* Four to go: Defending race winner Truex Jr. seeks repeat, bigger gap over Bowyer * Edwards, Hamlin scheduled to pull double-duty at Memphis, Martinsville NEWS & NOTES Truex Jr. welcomes a bit of breathing room over Bowyer ... Defending...
* Four to go: Defending race winner Truex Jr. seeks repeat, bigger gap over Bowyer
* Edwards, Hamlin scheduled to pull double-duty at Memphis, Martinsville
NEWS & NOTES
Truex Jr. welcomes a bit of breathing room over Bowyer ... Defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) is also the defending race champion at Memphis. And much like last year, he can move even closer to his second straight title with a good run at the three-quarters mile track. Truex gained 71 points on second-place Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) with his ninth-place finish at Charlotte last Friday night. Down by 49 points coming into the race, Bowyer fell to 120 points behind Truex after an accident on Lap 50 forced him to the garage for repairs. He finished 33rd. Last year, Truex, who sat on the Busch Pole at Memphis, was 144 points ahead of second-place Kyle Busch in the championship standings, but pulled away to a 205-point advantage after his thrilling win. He beat Greg Biffle by just .305-second, the closest series finish at the track. Truex has gained 94 very key points on Bowyer since Dover, where he was just 26 points ahead of his season rival. "As far as the points go, man, I don't even know if I want to talk about that right now," Truex said. "It is just so close and every week it can go one way or the other. All we can do is race our race and let the points take care of themselves. If we start looking too far down the road, we're going to lose sight of what's right in front of us. The competition level and intensity right now is pretty high, so you have to be very decisive in every move you make during the race. Bowyer added, "Just two races ago we were on the good side of the luck and Truex was receiving the bad. That's just racing. We just need to keep doing what we have been doing and let the rest fall into place. With four races remaining anything can happen. By no means am I going to count us out of this championship. This championship hunt isn't over until the last race in Homestead."
Edwards has big week ahead ... Carl Edwards (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford), who is running a full season in the NASCAR Busch Series and is also one of the 10 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, has a daunting task ahead of him at Memphis. He will miss practice and qualifying at Memphis as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Martinsville this weekend, and will be pressed to make it to Memphis in time for the start of the race at 3:30 (ET). NASCAR NEXTEL Cup final practice ends at 11:55 a.m. (ET) on Saturday. Edwards, who led the NASCAR Busch Series standings for 10 consecutive weeks before missing the second Nashville race due to inclement weather and his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup responsibilities at Pocono (where he won), has been battling to move from fourth place in the standings since then. He enters Memphis just 33 points behind third-place Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge). Hank Parker Jr. will be the practice and qualifying driver for Edwards at Memphis. Prior to his busy weekend, Edwards is scheduled to fly in an F-16 Fighter Jet on Wednesday. He will take off from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, just outside of Columbia, S.C. "I just can't wait," said Edwards. "It will be so awesome. I have wanted to fly in a fighter jet my whole life. I spoke with Greg Biffle who flew earlier this year in an F-16 and he said it's like nothing else. I am totally pumped. This is a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can't wait." Crocker, East heading to Memphis ... In addition to the anticipated debuts of Stephen Wallace and A.J. Foyt IV at Memphis, Bobby East (No. 46 Armor All Ford) also hopes to make his series debut for ST Motorsports. Last year at age 19, East was the youngest national champion in USAC's 49-year history, winning in the sprint midget category. Although not debuting, Erin Crocker (No. 40 St. Jude Dodge) seeks her third series start, driving for FitzBradshaw Racing for the first time. Crocker's car will carry a special camouflage paint scheme in honor of Griffin Warniment, a six-year-old St. Jude patient who lost his battle with cancer last month. Griffin's career aspiration was to drive a camouflage race car. "I lost my father to cancer when I was 17, so I realize how awful the disease is," Crocker said. "Cancer in any form is horrible, but it is especially bad for children. Though I never got to meet Griffin, I am honored to be driving his car." Crocker is set for one more series start, next month at Phoenix, before setting her sights on a fulltime NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride next year for Ray Evernham, who last week redirected his original plan to have Crocker in the NASCAR Busch Series fulltime next year.
Newman's streak gives Dodge 10 wins in manufacturers standings ... Ryan Newman's win at Charlotte -- his fifth victory in as many starts -- gives Dodge 10 wins on the season and has moved the manufacturer to within nine points of second-place Ford in the Bill France Performance Cup standings. Newman's streak has propelled Dodge to a total of 188 points. Ford has nine wins and 197 points. Chevrolet continues to lead with 12 wins and 204 points. Chevy also leads with four wins at Memphis. Ford has one win while Dodge seeks its first series victory at Memphis.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
There has not been a repeat winner at Memphis in the previous six events at the track. ... Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) has the most top 10s at Memphis (four). ... Martin Truex Jr. is the second driver to win from the Busch Pole at Memphis, having done so last year. Truex also was the first driver to lead the most laps (133) and win at Memphis. ... Two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie (No. 34 Dollar General Chevrolet) won from the lowest starting position (16th) of any driver at Memphis in 2001.
