Michigan II: News and notes

Charting the NASCAR Top 10: Harvick's top five makes him No. 5 ... The top four drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 driver championship point standings left Watkins Glen International without any changes to their positions, including Kenseth, who...

Charting the NASCAR Top 10: Harvick's top five makes him No. 5 ... The top four drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 driver championship point standings left Watkins Glen International without any changes to their positions, including Kenseth, who maintains his No. 1 ranking for the 19th consecutive week. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) earned a fifth-place finish at the 3.94 km road course and advanced to fifth place in the NASCAR Top 10. Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) and Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) each fell one position to sixth and seventh, respectively, while Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford) and Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) stayed in the eighth and ninth positions this week. Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) returned to the NASCAR Top 10 for the first time since June after winning at Watkins Glen.

* Winston Leader Bonus reaches $230,000 ... As if the $4.25 million champion's share of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series point fund were not a big enough incentive, a record $230,000 Winston Leader Bonus is out there for the taking - for Matt Kenseth's taking, that is. As the NASCAR Winston Cup points leader, Kenseth is currently the only driver eligible for the bonus that is awarded to the series points leader if he wins a race. The Winston Leader Bonus, first introduced in 1996, starts at $10,000 and increases by that same amount at each event until it is won. The bonus has not been awarded this season and the current amount is already $40,000 more than the previous record payout. Bobby Labonte collected $190,000 for winning at Indianapolis in 2000.

* Sadler's crew wins McDonald's/POWERade Drive-Thru Pit Championship Award at Watkins Glen ... The pit crew on Elliott Sadler's No. 38 M&M's Ford won the McDonald's/POWERade Drive-Thru Pit Championship Award at Watkins Glen by getting Sadler in and out of the pits in a total of 84.106 seconds during two pit stops on Sunday. The award, which is presented to the eligible pit crew with the shortest cumulative pit time at each race, culminates with a year-end award based on a points system. Michael Waltrip's No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet crew leads the season-long competition with 794 points. Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 8 crew is second in the contest standings with 717 points.

* Lowe's sets Sept. test dates for UAW-GM Quality 500 ... Lowe's Motor Speedway has confirmed open testing dates - during which the teams will practice for the upcoming race - for the October 11 UAW-GM Quality 500. NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams will test at the 1.5-mile speedway on September 2-3, from 3-10 p.m. each day. The main grandstand is open free of charge during each of the testing sessions.


* It takes time to appreciate the system designed by the late Bob Latford, but if you look at it closely, it does what a points system should do. It rewards the driver and team who compete the best throughout the season. Matt Kenseth, the current points leader, has just one victory this season, but he has a 286-point lead because his team has overcome every hazard it has faced and not made major mistakes. Last year, Kenseth led the league with five wins, but he finished eighth because he and his team made some of the same mistakes others are making this season. - Sandra McKee, Baltimore Sun

* Car owner Jack Roush has assembled his multi-team Ford racing stable the same way he's put together his other successful business ventures. So maybe it's fitting that the driver to bring him his first Winston Cup championship might well be one who's all business. He's not controversial, like defending points champion Tony Stewart. Nor is he considered the People Magazine heartthrob that four-time champ Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. are. What he is, according to team owner Jack Roush, is the kind of solid driver who can stand up to the pressure a Winston Cup stretch run exerts. - Nolan Weidner, Syracuse Post Standard

* Matt Kenseth put another brick in the championship wall he's steadily constructing when he finished eighth in the Sirius at The Glen at Watkins Glen International. It didn't look that way when Kenseth was trailing his two closest points pursuers and the brakes on his Ford were fading when he sailed off the road in Turn 1 with less than 20 laps remaining. That Kenseth is leading a charmed life in his pursuit of his first Winston Cup championship was apparent after his strong closing finish. - Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com


Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won two Bud Pole Awards at Michigan - both during the GFS Marketplace 400 weekend in August. His qualifying speed of 307.558741 kph / 191.149 mph in 2000 was the first Bud Pole speed at Michigan over 305 kph / 190 mph and stands as a track record. That speed places Michigan among the top-five fastest tracks, as determined by the top qualifying speed, on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. (Talladega, Daytona, Atlanta, and Texas have produced faster qualifying speeds.) Although his first few NASCAR Winston Cup attempts at Michigan were not the stuff of headlines, Earnhardt has shown solid improvement here in recent outings. His last two races at Michigan resulted in top-10 finishes including a seventh-place result in June. ... Veteran Bill Elliott leads all active drivers with six Bud Pole Awards and seven wins at Michigan.


By August 19, 2001, the frustration in the Dodge camp was building, as the manufacturer hadn't reached victory lane in the first 22 events of the 2001 season - the year Dodge made its much-heralded return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing. However, Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) put an end to all of that on a rainy day at Michigan International Speedway. Not only did Marlin give Dodge its first victory since it returned to the series, but he broke his own 169-race winless streak. Ricky Rudd's blown engine left things to be decided between the Dodge Intrepids of Marlin and Elliott and the Ford Taurus of Ricky Craven after the halfway point of the race. Elliott led from laps 129 to 144, but Marlin kept up and took the lead on lap 145. After 162 laps, the race ended due to rain, giving Marlin and Dodge the victory.

Fast Facts

GFS Marketplace 400. Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich. 2 p.m. ET, August 17

U.S. TV: TNT, 1:30 p.m. ET.
U.S. Radio: MRN/XM Satellite

Posted awards: $4,485,337.

Race length: 643.6 km/400 miles/200 laps.

Track layout: 3.218 km / 2-mile oval

2002 winner: Dale Jarrett.

2002 polesitter: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NASCAR Top 10: 1. Matt Kenseth 3,294. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3,036. 3. Jeff Gordon 2,898. 4. Jimmie Johnson 2,816. 5. Kevin Harvick 2,778. 6. Michael Waltrip 2,777. 7. Bobby Labonte 2,768. 8. Kurt Busch 2,696. 9. Ryan Newman 2,636. 10. Robby Gordon 2,627

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday-Practice, 11:00 a.m.-12:55 p.m., Qualifying, 3:05 p.m. Saturday-Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11:10 -11:55 a.m.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Jack Roush , Elliott Sadler