Offweek news and notes 2004-10-26

* Rookie Brandon Whitt hopes year-end momentum continues * Tight championship battle highlights final three races * Deborah Renshaw scores series-best top-15 finish at Martinsville For Brandon Whitt (No. 38 Werner Ladder/Cure Autism Now...

* Rookie Brandon Whitt hopes year-end momentum continues

* Tight championship battle highlights final three races

* Deborah Renshaw scores series-best top-15 finish at Martinsville

For Brandon Whitt (No. 38 Werner Ladder/Cure Autism Now Ford), the final three races of the season can't come soon enough. Not because he wants to see his rookie season end, but because he's finally seeing some tracks that he's been to before.

"Over 90% of the tracks that I've gone to have all been tracks that I've never seen, never been to before," said Whitt, who finished a career-best 12th at Martinsville. "That's definitely the biggest obstacle I've had to overcome this year."

Now that the series is returning to tracks that Whitt is familiar with, his bid to be in the top 20 appears to be strengthening. In addition, the team announced Monday that Jamie Jones has been named their new crew chief.

"We're running pretty good," said Whitt, who had his career-best start (sixth) at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year. "It seems every time we go out, we get better and better. We've built up a little momentum and hopefully we can keep it up the rest of the year."

Whitt spent the 2000 season in Europe preparing for a career in open-wheel racing, possibly Formula One. "I'd come back (to the United States) and run stock cars every now and then," said Whitt. "Then I'd go back to Europe and run open-wheel cars when I had to. I just wasn't having as much fun running the open-wheel cars as I was the stock cars."

That was when Whitt decided to make the move back home to California and start running late models again. Racing in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series in 2002, he was named Rookie of the Year and finished ninth in the point standings. In 2003, Whitt made the move to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, running seven races.

"The racing in NASCAR is just so much better," Whitt said. "It's a lot tighter, the field's not getting spread out as much as in open wheel. I just enjoy stock car racing more."

While he hasn't finished in the top 10 yet this season, one of Whitt's goals for the final three races is to erase that statistic.

"I think this is probably our best shot all year of getting that elusive top 10," he said.

NEWS & NOTES, PART II

Points shake-up puts Setzer in the lead ... With a second-place finish at Martinsville, Dennis Setzer (No. 46 AXCIOM Chevrolet) now leads Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge) by one point in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings with only three races remaining. Because of Hamilton's 26th-place finish, Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Superchips Ford) remain in the hunt for the title as well.

Renshaw posts best career finish ... Deborah Renshaw (No. 29 K Automotive Ford) finished 15th at Martinsville, her best career finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The Kentucky native is the first female driver to record a top-15 finish this season. That effort marks the best finish since Tina Gordon placed 13th a year ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Tammy Jo Kirk remains the top finishing female competitor with an 11th-place performance at Portland Speedway in 1997. "This was exactly the type of day we needed," Renshaw said. "To earn my career-best NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finish at the short track in Martinsville is really an accomplishment. This is the first time that I have raced at this track and I had to learn my way around in the practice sessions."

Etc. ... With three races remaining, this year's championship battle between Setzer and Hamilton is the closest in series history. In 1999, Greg Biffle led Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) by 10 points at this same stage. Sprague was the eventual champion. ... With Jamie McMurray's (No. 2 ASE/Carquest Dodge) win on Saturday, twelve different drivers have won in 2004, two short of the record set in 1998. ... Bobby Labonte's third-place finish matched Tony Stewart's Richmond run as tops by the Morgan-Dollar Motorsports All-Star Chevrolet. ... Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain-Arnold Racing Toyota) finished seventh at Martinsville, after winning the past two events.

Fast Facts

What: Chevy Silverado 150 (Race No. 23 of 25).

Where:  Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz.

When: 5:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Nov. 4.

Track layout: 1-mile paved.
Race length: 150 laps/150 miles.

Posted awards: $463,344.

TV: SPEED Channel, 5:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2003 winner: Kevin Harvick.
2003 polesitter: Ted Musgrave.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Wednesday -- Practice 11 a.m. -- 1 p.m. Qualifying 3 p.m. Thursday -- Practice 8:45 a.m. -- 9:45 a.m.

Top 10 in Points: 1. Dennis Setzer 3,189. 2. Bobby Hamilton 3,188. 3. Ted Musgrave 3,098. 4. Carl Edwards 3,067. 5. Matt Crafton 2,912. 6. Travis Kvapil 2,822. 7. Chad Chaffin 2,813. 8. David Starr 2,802. 9. Steve Park 2,734. 10. Jack Sprague 2,716.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Todd Bodine , Steve Park , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Jamie McMurray , Matt Crafton , Tina Gordon , Chad Chaffin , Carl Edwards , Brandon Whitt , Tammy Jo Kirk , Deborah Renshaw , Travis Kvapil