The NASCAR Busch Series points leader has won the title with four races remaining in 19 of the previous 23 seasons. ... Only 38 points separates eighth-place Jason Keller from 11th-place Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford), his teammate, in the standings. The initial entry list for Memphis contained 54 cars, tying the second-highest number of entries in a NASCAR Busch Series race this season. There were 55 cars entered at Daytona in February; 54 were entered at Chicago, Richmond and Kansas. The series average for entries to date this season is 49. ... Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet), who ranks fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, just four points behind Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford), will make his second consecutive start in the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition this weekend at Martinsville. He joins Carl Edwards in double-duty action. Hamlin collected his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series top-10 finish last Saturday at Charlotte (eighth). ... Aric Almirola and Mike McLaughlin will be standing by at Memphis. ... Reed Sorenson trails Edwards by five points in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings (320 -- 315). ... Clint Bowyer leads the series in laps completed with 5,715 out of a possible 5,800 (98.5%). ... Ryan Newman has led 611 laps in seven races; series lap leader Martin Truex Jr. leads the series with 655 laps led in 31 races.
"I'm really excited about running a NASCAR Busch Series car for the first time this weekend in Memphis. It's the next step in my progression in racing; I ultimately want to be a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver and the NASCAR Busch Series is the next step to getting there." -- Stephen Wallace.
"I'm trying not to have too many expectations for this weekend. My main goal is to come out of this weekend with a good solid run and learn everything that I can so that I can go to Texas with some confidence." -- A.J. Foyt IV.
"What can I say about Memphis? It's the 'Home of the Blues' and with any luck we won't be singing them this weekend." -- Tim Shutt, crew chief for Brent Sherman's No. 10 Serta Ford.
"We are going to run the full (NASCAR Craftsman) Truck Series (next year). We are going to run six NASCAR Busch Series races and six or seven ARCA races. At this time, it's the best way for our program. Our ultimate goal is to get Erin Crocker to be competitive at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup level. We are just looking at changing our steps a little bit, and we feel the plan now is a little better plan than we originally came up with." -- Ray Evernham.
"When we've started up front, we've had terrible finishes. When we've started towards mid-pack, we've had some good finishes. We're so close to putting it all together. Maybe Memphis will be our calling." -- Chris Wright, crew chief for the No. 58 Glynn Motorsports Dodge driven by Regan Smith.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Kevin Harvick's first full season in the NASCAR Busch Series came in 2000 and he made quite an impression.
As the driver of the Richard Childress Racing No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet, Harvick won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title by finishing third in points, picking up eight top-five finishes and 16 top 10s in 31 starts. He also won three races that season with the third and final victory of the year coming at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Harvick put the No. 2 Chevrolet on the outside of the front row alongside defending race winner Jeff Green. There were only two lead changes throughout the event with Green leading the first 179 laps, Harvick grabbed the lead on Lap 180 and held it the rest of the way. A total of 39 cars in the 43 car field were still running at the end of the race.
The No. 2 car is now driven by Clint Bowyer, who, like Harvick five years ago, is in his first full season in the series.
ON DECK: TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Following the seasons final off-week next week, the NASCAR Busch Series heads to Texas. Mark Martin has three series wins at Texas to lead all drivers, but six different drivers have won the last six races, including Kasey Kahne this past April. Kahne beat Greg Biffle to the finish line by a scant .304 of a second. Also in that race, current points leader Martin Truex Jr. had a bad day, finishing 35th, while his closest pursuer, Clint Bowyer, was sixth.
What: Sam's Town 250 (Race No. 32 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Memphis Motorsports Park, Millington, Tenn.
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 22.
Track Layout: 0.75-mile oval.
Race Length: 250 L/187.5 M.
Posted Awards: $1,209,486.
TV: TNT, 3:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
2004 Polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Martin Truex Jr. 4,341. 2. Clint Bowyer 4,221. 3. Reed Sorenson 4,018. 4. Carl Edwards 3,985. 5. Denny Hamlin 3,696. 6. Kenny Wallace 3,659. 7. Paul Menard 3,555. 8. Jason Keller 3,365. 9. David Green 3,360. 10. Greg Biffle 3,355.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., Oct. 21 -- Practice, 2 -- 3:00 p.m.; 3:30 -- 4:30 p.m. Oct. 22 -- Qualifying 10:35 a.m. (impound).