BUSCH: Chicagoland: News of note, schedule

Gilliland returns to series for first time since storybook win at Kentucky NEWS & NOTES Second City has first-rate stories ... David Gilliland is getting adjusted to attention since he posted perhaps the most significant victory in...

Gilliland returns to series for first time since storybook win at Kentucky


Second City has first-rate stories ... David Gilliland is getting adjusted to attention since he posted perhaps the most significant victory in NASCAR Busch Series history at Kentucky three weeks ago. A part-time driver with a start-up team, Gilliland dominated the last 10 laps of the event and held on during a green-white-checkered finish to post his first series win in only his seventh career start. Gilliland's story echoes that of the 2004 winner at Chicago, Justin Labonte. Driving a partial schedule for his own team, Labonte had a stunning win of his own after starting 34th -- the deepest in the field for any winner at Chicago. Labonte nipped series veteran and close family friend Jason Keller by .419 of a second, the closest margin of victory in the history of the event. "[Labonte] did that in Chicago and that's where we're going back for our next race, so we're looking forward to trying to repeat what we've done," Gilliland said. "Hopefully next time it won't be such an upset." The next week the 30-year-old from Riverside, Calif., followed his win by qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Infineon Raceway for another new team. He finished 32nd.

Legendary preparation ... At Chicago, Todd Kluever (No. Post It Ford), one member of a strong 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year class, will take the first step in preparation to succeed Mark Martin next season in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition. Kluever, a native of Sun Prairie, Wis., will attempt to qualify for his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event. He will drive a car previously used by Martin. "It's hard to believe that two years ago I was racing ASA and wondering what I was going to do next as that series began to fall apart," said Kluever. "Now I'm making my first NEXTEL Cup start for Jack Roush. It's amazing how much things can change in such a short amount of time." Paul Menard and Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) also will attempt to qualify for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event.

IN THE LOOP: Numbers back Harvick's lead ... Through the first half of the NASCAR Busch Series season, Kevin Harvick has built a formidable points lead. NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics show his overall strength throughout its major categories. Through the first 18 races, Harvick leads four categories and ranks no lower than fifth in five others. The 2001 series champion is first among all drivers in Driver Rating (110.6), Average Running Position (8.625), Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap (96.75%) and Quality Passes (776). He ranks third in Miles Leaders (430.19), Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (7.222) and is tied for third among Closers(1.056), having moved up 19 positions in the last 10% of laps of each race. Kenny Wallace leads that category with an average of 1.722 spots gained, improving 31 positions throughout the season's first half. Harvick also is fifth in Passes by Straightaway on both the frontstretch and the backstretch. Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Chevrolet) is first on the frontstretch with 340 passes, while Paul Menard is best among drivers on the backstretch with 215 passes.

Labonte, Green team up once again ... Bobby Labonte, the 1991 NASCAR Busch Series champion who served as David Green's (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) team owner when Green won the 1994 title, will pair up with Green at Chicago. The long-time friends will drive for BREWCO Motorsports with Labonte in the No. 66 Cub Cadet Ford, a car carrying a special paint scheme created by a child who resides at Chicago's Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Cub Cadet is partnering with the home, a residential care facility that houses abused and abandoned children. The winning design will be unveiled at noon (CT) Thursday at Mercy Home's downtown campus (1140 W. Jackson Blvd.). Labonte, Scott Wimmer and Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) are scheduled to attend. "This is a cool weekend for me since my friend Bobby Labonte will be driving [and] we'll be teammates," Green said. "I look forward to talking race strategy and car set-up with him throughout practice and our race. We expect to be fighting for the win, though, come Saturday." Labonte also is scheduled to drive the No. 66 Ford at Michigan in August.


No winner has repeated the feat in the previous five races at Chicago. Kevin Harvick is one of two former winners in the race; Johnny Sauter (2002) is the other. ... Ryan Newman has two Busch Poles at Chicago -- including one last year -- and although he's not entered in the event, Penske Racing South teammate Kurt Busch is in the same No. 39 Penske Truck Rental Dodge for this race. ... Five former NASCAR Busch Series champions are entered at Chicago -- Bobby Labonte (1991); David Green (1994); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99); Harvick (2001) and Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford -- 2002).


Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s victory at Daytona last week was the third in a row for Chevrolet, tying its second-highest winning streak of the season. The manufacturer leads the Bill France Performance Cup standings with 13 victories (it won 14 last season) and 139 points. Ford remains in second place with three wins and 107 points while Dodge is third with 96 points and two victories. Chevrolet has won three of the five races at Chicago, a track where each current series manufacturer has at least one win. ... Two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will take over the No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet for Mark McFarland, who will miss his second-consecutive race due to an injury suffered at Milwaukee. Truex finished eighth at Daytona last week in a substitute role. McFarland hopes to return at New Hampshire. ... Kevin Harvick is set to make his 150th career start in the NASCAR Busch Series at Chicago. ... Cale Gale returns to drive the No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge; he started 10th and finished 20th in his series debut last month in Nashville. ... Ed Rensi, owner of Team Rensi Motorsports, returns to his corporate roots in Chicago where he served as the President/CEO of McDonald's USA for 14 years before moving into motorsports. ... Positions three through five in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings are separated by 64 points while seventh-place Paul Menard is just six points behind Greg Biffle who is sixth. ... At least two NASCAR Busch Series team members are from Chicago and will be making a trip home this weekend. Drew Blickensederfer, the crew chief for Danny O'Quinn Jr.'s No. 50 Stonebridge Life Ford, and Kyle Harvey, the rear tire changer for the No. 10 RVs.com Ford of John Andretti, are from the Windy City. For more information on those who hail from the Chicago region, log on to www.nascarmedia.com and click on the "Crew Members Roster" link on the home page.


"At the beginning of the season, if someone would've told me this was the way we would be standing at this point in the year, I would've never believed it. But I've had a lot of guys tell me this is the way it just seems to go sometimes. You feel like you just can't catch a break. Our overall goals may have changed a little, but we still go into every weekend looking to win just like everyone else." -- Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge).


The 2006 USG Durock 300 will be the sixth NASCAR Busch Series event held at Chicagoland Speedway with three of the previous five races being captured by first-time winners. Thus far in 2006, there have been four first-time series winners -- Denny Hamlin (Mexico City), Kurt Busch (Texas), David Gilliland (Kentucky) and Paul Menard (Milwaukee).

Jimmie Johnson won the first race held in 2001, coming from the sixth starting spot to capture his first series victory in his 58th start. Johnny Sauter won in 2002, coming from the 20th starting position. He beat pole-sitter Todd Bodine to the checkered flag by a mere .420 of a second. Second-generation driver Justin Labonte won his first series race in his 31st career start at Chicagoland Speedway in 2004.


"Tying my dad in anything is pretty awesome for me. I'm proud of my accomplishments in the NASCAR Busch Series." -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose win at Daytona last week tied him for seventh in all-time series victories with his father and Harry Gant. Earnhardt Jr. is a two-time (1998-99) NASCAR Busch Series champion.

Note: A NASCAR Busch Series "25 Seasons Running" Media Kit CD is available at-track each race weekend and also on-line at nascarmedia.com. A CD can also be obtained by contacting NASCAR PR.


The NASCAR Busch Series heads northeast for the New England 200 on July 15th at New Hampshire International Speedway. Two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. won last year, while Kevin Harvick took the Busch Pole. Truex is one of 19 different series winners at New Hampshire, while Harvick is one of three drivers to have captured multiple poles, and the only active driver to do so. The race is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on TNT.

Fast Facts

What: USG Durock 300 (Race No. 19 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.

When: 4:05 p.m. ET, Sat., July 8.

Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval.
Race Length: 300 miles/200 laps.

Posted Awards: $1,522,154.

TV: TNT, 4 p.m., ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2005 Winner: Kevin Harvick.
2005 Polesitter: Ryan Newman.

2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 2,812. 2. Carl Edwards 2,424. 3. Clint Bowyer 2,389. 4. Denny Hamlin 2,381. 5. J.J. Yeley 2,360. 6. Greg Biffle 2,173. 7. Paul Menard 2,167. 8. Kyle Busch 2,154. 9. Kenny Wallace 1,982. 10. Johnny Sauter 1,958.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., July 7 -- Practice, 1:45-2:45 p.m.; Rookie Practice, 3-3:30 p.m.; Final Practice, 5:10 (one hour, time permitting). Sat., July 8 -- Qualifying 11:40 a.m. (Impound).


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Bobby Labonte , Todd Bodine , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , David Green , Justin Labonte , Johnny Sauter , Scott Wimmer , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , David Gilliland , Jack Roush , Mark McFarland , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Todd Kluever , Danny O'Quinn , Cale Gale , Harry Gant , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske