Off-week news of note 2008-07-15

Atop The Standings: Kyle Busch Continues Winning Ways Busch Adds To Chase Bonus Points Lead Seven Drivers Competing In Week's National Series Events Five NASCAR-Related Nominees For ESPY Awards No Slowing Down: Kyle Busch Racking Up Statistical...

Atop The Standings: Kyle Busch Continues Winning Ways
Busch Adds To Chase Bonus Points Lead
Seven Drivers Competing In Week's National Series Events
Five NASCAR-Related Nominees For ESPY Awards

No Slowing Down: Kyle Busch Racking Up Statistical Excellence

The numbers continue to increase and the exploits just keep coming.

For Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota), the 2008 season is rocketing along. And although the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pauses this week for the season's final break, don't look for Busch to slow down.

He kicked off the second half of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season last Saturday exactly as he ended the first half -- with a victory.

It came at Chicagoland Speedway, race No. 19 on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. Which means Busch now has won three of the last four races, including back-to-back at Daytona International Speedway (race No. 18) and Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch, 23, continues his career year in only his fourth fulltime season and his first at Joe Gibbs Racing. He leads the standings with a series-high seven wins and his 14 national series wins in '08 (five in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and two in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) ties Kevin Harvick's (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) record of 14 set in 2006.

Harvick had five NASCAR Sprint Cup wins and nine in the NASCAR Nationwide Series that season.

Other statistical gems for Busch:

He's the 17th driver to reach seven victories in a season's first 19 races. Eleven of those drivers went on to win series titles:

NASCAR's new car agrees with Busch. He won the first race with the new car last year at Bristol Motor Speedway and eight of his 11 career wins have come in the new car.

Race To The Chase Update: Busch Has 50-Point Seeding Lead

With seven events remaining in the Race To The Chase -- the 10-race stretch that precedes the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- drivers hoping to catch leader Kyle Busch should make their move.

Busch's series-high seven wins in '08 also give him 70 bonus points (10 per victory) toward Chase seeding. That's a 50-point lead over Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) and Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) who each have 20 bonus points.

Note: Edwards has three wins, but forfeited 10 bonus points after a post-race inspection violation at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

Following race No. 26 at Richmond International Speedway, Chase-eligible drivers have their point totals reset to 5,000 and are seeded according to the number of wins amassed in the first 26 events. The Chase is contested during the season's final 10 races.

If the Chase began now, Busch would grab the top seed, followed by Edwards (who claims the tiebreaker), Kahne, reigning and two-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota), Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford), Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota), Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford).

Johnson, Earnhardt, Hamlin and Burton each have one win in '08.

Racing On: NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Stay "On Track"

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers may have the opportunity for relaxation during the season's final break, but for many, that means racing.

Six drivers plan to participate in Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series event -- the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 -- at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

They are Carl Edwards (also the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion), current NASCAR Nationwide Series standings leader Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet), David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford), David Reutimann (No. 44 UPS Toyota), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) and Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford).

Edwards, a fitness enthusiast, plans to ride his bicycle from his home in Columbia, Mo., to Gateway -- an estimated distance of 190 miles.

Joining Edwards will be his motorcoach driver, Tom Giacchi. Together, they'll tackle the Katy Trail, a 225-mile bike path that crosses Missouri.

NASCAR Sprint Cup standings leader Kyle Busch heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway, where he'll compete in Saturday night's Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers. He'll also run a Super Late Model race at Iowa Speedway on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick, who planned to attend Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, will run a Late Model race Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.

Matt Kenseth will compete at Iowa Speedway on Saturday and Sunday. Prior to that, he'll join Bowyer, Ken Schrader and Sterling Marlin for Late Model racing at Eagle Raceway, near Lincoln, Neb., on Thursday.

NASCAR Drivers, Events Nominated For Five ESPY Awards

Wednesday night's 2008 ESPY Awards Show features five NASCAR-related nominations.

At the checkered flag of last summer's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway, Jamie McMurray edged Kyle Busch for the victory by a margin of only .005-seconds, the second-closest margin since NASCAR instituted electronic scoring in 1993.

That spectacular under-the-lights ending has been nominated in the "Best Finish" category.

