Diamond Hill Plywood 200 News and Notes

Diamond Hill Plywood 200 News and Notes

NASCAR Icons Join Forces: Martin To Drive For Hendrick At Darlington

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 7, 2007) – It’s taken 25 years, 47 wins, 30 poles and over 220 starts but Mark Martin (No. 5 Hendrick Autoguard/ Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet) and owner Rick Hendrick (24 years, 22 wins, 35 poles) have finally teamed up in NASCAR Busch Series competition.

Martin, the series’ all-time leader in wins and poles – who was voted No. 1 among the 25 Greatest NASCAR Busch Series Drivers by media and fans last year – is also the series’ best at Darlington Raceway with eight wins and eight poles.

So the partnership – the first of three events at which the NASCAR icons will work together – has the potential to be a successful debut.

“That No. 5 means something to me,” Martin said. “I remember the No. 5 when it was first getting started –when it was All-Star Racing on the side and Rick was a car dealer getting into NASCAR. It’s cool. This is stuff that’s history. And the older you get, the more history means to you.”

Hendrick’s NASCAR Busch Series driver list that contains such names as Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Tim Richmond and Kyle Busch, can now include Martin.

“When I look back at the end of the day and we look at the wins we have and the people that have been part of it,” Hendrick said, “I think it’s going to be really neat to have Mark’s name on that list.”

Keller Returns To NASCAR Busch Series At His ‘Home’ Track
South Carolina native Jason Keller (No. 11 Force Protection Chevrolet) is back in the NASCAR Busch Series, fittingly at Darlington Raceway.

Keller, the series’ all-time leader in earnings with over $10 million and one of only two drivers with 400 starts, returns to race for CJM Racing and owners Tony and Bryan Mullet for the organization’s debut in the NASCAR Busch Series.

The team is under the direction of Greg Pollex, who won the series championship in 2000 with Jeff Green – Keller finished second in the points that year as Green’s teammate.

During their tenure together, Keller and Pollex combined for nine wins, seven Busch Poles, 67 top-five and 112 top-10 finishes.

Keller also will be reunited with crew chief Todd Gordon. The event marks the first of several races the 36-year-old from Greenville, S.C., is scheduled to run for CJM this year.

In The Loop: Recent Results Show Kenseth Is The One To Watch At Darlington
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Dish Network Ford) is one driver who will relish the last NASCAR Busch Series race at Darlington Raceway before the historic track gets resurfaced.

Kenseth has been brilliant at the South Carolina mainstay, grabbing a win in 2005 and a runner-up finish last season. He already has two wins this season and almost picked up a second at Richmond International Raceway last Friday night.

This weekend, if recent history is any indication, look for Kenseth to make a charge during the Diamond Hill Plywood 200.

Kenseth has by far the best pre-race Driver Rating at Darlington – 131.7. The second-best Driver Rating belongs to Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) at 117.1.

His Average Running Position is 4.296, which is second-best in the series, but tops among those drivers who have run each of the past two races at Darlington.

Kenseth also has the most Fastest Laps Run (37), the fastest Speed in Traffic, the third-most Laps in the Top 15 (268) and the second-fastest Green Flag Speed.

With a win in last year’s race at Darlington, Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) is another driver to watch. Hamlin, who earned a 128.1 Driver Rating in his win last year at Darlington, has an average Driver Rating of 110.9 (sixth-best).

Hamlin’s Average Running Position of 6.558 is third-best of any driver who has run in each of the last two races here. His 294 Laps in the Top 15 are most of any driver.

Then there’s the all-time NASCAR Busch Series leader in wins and poles, Mark Martin, who will drive for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Martin has run two NASCAR Busch Series races this season – finishing fifth and 12th, respectively, in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford – and amassed impressive numbers in his series start at Darlington last season.

In his fourth-place finish, Martin had an Average Running Position of 6.429, a Driver Rating of 111.1 and 13 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions).

