* Two-for-two? Truex Jr. could clinch series title at Phoenix, but Bowyer still in running * Chevrolet clinches 2005 Bill France Performance Cup; race was tightest in series history NEWS & NOTES Truex Jr. can clinch title, but no quit in ...
* Two-for-two? Truex Jr. could clinch series title at Phoenix, but Bowyer still in running
* Chevrolet clinches 2005 Bill France Performance Cup; race was tightest in series history
NEWS & NOTES
Truex Jr. can clinch title, but no quit in Bowyer ... Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) could clinch his second consecutive NASCAR Busch Series title Saturday at Phoenix. The reigning champion is 84 points ahead of second-place Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) and can repeat his performance last year when he claimed the title with one race to go if he gains 106 or more points on Bowyer at Phoenix. Truex would need to lead Bowyer by 190 or more points heading to the finale at Homestead-Miami. Since the maximum points a driver can gain -- or lose -- in an event is 156, Bowyer could conceivably leave Phoenix with a lead of as many as 72 points over Truex. Bowyer has opened the door for Truex the last two races, but the defending champion hasn't capitalized as much as he would have liked. Bowyer had to revert to backup cars at Memphis and Texas after being involved in accidents on his qualifying laps at both tracks, but he rallied nicely. He won at Memphis, and finished seventh at Texas, while Truex was third at Memphis and 11th at Texas. "We have got to get another win or finish in the top three and hope we can put some space between ourselves and the No. 8," Bowyer said. "The last couple of weekends I have put us behind the 8-ball, wrecking in qualifying. But at this point in the season I can't afford to let that happen again. I have to have a good qualifying effort and a strong run this weekend." Bowyer has been the series' hottest driver over the last six races.
Chevrolet wins Bill France Performance Cup ... Kevin Harvick's (No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet) win last Saturday at Texas propelled Chevrolet to its 12th Bill France Performance Cup title in NASCAR Busch Series competition, and third in succession. With two races remaining, Chevy has 14 wins and 222 points, Ford has nine wins and 209 points and Dodge has 10 victories and 196 points. Second place is still being contested between Ford and Dodge. Chevrolet has clinched the championship in all three of NASCAR's national series this season. This year's manufacturer's race in the NASCAR Busch Series has been the closest since the award's inaugural season when Oldsmobile won with nine wins, while Chevrolet and Pontiac had eight victories apiece. If Ford can claim another win, it would mark the first time in series history that three manufacturers posted double-digit wins.
Yeley joins Fernandez at home in Phoenix ... J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet) is a native of Phoenix and will join Adrian Fernandez racing on his home track. As he seeks his first NASCAR Busch Series victory, Yeley is confident coming back to Phoenix, as evidenced by his 10th-place finish at the track this past spring. "I can't wait to go back home to Phoenix," he said. "We ran up front all night earlier in the year, but the handling went away on us." The former open-wheel driver who made his NASCAR debut only last year is impressed with NASCAR's impact in the desert southwest. "It's awesome to see the growth in the Phoenix area in general, but it's really cool to see the growth of NASCAR fans in the area," he said. "NASCAR has done a great job in bringing our sport to different areas of the country. There is a large population base to pull from in the Phoenix area, and now that there are two NASCAR weekends at PIR, the fan base will continue to grow and grow. Being a Phoenix native, that's just incredible to see."
Positions still up for grabs in Top 10 ... Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer aren't the only two NASCAR Busch Series drivers vying for a top championship finish. There are still questions about who will comprise the final group of Top-10 drivers headed for Champions Week in Orlando next month. Entering Saturday's race at Phoenix, there are six drivers who were not in the top 10 in the standings with two races to go one year ago. Five of those drivers -- Raybestos Rookies Carl Edwards (No. 60 World Financial Group Ford), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge) and Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) and first-year fulltime drivers Bowyer and Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet) are more settled into their various top seven slots in the championship standings than the drivers occupying places eight through 10. Only 72 points stand between 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford) in eighth and 10th-place David Stremme (No. 14 U.S. NAVY Dodge). Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) is in ninth, just 10 points behind Green and 62 in front of Stremme. Stremme is in danger of losing his slot as two drivers have a realistic shot at catching him. Greg Biffle (No. 66 Duraflame Ford), the 2002 series champion, is 36 points out of 10th while Yeley is 68 points behind.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Greg Biffle is the only driver to win two NASCAR Busch Series races at Phoenix; he was victorious in 2001 and won the spring race last April. ... No driver has won from the Busch Pole at Phoenix. ... Biffle has the most top fives (four) and top 10s (five) of any driver at Phoenix. He also has led the most laps (409) and has the best average finish (4.0) among all NASCAR Busch Series drivers there. ... Jason Keller is the only driver to have competed in the previous seven races at Phoenix. ... Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 30 Smith & Wesson Chevrolet) has led the most races at Phoenix (three).
With two races to go, the points leader has won the NASCAR Busch Series championship in 22 of the series' previous 23 seasons. Scott Riggs led Ron Hornaday Jr. by 17 points with two races left in 2003, however Brian Vickers claimed the championship, coming from 23 points behind at the final race at Homestead. ... Denny Hamlin is entered in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix on Sunday. Hamlin, who will run a full schedule in both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series next season, has finished in the top 10 in three of his five premier series starts this year, including a career-best seventh at Texas last Sunday. Johnny Sauter (No. 1 Miccosukee Dodge) is also entered in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race. ... The inaugural O'Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday aired on TNT, registered 1,338,000 viewers and 1,076,000 households airing against other sporting events that included college football and the PGA Tour Championship. ... Erin Crocker (No. 6 Ragu Dodge) is scheduled to compete in her final NASCAR Busch Series race of 2005 at Phoenix. She is also entered in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event and will attempt to make her debut in that series before running a fulltime schedule next season. ... Scott Glynn is a resident of Chandler, Ariz. His drivers, Regan Smith (No. 58 Glynn Motorsports Dodge) and Clayton Rogers (No. 92 Glynn Motorsports Dodge), are entered at Phoenix. ... The 2005 season marks the first time in the history of the Raybestos Rookie program where two drivers surpassed $1 million in earnings. Reed Sorenson ($1,243,466) was joined by Hamlin ($1,008,170) following Texas. Fellow rookie Carl Edwards needs to collect $4,815 to join the exclusive club. Only three other Raybestos Rookies have surpassed $1 million in single-season earnings since the program was created in 1989: Kyle Busch ($2,027,050), Greg Biffle ($1,623,546) and Riggs ($1,170,846).
"I think this weekend will tell the tale. You never want to wish bad luck on anybody, but at this point in the season the only way we may be able to really gain some points and put some distance between us and the No. 8 is if he gets caught up in a wreck. We have been out running them lately, but just not far enough. They are a great team. " -- Clint Bowyer.
"With seven second-place finishes this season, I think it's pretty obvious we've let a handful of wins slip away from us. Winning this weekend would make up for a lot of that." -- Greg Biffle (No. 66 Duraflame Ford), winner of the spring race at Phoenix.
"The Mexican fans are just learning about NASCAR. The Mexico City race was such a huge success and I hope we have brought attention by running the races we have run. I think you will see more and more Mexican fans take an interest in NASCAR in the coming years, especially if you see Mexican drivers getting involved. You are starting to see NASCAR everywhere." -- Adrian Fernandez
"Hey, here I am, a cat owner with a Heathcliff Cat Litter sponsorship on the car and racing in middle of all of the sand out there. How can that not be a good sign for us?" -- T.J. Bell (No. 36 Heathcliff's Cat Litter Chevrolet) on racing in the desert landscape of Phoenix.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The first NASCAR Busch Series race held at Phoenix International Raceway took place in 1999. Featured in the field was the former series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Jeff Gordon. This would be the first NASCAR Busch Series start for Gordon since 1992.
Gordon qualified third and took the lead three times with his final run to the front coming on Lap 180. He battled the remaining 20 laps with Dale Earnhardt Jr., beating the second-generation driver and eventual series champion that year by 1.036 seconds for his fourth series win.
Ironically, Phoenix is one of only four tracks where Gordon, the four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, has yet to capture a premier series win.
ON DECK: HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
The 2005 NASCAR Busch Series season comes to a close next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the 24th NASCAR Busch Series champion will officially be crowned following the Ford 300. Joe Nemechek, the 1992 series champion, leads all series drivers at Homestead with three wins. There has been a different winner at Homestead in each of the last five seasons, with 2001 series champion Kevin Harvick winning last year.
The NASCAR Busch Series championship has come down to the race at Homestead four times. Overall, 13 series championships have been decided at the final race of the season.
What: Arizona 200 presented by Walk the Line (Race No. 34 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.
When: 3:40 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 12.
Track Layout: 1-mile oval.
Race Length: 200 L / 200 M.
Posted Awards: $1,310,149.
TV: TNT, 3:40 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 Winner: Jamie McMurray
2004 Polesitter: Kyle Busch.
NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Martin Truex Jr. 4,641. 2. Clint Bowyer 4,557. 3. Carl Edwards 4,305. 4. Reed Sorenson 4,247. 5. Denny Hamlin 3,948. 6. Kenny Wallace 3,871. 7. Paul Menard 3,822. 8. David Green 3,638. 9. Jason Keller 3,628. 10. David Stremme 3,566.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., Nov. 11 -- Practice, 12 -- 1:10 p.m.; 2:50 -- 3:50 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12 -- Qualifying 9:05 a.m. (impound).