"Looking back on the win at Daytona, and remembering that night is one of the best memories I have," McMurray said. "It's really cool to see the replays of the finish and to see just how close it really was. I never thought that it would be a nomination for an ESPY Award. The vote is completely left up to the fans, so we'll see how it comes out. It should be a good night."

McMurray, who will attend the ESPY show in Los Angeles, admits to a bit of star-gazing.

"I don't know if there's one other athlete that I'd like to meet," he said, "I'm just looking forward to the whole event."

Busch also is nominated in the "Best Breakthrough Athlete" category and, not surprisingly, in the "Best Driver" category.

Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and current NASCAR rookie Dario Franchitti also are nominated for Best Driver.

Franchitti's nomination was based primarily on his splendid 2007 season in open-wheel racing, when he won the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series championship.

The show -- hosted annually by ESPN -- will be televised on Sunday, July 20 at 9 p.m. (ET) on ESPN and ESPN HD, hosted by Justin Timberlake.

"It's pretty cool to be selected for an ESPY Award, and is really a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go out to L.A. for the show," McMurray said. "I know both my girlfriend and I are excited about the chance to go out there and meet athletes from all types of different sports."

In The Loop: Hendrick Motorsports Still Statistically Strong

Though overshadowed by Kyle Busch's dominance this season, Hendrick Motorsports has enjoyed a strong 2008.

While not as dominant as last season, Hendrick drivers have posted consistently strong finishes and statistics.

Last year through 19 races, Hendrick had 10 wins. This year, it has two. Still, three of the four Hendrick drivers have hopes for berths in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The strongest of the three is also the newest -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is second only to Busch in Driver Rating with a 103.3 and has an Average Running Position of 10.8 (third), 362 Fastest Laps Run (third) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 76.4% (third).

He accounts for one of Hendrick's two wins in 2008, at Michigan, also his first win since 2006.

The other Hendrick win belongs to Jimmie Johnson, who did so at Phoenix and also has strong stats. Johnson has a Driver Rating of 100.5 (fourth), an Average Running Position of 10.4 (second), 345 Fastest Laps Run (fifth) and a series-high 4,569 (80.3%) Laps in the Top 15.

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon also ranks in the top five in Driver Rating. After winning four races through the first 19 events of 2007, Gordon is still looking for his first win of 2008. Still, he's fifth in the standings and has some of the top stats in the series.

Gordon has a Driver Rating of 95.2 (fifth), an Average Running Position of 11.8 (fifth), 206 Fastest Laps Run (ninth) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 74.2% (sixth).

Even Casey Mears has performed better than his points standings position of 24th would suggest. Mears ranks 22nd in Driver Rating (64.4) and 20th in Average Running Position (22.4).

NSCS, Etc:

NASCAR Technical Director Steve Peterson, 58, was found deceased Tuesday at his home from what appears to be natural causes.

Steve began his NASCAR career in January 1995 and led many of NASCAR's safety initiatives including development and installation of SAFER Barriers, management and approval of head and neck restraints and improved seat belts, and coordination of the safety features in NASCAR's new car.

"Steve's accomplishments to increase driver safety will continue to be a benefit to every NASCAR driver that gets behind the wheel for generations to come," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steve's family and friends; he will certainly be missed throughout the NASCAR community."

Steve worked closely with many recognized national and international motorsports organizations and was the recipient of the 2006 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Motorsports Achievement Award. SAE presents this award to the individual that has shown outstanding leadership or contribution to motorsports over an extended period of time.

A graduate of Western Michigan University, Peterson had more than 25 years of experience in the automotive engineering industry. He lived in Concord, N.C.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

Up Next: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes its final break of the season this week before heading to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard on July 27.

Tony Stewart started 14th last year before driving through the field to capture his second Brickyard victory.

Reed Sorenson started on the pole.

The Race: Allstate 400 at The Brickyard
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, July 27
The Time: 2 p. m. (ET)

The Track: 2.5-miles
The Distance: 400 miles/160 laps

TV: ESPN, 1 p. m. (ET)
Radio: IMS, SIRIUS Satellite Radio

2007 Winner: Tony Stewart
2007 Polesitter: Reed Sorenson

Pre-Race Schedule:
Friday -- Practice, 2-3 p.m. and 3:30 -4:30 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 10:10 a.m.; Practice, 2-3 p.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Casey Mears , Dario Franchitti , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , David Reutimann , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing