* "Bubble" Drivers Eye 10th-place, Tighten Race for Chase Cut-Off * Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace Prepare for Road-Course Farewell at The Glen * Road Racers Return to Watkins Glen Spotlight NEWS AND NOTES On the NASCAR Bubble: Edwards Grabs...
* "Bubble" Drivers Eye 10th-place, Tighten Race for Chase Cut-Off
* Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace Prepare for Road-Course Farewell at The Glen
* Road Racers Return to Watkins Glen Spotlight
NEWS AND NOTES
On the NASCAR Bubble: Edwards Grabs 10th, Points Tighten ... Five events remain in the "Race to the Chase," and the spotlight is on 10th place, and the "bubble" created by drivers battling for that spot. Those drivers also are trying to remain within 400 points of the points leader. Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) assumed the 10th-place spot following last Sunday's event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Edwards, who jumped two spots, trails leader Tony Stewart by 436 points. He is only six points behind ninth-place Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) and 67 points behind eighth-place Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). But Edwards must watch his rear view mirror. Only 75 points separate drivers in positions 11-14. All, including the 15th-place driver, are pursuing Edwards.
• 11th place: Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline-Texaco Dodge), is only 12 points behind Jarrett and 448 behind Stewart.
• 12th place: Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford), is only 24 behind Edwards and 460 behind Stewart.
• 13th place: Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), is only 82 behind Edwards and 518 behind Stewart.
• 14th place: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), is only 87 behind Edwards and 523 behind Stewart.
• 15th place: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), is 156 behind Edwards and 604 behind Stewart.
Hot Streaks a Factor for Points Leaders ... Tony Stewart's recent stellar performances echo those of two other drivers who have led the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings this season. In all cases, a string of good finishes combined with victories drove all three drivers to the top of the rankings. A fourth, Jeff Gordon, led the standings only after his win in the season-opening Daytona 500.
• Jimmie Johnson, currently in second place, has led the standings for 16 of 21 weeks. He took the lead during an early-season surge and has remained at, or near the top, ever since. Johnson opened the season with seven consecutive top-10 finishes, including a win at Las Vegas the third week of the season that propelled him to the top.
• Greg Biffle, currently in third place, finished 25th in the season-opening Daytona 500. But he quickly reeled off four straight top-10 finishes, including a win at California the following week that boosted him to third; he has spent 18 weeks in either third or second place. However, during a six-race stretch that began at Darlington, Biffle won three races, including a Michigan victory that gave him the series points lead for the first time in his career.
Martin, Wallace Ready for Road-Course Finale ... Since Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) and Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) have announced their retirement following the 2005 season, Sunday's SIRIUS Satellite at The Glen should mark the final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup road-course event for both drivers.
Both excel on road courses, and both have enjoyed success at Watkins Glen. Martin won three straight events there from 1993-95 and Wallace has two wins at the Glen, in 1987 and 1989. Some quick road-course background on both drivers:
• Wallace will make his 20th start at Watkins Glen on Sunday -- his 49th birthday. He finished fourth in the season's first road-course event at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Wallace has nine top-10 finishes at the Glen. He finished fourth there last season.
• Martin will make his 18th start at Watkins Glen on Sunday. He finished third there last season, and 15th earlier this season at Infineon. Martin has 15 top-10 finishes at the Glen and his 204 laps led lead all active drivers there.
Leffler Released; Terry Labonte to Assist JGR ... Joe Gibbs Racing's Monday announcement that Jason Leffler had been released from the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet means the temporary return of two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Terry Labonte. The latter, who is running a part-time schedule this season for longtime team Hendrick Motorsports, will drive the No. 11 for several races beginning this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Labonte subbed for Leffler during the first of two annual road-course events, finishing 12th at Infineon Raceway. He has competed in eight events this year for HMS, including last week's 36th-place finish at Indianapolis. The No. 11 team currently ranks 35th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings.
"This was a difficult decision," said J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR. "Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing had high hopes for Jason and the No. 11 team, but our performance wasn't meeting the expectations all of us set forth at the beginning of the year."
Gibbs said Labonte, who will run 10-race schedules for Hendrick Motorsports this season and in 2006 before retiring, will help the first-year team with his 25 years of experience. JGR's two NASCAR Busch Series drivers -- J.J. Yeley and Denny Hamlin -- also will get their turn in the No. 11.
"We want to thank Hendrick Motorsports for allowing Terry to assist us with the No. 11 team," Gibbs said.
Some Watkins Glen history for Labonte, who also will compete in Friday's Rolex Sports Car Series event:
• He is the all-time NASCAR Busch Series leader in wins at the Glen, with four. He also won the first NASCAR Busch Series event at the Glen from the pole, in 1991. His other wins came in succession from 1994-1996. He has not won a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at the Glen.
• Labonte has competed in 55 road-course events, more than any active driver.
Tight Battle for Manufacturers Championship ... After 21 races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, a definite battle is going on for the series' Manufacturers Championship. Going into Watkins Glen, Chevrolet leads with 155 points, followed by Ford with 143. Dodge is third with 101. Chevrolet's lead comes on the strength of 11 wins. Ford's closeness is based on nine wins. Chevy is led thus far by Tony Stewart, who has four victories. Greg Biffle leads Ford drivers -- and the series overall -- with five victories. Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) has Dodge's sole victory in 2005.
Watkins Glen Features Several Improvements, Additions ... There are a number of changes to Watkins Glen's 2.45-mile venue that will be new to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition this weekend. They include:
• The Turn 1 runoff, which was elevated approximately four feet and paved.
• New competition curbing through the course.
• New conveyer-belt wrapping around tire barriers.
• Moved guardrails back from the racing surface, particularly in the "S's," Turns 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
• Added catch fencing throughout the course, particularly in Turn 11.
• Paved the Turn 11 runoff.
On the Right Track: Watkins Glen ... Tony Stewart has two wins and four top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen. His average starting position of 5.3 and average finish of 8.5 is the best of any driver with more than five starts at the Glen. ... Mark Martin has three straight top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) has two straight top-five finishes. ... Rick Hendrick leads all owners with six wins at the Glen. They have come from Jeff Gordon (four), Ricky Rudd (one) and Tim Richmond (one). ... Jeff Gordon's four wins at the Glen leads all drivers. He is followed by Martin, with three wins, and Rudd, Stewart and Rusty Wallace, all of whom have two wins.
Road Racers Back in Action at the Glen ... Accomplished road-course specialists Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett and Boris Said all plan to compete in Sunday's SIRIUS Satellite Radio at The Glen. Fellows, who finished second last year for Dale Earnhardt Inc., steps in for Bobby Hamilton Jr., in the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet. Fellows also subbed for Hamilton Jr. earlier this year at Infineon Raceway, finishing eighth. Pruett returns in the No. 39 Target Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing; he finished 31st at Infineon. And Said, who is competing part-time for MB/Sutton Motorsports this season, will drive the No. 36 MB/Sutton Motorsports. He finished 17th at Infineon.
From the Archives: Watkins Glen a Longtime NASCAR Host ... Watkins Glen hosted its first NASCAR race in August 1957, the sixth road-course event for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. It was a 101.2-mile, 44-lap contest for a field of 20. Veteran Buck Baker won the pole with a speed of 87.064 mph. Peekskill, N.Y. native Jim Reed started beside Baker in the front row.
Baker jumped into the lead at the start and led the entire race despite early challenges from Fireball Roberts and Marvin Panch. Baker's margin of victory was nearly a half-mile over Roberts, with Tiny Lund, short-track modified legend Frankie Schneider and Johnny Allen taking the first five spots, respectively. It was the 33rd victory of Baker's career and his only road-course win.
The Race: SIRIUS Satellite Radio at The Glen (Race No. 22 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The Track: Watkins Glen International.
The Date/Time: Sunday, Aug. 14, 1 p.m. (ET).
TV: NBC, 1:35 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted Awards: $4,625,176.
Race Length: 220.5 miles, 90 laps.
Track Layout: 2.45-mile road course.
2004 Winner: Tony Stewart.
2004 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Tony Stewart 2,923. 2. Jimmie Johnson 2,848. 3. Greg Biffle 2,812. 4. Rusty Wallace 2,705. 5. Kurt Busch 2,646. 6. Mark Martin 2,636. 7. Ryan Newman 2,568. 8. Jeremy Mayfield 2,554. 9. Dale Jarrett 2,493. 10. Carl Edwards 2,487.