FORT WORTH, Texas (October 30, 2007) -- The Hendrick Motorsports duo of four-time series champion Jeff Gordon and defending series champ Jimmie Johnson head into Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway -- round eight of the Chase for the...
FORT WORTH, Texas (October 30, 2007) -- The Hendrick Motorsports duo of four-time series champion Jeff Gordon and defending series champ Jimmie Johnson head into Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway -- round eight of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- looking to continue the dominance that has situated the pair in the top two spots, respectively, in the point standings.Gordon holds a slight nine-point lead over Johnson heading into the race that boasts the largest attendance, purse and market size in the 10-event Chase championship format.
Gordon and Johnson have combined to win the last four races, with Johnson coming off back-to-back victories at Martinsville and this past weekend at Atlanta while the four-time Cup champion claimed consecutive victories at Talladega and Lowe's Motor Speedway, respectively.
"We're right behind our teammate in the points heading into Texas and coming off victories in Martinsville and Atlanta, this No. 48 Lowe's team has a lot of momentum on its side," Johnson said."We've had strong runs at Texas in the past, and I'm looking forward to returning there this weekend as the battle for the championship comes down to the end."
While Gordon and Johnson have found success virtually at every track in the NEXTEL Cup Series, Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway has eluded both of them. But both drivers have enjoyed success and statistically are remarkably similar.
In 13 Cup starts at TMS, Gordon has five top-five and six top-10 finishes, with a best of second in 2002.Texas Motor Speedway -- along with Homestead-Miami Speedway -- are the only tracks on the current NEXTEL Cup schedule that Gordon has not conquered in his career. In comparison, Johnson has posted three top-five and six top-10 finishes in his eight starts, with a best finish of second in last year's Dickies 500.
Gordon was extremely strong at Texas in this spring's Samsung 500 as he led a race-high 173 laps and finished fourth. In contrast, Johnson finished 38th, his worst performance at Texas and just the second time in his career he did not finish among the top 10 at "The Great American Speedway!"
"We have had a really good set of runs recently and I look for that to continue this weekend in Texas," Gordon said."We had a strong run at Texas this spring and I really want to add a win at Texas to my list of accomplishments. I hope more than anything that we can seal off our 2007 season with a championship because it would be just one of those dream years that I don't think I could ever touch again; even better than 1998 and the 13 wins in the championship."
While Gordon and Johnson head into the Dickies 500 as the top two contenders for the victory,the Hendrick Motorsports pair will have to fight off challenges from the likes of defending Dickies 500 winner Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton, the most recent Cup winner at TMS in this spring's Samsung 500. Burton,who won the inaugural Cup race in 1997, also holds the distinction of being the only two-time Cup winner in the history of Texas Motor Speedway.
7-Eleven Qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' Dickies 500 is set for 3:40 p.m. CT Friday.The green flag waves Sunday on the Dickies 500 at 2:50 p.m. CT.
Jimmie Johnson, fresh off his victory at Atlanta, is hopeful that history will dictate the Dickies 500 winner once again. Since the inception of the Dickies 500 in 2005, the winner of the previous week's Cup race at Atlanta has also gone on to win the Dickies 500. In 2005, Carl Edwards took Atlanta and Texas consecutively, and Tony Stewart turned the trick last year.
Interestingly, the Dickies 500 also played a key role for Johnson last season en route to winning the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title. Johnson headed into the Dickies 500 26 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, but his runner-up performance -- coupled with Kenseth's 12th-place finish -- vaulted him 17 points ahead of Kenseth. Johnson never relinquished the lead from that point on as he eventually won the championship by 56 points over Kenseth.
Clint Bowyer's season can be summed up in one word -- breakout. After gaining experience in his 2006 rookie season and finishing 17th in the point standings, Bowyer surprised many by making the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup 12- driver field.And he continues to surprise as the Chase is coming to a close.
Bowyer opened the Chase with his first career victory coming at New Hampshire and arrives at the Dickies 500 third in the championship battle, 111 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. In addition to his first career victory, the Emporia, Kan. native has posted five topfive and 17 top-10 finishes this season, along with two poles.
In three NEXTEL Cup starts at TMS, Bowyer has one top-five finish and finished 16th this spring in the Samsung 500. But Bowyer is no stranger to Victory Lane at "The Great American Speedway!"-- he won last year's Silverado 350k NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
"It's all about being in the Chase and making the Chase," Bowyer said."The bottom line is:You've got to do whatever you can do to be there, and we were conservative all season long and did what it took.Now that we're down to the wire,we're doing what it takes to try to win the championship."
Bowyer's confidence and abilities have not gone unnoticed by his fellow competitors." He is impressing a lot of people right now," Gordon said."To me, a real key to one of the top drivers is when the moment comes, when the Chase for the championship is on the line, are you capable of stepping up? And we see it every year, you know, guys step it up, take it to the next level, and they are the guys to beat.And he's doing that. Maybe he wasn't spectacular before the Chase started, but he is very consistent."
Stewart Hoping Where There's Smoke There's Fire
Tony Stewart returns to Texas Motor Speedway looking to defend his title in the Dickies 500. The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet leads all drivers in laps led in NEXTEL Cup competition at Texas Motor Speedway with 452. Stewart led a track record 278 of 339 laps en route to his victory last year in the Dickies 500. In 11 career starts at Texas, Stewart has posted three top-five and seven top- 10 finishes. His top-10 total is tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin for the most among NEXTEL Cup drivers at TMS.
Stewart, who finished 25th in the Samsung 500 in April, heads into this weekend looking to reclaim his Texas magic. Stewart currently is fifth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and seeking his first win in the 10-race Chase format. His last pre-Chase victory came on the road course at Watkins Glen on Aug. 12.
With only three races remaining in the championship battle, Stewart needs a repeat performance in the Dickies 500 to keep his championship hopes alive.
"I don't care if Scooby-Doo is leading the points standings, I've got to beat whoever it is that's leading," Stewart said."It doesn't matter.The good thing for us probably is they [Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson] focus on each other more, and it takes the focus away from what we're doing.We need another dominant day like we had in Texas last year to have a chance at the championship this year."
Montoya To Provide Fuel For Thought
Texaco/Havoline, the primary sponsor for NEXTEL Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya, will give race fans the opportunity Thursday to meet its driver and crew at a local Texaco station in Fort Worth heading into this weekend's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. In addition to meeting Montoya and the team, local customers and fans will also have the opportunity to win various prizes including gift cards, autographed Montoya photos, caps, t-shirts and numerous other No. 42 Texaco/Havoline race team merchandise.
Montoya and his No. 42 crew will stop by the Texaco station located at 2529 Meachum Dr., in Fort Worth from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. CT Thursday, but not to do the average team appearance. Instead, they will be pumping Texaco fuel for customers and also plan to challenge patrons on the No. 42 pit stop simulator in the parking lot of the station that is located off exit 56A on I-35.
Last Lap . . .
Jeff Burton has played a key role in historic moments at Texas Motor Speedway. Burton scored the victory in the inaugural Cup race at TMS in 1997 and became the first driver to repeat as a Cup winner when he visited Victory Lane again this spring in the Samsung 500. Burton heads into the Dickies 500 looking to set a new record by becoming the first NEXTEL Cup driver to sweep both Cup races at TMS in a single season "Texas is an interesting race track,"Burton said."As the track gets older, the grooves change. As the track continues to make changes, obviously the groove will change too. Some people run the high groove and some run on the bottom. It's a very fast race track.Texas is a very physically demanding track and the drivers are exposed to a lot of G-forces.Texas is a high-speed race track but more narrow than some of the other 1.5-mile tracks. It's easy to get caught up in a wreck at Texas and easy to slip up just a little and get into the wall. It's a really fun race track, but it is difficult."... NEXTEL Cup driver Denny Hamlin will visit Children's Medical Center in Dallas at 10:30 a.m. Thursday to meet with patients and deliver a $25,000 donation to the hospital on behalf of FedEx. Hamlin will also receive a special helmet designed by nine year-old Children's Medical Center patient, John Garcia.Attention should be paid to Hamlin this weekend in the Dickies 500 as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has posted impressive numbers in his short Cup career at TMS. In four Cup starts, Hamlin has the top starting average (8.75) and top finishing average (7.50) of all Cup competitors at TMS.... Nikki Kelly, from San Antonio,Texas is the lucky winner of the Dickies "Race for the Riches" promotion and will announce Friday which Richard Childress Racing driver that she thinks will win the Dickies 500 and win her $500,000. Kelly will get to experience an "all-access"VIP weekend at TMS complete with pit and garage tours and a meetand- greet with RCR drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. Kelly will also take part in pre and post-race ceremonies and will have a chance to win $500,000 if her RCR driver of choice wins the Dickies 500.