Phoenix: Round eight preview

*Emphasis On Winning: Edwards Setting The Pace *Richard Childress Racing Continues To Lead The Series *Bill France Sr. Inducted Into U.S. Business Hall of Fame *In The Loop: Four Aiming At Top 12 *On The Bubble: The Top 35; Chasing The Chase: The...

*Emphasis On Winning: Edwards Setting The Pace
*Richard Childress Racing Continues To Lead The Series
*Bill France Sr. Inducted Into U.S. Business Hall of Fame
*In The Loop: Four Aiming At Top 12
*On The Bubble: The Top 35; Chasing The Chase: The Top 12
*Edwards Has Set Himself Apart

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Apr 8, 2008) - Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford) is proving to his competitors he is the driver to beat. Edwards is back in the top 12 after winning his third race this season, overcoming a penalty that docked the No. 99 team 100 points in the driver and owner point standings, plus the 10 potential Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup bonus points for winning at Las Vegas.

Winning is as important as ever, and Edwards has set himself apart from the rest of the top 12. Drivers who qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will get 10 bonus points for each victory during the 26-race span leading up to the Chase. Drivers qualifying for the Chase will have their point totals "reset" to 5,000, whereupon bonus points will then be added, creating a "seeding" for the Chase.

For example: Edwards, who is ninth in the driver point standings with three wins this season, would start the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with 5,020 points and a potential seeding position of first (he only has 20 bonus points due to the penalty). While current points leader Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) has one victory so far this season, would start the Chase with 5,010 points - 10 points behind Edwards.

Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing show no signs of slowing down. Jack Roush has the most wins of any car owner at Phoenix International Raceway with five.

The NASCAR Season-To-Date Loop Data shows Edwards near the top of several key categories: He is ranked second in Driver Rating (111.2), ranked first in Average Running Position (8.6), and ranked first in Laps In The Top 15 (87.5%).

Richard Childress Racing Continues To Be Early Season Powerhouse

If Carl Edwards is the driver to beat, then Richard Childress Racing has all the ingredients to be named the 2008 team to beat.

All three RCR drivers are in the top 12 in the driver standings -- Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Reese's Chevrolet) currently sit one--two respectively. But don't forget Clint Bowyer, (No. 07 DirecTV Chevrolet) who after a wild finish at Texas managed to move up one spot from last week to 11th.

Burton leads RCR this year atop of the point standings with one victory (Bristol) three top-five and five top-10 finishes.

Burton is tied with Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) for the most wins by an active driver at Phoenix with two each.

Harvick is second in the standings with two top fives and four top 10s. Harvick swept Phoenix in 2006 and posted a 10th-place finish in the spring and a sixth-place finish in the fall of last year.

Bowyer maybe the lowest driver in the point standings at RCR, but don't let the numbers fool you -- he has posted one top-five and four top-10 finishes so far this season. Bowyer has run five times at Phoenix in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series posting one top five back in the spring race of 2006.

Bill France Sr. To Be Inducted Into U.S. Business Hall of Fame

NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. will be inducted posthumously into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame on Wednesday night in Nashville, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

France, who died in 1992, founded NASCAR in 1947 and was the sanctioning body's first president, serving in that capacity until 1972 when he was followed by his son Bill France Jr.

France is part of an illustrious 2008 class of inductees that also includes: USA Today founder Al Neuharth; Thomas Frist, Jr., M.D. Chairman Emeritus, Hospital Corporation of America; Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of the RLJ Companies and the Black Entertainment Network; John E. Pepper Jr., retired chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble; and Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay.

France's grandson, J.C. France -- who races Daytona Prototypes in the Rolex Sports Car Series -- will accept the induction honor on behalf of the France family. J.C. France is the son of NASCAR vice chairman and executive vice president Jim France.

In The Loop: Four Outside Top 12 Take Aim At Phoenix Int'l. Raceway

With less than 20 races left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins, crunch time to make the top 12 is fast approaching.

The races increase in importance with each passing week -- and this Saturday night is vital for four drivers in particular: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Nano Ford, Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet).

All four are outside the top 12, and all four are strong at Phoenix.

Kenseth, one spot out in 13th, won at Phoenix in 2002 and has finished inside the top three in three of the last four races there. He has a Driver Rating of 97.0, an Average Running Position of 14.3 and 103 Fastest Laps Run over his last six Phoenix races.

Gordon, in 14th, won this race last season, his first series win at PIR. Over the past six races at the one-mile track, the four-time series champion has a Driver Rating of 107.0, an Average Running Position of 8.0 and has run 89% of the laps among the top 15.

Right behind Gordon in the series standings is Busch, who scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 in his 2005 Phoenix win. In his five Phoenix races since 2005, Busch has an overall Driver Rating of 103.7, an Average Running Position of 8.3 and 121 Fastest Laps Run.

Truex is looking for a rebound from Texas. Truex had a strong car last week at Texas, but a blown engine on Lap 330 dropped him to 36th place. Better results may await Truex at Phoenix -- he has a Driver Rating of 93.0, an Average Running Position of 11.5, and 58 Fastest Laps Run in his four races run there. His best Phoenix finish was last November -- a seventh-place run where he led 72 laps.

Banner Performance: Gordon and Johnson Headed For Champion's Row At Phoenix

Just like championship banners hanging in famous basketball arenas around the U.S., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) will be at Phoenix International Raceway on Thursday morning to watch their banners be dedicated to the Champions' Row.

Johnson's banner will be presented at 10:55 a.m., and Gordon's will be presented at 11:15 a.m. Each driver will receive a miniature replica of his actual banner. The dedicated banners will be three stories tall and will hang on the Bobby Allison Grandstands for one year.

Chasing The Chase: Familiar Faces Just Outside The Top 12

Some of the familiar faces from last season's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are sitting right outside of the top-12 driver point standings. Phoenix could be the place these four drivers turn it around.

Matt Kenseth finished last season fourth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but currently is 13th -- 54 points out of 12th place. He has yet to win this season, but has posted one top five and four top 10 finishes.

Kenseth heads to Phoenix looking to make up some of the ground in the point standings having won there in 2002. Out of 11 starts Kenseth has six top-10 finishes at Phoenix.

Jeff Gordon finished second last season in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but this season he sits outside the top 12 in 14th place 91 points behind 12th. Gordon had a brief stint in the top 12 last week but his team struggled at Texas finishing 43rd dropping him back out of the top 12.

Gordon won at Phoenix from the pole last April, tying Dale Earnhardt on the NASCAR all-time wins list with 76. But that isn't the only success Gordon has had at Phoenix, out of 18 starts, Gordon has posted eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.

Kurt Busch finished last season seventh in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but this season he currently is 15th in the standings 111-points behind 12th place. Busch won at Phoenix in 2005 driving for Jack Roush and has posted two top fives and five top 10s in 10 starts.

The NASCAR Pre-Race Loop Data for Phoenix shows Busch ranked fourth in Driver Rating (103.7).

Martin Truex Jr. finished 11th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last season, but currently sits 16th in the standings 119 points behind 12th. Truex has struggled the past two weeks finishing 21st at Martinsville and 35th at Texas knocking him out of the top 12. Truex heads to Phoenix to duplicate his performance from last fall when he finished seventh.

Locked In: Who Has To Make The Show This Week?

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams head to Phoenix, several will be vying for the eight coveted spots not guaranteed to those in the top 35 of the series owner standings.

One of those is Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Dodge) and car owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates. Franchitti currently is 39th in the owner standings.

It will be interesting to see if the No. 40 team can bounce back this week. Franchitti has only competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Phoenix last season finishing 29th, but he did put up a good qualifying run starting eighth.

Another name to watch for is David Reutimann (No. 44 UPS Toyota) driving for Michael Waltrip. He currently is 38th in the owner point standings, but has been able to qualify his car into the events the past two weekends. Reutimann posted a starting position of 25th in 2007 at Phoenix, and a sixth at Texas last week.

Regan Smith (No. 01 DEI Chevrolet) and Teresa Earnhardt currently sit in the one spot every team outside the top 35 wants to be - the 35th position. Smith has only raced at Phoenix in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but look for him to be in the race on Sunday on-time because in his last five attempts at Phoenix he has posted four top-five starts.

Margaret Haas's No. 70 Haas Automation Chevrolet, driven by Johnny Sauter is 36th in the owner point standings -- six points behind the No. 01 team. Sauter will make his second attempt of the season at making a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Sauter has competed in five NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season with a best finish of 13th at Daytona.

