flip side, four Chase drivers finished 24th or worse at the Martinsville spring race, including Matt Kenseth (24th), Jeff Burton (33rd), Kasey Kahne (35th), and Denny Hamlin (37th) ... Gordon has led 2,041 laps at Martinsville, most among Chase drivers ... Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet) has recorded three straight top-10 finishes, including his first career win at Talladega two weeks ago ... Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) has posted three top-10 finishes in his last four races. Labonte finished fifth last week at Lowe's.
Manufacturers' Championship Update: Kahne's Victory Is Dodge's Seventh Of The Year
Kasey Kahne's win at Lowe's last Saturday, his series-leading sixth victory of the season, also marked the seventh time a Dodge has visited Victory Lane this year. Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway this past March.
And while Chevrolet clinched its 30th Manufacturers Championship in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup five weeks ago at New Hampshire International Speedway, Kahne's victory has increased Dodge's lead over Ford to six points (179-173) in the battle for second place in the Manufacturers' Championship standings.
Chevrolet leads the way with 19 wins on the season, followed by Dodge (seven) and Ford (five).
On Deck: Atlanta Motor Speedway Site Of Race Number Seven In The Chase
Atlanta Motor Speedway's 1.54-mile layout is the site of the seventh race in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
The Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 is set for Sunday, Oct. 29. Start time is 2:55 p.m. (ET), with NBC beginning its coverage at 2:30 p.m. (ET). Carl Edwards won last year's race, while Kasey Kahne won the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta this past March. Ryan Newman was last year's polesitter at this race.
The Race: Subway 500
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Oct. 22
The Time: 1 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBC, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: .526-mile oval
Race Distance: 500 laps (263 miles)
2005 Winner: Jeff Gordon
2005 Pole: Tony Stewart
Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 12:05-1:35 p.m. Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 11:05-11:50 a.m.