NEWS OF NOTE * Update with 11 to go... Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) finished fourth last Sunday in the Mountain Dew Southern 500, which limited the damage done to Marlin's series point lead by race winner Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont...
NEWS OF NOTE
* Update with 11 to go... Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) finished fourth last Sunday in the Mountain Dew Southern 500, which limited the damage done to Marlin's series point lead by race winner Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Despite winning and advancing to second place in the standings, Gordon sliced only 20 points off Marlin's lead. Marlin now leads by 91 points. Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford) is third, 125 back of Marlin. Marlin and Martin are seeking their first series title while Gordon is chasing his fifth. The top five drivers are separated by 167 points. This is the second-closest margin between the top-five drivers in history with 11 races remaining. In 1984, 140 points separated the top-five drivers with 11 races remaining.
* TV timeout... In the final Nielsen Media Research ratings for the weekend of Aug. 24-25, the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on TNT attracted 4,137,000 households, an increase of 23 percent from last season's event. The Sharpie 500, the most-watched sports program on cable for the weekend and top motorsports program overall, attracted 7,085,000 viewers, making it the most-watched Bristol race ever.
* Etc.... There have been 15 different race winners and 13 different Bud Pole winners through 25 races.... The NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus will be worth a record payout of $210,000 at Richmond. The bonus, which begins at $10,000 and rolls over each race until there is a winner, is given to the driver who is the race winner and points leader following that event. The last driver to win the bonus was Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) at Darlington's spring race ($20,000). ... Saturday night's race will be a Winston No Bull 5 event. Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford), Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), Jimmy Spencer (No. 41 Target Dodge) and Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford) are the eligible drivers for the $1 million bonus from R.J. Reynolds. Five fans will also be eligible for a $1 million bonus as part of the"They Win, You Win" fans sweepstakes: Lisa Reynolds of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Lowell Thomas of Belleville, Ill.; Teresa Garnett of Naugatuck, Conn.; Tommy Medley of Roanoke, Va.; and Joseph Bowser of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. The Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus has been awarded both to a driver and a fan 12 times since 1998.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) ranks first among active drivers - and tied for third overall - with six career victories at Richmond. He is a four-time winner of the late-summer RIR event (1989,' 92-93,' 95) and two-time winner of the spring race (1989,' 97).
* Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac), winner of the spring RIR race in May, is looking to become the first driver to sweep Richmond's races since Wallace in 1989. He has three career wins at Richmond, the others coming in last year's spring race and the 1999 late-summer event.
* Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) has five top-four finishes, including a win, in his last seven starts in the RIR late-summer race. Jarrett opened the streak with fourth-place finishes in 1995 and' 96 and followed with a win in' 97. He finished third in' 99 and fourth last season.
WHAT'S THE WORD?
* "Richmond is your optimum race track. It's a three-quarters mile, wide race track that you can run all over on. If you've got the car, you can win from anywhere." - Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
* In 1988, Davey Allison, in the No. 28 Havoline Ford Thunderbird, became the eighth driver in the history of the Richmond late-summer race to win from the pole position. The accomplishment is noteworthy because Allison is the last driver to win the race from the pole.
Top five in points: Sterling Marlin 3,405; Jeff Gordon 3,314; Mark Martin 3,280; Tony Stewart 3,243; Jimmie Johnson 3,238.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday - Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.; 4:45-5:30 p.m.; 6:15-7 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.