Mike Skinner (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota) currently is 40th in the points -- 132 points behind Smith in 35th. He has participated in four events driving for Dietrich Mateschitz after the team decided to replace AJ Allmendinger. Skinner has qualified the car on-time for all four attempts he has made. The last time Skinner competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix was in 2005 -- starting 27th and finishing 37th. Skinner's best start at Phoenix in a NASCAR Sprint Cup car was second back in 1996.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.

'08 Rookie Standings: This week the NASCAR Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings were shaken up when the previous rookie standings leader Dario Franchitti failed to qualify for the race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Regan Smith made the most ground in the rookie standings, moving up to first after finishing 35th at Texas. Smith has four starts at Phoenix in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and he posted his best finish there last season -- eighth.

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge) continues to sit second in the rookie standings after finishing 32nd at Texas.

Patrick Carpentier (No. 10 Evernham-Gillett Dodge) received his first Raybestos Rookie of the Race Award after placing 28th at Texas. Carpentier currently is fourth in the rookie standings with 39 points.

Michael McDowell (No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) became one of the most popular rookies this past week after his qualifying attempt turned into one of the hardest crashes in recent history. McDowell did however make it through the race without any mishaps posting a 33rd-place finish at Phoenix. McDowell currently is fifth in the rookie standings, 21 points behind Carpentier after two races.

2008 Manufacturers' Standings: The competitive balance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at an impressive high. All four manufacturers are represented in the top 12 of the driver point standings with at least two teams each.

Carl Edwards posted Ford's third win this season moving them into the lead in the manufacturers' standings -- one point ahead of Chevrolet. Ford leads the other manufacturers with the most wins at Phoenix with 12.

Chevrolet is second in the standings with one win and 43 points. Chevrolet teams have led the most laps this season with 977 out of a possible 2,387 laps.

Toyota sits third in the standings, with two victories this season, four points behind Chevrolet. Look for a Toyota nameplate to be up front at Phoenix as Tony Stewart (No. 20 Subway Toyota) and Kyle Busch (No. 18 Snickers Toyota) of Joe Gibbs Racing have won there.

Dodge is currently fourth in the manufacturers' standings with 28 points and one victory. The Dodge teams this week will be looking to get the manufacturer's first victory at Phoenix this weekend.

NASCAR Weekly Teleconference: NASCAR is joined by Clint Bowyer driver of the No. 07 DirecTV Chevrolet this week on the NASCAR Weekly Teleconference:

Q: Hey Clint, did you watch the game (NCAA Men's Basketball Championships) last night? What did you think?

Bowyer: Man, how awesome was that? Unbelievable! I was bummed out. I thought man my boys (Kansas) have lost. Then out of nowhere (Mario) Chalmers made that shot. It was just meant to be. That is all you can say, is that it was just meant to be. They worked so hard all season long, and they deserved it. They are the champs.

Up Next: The Aaron's 499 At Talladega Superspeedway

The ninth race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule will be Sun., April 27 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year at Talladega, Jeff Gordon won from the pole, giving Rick Hendrick his third consecutive win. Gordon went on to sweep Talladega last year, becoming the sixth driver to accomplish the feat. Gordon is second on the all-time wins list at Talladega with six -- behind Dale Earnhardt with 10.

The action kicks off on FOX at 1:30 p.m. with the green flag scheduled to drop at 2 p.m.

The Race: Subway Fresh Fit 500
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway

The Date: Saturday, April 12
The Time: 8:30 p.m. (ET)

The Track: One-mile oval
The Distance: 312 laps/500 kilo.

TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio

2007 Winner: Jeff Gordon
2007 Polesitter: Jeff Gordon

Pre-Race Schedule:
Thursday -- Practice, 12:15-1:45 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:10 p.m.
Friday -- Practice, 3:45 p.m.-4:30 p.m.; Saturday -- Final Practice, 5--6 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Jimmie Johnson , Michael McDowell , Johnny Sauter , David Reutimann , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Regan Smith , Chip Ganassi , Bobby Allison , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , J.C. Fra , Felix Sabates , Sam Hornish Jr. , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing