Pocono II: News of note, schedule

NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus at record $200,000 Craven, Nemechek head to Soap Box Derby Championship NEWS & NOTES * TV Timeout ... Sunday's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway had a final rating of 4.7 on TNT. Over ...

NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus at record $200,000
Craven, Nemechek head to Soap Box Derby Championship


* TV Timeout ... Sunday's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway had a final rating of 4.7 on TNT. Over 4 million households tuned in, up 3% from last year's broadcast. The race also produced the largest audience for a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race on cable this season and was the weekend's most-watched sporting event on cable. (Figures compiled by Nielsen Media Research).

* Charting the NASCAR Top 10: Kenseth has shown consistency at Pocono ... Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) has been No. 1 in the NASCAR Top 10 for 16 consecutive weeks (since Atlanta) and has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 18 of this season's 19 weeks of racing. Kenseth leads second place Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) by 234 points, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) is third, 273 back. ... Consistency has been Kenseth's forte all season, and Pocono is no different for the points leader, where he has produced four top-10 finishes in his seven races at the track. ... Fifth-place Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) -- who moved up one spot by virtue of his win last week at New Hampshire -- and sixth-place Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) are the only drivers who have been in the NASCAR Top 10 all season. Tenth-place Jeff Burton (No. 99 CITGO Ford) makes his first appearance in the NASCAR Top 10 since Atlanta, 15 races ago, when he ranked ninth. Burton has made his move thanks to three straight top-10 finishes.

* Winston Leader Bonus reaches $200,000 ... A victory at Pocono by Matt Kenseth would not only add to his lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings, but would add handsomely to his pocket as well. Kenseth has the only opportunity to take home the NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus, which now stands at a record $200,000. The former mark was established by Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) in 2000 when he collected $190,000 with his win at Indianapolis. The $10,000 bonus is available following every NASCAR Winston Cup race. If the points leader does not win the race, the bonus rolls over to the next week. The last driver to claim the bonus was Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) following his win at Darlington in March 2002, 50 races ago.

* More milestones for Martin, Bobby Labonte ... In addition to Ricky Rudd's continued run at NASCAR history, Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) will be aiming for a career milestone of his own at Pocono on Sunday. Martin will vie for his 550th NASCAR Winston Cup start at the Pennsylvania 500. Martin started his first NASCAR Winston Cup race the same year Rudd began his consecutive start streak -- 1981 -- at North Wilkesboro on April 5. Martin has 33 career NASCAR Winston Cup wins, 41 poles, 205 top fives and 322 top 10s in 549 starts. Bobby Labonte is looking to make the 350th start of his career Sunday. Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, has posted three of his 20 career wins at Pocono, including two in the July race (1999, '01).

* Craven, Nemechek head to Akron for Soap Box Derby Championship ... Ricky Craven (No. 32 Tide Pontiac) and Joe Nemechek (No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet) are scheduled to be on hand Saturday in Akron, Ohio as NASCAR ambassadors for the 66th All-American Soap Box Derby, an official NASCAR youth initiative. Craven, a former Soap Box racer, attended the event last year and raced in a gravity-powered car at the famed 989-foot Derby Downs track. The two drivers are scheduled to face each other in an exhibition race on Saturday. Over 400 youngsters in three divisions who hail from 42 states, Washington, D.C., Germany, Japan and New Zealand will compete for more than $50,000 in scholarship awards.

* Bill Elliott's crew wins New Hampshire Pit Crew competition ... The weekly McDonald's/POWERade Drive-Thru Pit Championship was won by Bill Elliott's (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) crew at the New England 300. Elliott spent 165.612 seconds in the pits -- the least amount of pit time among teams competing in the program. Overall, Michael Waltrip's crew leads with 719 points, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew with 644. Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet -- 621 points) is third, followed closely by Bobby Labonte's crew (618).

* Green Brothers Celebrity Golf Tournament set ... NASCAR racing brothers Jeff (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet), David (current point leader in the NASCAR Busch Series) and Mark Green will be joined by Darrell Waltrip, Michael Waltrip, Kasey Kahne, Randy LaJoie, Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond and others at the 4th Annual Green Brothers Celebrity Golf Tournament Wednesday, July 30th at the Summit Country Club in Owensboro, Ky. Proceeds from the event benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Busch Series Ladies Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Children's Miracle Network, Motor Racing Outreach and Owensboro Speedzeum. In addition there will be silent and live auctions throughout the day. For more information, contact Keith Howard at 1-800-544-5823 or at Khoward@valorllc.com.

* Schrader, Stewart, Harvick in charity race ... M&M'S will partner with Ken Schrader (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge) for the second annual "M&M'S Night of Stars" event July 30 at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. Last year's event -- a 10-lap shootout with NASCAR drivers racing in Dirt Modifieds -- raised $114,626 for the Victory Junction Gang Camp for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. All proceeds from this year's M&M'S Night of Stars again will go to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty. Fans will make contributions via M&M'S Night of Stars ticket sales, T-shirt sales and a raffle for a Dirt Works Modified roller chassis. Schrader will be joined in the match race by 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Petty (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge), Kenny Wallace (No. 23 Stacker2 Dodge), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), NASCAR Busch Series driver Jason Keller and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rick Crawford.


* Bill Elliott leads all NASCAR Winston Cup drivers with five victories at Pocono, including the 2002 Pennsylvania 500. Elliott also has 22 top-10 finishes in 43 races at Pocono. ... Mark Martin has 17 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes in 33 career races at Pocono, best among active drivers. Martin has 14 top 10s in his last 16 races at Pocono. ... Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) has seven top-10 finishes -- including two of his three career NASCAR Winston Cup victories -- at Pocono. ... Jeff Gordon has led 811 laps at Pocono, more than any other driver.


* Jimmy Johnson's win at New Hampshire was his second of the season and made him the third NASCAR Winston Cup multiple race winner this year, joining Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford) and Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) who each have three wins. ... Robby Gordon will have the honor of throwing out the first pitch Wednesday at Turner Field before the Atlanta Braves face the visiting Florida Marlins, the second time in the last three weeks Gordon has had that honor. He also threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field prior to a Cubs game during Tropicana 400 week. ... Casey Mears (No. 41 Target Dodge) is entered in all three races this weekend at Pocono -- ARCA races on Friday (make-up of the June 7 race that was postponed due to rain where Mears had the pole) and Saturday and the Pennsylvania 500 on Sunday -- a total of 900 miles. ... Pardon Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac) if he yawns during a conversation this week. The Valvoline team raced at Chicago July 13, then traveled to Indianapolis that night for what turned into a three-day test session due to rain. Benson and his team flew home on the night of the 16th, then left for New Hampshire the next day. After racing there Sunday, the team flew home that evening then left for Virginia International Raceway on Monday for a two-day test. The team plans to leave Thursday for Pocono.


* "I like the style of driving at Pocono because we shift gears so much there. I enjoy shifting because of all the road racing and off-road racing I've done. Shifting is almost more normal for me than not shifting like we're used to in NASCAR Winston Cup. Pocono has three unique corners and you have to get through all [the] turns really well in order to be strong. If you're capable of being good in only one turn, you want it to be Turn 3 because it's the last one going onto the long, front straightaway." -- Robby Gordon.

* "It won us the race. The crew won the race - not me. I just did my part by driving. They got me in position on that stop toward the end where we went back to green. I was able to run my pace, and not abuse the front tires chasing down the leader. I could run the way I wanted to run and lift the way I wanted to lift and do everything my way instead of trying to push hard and run those guys down. When it came time to come in and make our green-flag stop for fuel, they had another great pit stop. We got out ahead of Sterling (Marlin) and Mark (Martin), and the biggest thing was just getting right back into my rhythm. They had two really good stops right there at the end of the race that put us in victory lane." -- Tony Stewart, who won the June race at Pocono, on the importance of track position.

* "We run a 500-mile race there in the middle of June and they pack the place. We come back, what, five or six weeks later, and they pack it all over again. I bet if we ran a third one in another five weeks, they'd pack that one too. I guess Doc and Rose (Mattioli) had a pretty good read on the fans in this area when they and some friends built the place back 20-something years ago. They have always said there is a hunger up here for good racing, and that shows in the grandstands. These fans are intense. From what I've seen, all of our fans are pretty intense, but the ones around Pocono seem to give it that little something extra. -- Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge).

* "Last week wasn't what we hoped for. We went back to the shop and regrouped. There is still a lot more racing left in this season. Now isn't any kind of time to give up." -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford).


Jeff Gordon finished first or second -- including three victories -- in seven of the eight races held at Pocono Raceway between July 1995 and June '99. The four-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion has finished outside the top 10 only four times in the 19 races since.


What: Pennsylvania 500.
Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, July 27.

TV: TNT, 12:30 p.m. ET.
Race length: 500 miles/200 laps.
Track layout: 2.5-mile banked paved speedway.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday--Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m. Qualifying--3:05 p.m. Saturday--Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11:10-11:55 a.m.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Jason Keller , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Rick Crawford , Mark Green , Kasey Kahne , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin