* Dale Earnhardt Jr. Aiming For Texas-Style Victory * Texas A Tough Place To Repeat * Jeff Gordon Seeking First Win At Texas; In 2007 Texas Two-Step: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Primed For Breakout Race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 10, 2007) -- Down so...
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. Aiming For Texas-Style Victory
* Texas A Tough Place To Repeat
* Jeff Gordon Seeking First Win At Texas; In 2007
Texas Two-Step: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Primed For Breakout Race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 10, 2007) -- Down so far so early, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) has redefined "rebound" in recent weeks.
He's climbed from 14th to fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings over the last three races, and this week's SAMSUNG 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was the site of his first series victory in 2000.
"A lot of people made too much of the start of the season, but there was never concern or panic in the team," Earnhardt said. "We knew we had run really well before we ran into problems, so we knew the finishes would come."
He opened with two DNFs (did not finish) in the Daytona 500 and at California Speedway, dropping to 40th and prompting speculation about his Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup prognosis.
Then, the climb back: First, an 11th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, followed by a 14th at Atlanta that propelled him to 14th in the standings. That was followed by a seventh at Bristol and a season-best fifth two weeks ago at Martinsville.
Seeding Update: Potential Chase Bonus Points Already Showing Value
Winning races has never been more important in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
This year, race winners get 185 points -- an increase of five points from last season.
And, in an even more dramatic rule change, drivers who qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will get 10 bonus points for each victory during the 26-race span leading up to the Chase, which consists of the last 10 races.
Drivers qualifying for the Chase will have their point totals "reset" to 5,000, whereupon bonus points will then be added, in effect creating a "seeding" to start the Chase.
Example: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), who has three victories thus far this season, would start the Chase with 5,030 points.
To understand the potential effect of this most significant change, one need only look at last year's Chase. Kasey Kahne had five victories leading up to the Chase, and started NASCAR's "playoffs" in 10th place. If the new system had been in place, he would've started the Chase in first place with 5,050 points.
With six races complete and coming into Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, Johnson has accrued the most potential Chase bonus points. Three other drivers have won one race apiece and thus secured possible bonus points -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), Kyle Busch (No. 5 Cheez-It/ CARQUEST Chevrolet) and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/ Pennzoil Chevrolet).
Texas Motor Speedway Still Searching For Its First Multiple Winner
Consistent success -- as in numbers of wins -- is one of those "desirables" in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition.
At Texas Motor Speedway, however, it's non-existent.
An explanation: TMS has hosted 12 series events since its 1997 debut and 12 different drivers have visited Victory Lane.
Could this week supply that first two-time winner? Or will another new victor don the traditional winner's cowboy hat?
Three former series champions in Sunday's SAMSUNG 500 have won at Texas -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth and Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota).
The list of notables without a Texas win is just as interesting.
Four drivers currently ranked in the top 10 haven't won there. They include two more champions -- reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) -- plus, sixth-place Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) and 10th-place Kevin Harvick.
Texas is one of three tracks where Gordon hasn't won; the others are Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.
Winning, which appears imminent, is Gordon's mandate, particularly after his bumper-banging, runner-up finish to Johnson at Martinsville.
Though he's led the standings since the season's second week, he'd start the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in fifth place, if the Chase began now, because of no 2007 wins.
Second-place Jeff Burton (No. 31 Prilosec OTC Chevrolet) -- who won the first Texas event -- has similar motivation to become TMS' first two-time winner. Also without a 2007 victory, he'd start the Chase sixth. Another note: Only two drivers have more than one Budweiser Pole at Texas -- two, each. They are Corpus Christi native Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) and Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge).