NEWS OF NOTE * Five to go... Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac), by virtue of his third-place finish last week at Charlotte, padded his NASCAR Winston Cup championship lead, but still is involved in the closest race among the top five with...
NEWS OF NOTE
* Five to go... Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac), by virtue of his third-place finish last week at Charlotte, padded his NASCAR Winston Cup championship lead, but still is involved in the closest race among the top five with five races left (under the current points system established in 1975). The top five are separated by 182 points and Stewart's closest pursuer is rookie Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), 97 back.
<pre> Closest points battles between 1st and 5th with 5 races remaining (since 1975):
Year Point Leader Points Margin between 1st & 5th 2002 Tony Stewart 182 1980 Dale Earnhardt * 185 1984 Terry Labonte * 247 1992 Bill Elliott 283 1985 Bill Elliott 335 *-denotes eventual champion
</pre> * TV timeout... In the ratings released by Nielsen Media Research for the weekend of Oct. 12-13, the rain-delayed NASCAR Winston Cup Series race held last Sunday at Lowe's Motor Speedway earned a solid 5.0 national rating (10 share, 5,328,000 households) on NBC, NASCAR's highest rating ever against NFL football. The 5.0 rating carries added significance as the race also faced 2½ hours of head-to-head competition from the deciding game of baseball's American League Championship Series between Anaheim and Minnesota. The previous high against the NFL was two weeks ago at Talladega (4.8/11). The Charlotte race, delayed three hours, enjoyed a 130% increase over last year's event, which was broadcast on TNT.... In the final ratings from Nielsen for the weekend of Oct. 5-6, the NASCAR Winston Cup race at Talladega on NBC drew 7,547,000 viewers, 259% more than CART's Miami street race televised the same day on CBS.
* Bliss-ful event... Mike Bliss, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship leader, will replace Jamie McMurray in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge for the Old Dominion 500. McMurray, the fastest race winner in the modern-era by winning at Charlotte last week in just his second career start, will be competing in the NASCAR Busch Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park in the No. 27 Williams TravelCenters Chevrolet for owner Tammy Brewer. McMurray is ninth in the NASCAR Busch Series championship. Bliss, who holds an 85-point lead with three races remaining, will attempt his first NASCAR Winston Cup start of the season and 30th of his career.
* DJ is warming up in the bullpen... If a Major League Baseball team has aspirations going to the World Series next year, they may want to call on the services of Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) as a good-luck charm. The San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angels were the two teams to schedule cross-promotions with Jarrett this season and they will square off in the World Series. And it was not like Jarrett had two teams heavily favored to make the Fall Classic. Both were wild-card playoff teams. The Angels had never participated in the World Series and the Giants had not been in the series since 1989. He met with the Angels first as he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Edison Field during the April race weekend at California Speedway. A rain delay during qualifying did not allow him to make it to the park in time, but the Angels went on with the promotion, which included the No. 88 show car, and Jarrett made up for his absence by hosting pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Al Levine at the race track. Jarrett gave them a pace-car ride, a tour of his hauler and car as well as UPS leather racing jackets. As for the Giants, Jarrett took batting practice with the team during the June race week at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Several Angels, including Washburn and Levine, are planning to visit again at the NASCAR Winston Cup race at Phoenix.
* Etc.... Hideo Fukuyama (No. 66 World Berries Ford), who became the first Japanese driver in history to compete in a NASCAR Winston Cup race when he finished 39th at Dover in September, looks to make his second career start this weekend. Fukuyama is a two-time All-Japan GT series champion.... The NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus will be worth a record $270,000 to the driver who wins Sunday's Old Dominion 500 and emerges as the series points leader following the race. The bonus, which rolls over in $10,000 increments, has been won twice this season, both by Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge). He won $30,000 at Las Vegas and $20,000 at the first Darlington race.... Ricky Craven (No. 32 Tide Ford) earned his first career NASCAR Winston Cup win in last year's Old Dominion 500.... The last driver to win the Old Dominion 500 from the pole was Ernie Irvan in 1993. ... There have been 10 different race winners in the last 10 races at Martinsville.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) leads active drivers with six victories, including a sweep in 1994. Two of his six wins have come in the Old Dominion 500 (1986,' 94), but his last came in the Goody's 500 in 1996.
* Jeff Burton (No. 99 CITGO SUPERGARD Ford) has posted four top-five finishes in his last five starts in the Old Dominion 500. He started the run with a win in 1997 and then finished fifth in' 98, third in 2000 and fifth last season. His other finish was ninth, in 1999. He also finished ninth earlier this season in the spring event.
* Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac) won the Virginia 500 in the spring and is looking to become the ninth driver to sweep the Martinsville races in the same season. The last driver to accomplish the feat was Wallace in 1994.
WHAT'S THE WORD?
* "I want a clock. You get a big old Grandfather Clock as a gift and trophy for winning. They've been doing it forever. I have some cool trophies-- my Busch (Series) Trophy from the Texas race in 2001 was a pair of boots all done up in trophy form. I got the Goodyear silver car for the Busch championship and this big crystal vase for the IROC (International Race of Champions) championship. The clock would just be awesome. That's my goal this Sunday, I want the clock." -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
* Richard Petty had an incredible stretch at Martinsville Speedway from 1967-73, winning 10 of 14 races including season sweeps in 1967,' 69 and' 72. The only competitors able to overtake"The King" during that tear were Cale Yarborough (1968), Bobby Isaac ('70-71) and David Pearson ('73).
Old Dominion 500 (NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Race 32 of 36).
Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
12:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 20.
TV: NBC (beginning at noon ET).
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday-- Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.; qualifying, 3:05 p.m.; Saturday-- Practice, 11:15 a.m.-noon; 12:45-1:30 p.m.