NBS ETC.
Twice As Nice: For Shane Huffman (No.  88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet), things are better in twos. The JR Motorsports team will be taking chassis No. 022 to Darlington. It’s been run twice thus far in 2007 and Huffman posted two top-10 finishes in it.

Sponsor Helped Start Mother’s Day: Braun Racing drivers Dave Blaney (No.  10 Camping World Toyota) and Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) will sport associate sponsorship from the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) this weekend. An idea by a member of that group over 100 years ago led to Mother’s Day. Frank Hering had the idea for a special day that would provide formal recognition for mothers.  In 1904, he verbalized publicly his idea of a "national day of honor for Mothers” but it would take 10 years for it to become a reality. Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1914, requesting a presidential proclamation making the second Sunday in May Mother's Day throughout the country. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 10, 1914 the first official Mother's Day.

Big Week For Owen: Keeping with the Braun Racing Mother’s Day theme, Trent Owen, Blaney’s crew chief and nephew of the great Richard Petty, is preparing to become a father for the second time. His wife is scheduled to give birth to a boy on May 8th.  It adds to the big weekend for Owen, who is from Darlington, S.C. This is his first fulltime season as crew chief, but he also acted as crew chief last year for Blaney for seven races, including the fall race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway where both got their first series win.

Final Test Of Season Upcoming: The NASCAR Busch Series will have an open week next weekend before resuming racing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 26, but the series’ last of four scheduled test sessions for 2007 will be held at Lowe’s May 14-15. The test will be the second on a 1.5-mile track – teams tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in early February.  NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will also be testing the Car of Tomorrow at Dover International Speedway those same days.

Bowyer Makes Big Leap: Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) collected his second win in the last three races with his victory at Richmond last Friday night. The win allowed him to make a 10-place jump in the points to 15th; he’s now 77 points out of 10th place. Standings leader Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) finished 13th at Richmond, the first time this season he did not register a top-10 finish.
The Director’s Take: Darlington

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT DARLINGTON
Darlington is an egg-shaped track. Because of the differences in its shape as opposed to an oval, teams will have to compromise on their setups. If both ends are identical, you’re setting the car up for one type of track.

“But here, teams and crews will try to get a balance on the car based upon the differences on both ends of the race track. You may see some cars handle better in Turns 1 and 2 as opposed to Turns 3 and 4.
“The teams that are able to capitalize and nail the set up should be those competing for the win.”

Rookie Spotlight: Ragan Takes Slight Edge Over Montoya To Darlington

• Ragan Rules: David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) has maintained his lead in the NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie standings for the second week in succession but it’s precarious at best as the series heads to Darlington. Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) is second, just one point behind Ragan. The largest lead between first and second was six points following Bristol.

• Montoya Surging: Ragan hasn’t given any quarter to Montoya as far as his slim lead is concerned, but the Colombian star has been slightly better over the last couple of races to creep closer to the top spot. Ragan had a 35th-place finish at Phoenix three races ago, rebounded with a fourth at Talladega and had a respectable 14th last Friday at Richmond. Montoya, however, has been a tick more consistent, bettering Ragan with a 21st at Phoenix, a seventh at Talladega and an 11th at Richmond, his best back-to-back finishes of the year.

• Santos With The Program:  Bobby Santos made his series debut and his debut in the Raybestos Rookie program last week at Richmond. He sat on the provisional pole for a length of time before being bumped to seventh on the starting grid. He finished 30th for the Bill Davis Racing/Riley-D’Hondt Motorsports effort.

ESPN/ABC
ESPN2 will have live primetime coverage of Friday night’s Diamond Hill Plywood 200 from the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway beginning at 8 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown. The race will start at 8:30 p.m.

Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and one of the charter members of the NASCAR Busch Series, will join two-time NASCAR champion crew chief Andy Petree in the ESPN booth for analysis. Jarrett is filling in for ESPN’s lead auto racing analyst and his former on-track foe, Rusty Wallace, who will rejoin NASCAR coverage in June. Dr. Jerry Punch returns to handle play-by-play duties for ESPN while Dave Burns, Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake will report the action from the pits.

Allen Bestwick will again host NASCAR Countdown from the ESPN Pit Studio where he’ll be joined by analyst Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer will report from the ESPN Chevy Cutaway Car.

In addition to the telecast on ESPN2, ESPN’s signature broadband service, ESPN360.com, will deliver a live online simulcast of the event, and a Spanish-language version of the race will be televised on ESPN Deportes, ESPN’s domestic Spanish-language network.
   
Ford Can Make Up Ground At Darlington
With its win last Friday night at Richmond courtesy of Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet has put together the first three-race winning streak of the season and in the process has been able to build a 10-point distance between its first-place ranking and that of second-place Ford in the Bill France Performance Cup standings.

The two manufacturers are beginning to pull away from third-place Dodge and fourth-place Toyota; however, they remain separated by only four points heading to Darlington.

Ford should be favored to make up some ground this week if its performance at Darlington is any indication. Ford has 16 wins at the “Lady in Black,” most of any manufacturer and from 1999-2002, won seven consecutive races. Ford has also won two of the last three series races at Darlington.

But Chevy captured this race last year while Dodge had a win in 2004, giving three different manufacturers wins in the last three races at the track.
 
Schedule:
Thur., May 10 – 3:30 – 4:10 p.m., Rookie Practice; 4:20 – 5:20 p.m., Practice, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Practice; Fri., May 11 – Qualifying 5:05 p.m. (Impound).

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Re: Diamond Hill Plywood 200 News and Notes

Driver to win the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 

901     Matt Kenseth   +400     
902     Kevin Harvick  +550     
903     Jeff Burton         +585     
904     Denny Hamlin  +615     
905     Ryan Newman +725     
906     Carl Edwards   +750     
907     Mark Martin    +785     
908     Tony Stewart  +815     
909     Clint Boywer   +1025     
910     Casey Mears   +1815     
911     Greg Biffle         +1815     
912     Bobby Labonte+2825     
913     Reed Sorrenson+3250     
914     Scott Riggs         +3250     
915     Juan Montoya   +4250     

@TheGreek

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Martin Takes Another Step

DARLINGTON, S.C. - For the first time in over 25 years, Mark Martin will not be racing for Jack Roush in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Martin will take another step in his historic Busch Series career on Friday night at Darlington Raceway when he teams with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 5 Chevrolet.

"The thrill for me is to be able to drive for Rick Hendrick, and to be able to say that I did that before my career ends as a driver is really special," Martin said.

With most of his starts coming behind the wheel of the No. 60 Ford with Roush, the No. 5 will add to just a handfull of numbers Martin has driven in the Busch Series.

"That No. 5 means something to me. I remember the No. 5 when it was first getting started -- when it was All-Star Racing on the side and Rick Hendrick was a car dealer getting into NASCAR," Martin said. "It's cool. This is stuff that's history. And the older you get the more history means to you."

The record 47-time series winner took his first laps in the Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet on Thursday with his best lap (161.291mph) coming in the final practice session. He is driving the same car (chassis No. 356) that Kyle Busch led the most laps with at both Atlanta and Texas this season before finishing third and seventh, respectively.

"The way this car has run this year with Kyle in it, if I can get in there and not do something stupid, and do a good job of relaying (information) and integrating and working with the team, then we should have a shot at it," Martin said.

The Diamond Hill Plywood 200 will be the first of three races in 2007 for Martin and Hendrick. Following Darlington, Martin will enter the races at Michigan International Speedway in August and at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Qualifying for the 147-lap race will take place on Friday at 5:05 p.m. with the race taking the green flag hours after at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

www.racingone.com

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Hamlin defends Diamond Hill Plywood 200 title
May 11th, 2007

Darlington, SC (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin captured Saturday night's Diamond Hill Plywood 200 Busch race at Darlington Raceway to successfully defend his title. The No.20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet driver crossed the finish line 1.432 seconds ahead of Mark Martin.

The victory was Hamlin's first of the season and third of his Busch career.

After the race the Virginian was asked where this trophy was going and he replied emotionally with, "Virginia Tech."

The defending champion led the 43-car field to the green flag for 147 laps of racing after winning the pole earlier in the afternoon.

The No.20 Chevrolet was able to pull away from the field early. David Stremme dropped back two spots after 10 laps as Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth battled for second position.

On lap 17 the first lead change of the night took place when last year's race runner-up, Kenseth, passed Hamlin.

The No.17 Ford was still the leader when the first caution flag came out on lap 23 for debris. Hamlin edged out Kenseth coming out of the pits to regain the top spot. Biffle, Stremme and Ryan Newman followed close behind.

After the restart Hamlin maintained his lead. But on lap 35 Biffle would use the inside lane to pass the No.20 Chevrolet for first. Following the lead change Marcos Ambrose spun out to bring out the second of many caution flags in the race.

On lap 43 another caution flag came out for a crash involving Todd Kluever and Aric Almirola. During the caution period pit strategies started to develop as some of the leaders decided to come down pit road. The top-three drivers stayed out. The first of the leaders to pit was Stremme from the fourth position. He returned to the track in 17th after his stop.

Biffle led Hamlin, Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton to the lap 49 restart. He quickly opened up a one-second margin. But that gap was erased when Brent Sherman spun out on lap 52 to bring out the caution flag. This caution period allowed for the leaders who decided against stopping last time to pit under this caution.

Hamlin won the race off pit road but found himself in 20th. Regan Smith inherited the lead and he was followed by Jason Leffler, David Reutimann, David Ragan and Bobby Labonte.

On lap 65 Tony Stewart hit the side of Ryan Newman's car five consecutive times on the same straightaway. Newman became very angry when his car spun out due to a flat left-rear tire to bring out the caution flag. Another caution flag came out on lap 73 for a Steve Wallace spin out.

During the lap 78 restart Smith spun his tires allowing Leffler to pass him on the outside for the lead. By lap 87 Hamlin battled his way to third spot as 2006 Busch Series champion Kevin Harvick followed close behind.

On lap 96 Hamlin retook the lead when he passed Leffler. The No.20 Chevrolet quickly pulled away from his competitors. He would open up a three-second margin by lap 106.

The big margin held onto by Hamlin was wiped away on lap 112 when Kenseth and Brad Keselowski both spun out. This caution allowed for Hamlin to lead Leffler, Smith, Edwards and Burton down pit road for the last stops of the night.

Another great job by Hamlin's pit crew kept the No.20 Chevrolet in the lead. Edwards and Burton both gained two spots during the pit stop to take second and third, respectively. Leffler and Martin rounded out the top-five.

The race got back under way on lap 117 but three laps later Paul Menard would bring out the eighth caution flag of the night.

With 22 laps to go Hamlin led Edwards, Burton, Martin and Leffler to the restart. Hamlin held onto his lead despite heavy pressure from Edwards. Martin passes Burton to take over the third spot with 20 laps remaining.

A ninth caution came out with 19 laps remaining when David Gilliland hit the wall hard and then hit Shane Huffman after bouncing off the wall. The caution period was lengthy due to the amount of debris on the raceway from the crash.

The race got back under way with 13 to go. But once again another caution flag came out when Bobby Labonte crashed into the wall. NASCAR officials decided to red flag the race with eight laps remaining to allow for the debris on the track to be cleaned up.

With seven laps to go Hamlin led the field to the restart. The No.20 Chevrolet got a great restart, pulled away as Edwards as Martin battled him for the second spot. Hamlin crossed the finish line comfortably as Martin won the battle for second, but couldn't get anywhere near the leader.

Burton and Clint Bowyer completed the top-five.

Edwards' third place finish helped him expand his championship lead to 433 over Harvick (1,958 - 1,525).

The next race in the Busch series is set for Saturday, May 26th at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

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