* Tony Stewart looks to continue dominance at Watkins Glen * Keys to Victory: Tricky road course requires solid late-race pit strategy NEWS AND NOTES Tony Stewart -- Perfect at The Glen in 2005 ... Not only has Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot...
* Tony Stewart looks to continue dominance at Watkins Glen
* Keys to Victory: Tricky road course requires solid late-race pit strategy
NEWS AND NOTES
Tony Stewart -- Perfect at The Glen in 2005 ... Not only has Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) won the past two races at Watkins Glen and three of the past four, his performance a year ago earned him a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. That standard has been achieved only three times since the beginning of last season, with Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) attaining it in his 2005 wins at Phoenix and Pocono.
Stewart also raced into Victory Lane at Watkins Glen in 2002 and he is tied with Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) for the second most victories at this New York road course. Stewart has five top-10 finishes at The Glen and his 7.428 average finish there is second only to Martin (6.22) among active drivers. Stewart has proven to be an accomplished road course racer, scoring five wins and nine top-10 finishes in his 15 career road course starts. Stewart's perfect 150.0 rating at The Glen is his best among the remaining five Race to the Chase tracks.
Jeff Gordon -- Four-time Winner at The Glen ... Four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is the all-time winningest driver at Watkins Glen, having claimed four titles there. Gordon picked up victories at The Glen in 2001, 1999, 1998, and 1997. He moved up a spot this week in the standings, from ninth to eighth and looks to capitalize on his previous success at Watkins Glen. A mere 15 points separate him and 10th-place driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Gordon has established himself as one of the sport's top road course drivers, with nine career wins (an all-time NASCAR record) and 17 top-10 finishes in 27 career road course races. Assessing Gordon's 2006 performance on the flip side, he does have four DNFs -- the most of any driver in the top 10.
Mark Martin Looks to Recapture his Magic at The Glen ... Mark Martin is a three-time winner at Watkins Glen (1993-95) and holds the race speed record at 103.300 miles per hour in 1995. His three consecutive wins all came when he was sitting on the pole. Martin leads all active drivers with 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10 finishes at The Glen.
Keys to Victory: Eleven Turns and Entry Off Pit Road Make The Glen a Challenging Layout ...Watkins Glen is one of just two road courses on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule, with Infineon Raceway being the other. There are several keys to consider when developing a game plan for The Glen:
* Pit strategy is crucial, particularly towards the end of the race. It's imperative that a driver maintain track position following pit stops, especially on the final one. That can mean the difference between winning and losing at Watkins Glen.
* The set up must compliment the driver. The fastest car doesn't always win at The Glen. A real key is a proper set up.
* Getting through the 11 turns to get in position to pass on the straightaways. Particularly through Turns 2 and 3, to pass on the back straightaway; through Turn 9, to pass on the straightaway leading to Turn 10; and through Turn 11, to make up ground on the front straightaway before entering the hardest breaking zone at Turn 1.
* Jason Shapiro, car chief for the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, on preparing for Watkins Glen: "Watkins Glen is our toughest brake track. We try and keep a good supply of fresh air to the brakes. We also try to say to the driver -- "if there's a part of the race where you don't have to race so hard; try not to race hard." There's no sense in ruining your brakes until you have the opportunity ... Another thing that is big at the road courses is making sure your carburetor is not stumbling. When you go left all the time, it is kind of easy to predict how to tune the carburetor. But, when you are going back and forth and the fuel is sloshing back and forth while you are trying to accelerate hard from low speeds, it can be a bit of a challenge. So, we'll lean on our tuner a bit to get that sorted out for the race."
In The Loop: The Numbers Don't Lie -- Stewart is the Man to Beat at The Glen ... When a Driver Rating from this race a year ago is a perfect 150.0, it's obvious that the team had it dialed in the last time out. Tony Stewart dominates NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data statistics for The Glen, ranking first in 10 categories, including Driver Rating, Fastest Early in a Run, Late in a Run, Fastest on Third Straightaway, Fastest in Turn 9, Turn 10, Turn 11, Turns 2 to 4, Fastest on Restarts and Speed in Traffic. Road course standouts Robby Gordon (No. 7 Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet) and Boris Said (No. 60 Sobe-No Fear Ford) are always threats to win at Watkins Glen. Gordon, who won at The Glen in 2003, has the fourth highest Driver Rating (112.9) heading into this Sunday's event. He finished second to Stewart at The Glen a year ago. In seven career starts there, he has five top-five finishes. Said's 113.6 Driver Rating ranks third highest and he leads two pre-race Loop Data categories -- Fastest on the Frontstretch and Fastest on the Backstretch. Said looks to improve upon last year's third-place showing.
