Phoenix II: News of note

* The race for 11th place: McMurray in charge, Gordon, Sadler not far behind NEWS AND NOTES Race for 11th place: McMurray still out front ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) remains in 11th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL...

* The race for 11th place: McMurray in charge, Gordon, Sadler not far behind

NEWS AND NOTES

Race for 11th place: McMurray still out front ... Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) remains in 11th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings for the third consecutive week. He's held that spot for four of the seven previous weeks, and knows it well; McMurray was last season's 11th-place finisher. The 11th-place spot is worth at least $1 million at season's end. That includes a $250,000 bonus, and at least two of McMurray's pursuers -- four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and 13th-place Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) -- are right on his bumper. Gordon trails McMurray by 51 points, Sadler by 52.

Here's a closer look at the drivers in spots 11-15:

• 11th place -- McMurray retained the spot for a third consecutive week following his 11th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

• 12th place -- Gordon retains the spot for a second consecutive week following his 14th-place finish at Texas.

• 13th place -- Sadler retains the spot for a second consecutive week following a ninth-place finish at Texas.

• 14th place -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) retains the spot for a second consecutive week following a 16th-place finish at Texas. He trails McMurray by 81 points.

• 15th place -- Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) retains the spot for a second consecutive week following his 37th-place finish at Texas. He trails McMurray by 167 points.

Johnson, Edwards have title work to do ... They are standings leader Tony Stewart's closest pursuers, and reality dictates that Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards must gain significant ground this Sunday at Phoenix to challenge for the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title. The second-place Johnson gained five points on Stewart by finishing fifth, one spot in front of Stewart, last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

• Johnson has two wins, four top-five and six top-10 finishes in the seven Chase races to date. He began the Chase in fourth place and led the standings following his win at Dover International Speedway -- the second Chase event. He finished 15th at Phoenix in April, his fourth start there.

• Edwards has jumped from ninth place to third since the beginning of the Chase on Sept. 18 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Like Johnson, he has two wins, four top-five and six top-10 finishes during the seven Chase races to date. He finished seventh at Phoenix in April, his second start there.

• Chasing a championship isn't new for Johnson. He finished as the series runner-up in 2004 and 2003, and fifth following his rookie year of 2002. This is Edwards' first fulltime NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season.

Rusty's Last Call at Phoenix ... The end of a remarkable career approaches for Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), who will retire following the 2005 season. But first, he'll say farewell to one of his favorite tracks this weekend. A short-track master, Wallace has excelled on Phoenix's one-mile surface. He has one win, seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 18 career appearances at Phoenix, which has hosted NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races since 1988. Among active drivers, only Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) has more top-10 finishes (13) at Phoenix.

Wallace's 1998 victory at Phoenix was the 48th of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career. He led 190 of 250 laps, with his good friend Martin finishing second. Wallace also could move closer to another career milestone at Phoenix. He's only 59 laps shy of leading 20,000 laps in the series, and ranks seventh all-time in that category.

Wallace and Penske Racing South teammate Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge), another Chase participant, lead all active drivers with three Bud Poles each at Phoenix. Wallace also has started in the top 10 in 16 of his 18 Phoenix races, more than any other driver.

Biffle, Martin and Kenseth still in title mix ... Their opportunities are dwindling, but Roush Racing teammates Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Industrial Tools Ford) still have a shot to catch leader Tony Stewart with two Chase races remaining. The maximum points that can be earned in one event is 156; any driver within 156 points of the leader following Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 presented by TECHRON at Phoenix will remain eligible for the series title next week at Homestead.

Of particular note: Those drivers will be available at a press luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 17 at Hotel Sofitel (5800 Blue Lagoon Drive) in Miami, Fla. The event runs from noon until 2 p.m.

• Biffle, fourth in the current Chase standings, trails Stewart by 122 points. He has two top-15 finishes in three career starts at Phoenix, including a personal-best of 13th in the April event.

• Martin, fifth in the standings, trails Biffle by only a point and Stewart by 123 points. He has eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 18 races at Phoenix, more than any other driver. Martin also has one win and five second-place finishes. He finished 16th there in April.

• Kenseth, sixth in the standings, trails Stewart by 135 points. He has one win and three top-10 finishes in six career starts at Phoenix. Kenseth finished 42nd there in April.

For more information on all Chase-related statistics, graphics, photos and many other resources, utilize the Chase online media kit. It's easily available at /nextel/chase2005.jsp or www.nascarmedia.com.

Teams, drivers finalize changes for 2006 ... Several notable personnel moves have been completed within the past week, assuring new lineups for certain teams and creating openings for others.

Perhaps the largest move -- in terms of teams affected -- was announced on Monday, with Kurt Busch (No. 97 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford) confirming he will replace the retiring Rusty Wallace in Penske Racing South's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge next season. Busch had signed to replace Wallace beginning in 2007. Jamie McMurray, who had signed to join Roush Racing in 2007, was cleared by Chip Ganassi Racing to replace Busch in 2006. McMurray's teammate, Casey Mears (No. 41 Target Dodge), will replace him in 2006 in the No. 42 Havoline/Texaco Dodge.

Other moves include Ricky Rudd's Tuesday announcement that he will leave Wood Brothers Racing at the end of the season. Rudd, who drives the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford, announced on his web site that he will retire from fulltime competition after nearly 30 years of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing. Rudd, 49, was the 1977 series rookie of the year.

Last week Texas, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Denny Hamlin, currently a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Busch Series, will drive the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet next season in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. And the new team led by owners and NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach announced last weekend in Texas that former two-time series champion Terry Labonte and Tony Raines will share driving duties next season in the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet. Labonte will drive in seven races, Raines in 29.

Previously, Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) had announced he will join MB2 Racing next season as a teammate to Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet). MB2 Racing announced Monday that Marlin will be paired with another Tennessee native, veteran crew chief Doug Randolph.

Pit Crew Spotlight: Edwards' crew a winning combo ... Carl Edwards and his Roush Racing team have gained 72 points in the past two races thanks to back-to-back wins, and timely pit stops and strategy decisions by crew chief Bob Osborne and his cohorts. Osborne, a Chester, Pa., native, is in his second season as a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup crew chief. His understated demeanor blends well with Edwards' energy and provides a steadying influence for the rest of the crew, which includes longtime car chief Pierre Kuettel, a Phoenix, Ariz., native. For more on Edwards' team and all team rosters, visit www.nascarmedia.com/crew/crewhomepage.jsp.

The NASCAR Leaderboard ... While Tony Stewart sits atop the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings, he also leads the field in several key categories. Stewart leads in winnings, laps led, miles led, wins (tied with Greg Biffle with five wins each), top-five finishes and top-10 finishes.

From the archives: Inaugural Chase event revisited ... The 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Phoenix International Speedway was Round Eight in the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Kurt Busch entered the race with a 59-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, with Jeff Gordon sitting third, 72 points behind, and Mark Martin in fourth, 181 points back.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) won the Phoenix event and tightened up the points battle, moving to third place, just 47 points behind Busch and six points behind the second-place Gordon.

Two races later, it would be Busch battling Johnson for the tightest championship duel in NASCAR history -- Busch won the 2004 series title by only eight points over Johnson.

Fast Facts

The race: Checker Auto Parts 500 presented by TECHRON

The track: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.

The date/time: Sunday, Nov. 13 at 3:40 p.m. (ET).

TV: NBC, 3 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $4,870,213

Race length: 500 kilometers, 312 miles, 312 laps
Track layout: One mile oval.

2004 winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 polesitter: Ryan Newman.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Tony Stewart 6,255. 2. Jimmie Johnson 6,217. 3. Carl Edwards 6,178. 4. Greg Biffle 6,133. 5. Mark Martin 6,132. 6. Matt Kenseth 6,120. 7. Ryan Newman 6,081. 8. Kurt Busch 5,974. 9. Rusty Wallace 5,940. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5848.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Carl Edwards , Chip Ganassi , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Mark Martin
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing , Wood Brothers Racing