* Reigning Champ Reeling In: Defending Champ Kurt Busch Jumps from 10th to 5th in "Race for the Chase" * Johnson Looks for Repeat: Series' Leader Looks to Repeat in Pennsylvania 500 * Edwards Would Flip Over Another Pocono Win: Driver Has Only...
* Reigning Champ Reeling In: Defending Champ Kurt Busch Jumps from 10th to 5th in "Race for the Chase"
* Johnson Looks for Repeat: Series' Leader Looks to Repeat in Pennsylvania 500
* Edwards Would Flip Over Another Pocono Win: Driver Has Only One Top-5 Since June Victory
NEWS AND NOTES, PART II
On The NASCAR Bubble: 10th Place Belongs to Jarrett ... With seven races remaining in the "Race for the Chase," the spotlight is on 10th place, and the "bubble" of drivers battling for that spot, or to remain within 400 points of the leader. The 1999 series champion Dale Jarrett is this week's 10th-place driver. He improved one position after finishing 16th last week at Loudon.
Here's a look at the drivers on the cusp of 10th place, or on the "bubble:"
• Jamie McMurray (No 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) is 11th in the point standings, just 21 points behind Jarrett and 439 points behind standings leader Johnson. He fell from the top 10 due to an accident at Loudon that produced a DNF and a 40th-place finish.
• Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) is 12th, just 54 points behind Jarrett and 33 points behind McMurray.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) is 13th for the second week, just 59 points behind Jarrett and five points behind Edwards.
• Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) is 14th, 105 points behind Jarrett and 46 points behind Earnhardt Jr.
• Jeff Gordon is 15th, 115 points behind Jarrett and 15 points behind Harvick.
Busch on the Move in Standings ... With some help from the misfortunes of other top-10 drivers at Loudon, Jamie McMurray finishing 40th, and Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&Ms Ford) finishing 39th, and a great race of his own, Kurt Busch (No. 97 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford) jumped from 10th in the points to fifth. Busch finished second to Tony Stewart after the two swapped the lead several times late in the race. Stewart won by 0.851 of a second over Busch.
Making Progress ... For the second consecutive week, drivers Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Dewalt Power Tools Ford) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. demonstrated their teams are rebounding from early season maladies. Kenseth posted a 10th-place finish at Loudon, while Earnhardt finished ninth. Neither driver has posted a Pocono win, but Earnhardt has finished as high as second place. Bobby Labonte (No.18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) posted only his second top-five finish of the season at Loudon, with a third-place finish. Like Jeff Gordon, Sunday will be Labonte's 25th career Pocono start. And like Gordon, Labonte has three Pocono wins.
"Going into Pocono, our team feels confident that we can be a top-ten finisher week-in and week-out," Kenseth said. "We've improved our finishes this summer and I was really proud of what we were able to do on Sunday at Loudon. We didn't have a great car, but everyone stayed focused and we were able to come home with another top-10 finish. We'll be looking to continue that streak in Pocono this weekend."
Edwards Would Love to Flip ... Carl Edwards would love the opportunity to execute his celebratory back-flip like he did after winning June's Pocono 500. Edwards has had only one top-five finish since that win. He placed fifth the following week at Michigan. Edwards is 12th in series points coming into Pocono this weekend.
Eyeing Martin, Wallace ... Veteran drivers Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) and Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) enter their final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event at Pocono in the heat of the "Race for the Chase." Martin is seventh in points and Wallace is fourth in points. Neither has won a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event this year, although Martin won the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge in May. Wallace is a four-time Pocono race winner, most recently in 2000. Three of those wins have come in the Pennsylvania 500, the second Pocono race of the season. Martin has finished as high as second six times at Pocono. In last month's Pocono 500, Martin finished seventh, and Wallace finished 11th.
"Pocono is one of my favorite race tracks," Martin said. "It's really hard to believe that we've never won there, but we've run really well and we've finished second a whole bunch of times," Martin said. "We had a good car there last month and we were probably going to finish second and we might have even had a shot to win, but we lost a tire there on the last restart and had to settle for a seventh-place finish. Hopefully we can go there and put ourselves in that position again and come out on top this time."
Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers Standings ... After 19 races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, Chevrolet got its 10th victory of 2005 last Sunday thanks to Tony Stewart's win at Loudon. The win extended Chevrolet's lead in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings to 12 points (142-130) over Ford, which has eight wins. Dodge is third with one win and 89 points. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned in this fashion: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series leader. Greg Biffle, in second place, is the top Ford driver. Rusty Wallace is the leading Dodge driver, fourth in the points.
Raybestos Rookie Report ... With his fourth-place finish at Loudon last weekend, complimented by his fourth-place finish in June's Pocono 500, Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) continues to lead the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award standings with 195 points. Travis Kvapil (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge) is second in rookie points with 155. Entering Pocono, Busch is 19th in series points, while Kvapil is 33rd. Rookie candidate Stanton Barrett has 51 points, followed by Eric McClure with 18 points.
Busy NASCAR Weekend Coast-to-Coast ... Ten of NASCAR's 11 touring series will be in competition this weekend across the country, making July 23-34 the busiest weekend of the year. Two NASCAR Grand National Divisions, four AutoZone Elite Divisions, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, plus the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Busch Series, and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will all be on the tracks. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour is the only series with a weekend off. Many of those teams will congregate at their home track, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Saturday night. In addition to Bowman Gray, more than 60 other NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series tracks will also host events.
Gary Nelson on Pocono Crew Chief Challenges ... NASCAR Vice President for Research and Development Gary Nelson scored three Pocono wins as crew chief for Bobby Allison in 1982 and 1983. His memories on the challenges of being competitive at Pocono:
"Pocono was one of my favorites. We had great success at Pocono and we always looked forward to running at Pocono. The challenge, I always thought, was gas mileage. I would make compromises to the lap speed to gain a few laps of gas mileage. In doing that, I think we were able to win a couple of the races that others had to stop for fuel late in the race and we were able to continue. We kind of drove a lot of our competition crazy because we may not be the fastest car for the first 10 laps and we may be able to match the fastest car's speed for the next 10 laps, and then we would be the fastest car from lap 20 to 30. Then it would be time for pit stops. Not many people watching the Pocono races in those days would really consider us a dominating car. Our strategy was to get to the checkered flag first. It worked out many times. I think we won two or three in a row there, but certainly not from the pole and certainly not from leading the most laps." (DiGard took their hot-rod Buick Regal to Pocono and swept both races in 1982, then the first race of 1983 for a "three-peat".)
At a track where calculating fuel mileage can be critical, Nelson did not have the advantage of today's computer technology:
"It was the old pencil and paper method. Pocono presents a major risk to a competitor who gambles on fuel mileage, because if you run out of gas, you don't make it back to your pit. There are not a lot of tracks that are that way. So we had to have the confidence that we were calculating our mileage properly, and then have the intestinal fortitude to say, 'O.K., we're going to stay out one more lap and then we're going to come in and everything is going to work out.' We were trying to calculate fuel mileage to the quarter-lap with very limited technology."
On Deck: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Indianapolis Motor Speedway ... Race No. 21 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, Aug. 7. Jeff Gordon has won the event four times, including the inaugural race in 1994. He's also the defending champion of the race. Casey Mears was last year's polesitter. Gordon leads with the most Bud Pole Awards there with three. After his first career win at Daytona International Speedway in July's Pepsi 400, there is no race the currently hot-footed Tony Stewart would love to win. Badly.
The race: Pennsylvania 500 (Race No. 20 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
The date/time: Sunday, July 24, 1:40 p.m. (ET).
TV: TNT, 1:00 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $4,795,586.
Race length: 500 miles, 200 laps.
Track layout: 2.5-mile triangle.
2004 winner: Jimmie Johnson
2004 pole sitter: Casey Mears
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,672. 2. Greg Biffle 2,595. 3. Tony Stewart 2,587. 4. Rusty Wallace 2,442. 5. Kurt Busch 2,347. 6. Ryan Newman 2,347. 7. Mark Martin 2,320. 8. Jeremy Mayfield 2,285. 9. Elliott Sadler 2,276. 10. Dale Jarrett, 2,254.