Off-week news of note 2006-02-28

* Off-week highlighted by "road trip" to Mexico for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers * Clint Bowyer leads Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders * Racing resumes March 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 28, 2006) -- It's the...

* Off-week highlighted by "road trip" to Mexico for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers

* Clint Bowyer leads Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders

* Racing resumes March 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 28, 2006) -- It's the ultimate NASCAR road trip.

An off week in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule is an opportunity for some drivers to compete in Sunday's NASCAR Busch Series race, the Telcel-Motorola 200 presented by Banamex, at the 2.518-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City.

Nine full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers are headed south, including Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) and Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge). Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet), J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) and Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) are also making the trip.

"I think racing in Mexico will prove to be a great move for our sport in the future," said Harvick. "The reaction we received from the fans last year was outstanding. The fans were unbelievable, and I expect the same reaction this year."

Waltrip, a 22-year NASCAR veteran, already has plenty of road course experience, including 11 top-10 finishes in 42 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup road course events. Harvick has competed in 10 road course events over the past five seasons, with four top-10 and two top-five finishes.

Other drivers have more limited road racing experience in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car. Bowyer, Busch, Yeley, Hamlin, Sorenson, Edwards and McMurray have a combined eight road course starts on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series but their Mexico City experience will pay dividends in June, when the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series visits the road course at California's Infineon Raceway.

"It is definitely a unique place," said Harvick, who finished second in the 2005 Telcel-Motorola 200. "It is really flat and the corners are really sharp. It doesn't have all the elevation changes that Infineon has. It never hurts to get more experience on a road course since we only get to drive them twice a year in the [NASCAR NEXTEL] Cup Series.

NEWS AND NOTES, PART II

In the Loop ... NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics reveal exactly how Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Tools Ford) won the Auto Club 500 at California. According to the data, Kenseth passed 93 cars on Sunday, 36 of them in the track's fourth turn. He also was the fastest driver on restarts, with an average speed of 174.493 mph during the first two laps of each of the race's seven restarts. Kenseth also was the fastest driver early in a run, or during the first 25 percent of laps run in a typical green flag segment. Kenseth averaged 174.857 mph during this period. More Loop Data statistics are available each week, providing in-depth analysis of each race, at www.nascarmedia.com.

Johnson on Fast Track ... It's been nine years since a driver has started the season as fast as Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) has so far. Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) won the '96 Daytona 500 and finished second in the season's next race, while Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) won the first two races of the '97 season.

Basketball Break for Burton ... Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) will enjoy his off-week by attending Saturday night's men's college basketball showdown between No. 1 Duke University and the No.15-ranked University of North Carolina at Duke's famous Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. Burton's family has held Duke season tickets since Jeff and his brothers were kids and he'll attend Saturday's game with his brother, Brian. Burton also is scheduled to stop by the ESPN "Game Day" show with hosts Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps.

"I was really excited to see this game line up on our off weekend," said Burton. "I've been able to go to my share of games and this is easily the best one. I love college basketball, but especially this game. I think the Duke vs. UNC rivalry is one of the best in all of sports. If you are a Duke fan, you never pull for UNC, no matter who they are playing and it goes the same the other way as well."

Bowyer is Top-Ranked Raybestos Rookie of the Year Candidate ... Clint Bowyer leads the highly-touted Raybestos Rookie of the Year class and also is the highest-ranked rookie in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings -- in eighth place following his 14th-place finish at California. The record for highest points finish by a rookie is held by James Hylton, and dates back four decades. Hylton finished second in points in 1966, the highest finishing spot for a rookie in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup history. Hylton, who later became a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team owner, was second in points for a second straight year in 1967 and again in '71.

Time Off for Truex Jr. ... On this weekend last season, Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) was busy racing -- and winning -- in Mexico City en route to his second consecutive NASCAR Busch Series championship. Truex now is focused on the Raybestos Rookie of the Year competition in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and has taken this weekend off to rest and recharge.

"This weekend, I'm getting on a plane and heading to an island with sand, sun and fun," said Truex. "I heard some other guys in NASCAR are going there; it would be funny if we ran into them. It's going to be nice to sleep late and just chill out on a beach for a few days. Some of the guys on the team are taking RVs, renting cabins or going camping at this place that has all these riding trails. They'll get out their motorcycles and four wheelers and have a big time hanging out and riding. I think it's great they enjoy spending off-time with each other."

Pit Crew Spotlight: New Crews for Two Teams ... PPI Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates have shuffled their pit crews in recent weeks, adding several new team members. PPI Motorsports added Gary McKinnish (Transport Driver), Kris Young (Front Tire Changer), Chris Hall (Front Tire Carrier), Roger Johnson (Rear Tire Carrier), Dennis Cabe (Second Gas Can) and Danny Trenholm (Gas Runner) to the pit crew on the No. 32 Tide/Downey Chevrolet. Ganassi's organization added Jeff Vandermoss (Crew Chief), Jim Pohlman (Car Chief), Scott Ward (Front Tire Changer), Andy Silver (Front Tire Carrier), Daryl Lockyer (Rear Tire Changer), Brian Perry (Jack Man), Benjy Grubbs (Gas Man), Danny Ekland (Catch Can), Mike Calinoff (Spotter), Frank Mathalia (Engine Specialist) and John Weaver (Shock Specialist) to its No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Dodge roster. For more team rosters and crew members updates visit www.nascarmedia.com/crew/crewhomepage.jsp.

Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers Standings ... After two races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule, Chevrolet leads the Manufacturers' Championship standings. Chevrolet has accumulated 15 points in the first two races, leading Ford (13 points) and Dodge (10 points) in competition for the manufacturers' title.

From the Archives: Las Vegas Pioneers ... Prior to the recent success of the Busch brothers, one of the more interesting drivers to come out of Las Vegas was a dentist named Leonard "Doc" Faustina. He came into the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 1971 as an owner-driver. Faustina competed 10 times as a driver from 1971-76 and considered running for Raybestos Rookie of the Year in 1972. His best finish was a 20th at Michigan in '72.

Faustina's role as car owner saw him enter 35 events with drivers such as Harry Gant, Wendell Scott, Richard Childress, casino president/race driver Mel Larson and Dave Marcis. IndyCar driver Dick Simon got the team's lone top-10 finish, which came at Talladega in '73. Faustina retired from racing in 1976.

On Deck: Las Vegas Motor Speedway ... NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition resumes March 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. ... Daytona 500 champion and current points leader Jimmie Johnson won last year's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 while Ryan Newman claimed his first Budweiser Pole of the season.

Fast Facts

Next race: UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 (Race No. 3 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season).

The track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas

The date/time: Sunday, March 12, 4:35 p.m. (ET).

TV: FOX, 4:00 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite

Posted awards: $6,240,498

Race length: 400 miles, 267 laps
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

2005 winner: Jimmie Johnson
2005 polesitter: Ryan Newman

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 355, 2. Casey Mears 316, 3. Matt Kenseth 308, 4. Kasey Kahne 295, 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 287, 6. Mark Martin 275, 7. Ryan Newman 273, 8. Clint Bowyer (r) 271, 9. Brian Vickers 260, 10. Elliott Sadler 259.

(r) Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Chris Hall , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Dave Marcis , Kasey Kahne , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , James Hylton , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Harry Gant , Dick Simon , Felix Sabates , Wendell Scott
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing