Talladega II: News of note

* Wallace's point standing best since February 2001 * Out of the Chase but not out of contention: Gordon, Earnhardt seek to remind peers of their big-track dominance * Race for 11th place led by Sadler -- for now NEWS AND NOTES, PART ...

* Wallace's point standing best since February 2001

* Out of the Chase but not out of contention: Gordon, Earnhardt seek to remind peers of their big-track dominance

* Race for 11th place led by Sadler -- for now

NEWS AND NOTES, PART II

Wallace back on once-familiar ground ... Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) is second in the series point standings and if you don't think that's significant, consider this: The last time Wallace was this high in the points was February 2001, after the second race of that season. ... Talladega, however, does not bode well. In 44 starts there, Wallace's best finish is fifth. He did that once -- in 1988.

Sadler has current edge in 11th-place battle ... Whoever ends up 11th in the final series standings will receive a point-fund payout in excess of $1 million, a sum that will include a $250,000 bonus. Going into Talladega, Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford) leads that quest, with 12th-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) 40 points back, 13th-place Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline Texaco Dodge) -- last year's 11th-place finisher -- 47 behind and Jeff Gordon in 14th, only 72 behind. Sadler is coming off a solid sixth-place run at Dover.

Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seeking consolation -- and confidence ... Out of the Chase but by no means out of contention at Talladega, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. seek a victory this weekend that would offer consolation for this year and confidence-building for next year.

Earnhardt is the defending race champion; Gordon has won the last two Talladega spring events. "Talladega is a special place to me, always has been, always will be," Earnhardt said. "I love racing there. I love winning there. [Crew chief] Tony Eury Jr. has had Talladega marked on his calendar for awhile, and he's been putting in overtime to get this car ready."

Earnhardt's success at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway -- where horsepower-limiting carburetor restrictor plates are mandated -- has reminded many of his father's "plate-racing" expertise, but he's quick to point out that the art of giant-track racing has changed somewhat, starting with the technique known as "bump-drafting."

"I love doing it, but today's bump-drafting ain't like it used to be." Earnhardt said. "It ain't your daddy's bump-drafting. You use to give a bump here, give a bump there, and push the guy in front of you past another car. Now it's more like 'slam-drafting'. At Talladega we hit each other hard. It feels like being hit by a sledgehammer. The car we're taking this weekend had to have a whole new rear clip put on it, because it was so banged up from the last plate race. But it's a part of it.

"Some guys don't like it, but I think it's fun. If you do it right, it can be a big advantage, but if you don't ... it isn't pretty."

Gordon has halted DEI restrictor-plate dominance by winning four of the last seven "plate" races, including the season-opening Daytona 500. At Talladega he leads active drivers in laps led, with 640.

If Gordon wins Sunday, it would mark his third restrictor-plate victory of the season and his 11th overall -- two feats accomplished only by Dale Earnhardt Sr. A victory would also move Gordon to within three wins of Earnhardt on the all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win list.

Earnhardt, a 76-time winner and seven-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, won both races held at Talladega Superspeedway and one of two events held at Daytona International Speedway in 1990. After wins in the Daytona 500 and the Aaron's 499 at Talladega earlier this season, Gordon will attempt to etch his name in the record books alongside that of Earnhardt.

"Dale was the master at these types of races," Gordon said. "I'd love to get the win, but not because of any statistic or record. And it really doesn't add any extra incentive because this DuPont team tries to win every race. "Statistics are great when it's all said and done but, during the season, you really don't care about them or where you might rank on a list."

Turn back the clock: Petty run at Dover just like old times ... The loyal legions of Petty Enterprises race fans were rewarded this past Sunday. Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge) finished eighth, his second top-10 finish of the season.

"We really showed we can run well," said Petty, 28th in the series points. "We really raced our way to the front all day."

Petty started 34th, giving him the race's best start-to-finish position improvement.

"We have had some good runs, but this was a really strong performance," said Petty.

Petty has 19 top-10 finishes at Talladega, in 47 starts.

Pit Crew Spotlight: Kenseth's crew crucial to title hopes ... In recent years, the pit crew for 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) has distinguished itself as one of the best in all of NASCAR. Led by crew chief Robbie Reiser, the crew consists mostly of Midwesterners -- starting with the driver and crew chief who are both from Wisconsin, as are car chief Jeff Vandermoss, jackman Russ Strupp and front tire carrier Justin Nottestad. ... For more team rosters visit www.nascarmedia.com/crew/crewhomepage.jsp.

Manufacturers' battle remains tight ... Chevrolet, boosted by Jimmie Johnson's win this past Sunday at Dover, continues to lead this year's Manufacturers Championship standings. Chevrolet has 206 points, with Ford at 183 and Dodge at 143.

The points could well tighten up considerably in coming weeks. Five of the 10 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitors drive Fords.

From the Archives ... Virginia native Lennie Pond was the 1973 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Rookie of the Year, beating out such notable contenders as Darrell Waltrip and Tony Bettenhausen Jr. Pond enjoyed his best season in 1978 when he drove for car owner Harry Ranier. That year Pond won one victory, 11 top-five finishes and 19 top 10s in 28 starts, plus five poles.

That sole win -- also the only one of his career -- came at Talladega in August 1978 when he beat Donnie Allison by two car lengths when Allison's windshield was hit by debris from a blown tire from Bill Elliott's car on the last lap.

The race, which was slowed only four times for 17 laps due to caution, produced a record 67 lead changes among nine drivers. Pond's average speed of 174.700 mph set a record for the fastest 500-mile race.

On Deck: Kansas Speedway ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series comes to Kansas Speedway for the fifth time, on Oct. 9. Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) is the defending champion, returning to the site of the most successful weekend of his NASCAR career. Last year, in addition to winning the Banquet 400 from the pole, Nemechek also won the weekend's NASCAR Busch Series event, out-dueling Tony Stewart with a last-lap pass.

Fast Facts

The race: UAW-Ford 500

The track: Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala.

The date/time: Sunday, Oct. 2, 2:30 p.m. (ET).

TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $5,168,472.

Race length: 500 miles, 188 laps.
Track layout: 2.66-mile tri-oval.

2004 winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 polesitter: Joe Nemechek.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 5,362. 2. Rusty Wallace 5,355. 3. Ryan Newman 5,350. 4. Mark Martin 5,341. 5. Tony Stewart 5,339. 6. Greg Biffle 5,339. 7. Jeremy Mayfield 5,281. 8. Carl Edwards 5,259. 9. Matt Kenseth 5,238. 10. Kurt Busch 5,192.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Donnie Allison , Elliott Sadler , Tony Bettenhausen , Tony Eury Jr. , Mark Martin