* Bill Lester to attempt to qualify for second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event * In the Loop: Greg Biffle and Roush Racing teammates at the top of the charts NEWS AND NOTES Bill Lester to Attempt Second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Event ... Earlier...
* Bill Lester to attempt to qualify for second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event
* In the Loop: Greg Biffle and Roush Racing teammates at the top of the charts
NEWS AND NOTES
Bill Lester to Attempt Second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Event ... Earlier this season, Bill Lester made history as the first African-American driver to qualify for a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race since 1986. He'll attempt to qualify for his second series race this weekend at Michigan.
• A NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular, Lester will drive the No. 23 Waste Management Dodge for Bill Davis Racing in Friday's qualifying session.
• Lester finished 38th after qualifying 19th for the March 20 event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He was fastest among those drivers required to make the field on time for that event.
• In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Lester has started eight of nine events. He's currently 27th in the standings and will compete in Saturday's Con-way Freight 200 at Michigan. This is his fifth full season in the series. He drives Bill Davis Racing's No. 22 Waste Management Toyota.
• Prior to Lester's accomplishment at Atlanta, Willy T. Ribbs was the last African-American driver to start a series race. Ribbs started 37th and finished 39th in the June 15, 1986 event at Michigan. Before Ribbs, Wendell Scott made five starts at Michigan from 1969 through 1971.
"In The Loop" -- Track Data Spotlights Greg Biffle ... Roush Racing has eight wins at Michigan, the latest occurring last June. Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) is the defending champion of Sunday's race, and NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data statistics for Michigan reflects his 2005 efforts there.
Biffle, who finished sixth in the August event at Michigan, leads four categories: Driver Rating (122.9); Fastest Drivers Late in a Run at 178.623 mph; Fastest Drivers in Turn 3 with an average speed of 175.754 mph and Speed in Traffic (179.379 mph).
Teammates Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) are three other drivers who could challenge Biffle, based on Loop Data statistics. Kenseth ranks in the top five of eight speed-related categories for Michigan pre-race track data, including second in Average Running Position and Fastest Drivers in Turn 3, third in Quality Passes and Fastest Drivers in Turn 2, fourth in Driver Rating (114.8), Fastest Drivers Early in a Run and Speed in Traffic and fifth in Fastest Drivers in Turn 1.
Edwards leads two Loop Data categories for Michigan: Quality Passes and Fastest Drivers in Turn 2. Martin, who along with Kenseth and Biffle is a former Michigan winner, leads Fastest Drivers in Turn 1.
On the Right Track ... Mark Martin, who will retire from fulltime NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition following the 2006 season, has four wins in 40 career starts at Michigan. He and Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), who also has four career wins at Michigan, lead all active drivers in that category. Martin's 26 top-10 finishes lead all fulltime drivers at Michigan. He ranks third in laps led there with 882, trailing only Cale Yarborough (1,308 laps led) and Bill Elliott (1,004 laps led). ... Matt Kenseth leads all active drivers with six consecutive top-10 finishes at Michigan. ... The Wood Brothers lead all owners with 11 victories at Michigan. ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) leads all active drivers with four consecutive top-10 starts there.
Setting The Field: Top 35 in 2006 Owner Points "Locked In" ... Each week in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, teams ranked in the top 35 of the current car owner point standings are guaranteed starting positions, creating a "bubble" consisting of teams on the downside of 35th, trying to reach that position. Following a 23rd-place finish at Pocono, the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, owned by Ray Evernham and driven by Jeremy Mayfield, jumped three spots from 35th to 32nd place. The No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet, owned by Nelson Bowers and driven by Sterling Marlin, assumes the 35th and final locked-in position. The team is 121 points ahead of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet owned by Cal Wells and driven by Travis Kvapil, the first team outside of the "bubble." Kvapil will have to earn his spot in the field based on his qualifying time for the fifth consecutive race.
Ford Scores Second Win in Manufacturers' Standings ... At Pocono, Denny Hamlin's (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) first series victory became the seventh of the season for Chevrolet, which extended its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship to 101 points. Ford is second with 85 points. Dodge is third with 80 points. Kurt Busch, who finished second, was the highest finishing Dodge driver. Matt Kenseth finished fifth, the top honor among Ford drivers. Chevrolet leads the field with seven victories this season, Dodge has four and Ford has three.
However, Chevrolet may be the underdog at Michigan. Only one Chevrolet driver has won at Michigan in the last 10 events -- Jeff Gordon in June 2001 -- while Ford has five victories and Dodge has four during that span.
Home Game: Manufacturers Celebrate Michigan Events ... Home to the U.S. automotive industry, the state of Michigan and the metropolitan Detroit area also serve as a surrogate "home" to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams. Manufacturers are a critical link in the racing equation, supplying teams with technology, research and program support. Two -- Dodge and Ford -- are hosting employee events with drivers at their headquarters this week.
Ford drivers from NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams will attend an employee pep rally at Ford's World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on Thursday. The event begins at noon. Media availability will follow. Participating NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers are Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Irwin Industrial Tools Ford), Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) and Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford). Team owners Jack Roush, Robert Yates and the Wood Brothers also are scheduled to attend. Media should contact Dan Zacharias at 336-918-4482.
Also on Thursday, DaimlerChrysler is hosting an employee appreciation day at its Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters. Dodge drivers Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), Jeremy Mayfield, Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge) and Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) will attend. Former series champions Richard Petty and Rusty Wallace also are scheduled to attend. Media should contact Delayne Hunt at 704-517-3722.
Raybestos Rookie Update ... Denny Hamlin's victory at Pocono is reflected in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, where he retained his lead for a fifth consecutive event. Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) finished 21st, but also retained his second-place rank in the standings. He trails Hamlin by 26 points.
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) jumped two spots to third thanks to a 15th-place finish at Pocono. Reed Sorenson, who finished 36th after an early accident, dropped two spots to fifth. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) remains fourth, followed by David Stremme (No. 40 Lonestar Steakhouse Dodge) and Brent Sherman (No. 49 Serta Dodge), respectively.
Pit Crew Spotlight: Engineers a Michigan Resource ... As the home of automotive manufacturers, Michigan and the metropolitan Detroit area has produced an incalculable amount of talent. Not all stay home, however. Three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team engineers and two engine tuners from Michigan migrated toward racing instead of other automotive opportunities. They include Dave Elenz, the engineer for Joe Nemechek's No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet; Chris Heroy, the engineer for Kyle Busch's No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet; Mike Janow, the engineer for Mark Martin; Justin Hines, the engine tuner for Greg Biffle and John Payne, the car chief and engine tuner for Ryan Newman.
Elenz is from Gaylord, Heroy is from Coldwater, Janow is from Howell, Hines is from Garden City and Payne is from Benton Harbor.
Where In The World Is Ken Schrader? ... If it has gas, four tires and faces a green flag, Ken Schrader will hop in the cockpit and 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.
This week is a busy one for Schrader. He'll race Tuesday night at Quincy Raceways in Quincy, Ill. On Wednesday, he'll race at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. Friday night, he'll race at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich. Saturday night, he'll travel to Sharon Speedway in Hartland, Ohio, a track owned by fellow series driver Dave Blaney (No. 22 Catepillar Dodge) and his family.
From The Archives ... The Wood Brothers leads all teams in wins at Michigan International Speedway. Since the first NASCAR event was held there in 1969, the Woods have won a total of 11 times. Their first win came in the inaugural event. In fact, Cale Yarborough drove a Wood Brothers Mercury to victory in the first two June events. That was followed by a sweep of both 1972 races and a win in the June 1973 event with David Pearson at the wheel.
Pearson won again at Michigan in 1974 and 1975 for the Woods, and swept both events in 1976. Pearson's last Michigan win with the Wood Brothers came in 1978.
The Woods' 11th Michigan triumph came in 1991. It also was the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory for second-generation driver Dale Jarrett.
On Deck: Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' 16th event of the season is on Sunday, June 25 -- the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. Infineon, a 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif., has been part of the schedule since 1989. ... Tony Stewart is the defending champion. Jeff Gordon was last year's polesitter.
Next race: 3M Performance 400 presented by Post-it Picture Paper (Race No. 15 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season)
The track: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich. (2-mile oval.)
The date/time: Sunday, June 18, 1:40 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $5,037,040
Race length: 200 laps, 400 miles.
Track layout: 2-mile oval.
2005 winner: Greg Biffle
2005 polesitter: Ryan Newman
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,145. 2. Matt Kenseth 2,097. 3. Mark Martin 1,907. 4. Tony Stewart 1,888. 5. Kasey Kahne 1,866. 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,850 7. Jeff Burton 1,758. 8. Kevin Harvick 1,715. 9. Denny Hamlin 1,682. 10. Kyle Busch 1,669.
Practice/Qualifying Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 11:35 a.m.-1 p.m. Qualifying, 3:10 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 9-10 a.m. Final practice 10:35-11:20 a.m.