BUSCH: Off-week news of note 2006-09-12

* Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup has NASCAR Busch Series flair * Determined Sorenson makes way back into top 10 in points * Kluever's open week includes college football, high school reunion * Huffman, No. 88 JR Motorsports team prepare for NAVY...

* Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup has NASCAR Busch Series flair
* Determined Sorenson makes way back into top 10 in points
* Kluever's open week includes college football, high school reunion
* Huffman, No. 88 JR Motorsports team prepare for NAVY treatment
* Harvick chases Lee Petty, Mike Stefanik as NASCAR dual title holder

Series well-represented in Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 12) -- The NASCAR Busch Series will send three full-time drivers -- and four others with stellar series credentials -- into the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup to decide the 2006 premier series champion.

NASCAR Busch Series points leader Kevin Harvick (No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet) can officially begin his quest to become the first driver to win titles in the NASCAR Busch Series and in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series simultaneously. He put an exclaimation point on his NASCAR Busch Series lead with his third straight win at Richmond International Raceway last Friday night, then punctuated his spot in the Chase by winning the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race as well.

He'll be joined in the Chase by fellow "double duty" drivers Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet) and Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet).

Hamlin -- the first Raybestos Rookie to capture a place in the Chase -- is third in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings and fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points. Busch, who established numerous rookie marks during his first full-time NASCAR Busch Series season in 2004 when he finished second in the standings, is seventh in the NASCAR Busch Series points and fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rankings.

Two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back in the Chase after a one-year absence while Mark Martin, the series' all-time leader in wins (47) and Busch Poles (29), returns to the Chase for the third-consecutive year.

Jeff Burton's 258 starts are the most among Chase drivers with NASCAR Busch Series ties. His 22 wins are tied with Earnhardt; that total is second only to Harvick's 23 among Chase drivers with extensive NASCAR Busch Series experience.

Matt Kenseth, who dueled Earnhardt during his full-time days in the NASCAR Busch Series and has 19 career wins, is the leader heading into the Chase.

Finally ... Sorenson's determination pays off with top-10 ranking.

It's been a long process -- 25 weeks worth of effort to be exact -- but Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge) has worked his way back into the top 10 in the series point standings. Sorenson, a Raybestos Rookie in the NASCAR Busch Series last year and one of seven drivers who started this season with aspirations of running full-time in both the NASCAR Busch Series and in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup (where he is a rookie this year), saw that goal fall through when he did not compete at The Milwaukee Mile on June 24, opting instead to gain more road-course seat time at Infineon Raceway that same weekend.

He was ranked in the NASCAR Busch Series top 10 following the first two weeks of the season, then began a drop that saw him fall to as low as 20th following the June 30 race at Daytona International Speedway.

Since then, the 20-year-old from Peachtree City, Ga., has climbed in the rankings thanks to four top five and six top-10 finishes in the subsequent 10 races.

According to NASCAR's season--to-date Loop Data, Sorenson has improved his Driver Rating from 81.7 to 85.5 during that span.

Kleuver's reunion leads open week activities

Todd Kluever (No. 06 3M Ford) has an interesting open weekend planned.

The Sun Prairie, Wis., native will return to his home state for two events on Saturday that are at opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum.

On Saturday afternoon, Kluever is attending the University of Wisconsin football game against San Diego State University at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

That evening, he will return to his hometown to attend his 10th high school reunion. Kluever should be a standout among the Sun Prairie High School Class of '96 -- made up of some 300 graduates -- thanks to his current career with NASCAR.

Shane Huffman (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) will get his first taste of Navy life. On Wednesday, Huffman and some members of his team, including crew chief Wes Ward, will fly to Norfolk, Va., where they will board a Navy transport plane that will take them to the deck of the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Huffman and the No. 88 group will stay through Thursday, getting a feel for life at sea.

Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) can't stay away from the track. He'll head to New Hampshire International Speedway where he'll drive the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition on Sunday.

Chevrolet gets back in win column

Kevin Harvick's win at Richmond last Friday wasn't a surprise given his success at the track, but what was a slight jolt was the fact that the victory was Chevrolet's first in three races.

As the leader in the Bill France Performance Cup standings by a wide margin -- 17 wins and 209 points -- Chevrolet hadn't been to Victory Lane since Michigan; Ford and Dodge had captured wins in the following two events.

Ford remained in second place in the standings with six wins and 166 points while Dodge lost two points in the rankings to Ford this week -- Dodge has five wins and 157 points.

Dodge has the recent edge at Dover International Speedway, the next stop for the NASCAR Busch Series, having won the last two races at the one-mile concrete track.

From the NASCAR Busch Series "25 Seasons Running" Archives

Kevin Harvick is on track to make racing history if he can maintain the current momentum he enjoys in NASCAR's two top touring series. The fiery Californian has the possibility of capturing both series championships this season, a feat accomplished only twice before in the 58-year history of America's greatest auto racing sanctioning body.

Racing legend Lee Petty became the first driver to win two titles with his 1958 championships in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the NASCAR Short Track Division, a series which ceased operation after the 1959 season.

Mike Stefanik won both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series championships in 1997-98 to become the second and most recent driver to win two titles in a single season. Harvick's achievement is made all the more difficult when the logistics of competing in both series is considered along with the level of competition which exists in the sport today.

Harvick's win last week at Richmond pushed him over the $1 million mark in winnings for 2006, making him only the second driver in NASCAR Busch Series history to top the $1 million mark this early in a season after the 28th race. Martin Truex Jr. surpassed that number by race No. 20 in 2005. Harvick's 619-point lead over second-place Carl Edwards (No. 60 Henkel/Ameriquest Ford) puts Harvick on par with Jeff Green's record-setting 526 point lead after 28 races in 2000. Green went on to win the season title by 616 points over Jason Keller.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Jeff Green , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Todd Kluever , Shane Huffman , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Lee Petty
Teams Furniture Row Racing , JR Motorsports