BUSCH: Martinsville: Reed Sorenson preview

No. 41 Discount Tire Team Fast Facts: How They're Looking: Reed Sorenson and the No. 41 Discount Tire team are coming off an impressive effort at New Hampshire International Speedway, but didn't quite get the results they were looking for. ...

No. 41 Discount Tire Team Fast Facts:

How They're Looking: Reed Sorenson and the No. 41 Discount Tire team are coming off an impressive effort at New Hampshire International Speedway, but didn't quite get the results they were looking for. They finished 17th, after damage sustained from an early-race accident held up a regular scheduled fuel-up. Still the top-20 finish gave Sorenson a boost up in the driver standings, while the team took two steps back in owner points. Sorenson is now 16th with 1,918 points. He is just 33 points out of 15th and 222 outside the top 10. The team stands 19th in the owner rankings with a running tally of 2,003. It is 72 out of 15th and 137 points outside the top 10.

Sorenson Switch: Sorenson will be switching places again this weekend, splitting his time between states to compete in both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series races. He will start off in Martinsville, Va. on Thursday practicing the No. 41 Discount Tire Dodge, and then he will jump on a plane to go practice and qualify the No. 41 Target Dodge at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., on Friday and Saturday. He will miss Busch qualifying on Saturday to participate in Cup practice, so Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) development driver Kevin Hamlin will step in for time trials. After he finishes his Happy Hour practice on Saturday in Pennsylvania, Sorenson will then hop on a plane to return to Martinsville Speedway for the Goody's 250. Then, it will be back in the air again to Pocono to finish off his double-duty weekend with Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.

Hamlin Back to Help: Kevin Hamlin--a CGRFS development driver--will lend a hand again this weekend, helping Sorenson and the No. 41 Discount Tire team with their race preparations for the Goody's 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Hamlin will take turns with Sorenson practicing the car on Thursday, and then he will take over the reigns to practice and qualify the No. 41 Dodge while Sorenson is in Pocono preparing for Sunday's NEXTEL Cup competition. Hamlin has already helped the Discount Tire team two times this year--at Nashville Superspeedway and Kentucky Speedway, piloting the CGRFS Busch Dodge during practice sessions to help the team get the car dialed in for Sorenson to qualify and race. Before coming on board at CGRFS, Hamlin--a Snohomish, Wash. native--grabbed consecutive championships in the NASCAR Northwest (NW) Series in 2001 and 2002. He joined the CGRFS Development Driver program in 2005, and got his first NASCAR Busch Series start at Pikes Peak in July of that same year. He finished 17th and went on to compete in 13 more Busch races that season, in addition to competing in one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Kansas Speedway. He started the 2006 season competing in the NCTS season-opener at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) for Bobby Hamilton Racing and finished 11th. More recently, he raced the No. 4 Biagi DenBeste Racing Dodge in the Winn-Dixie 250 at DIS this past July. Hamlin was running in fifth place and banking on at least a top-10 finish, when an empty gas tank turned his night upside-down and landed him with a 27th-place finish.

Things are Looking Up in Cup: With the help of his No. 41 Target team and pit crew, Sorenson put forth one of his most impressive performances to-date as a NEXTEL Cup rookie driver at New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS) last Sunday. He and the Target team have now recorded one-top five and two top-10 finishes in the last five NEXTEL Cup events. In addition, Sorenson just turned in his career-best qualifying effort (ninth) in last weekend's event at NHIS. He and team led their first laps of the season in the same race they captured their first top five (Michigan -- 6/18) and since have gone on to lead one lap in each of the last three consecutive races and in four of the last five races. Sorenson led once for a total of 31 laps at New Hampshire. He was headed for a third-place finish in the event before a caution with two laps remaining forced him to pit for fuel prior to a green-white-checkered flag finish. Sorenson and the Target team now stand 22nd in the championship ranks. The team is only 66 points out of 20th and 194 out of the top 15.

Rookie Rundown: Sorenson is currently third in the NEXTEL Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings with 165 points. He trails leader Denny Hamlin by 43 points. Sorenson has captured rookie of the race honors in four of the 19 races run thus far in '06 (Atlanta -- 10th-place finish, Martinsville -- 12th, Michigan -- fifth, Chicagoland -- seventh).

Chassis: Sorenson and the No. 41 Discount Tire team are taking chassis 452 to race at Martinsville this weekend. The car last ran at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) this past May, when Sorenson and team spent their entire weekend practicing, qualifying and racing inside the top 10 until a late hit from another car sent the No. 41 CGRFS Dodge slamming into the outside wall and out of the race. The hit concluded the team's night just 21 laps short of the finish line in 36th place. They also took the same car to race at RIR in September 2005 and scored a seventh-place finish (started 15th), and then went on to score an eighth-place finish (started fifth) at Phoenix International Raceway that following November.

Q&A with Sorenson

Reed, you are one of the lucky ones who has actually been on track at Martinsville, thanks to your NEXTEL Cup ride. Does that give you a little bit of an advantage over the other drivers who haven't raced there?

"It always helps to have extra seat time wherever you race, so in that way I may have a little bit but not as much as some of the other guys who will be racing there this weekend. Still, the Busch and Cup cars really do handle a lot more different than people realize, we set them up differently, so it isn't like we're going to be coming in there with answers on the back of our hands getting ready to take a test ... I think it's going to be a well-learned lesson for me and a good majority of all of us."

You are getting ready to do another shuffle between states, is it as hard as it looks to pull weekends off like this?

"It really isn't that hard for me because I just go where I'm pointed to go and follow the travel schedules. They have food for us on the planes and most of the time I'm just riding along. The work is all on the ground at the tracks and back at the shop leading up to the weekend. I must say the folks at Ganassi do an excellent job. Hopefully, everything will continue to go just as smooth this weekend, too. Like I always say, they make it so all I have to do is worry about racing and that's the way I like it."

Q&A with Hamlin

The main question for you is qualifying. You've never run at Martinsville, but you will get seat time on Thursday and Friday to prepare for your qualifying run on Saturday. How much extra pressure does this add to your weekend?

"It does put more pressure, because I want to do a good job for the team and driver but it really isn't that different from the weekends where I've worked to get the car ready for Reed to qualify himself. Either way, the cars have to be dialed in and ready to roll. The good thing is I will be able to work with Reed and the team on Thursday. He'll get the car handling the way he likes it and then I'll get in it to familiarize myself with his preferences. Then, I'll have Friday to get acclimated with the track. We'll do our best come qualifying. Reed is going to have to start from the back come race time because of NASCAR rules, but we'll still be working to get a good trial run so we can get a good pit selection."


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Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Kevin Hamlin , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing