* Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Kurt and Kyle Busch all former Phoenix winners * Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle lead pre-race Phoenix Loop Data statistics * 5 for 5: Ken Schrader to follow triple-duty NASCAR weekend with Sunday double NEWS...
* Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Kurt and Kyle Busch all former Phoenix winners
* Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle lead pre-race Phoenix Loop Data statistics
* 5 for 5: Ken Schrader to follow triple-duty NASCAR weekend with Sunday double
NEWS AND NOTES
Yeley in Spotlight ... A closer look at J.J. Yeley's homecoming: His parents, Judy and Jack, still live in the metropolitan Phoenix area and will be at the track. Yeley also hopes to give the family reason to cheer. He has one top-10 finish through seven NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events (eighth at California) and three top-five starts -- fourth at California, fifth at Atlanta and second at Texas. A potential top-10 run at Texas two weeks ago was spoiled by an accident; Yeley finished 35th.
As for Raybestos rookie standings, Yeley currently ranks fifth, 10 points behind leader and JGR teammate Denny Hamlin. He's 24th in the series standings, and just as busy in the NASCAR Busch Series, where he's one of seven drivers competing fulltime in both the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Yeley drives JGR's No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series. He's fourth in those standings.
Watch Out For These Guys: Other Phoenix Threats ... Since 1988, the tight, flat track with the backstretch dogleg has seen 16 different winners in 19 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) and Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) are among those who have visited Victory Lane, but they aren't alone.
Earnhardt and Burton lead all active drivers with two wins each at Phoenix. Earnhardt won in 2003 and 2004. Burton won in 2000 and 2001.
Jarrett, who won in 1997, is one of three active drivers -- Martin and Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie/Motorcraft/U.S. Air Force Ford) are the others -- to compete in all 19 Phoenix events.
Martin won in 1993 and his 13 top-10 Phoenix finishes leading all drivers. His 471 laps led is the best mark of any active driver. Recently-retired Rusty Wallace leads all drivers with 868 laps led.
And don't forget Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), who won last year's inaugural spring event, and brother Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), who won the traditional November race. Kyle Busch's 4.5 average finish in two Phoenix events is the best of all drivers while Kurt Busch's four straight top-10 finishes is the longest current streak there.
"In the Loop" -- Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle lead PIR data ... Who to look out for Saturday at Phoenix? Numbers tell the tale. NASCAR Loop Data statistics from last year for Phoenix show Kurt Busch had the highest Driver Rating (150.0). He also was the Fastest Driver Late in a Run with a top speed of 123.270 mph and the Fastest Driver by Straightaway (Frontstretch) with an average speed of 116.107 mph.
Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) led seven categories -- Fastest Driver Early in a Run with a top speed of 126.628 mph; Fastest Driver by Straightaway (Backstretch) with a top speed of 147.874 mph; Fastest Driver in Turns 1, 3 and 4 with top speeds of 120.064 mph, 122.326 mph and 121.122 mph, respectively; Fastest Laps with a top speed of 131.111 mph and Fastest on Restarts with an average speed of 126.323 mph.
Harvick Going Full Speed Ahead ... Don't expect the just-completed Easter off-week to slow Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). He began the break as one of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' hottest drivers and ended it by winning this past Sunday's NASCAR Busch Series event at Nashville Superspeedway, his first NASCAR Busch Series win this season.
Harvick -- one of seven drivers running fulltime schedules in both series -- also leads the NASCAR Busch Series standings.
Back in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 for the first time since last year's June event at Michigan, Harvick has jumped from 23rd to ninth place in three races. He's done it on the strength of three consecutive top-10 finishes, his most recent a fifth two weeks ago at Texas.
Harvick has one top-five finish (fourth in 2004) in six Phoenix events.
Things also are going well for Harvick the team owner. He and wife DeLana own Kevin Harvick Inc., which fields the NASCAR Busch Series team of Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Burney Lamar (No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet) and the No. 33 Outdoor Life Channel Chevrolet, to be driven at Phoenix by Ron Hornaday Jr. Lamar, who finished seventh behind Harvick at Nashville, is now 10th in that series' standings.
KHI also owns the No. 33 Chevrolet driven by Hornaday in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Crew Chief Changes Heading to Phoenix ... Several teams made leadership moves during the off-week, meaning new faces atop different pit boxes in Phoenix. Roush Racing led the way by moving Bob Osborne, formally Carl Edwards' (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) crew chief, to Jamie McMurray's (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) team.
McMurray's crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, will oversee Roush Racing's NASCAR Busch Series teams and assumes the new title of senior crew chief. Fennig also will be crew chief for Matt Kenseth's (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford) NASCAR Busch Series team, the No. 17 Ameriquest/Pennzoil Ford.
Wally Brown, Roush Racing's head engineer, becomes Edwards' crew chief.
On Monday, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced that Steven Lane will become the new crew chief for David Stremme (No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Dodge). Former crew chief Jeff Vandermoss, who began the season as Stremme's crew chief, will assume Lane's old position as car chief for Reed Sorensen (No. 41 Target Dodge).
Raybestos Rookie Update ... Through seven events, a quick rookie rundown shows Denny Hamlin atop the Raybestos standings with 71 points. He's followed -- in order -- by Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet) with 68 points, Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) with 64 points, Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) with 61 points, J.J. Yeley with 61 points, David Stremme with 47 points and Brent Sherman (No. 49 Serta Dodge) with 31 points. Hamlin won the non-points Budweiser Shootout in February. Bowyer, Hamlin and Truex are the highest-ranked rookies in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings, sitting 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively.
Pit Crew Spotlight: No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet ... Driver J.J. Yeley won't be the only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor enjoying home cooking this week. Expect Richard Childress Racing's Jason Pulver to raid mom Terri Kennedy's kitchen at some point. The 27-year-old Phoenix native is the front tire changer for Kevin Harvick's No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet team, and promises his mom will enjoy watching him in action at PIR rather than whipping up a spread for teammates.
A six-year RCR veteran, Pulver spent his first season (2000) with the No. 31 team. In 2001, he joined Harvick's team, where he's found a home away from home. When he's not changing four tires in 13 seconds, he performs as a fabricator at RCR. Pulver admits to a time-eating hobby -- building a street hot rod (specifically, a 32 High Boy). As for nicknames? Well, he can use one. Teammates hail him as " 'Pretty much Jason'," Pulver said.
Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers Standings ... While Chevrolet continues to lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup manufacturers' standings, its margin has been whittled to just two points over second-place Dodge. Thanks to Kahne's win at Texas, Dodge has moved up to 45 points, trailing Chevrolet (47) and is now four points ahead of Ford (41).
Where in The World is Ken Schrader? ... If it's got 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 some say funniest -- competitor just can't resist racing. In fact, it's the title of his autobiography, "Gotta Race," which he spent the Easter off-weekend signing between events at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway and the I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo.
Schrader, 50, will take a three-state tour this weekend, participating in all three NASCAR-sanctioned events at Phoenix before taking on two local-track races in Indiana and Illinois.
First Stop: Thursday's NASCAR Grand National West Series' Casino Arizona 150. Schrader will drive his own entry in the 150-lap event that begins at 8 p.m. ET.
Second Stop: Friday's NASCAR Busch Series' Bashas' Supermarkets 200. Schrader will drive Brewco Motorsports' No. 66 Yardman Ford in the 200-lap event that begins at 9 p.m. ET.
Third Stop: Saturday's Subway Fresh 500. Schrader will drive Wood Brothers Racing's No. 21 Little Debbie Ford in the 312-lap event that begins at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Fourth Stop: The Sunday afternoon ARCA event at Salem Speedway in Salem, Ind.
Fifth Stop: Sunday evening's dirt late-model event at Vermilion County Speedway in Danville, Ill.
Setting the Field: Top 35 in 2006 Owner Points Locked In ... Teams ranked in the top 35 of the current 2006 car owner standings will be guaranteed starting positions each week.
Heading into Phoenix, the No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet, fielded by MB2 Motorsports and driven by Sterling Marlin, is ranked 35th in the car owner point standings. Evernham Motorsports' No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, driven by Jeremy Mayfield, is 36th and only five points behind Marlin. Other teams vying to cement their top 35 rankings include Bill Davis Racing's No. 55 NAPA Dodge driven by Michael Waltrip (34th in owner points) and the No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge of Petty Enterprises and driver Kyle Petty (33rd). The 33rd-36th ranked teams are separated by just 35 points.
From The Archives ... Second-generation driver Davey Allison was the first driver to win back-to-back events at Phoenix International Raceway. He did it in 1991 and 1992, both times behind the wheel of Robert Yates Racing-prepared Fords.
In the 1991 race, Darrell Waltrip trailed Allison to the line by nearly half a lap; there were 18 lead changes among 13 drivers. Allison beat Mark Martin to the line by 3.22 seconds in the 1992 event for his 18th career win. Two other drivers have won consecutive events at Phoenix. Jeff Burton did it in 2000 and 2001 while Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the 2003 and 2004 races.
On Deck: Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway ... Race No. 9 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule will be Sunday, April 30 (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX) -- the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Jeff Gordon is defending champion; Kevin Harvick was last year's polesitter.
Next race: Subway Fresh 500 (Race No. 8 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season)
The track: Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz.
The date/time: Saturday, April 22, 8:25 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $4,866,887.
Race length: 312 miles, 312 laps
Track layout: 1 mile
2005 winner: Kurt Busch
2005 polesitter: Jeff Gordon
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 1,063. 2. Matt Kenseth 1,048. 3. Kasey Kahne 1,017. 4. Mark Martin 1,017. 5. Tony Stewart 966. 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 951. 7. Kyle Busch 950. 8. Jeff Gordon 911. 9. Kevin Harvick 859. 10. Casey Mears 845.
Practice/Qualifying Schedule: Thursday -- Practice, 2-3:30 p.m. Qualifying, 5:40 p.m. Friday -- Practice, 1-2 p.m. and 4:05-4:50 p.m.