Fine-tuning takes on new meaning for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams NEWS AND NOTES The race for 11th place: McMurray setting pace ... Jamie McMurray has a hold on 11th position for the fourth consecutive week, but the battle below him is...
Fine-tuning takes on new meaning for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams
NEWS AND NOTES
The race for 11th place: McMurray setting pace ... Jamie McMurray has a hold on 11th position for the fourth consecutive week, but the battle below him is taking shape. Both the 12th-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) and the 13th-place Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) gained a spot following Dover. Harvick trails McMurray by 99 points, while Labonte is only seven points behind Harvick and 106 behind McMurray. Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) took the biggest tumble in the race for 11th, falling two spots to 14th after Dover. Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) remains in 15th place.
And look for this week's EA Sports 500 to sort things out -- or shake things up -- in the drive for 11th.
"Talladega should be interesting, as usual," Labonte said. "I've won there before and also been involved in a 20-car wreck, so I've been on both ends of the spectrum. Hopefully, we'll end up on the right side this week. We need a win and Talladega wouldn't be a bad place to get it."
"Every race takes patience, as well as a good handling race car," Jarrett said. "Talladega requires all of that and the right mixture of good fortune."
No shortage of goals ... Twenty-eight races done, eight to go, yet plenty of work left. That's what's motivating some NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competitors. Not that they need incentive, but drivers and teams are focusing not only on the financial reward and satisfaction of finishing 11th, but also on the returns they can reap in the season's final weeks.
For Dale Jarrett, it's the opportunity to return to Victory Lane.
"Obviously it would have been nice to be in the top 10 in the points and battling for a championship, but it almost has been a blessing for this team that we aren't in that position," said Jarrett, the 1999 premier-series champion. "We have accomplished a lot this year in getting back to where we can compete in the top 10 on a weekly basis. We aren't there yet, but we're closer. If we had made the top 10, then all we would be concentrating on is the championship and not really looking at areas in which we still need improvement."
In his first season with crew chief Mike Ford, Jarrett feels the knitting-back-together of a championship-caliber team takes precedence. He'll test a 2005 car in the next few weeks and hopes all the hard work will allow the No. 88 team to prepare for next year.
"Ideally, we'd like to be able to end the year with at least a win and to keep gaining on our program so that we are a championship team next season," Jarrett said.
"We've made progress in the last few weeks and are coming together as a team," said Bobby Labonte, who, after a mid-season crew-chief change, is falling more in step with new crew chief Brandon Thomas.
For Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) -- aka "Front-Row Joe" -- it's capturing his first Bud Pole of 2004.
"We have not won a pole this year and we're running out of time," said Nemechek, who's 24th in the point standings. "We've had a couple of outside poles and started fourth in the spring race at Talladega, but we never got to wear the Bud Pole hat -- yet."
Another Wallace wins ... Fear not that Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) will be bored after he hangs up his helmet. Wallace, who recently announced that the 2005 season will be his last, already is knee-deep in mentoring another Wallace, his 17-year-old son Steve. The younger Wallace pulled off a big Late Model win at Bristol Motor Speedway last Saturday night, and as he nears the end of his United Auto Racing Association season, ranks seventh in the UARA standings and second in rookie standings. His next event is Saturday night at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Chevrolet-Ford-Dodge in Manufacturers standings ... Ryan Newman's (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) win at Dover gave Dodge its fourth victory of the season. Chevrolet retains the lead in the Manufacturers Championship standings with 197 points, followed by Ford's 177 and Dodge's 158. Chevrolet has a series-high 15 victories while Ford has nine. A Chevrolet has won the last 11 consecutive races at Talladega, thanks mostly to the Earnhardt family. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) won four consecutive races from fall 2001 through spring 2003. His Dale Earnhardt Inc., teammate Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), is the current defending race champion. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) won at Talladega in April 2000 and this year's spring event. Bobby Hamilton Sr., the current point leader in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, won in April 2001. Dale Earnhardt swept both 1999 races, plus the fall 2001 event.
NASCAR TV offers full slate ... This week on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel: • Friday, Oct. 1 -- SPEED Channel's expanded coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup begins with NASCAR Live at noon ET. Host Steve Byrnes and reporter Bob Dillner return with updates at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
• Friday, Oct. 1 -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series qualifying (4 p.m. ET) LIVE from Talladega. The only place to see NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Qualifying and Happy Hour for the rest of the season is on SPEED Channel.
• Friday, Oct. 1 -- Trackside (7 p.m. ET). LIVE from the SPEED Channel stage truck outside the track near turns 1 and 2 family campground. Hosted by Steve Byrnes, Michael Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond. This week's guests include Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett, among others.
• Saturday, Oct. 2 -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Happy Hour (noon ET) LIVE from Talladega. The only place to see NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Happy Hours and Qualifying for the rest of the season is on SPEED Channel.
• Saturday, Oct. 2 -- SPEED Channel's expanded coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup begins with NASCAR Live at 1 p.m., ET. Host Steve Byrnes and reporter Bob Dillner return with updates at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 2 -- Pit Bull (6:30 p.m. ET). Host Steve Byrnes is joined by beat writers Mike Mulhern (Winston-Salem Journal), David Poole (Charlotte Observer), Ben Blake (Racer Magazine and SPEEDTV.com) and Kenny Bruce (NASCAR Scene).
• Saturday, Oct. 2 -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (10 p.m., ET) LIVE from California Speedway.
• Sunday, Oct. 3 -- SPEED Channel's expanded coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup begins with NASCAR Live at 10 a.m. ET. Host Steve Byrnes and reporter Bob Dillner return with updates from the track at 10:30 a.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 3 -- SPEEDNews NASCAR Edition (7:00 p.m. and midnight ET) hosted by Bob Varsha, Ralph Sheheen and Connie LeGrand. Bob Dillner, Robin Miller, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond are regular contributors.
• Sunday, Oct. 3 -- NASCAR Victory Lane (8 p.m. ET) Host John Roberts is joined by NASCAR drivers Kenny Wallace and Chad Little for post-race coverage.
• Monday, Oct. 4 -- Inside NEXTEL Cup (7 p.m. ET) with Allen Bestwick, Michael Waltrip, Johnny Benson and Ken Schrader reviewing the weekend's action.
• Monday, Oct. 4 -- SPEED Channel's reality series NBS 24/7 (8 p.m. ET) follows NASCAR Busch Series race teams from FitzBradshaw Racing (Casey Atwood, Tim Fedewa), Akins Motorsports (Kasey Kahne) and Braun Racing (David Stremme).
• Wednesday, Oct. 6 -- NASCAR Performance (6:30 p.m. ET). Three crew chiefs join NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pit reporter Ray Dunlap to debate current topics, answer listener questions and solve hypothetical situations in 30-second time frames. Also, Mark Salem's "Your Personal Crew Chief" addresses the Be Car Care Aware Tip of the Week.
Contingency Corner ... Last week at Dover, Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) won the MBNA America 400. But he also won a bit more than that. Because Newman led at the half-way mark, he won the $10,000 MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award, plus a $5,000 bonus for winning the race. Newman became the eighth consecutive driver to win a race after winning the MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award. His season winnings for the award now total $25,000. To date, Jeff Gordon has won the most MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award money in 2004 -- a total of $125,000. ... By winning last week's Bud Pole, Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) became the only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver to sweep the pole at a track this year. Mayfield also won the pole for Dover's June event.
Two drivers have been added to this week's Talladega field. Ricky Craven, who earlier this season parted ways with PPI Motorsports, will drive Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 Old Spice Chevrolet with Philippe Lopez as his crew chief. Chad Blount, who's been testing for Penske Racing South, will drive Penske's No. 06 Dodge.
"I tell you, winning anywhere, to me, is important. It doesn't matter if it's a foot race, I guess, right now would be good. I've never won at Talladega, I ran third, I think, a couple of times, maybe second. It would be a neat deal." -- Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford).
"We always go into the Talladega races expecting to keep our noses clean and come out of there with a good finish and that's certainly the case again this weekend." -- Rusty Wallace.
"Talladega is one of the toughest races on your brain. You not only have to know where you are positioned on the track at all times, you must also know who is around you, who's having trouble and what lines drivers are using to gain an advantage." -- Joe Nemechek.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Several drivers have scored their only NASCAR premier-series win in Talladega Superspeedway's fall event. The track's inaugural race in 1969, known as the Talladega 500, was won by Richard Brickhouse, who drove a metallic purple, Ray Nichels-prepared Dodge Daytona to his lone victory. Another first-timer, Dick Brooks, scored his win in 1973. Brooks, who drove a Ray Fox-built Plymouth originally driven by Cale Yarborough and owned by part-time driver Jimmy Crawford, acquired his ride just three days before the race. In 1978, Virginian Lennie Pond drove his Harry Ranier Oldsmobile to a Talladega win. Pond's performance set a record for the fastest 500-mile race to date. In 1981, northeastern modified star Ron Bouchard won Talladega's fall race as a rookie in one of NASCAR's closest finishes. Bouchard, Terry Labonte and Darrell Waltrip were involved in a three-way photo finish. Bobby Hillin Jr. is the most recent "one-timer". Hillin won in 1986 as a teammate to Alabama legend Bobby Allison. The pair drove Buicks for the Stavola Brothers team.
What: EA Sports 500 (Race No. 29 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
Where: Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala.
When: Sunday, Oct. 3, 2:30 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,199,159.
Race length: 500 miles, 188 laps.
Track layout: 2.66-mile tri-oval.
2003 winner: Michael Waltrip.
2003 polesitter: Elliott Sadler.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jeff Gordon 5,371. 2. Kurt Busch 5,370. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,353. 4. Jimmie Johnson 5,314. 5. Mark Martin 5,314. 6. Elliott Sadler 5,275. 7. Matt Kenseth 5,272. 8. Ryan Newman 5,264. 9. Tony Stewart 5,236. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5,214.