NEWS OF NOTE * Championship update with seven races remaining... Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) has an 11-point lead over Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford) coming into this week's event. It's a slim advantage but also highly ...
NEWS OF NOTE
* Championship update with seven races remaining... Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) has an 11-point lead over Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford) coming into this week's event. It's a slim advantage but also highly significant. For the first time, a rookie has the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points lead. This season's championship chase has the closest margin in history (under the current points system, created in 1975) between first and fifth place-- 121 points-- with seven races remaining on the schedule.
* DEI dominating restrictor-plate racing... Five of the last seven NASCAR Winston Cup events at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway-- tracks where cars race with carburetor restrictor plates-- have been won by drivers employed by Dale Earnhardt Inc. Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) won the 2001 Daytona 500 and this year's Pepsi 400 at Daytona; Dale Jr. won the Pepsi 400 and EA Sports 500 at Talladega in 2001 and this year's Aaron's 499 at Talladega.
* TV timeout... According to final ratings produced by Nielsen Media Research, the Sept. 22 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway was watched by 5,117,000 viewers on TNT, making it the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. The Sept. 21 NASCAR Busch Series race at Dover, also on TNT, had 1,552,000 viewers, the weekend's second-highest motorsports viewership. Ratings for the NASCAR Busch event were up 27% from 2001. Also, the Sept. 21 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Dover, on ESPN2, had a 20% increase from 2001.
* Fuel cell change... Cars competing at Talladega this weekend will have fuel cells with a 12.5-gallon capacity. Fuel cells normally are 22 gallons. The change, which will necessitate more pit stops, is being tried in an attempt to spread out the field over the course of the event."A whole new strategy has to be put into place by the teams," said NASCAR Winston Cup Series Director John Darby." Working with a variety of drafting partners and thinking about different scenarios on when to pit, with who and how big a gamble they want to take are just some of the things teams have already been thinking about.... One of the most exciting and important parts of a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race is the activity on pit road. Drivers have their roles on the track, and the pit crew play their roles during a pit stop. The biggest change for fans is that the crews will now be involved twice as much."
* Etc.... The SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier system has been installed on a portion of the track, for this weekend's racing. The system, commonly knows as"soft walls," is in place on the inside retaining wall exiting Turn 4 and entering Turn 1. (Approximately 3,000 feet.)... In addition to Dale Earnhardt Jr., four other drivers will be eligible to win an extra $1 million on Sunday via the Winston No Bull 5 promotion: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Ford), Jeff Green (No. 30 America Online Chevrolet) and Todd Bodine (No. 26 Discover Card Ford). Five fans also will be eligible for a $1 million bonus as part of the"They Win, You Win" fan sweepstakes. They are: Jacob Homer of Gaston, S.C., William Lucas of Harlem, Ga., Roger Phelps of Milton, N.C., Debra Polzan of Manchester, Conn., and Gertrude Schmidt of Wood Dale, Ill. Each will be paired with an eligible driver. The program's $1 million bonus has been awarded to a driver and a fan 12 times since 1998.... The NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus has reached a record-high $250,000. It will be awarded if the winner of the EA Sports 500 also leads the NASCAR Winston Cup points.... The" On Track For Charity" Presented by VISA fundraiser will be held Friday, Oct. 11 at Lowe's Motor Speedway to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp and Speedway Children's Charities. Following the final NASCAR Busch Series practice that day (approximately 4:45 p.m.), registered participants can walk the track with various drivers including Kyle Petty, John Andretti and Jerry Nadeau. Pre-registration fee through Oct. 1 is $15, and includes an event T-shirt and a bag with products from NASCAR sponsors and licensees. Children under 16, accompanied by a registered adult, can participate for free. For more information or to register, go to speedwaycharities.org or call (704) 455-4396.... Scott Wimmer, Bill Davis' NASCAR Busch Series driver, will drive the Bill Davis Racing No. 23 Hills Bros. Coffee Dodge this weekend. Kenny Wallace took over full-time driving duties of the No. 23 at Darlington earlier in the season, but before he signed on with Bill Davis, Wallace had already committed to driving Andy Petree's No. 33 1-800-CALLATT Chevrolet at Talladega. ... Ron Hornaday will substitute for injured Bobby Hamilton this weekend, in the No. 55 Schneider Electric/Square D Chevrolet, also owned by Petree.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) has his two-race winning streak at Talladega, but Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac) has his own momentum going at the 2.66-mile tri-oval. Stewart finished second in both of last year's Talladega races.
*Among active drivers, five are tied for most Talladega wins, at two: Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford), Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Chevrolet), Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kelloggs Chevrolet).
WHAT'S THE WORD?
"You can't really rub fenders at Talladega, but it'll be like the old days when we lived together in an old trailer."-- Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the prospect of racing alongside brother Kerry this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
If a Dodge driver wins this year's EA Sports 500, it will be big news for the manufacturer, which returned to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series last year after leaving in the late 1970s. Dodges have won only two of the previous 55 races at Talladega. Dave Marcis won the' 76 Talladega 500 and Richard Brickhouse won the' 69 Talladega 500-- the first NASCAR Winston Cup event at the track.