In The Loop, Part II: Charting the Course Leading to the Chase ... A compilation of Loop Data statistics from the five tracks left in the Race to the Chase could be a good forecaster in projecting how the top drivers may perform during this stretch.
That compilation -- from races in 2005 and 2006 -- shows Stewart has the best Driver Rating (111.8) at these remaining tracks: Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, California and Richmond. As previously documented, Stewart's strongest track is The Glen, with his perfect 150.0 rating. Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford) is next over the upcoming five-race stretch with a rating of 105.6 followed by Kenseth at 100.4.
On the flip side, Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), currently in third place in the standings, is hoping history doesn't repeat itself over the next five weeks. Burton's 73.8 Driver Rating at the next five race tracks is the lowest among the series' top 14 drivers.
The compilation also categorizes a driver's "Trouble Track."
Watkins Glen is the "Trouble Track" for several drivers, including Biffle (63.4), Matt Kenseth (72.0), Kurt Busch (76.2), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge -- 73.1), Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford -- 71.3), Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet -- 63.9) and Burton (56.0).
Road Course Specialists on Hand at The Glen ... While qualifying for the Chase precludes many yielding their ride this weekend to a road course specialist, such skilled performers will attempt to make Sunday's field. Boris Said whose experience on road courses often leads to testing sessions with other series drivers, will attempt to qualify for his fourth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race this season. He already has competed at Infineon, Daytona (Pepsi 400), and last weekend at Indianapolis, where he finished a disappointing 42nd after getting into an accident and completing only 19 laps. Said will be joined by another road course specialist, Ron Fellows, who will drive the No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet in place of regular driver Travis Kvapil, who is out of Chase contention. Also on the entry list is former open-wheel standout Max Papis (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) who will attempt to qualify for his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.
Other Notes of Interest Leading up to The Glen ...
* Keep an eye on Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) this week. The Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader, currently seventh in the series standings, won his first NASCAR Busch Series race on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez road course in Mexico City earlier this year. Hamlin finished 12th at Infineon this season and swept both events at Pocono this summer, a flat, triangular, 2.5-mile layout that drives like a road course.
* While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has never won at a road course at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup level, he did win at The Glen in 1999 while competing in a NASCAR Busch Series race. Earnhardt's best NASCAR NEXTEL Cup finish at Watkins Glen is third in 2003.
* Starting up front is key at The Glen. Fifteen of the 23 races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-five starting position. The deepest in the field a race winner has started was 18th by Steve Park in 2000.
* Robby Gordon has posted five top-five finishes at Watkins Glen and has led in his last six races there.
* Greg Biffle has finished 30th or worse in his three races at Watkins Glen.
* Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) is expected to make his 625th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start this Sunday.
* Jeff Burton is scheduled to make his 425th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start, while Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) is expected to make his 200th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start this Sunday.
Chevrolet Pads its Lead ... Jimmie Johnson's victory at Indianapolis last Sunday gave Chevrolet its 13th win of the season and expanded its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship standings. Chevrolet's 159 points are followed by Dodge's 121 and Ford's 119. ... Chevrolet leads the way with 12 victories at Watkins Glen.
Setting The Indy Field: Top 35 in 2006 Owner Points "Locked In" ... Each week, teams ranked in the top 35 of the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car owner point standings are guaranteed starting positions, creating a "bubble" between the top 35 and those teams outside of 35th, trying to reach that position. At this juncture -- early in the season's second half -- the bubble remains a precarious place.
