Four Chase Drivers Know What It Takes At Texas *Three To Go: Gordon And Johnson Setting The Pace *Junior Looks To Fill Spoiler Role And Get First Win This Season *On The Bubble: No. 22 Holding On To The Top 35 The Chase Drivers Get Ready For The...
Four Chase Drivers Know What It Takes At Texas
*Three To Go: Gordon And Johnson Setting The Pace
*Junior Looks To Fill Spoiler Role And Get First Win This Season
*On The Bubble: No. 22 Holding On To The Top 35
The Chase Drivers Get Ready For The Texas Two-Step
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 30, 2007) -- Since inception into the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule in 1997, Texas Motor Speedway has been a wild card. Of the 13 races at Texas, only Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) has won more than once. Ten years have gone by since the first green flag dropped at Texas and twelve different drivers have strolled into Victory Lane. Four of the twelve Chase drivers have reached the summit at Texas, but can those four do it again this weekend?
Of the other eight drivers in the Chase that haven't won at Texas, the most surprising are the top three drivers in the standings. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has five top fives at Texas, the most of any Chase driver. Earlier this season, Gordon started on the pole and finished fourth.
With two consecutive wins Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) has closed the gap between first and second to only nine points. Johnson has three top-five and six top-10 finishes at Texas.
Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet) hasn't won at Texas either in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but he has been to Victory Lane at Texas in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driving the Jack Daniels truck for owner David Dollar. He currently is 111 points behind Gordon and 102 points behind Johnson.
These next four Chase drivers have grabbed elusive Texas wins:
* Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) won the Dickies 500 last year on a late season run when he won three of the last ten races in 2006. Stewart dominated the race starting eighth and leading 278 of the 334 laps.
* Jeff Burton captured his only win of this season at Texas in the spring, becoming the first driver to repeat at the track. Ironically, he was the first driver ever to win at the 1.5-mile track. Currently in eighth, Burton had a boost this past weekend with a fifth-place finish at Atlanta -- his second top five in the Chase.
* Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) captured a second-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend, moving him up to fourth in the Chase standings. That top five just might be the spark to get this team turned around to make a late run at the championship. Edwards won at Texas in 2005 by edging teammate Matt Kenseth (No. 17 USG Ford) and then teammate Mark Martin (No. 01 U.S, Army Chevrolet). Earlier this year Edwards finished 12th at Texas.
* Matt Kenseth is coming off his second consecutive top five. He is the fourth driver in the Chase to have won at Texas. Of the Chase drivers, Kenseth has the second-most top fives at Texas with four, and earlier this season finished second at Texas.
In that spring race, Kenseth led 16 laps and was on his way to his second victory of the season before Burton passed him on the final lap.
Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Notebook, Week 8
Time Grows Short -- 3 to Go ... With only three races to go, time is of the essence for the Chase drivers to make up every point they can on standings leader Jeff Gordon. All 12 Chase drivers are still mathematically eligible for the championship, though Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are setting a devastating pace. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates have won the last four races in the Chase and have the closest point margin between first and second since the Chase's inception in 2004.
Two more hurdles for those not named Gordon and Johnson: 1) Only Johnson has come back to win the championship (2006) with three races to go. 2) Gordon and Johnson are showing no signs of slowing down. Gordon has five top fives at Texas, one win and eight top fives at Phoenix, and three top fives at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson, not far behind, has three top fives at Texas, three top fives at Phoenix, and two top fives at Homestead-Miami.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Testing In Atlanta ... NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams completed the second day of a two-day test Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The seventh and final NASCAR-sanctioned test of '07, it was dedicated to NASCAR's "new car" -- the next-generation race car which will compete fulltime in 2008. Teams will run 16 of 36 events this season with the new car.
Although this week's session was the new car's first full-scale series test at a 1.5-mile track, it wasn't a first for Jeff Burton who participated in one of the earliest fact-finding tests for the new car at Atlanta. He discussed the evolution during a Tuesday lunch-break visit to Atlanta's media center, citing the wing as the most significant change.
"From the wing standpoint it's come a long way," Burton said. "There are a lot of little things that have happened since then, but no real big ones as seen by me, other than the wing. And we're still in the exploratory phase at that point, splitter links, all that. They've made a lot of changes, but the wing being the biggest one."
Other Tuesday media-center visitors included Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge), Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Dodge) and Patrick Carpentier (No. 10 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge). All are former open-wheel stars who will compete fulltime in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in '08.
Franchitti, the reigning Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500 champion, was participating in his first new-car test.
"Interesting," he said. "It seems like in the mornings we do better than in the afternoons. There's a little more grip and it feels slightly closer to what I'm used to. In the afternoons when the track gets really slick, the car's moving around a lot more and the thing I'm getting used to is fighting the limit of this car."
Outside The Chase: Junior Looking For First Win This Season
Drivers outside the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup field are lining up to play the role of spoiler this week at Texas. At the head of the line is Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet).
Earnhardt has been suffering through a 59 race winless streak dating back to May 6, 2006 at Richmond, but he should have a good chance of ending the slump this Sunday. Texas is the site of his first win in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (April 2, 2000). Earnhardt Jr. has won at least once in all of his first seven seasons of competing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series making these last three races critical for him if he wants to keep the streak alive.
"We've done so many good things this year as a team and I've been given the most consistently fast cars of my career and the only thing lacking is a victory," said Earnhardt. "Texas is definitely a place where we can resolve that problem. There are so many good memories for all of us at that place -- not just the first win -- but almost every race since then we've been a top-10 car," said Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt Jr. has seven top-10 finishes at Texas.
On The Bubble: No. 22 Looks To Get Back On Track
Consecutive top-10 finishes at Talladega and Lowe's Motor Speedway put the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota comfortably in the top 35, but recent struggles at Martinsville and Atlanta have put its guaranteed spot in the field in jeopardy.
The No. 22, owned by Bill Davis and driven by Dave Blaney, has failed to crack the top 30 in each of the last two races and now sits only 82 points ahead of the No. 21 Delimex Ford (owned by Glen Wood and driven by Bill Elliott) in the owner point standings.
Though Blaney's best finish at Texas was sixth in 2001, he hasn't landed in the top 20 in any of the last five Texas races. Elliott's best Texas finish was ninth in 2002. His last race there was in 2005, a 32nd-place finish.
Also looking to stay in the top 35 is the No. 45 National Tire & Battery Dodge owned and driven by Kyle Petty. The No. 45 is 168 points ahead of the cutoff.
The top 35 teams in the owner standings are guaranteed automatic starting spots each week. Other teams must earn their berths based on qualifying speeds.