This week's sanctity starts with the 35th-place No. 40 Coors Light Dodge team of Felix Sabates, with David Stremme the driver. First team on the wrong side of the bubble: The No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge team of Ray Evernham. However, Bill Elliott will drive that car at Watkins Glen. As a former series' champion, he will not be required to qualify on time. Cal Wells' No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet entry is 37th, 151 points out. Regular driver Travis Kvapil this weekend will step out for road course specialist Ron Fellows. ... On the top side of the bubble, several teams are safe from having to qualify on time this week at Watkins Glen. Kyle Petty's No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge team is 34th, but only 12 points ahead of the No. 40 and Bobby Ginn's No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet with Sterling Marlin in the seat, is 33rd, nine points ahead of the No. 45.
From the Archives ... The famed Watkins Glen road course was part of one of NASCAR's first four-race winning streaks in 1964. Texan Billy Wade, NASCAR Raybestos Rookie of the Year in 1963, was the star driver for legendary car owner Bud Moore. Wade was on a roll during the summer of 1964 in what was referred to as NASCAR's annual "Northern Tour" -- a series of races held at northeastern race tracks. Wade's first win came at Old Bridge, N.J., on July 10. His second victory came on Long Island's Bridgehampton road course on July 12. Wade followed that up by winning at Islip, N.Y., on July 15. The winning streak continued at Watkins Glen on July 19. That day at The Glen, Wade sat on the pole, with standout Ned Jarrett starting alongside. Jarrett already had finished second to Wade in two of his previous three wins. The lead was swapped between Wade, Jarrett and Darel Dieringer, but it was Wade who took the checkered flag at The Glen for his fourth consecutive victory.
Pit Crew Spotlight: Upstate New York Natives Return to Their Roots ... There are several NASCAR team members and a pair of NASCAR employees who will be returning to their roots of upstate New York this weekend. Ryan Pemberton, crew chief for Joe Nemechek's No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, and his brother, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, are from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Harry McMullen, general manager at Roush Racing, is from Brooklyn, N.Y. Jeff Curtis, team engineer for Jeff Burton's No. 31 Chevrolet team, is a Cornell University engineering graduate. Brett Bodine, former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver and currently Director of Cost Research for NASCAR, is from Chemung, N.Y., less than a 30-minute drive from Watkins Glen International. Bodine also drives the pace car at all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events.
Raybestos Rookie Update ... Through the season's first 22 races, Denny Hamlin continues to hold a commanding lead in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings with 228 points. Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) had a solid fourth-place finish at Indianapolis and is second with 187 points. Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) is third with 169, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet) with 158 and J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) with 154.
Where in The World is Ken Schrader? ... Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) continues to be the busiest driver out there. In addition to the 21 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events thus far this year, Schrader has competed in 51 other events. ... Beginning Tuesday, Schrader will have a plate full of racing this week. He will run Tuesday at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa. On Wednesday, he heads to Five Mile Point Speedway in Kirkwood, N.Y. Thursday night, Schrader will appear at a Spalding Charity Dinner. He'll race again Friday at Raceway 7 in Conneaut, Ohio. He'll also mix in a race on Saturday at Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway following his practice session at Watkins Glen.
On Deck: GFS Marketplace 400 ... Race No. 23 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule will be Sunday, Aug. 20 (2 p.m. EDT, TNT) -- the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. This will be the series' second visit there this season. Jeremy Mayfield is the defending race champion, while Joe Nemechek was last year's pole winner.
The race: AMD at The Glen
The place: Watkins Glen International
The date/time: Sunday, Aug. 13, 1:35 p.m. (EDT)
TV: NBC, 1 p.m. (EDT).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $4,705,975
Race length: 220.5 miles, 90 laps
Track layout: 2.45 mile road course
2005 winner: Tony Stewart
2005 polesitter: none-conditions
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 3,124. 2. Matt Kenseth 3,017. 3. Jeff Burton 2,749. 4. Kevin Harvick 2,733. 5. Kyle Busch 2,733. 6. Mark Martin 2,712. 7. Denny Hamlin 2,648. 8. Jeff Gordon 2,627. 9. Tony Stewart 2,619. 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,612.
Practice/Qualifying Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 11:35 a.m. -- 1:05 p.m. Qualifying, 3:10 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 8:30 -- 9:30 a.m. Final Practice, 10:05 -- 10:50 a.m.