Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

NASCAR - Autism Speaks 400 - Odds to Win

Jimmie Johnson       4-1

Tony Stewart        8-1

Jeff Gordon          6-1

Matt Kenseth        10-1

Kevin Harvick        15-1

Denny Hamlin       8-1

Kyle Busch         12-1

Dale Earnhardt Jr 15-1

Jeff Burton           15-1

Kurt Busch          15-1

Mark Martin          25-1

Carl Edwards        15-1

Kasey Kahne        30-1

Greg Biffle           25-1

Clint Bowyer         30-1

Jamie McMurray      40-1

Martin Truex Jr     40-1

Ryan Newman      15-1

Juan Pablo Montoya 50-1

Casey Mears       40-1

Scott Riggs         100-1

Elliott Sadler          100-1

Reed Sorenson     100-1

Bobby Labonte      100-1

David Stremme     100-1

Joe Nemechek     100-1

Dave Blaney      100-1

JJ Yeley          100-1

Jeff Green        100-1

Ricky Rudd      100-1

Tony Raines     100-1

David Gilliland  100-1

David Ragan     100-1

Field (Any Other Driver) 30-1

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Hyder To Crew Chief For Mayfield

Crew chief David Hyder, fired from Michael Waltrip Racing last month, will return to the pit box next weekend at Dover International Speedway to guide the No. 36 Toyota driven by Jeremy Mayfield, Bill Davis Racing competition director Tommy Baldwin told ESPN.com Saturday.

Hyder is already working in the BDR shop, preparing a car to test Tuesday at North Carolina Speedway in preparation for Dover, Baldwin said. Hyder was fined $100,000 and suspended indefinitely by NASCAR in the first week of the season after an illegal substance was found in the carburetor on the No. 55 Toyota prior to qualifying. NASCAR will lift the suspension on May 30, opening the door for Hyder to join BDR.

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RacingOne Power Rankings

Driver Ratings

The latest edition of the RacingOne NEXTEL Cup Series Power Rankings as the series heads to Dover International Speedway for Sunday's Autism Speaks 400, which features NASCAR's comprehensive statistical ratings system using a detailed formula to calculate each driver's performance.

Editor's Note: Top 10 rankings are generated by a formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race. Must have raced in 75 percent of scheduled point-paying races.

1. Jimmie Johnson - Didn't return to Charlotte's victory lane on Sunday but a top ten finish salvaged after a bad start to the night.

Dover Finishing Average: 11.4
Dover Wins: 3

2. Jeff Gordon - Not a fan of Charlotte these days after yet another bad experience last Sunday.

Dover Finishing Average: 12.5
Dover Wins: 4

3. Tony Stewart
- Looked like he was finally going to get JGR a win Sunday night but one of those pesky debris cautions never showed up.

Dover Finishing Average: 8.9
Dover Wins: 2

4. Denny Hamlin - Working in a new crew may take some time but was still in the mix last Sunday.

Dover Finishing Average: 10.0
Dover Wins: 0

5. Matt Kenseth - Might end the Chevy dominance this week in Dover, where he's been very good over the years.

Dover Finishing Average: 14.8
Dover Wins: 1

6. Kurt Busch - No breaks for the No. 2 team all season despite having a strong car many times.

Dover Finishing Average: 18.4
Dover Wins: 0

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Surprising many with good finishes while the controversies and spotlight continues.

Dover Finishing Average: 16.3
Dover Wins: 1

8. Mark Martin - Maybe feeling a little more refreshed than in the past as the grueling summer stretch begins.

Dover Finishing Average: 13.1
Dover Wins: 4

9. Jeff Burton - Maybe Dover will be the tonic to snap a slump, like he did last September at the "Monster Mile."

Dover Finishing Average: 17.5
Dover Wins: 1

10. Kyle Busch - Been quiet finish-wise the last several weeks.

Dover Finishing Average: 12.2
Dover Wins: 0

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NASCAR Nextel Cup: “Happy Memories at Dover International Speedway”

Daytona Beach, Fla
May 29, 2007

Many happy memories have been made at Dover International Speedway.

In 1995, Jeff Gordon became the youngest driver ever to win at Dover – 23 years and 10 months old. In that race, the current points leader led an incredible 400 laps and had a margin of victory of 2.34 seconds.

Then there’s Jeff Burton.

Burton snapped a 175-race winless streak at Dover’s second race last season. At the time, the win also catapulted Burton into first place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.

Kyle Petty, who finished third this past Sunday at the Coca-Cola 600, has had some moments worth remembering at Dover. His last win took place at the Delaware track back in 1995. It should be interesting to see how the veteran follows up his impressive finish at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart is another driver to watch. It might be fair to say Stewart has come to have a love-hate relationship with the track. He has an average finish there of 8.9 – best among active drivers – but his results recently have been disappointing.

Last year was by far his worst at Dover. He finished 25th at this race last year and scored a DNF in a 33rd- place finish at the second race at Dover.

Otherwise, Stewart has been phenomenal at Dover –two wins and nine top-five finishes. “Which Stewart will show up? ” is the question.

Matt Kenseth won this race last year, and nearly swept the two Dover races – he led a race-high 215 laps before running out of fuel at race’s end in the September event.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 12 at Dover International Speedway

1 Jeff Gordon

2 Jimmie Johnson

3 Matt Kenseth

4 Denny Hamlin

5 Jeff Burton

6 Tony Stewart

7 Kevin Harvick

8 Carl Edwards

9 Kurt Busch

10 Clint Bowyer

11 Kyle Busch

12 Jamie McMurray

Selected Driver Highlights

Note: All driver stats are from Dover International Speedway. NASCAR’s scoring loops began collecting data for statistical purposes in 2005. That is why the Loop Data statistics in this release cover the last four races at Dover.

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford)

• One win, two top fives, four top 10s

• 14.889 average finish

• Average Running Position of 6.953, best of any driver

• Driver Rating of 117.2, best of any driver

• 175 Fastest Laps Run, most of any driver

• Fastest Green Flag Speed

• 1,484 Laps in the Top 15, most of any driver

• 122 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the Top 15 while under green), most of any driver

• Fastest Speed in Traffic (speed when there is another car within one car length)

• Top “Closer” – 14 positions improved in the last 10% of laps run

Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet)

• Three top fives

• 12.25 average finish

• Average Running Position of 11.767, eighth-best

• Driver Rating of 104.4, fifth-best

• 86 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most

• Third-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 1,238 Laps in the Top 15, sixth-most

• 89 Quality Passes, fourth-most

• Fifth-fastest Speed in Traffic

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Light Dodge)

• Two top fives, four top 10s

• 18.385 average finish

• Average Running Position of 7.759, fourth-best

• Driver Rating of 104.1, sixth-best

• 77 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most

• Sixth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 1,305 Laps in the Top 15, fifth-most

• 87 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)

• One top five, two top 10s

• 12.0 average finish

• Third-best Closer – 11 positions improved in last 10 percent of total laps

• Driver Rating of 86.1, 13th-best

• 66 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most

• 150 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most

• 82 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)

• Four wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles

• 12.5 average finish

• Seventh-fastest Green Flag Speed

• Seventh-fastest Speed in Traffic

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Dover Chevrolet)

• Three wins, four top fives, seven top 10s

• 11.4 average finish

• Average Running Position of 12.201, ninth-best

• Driver Rating of 104.5, fourth-best

• 112 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best

• 147 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most

• Fifth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 1,188 Laps in the Top 15, seventh-most

• Second-fastest Speed in Traffic

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)

• One win, four top fives, nine top 10s; one pole

• 14.75 average finish

• Average Running Position of 7.670, third-best

• Driver Rating of 112.3, second-best

• 129 Fastest Laps Run, third-most

• Second-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 1,429 Laps in the Top 15, third-most

• 110 Quality Passes, second-most

• Third-fastest Speed in Traffic

Mark Martin (No. 01 U. S. Army Chevrolet)

• Four wins, 19 top fives, 25 top 10s; four poles

• 13.073 average finish

• Average Running Position of 7.214, second-best

• Driver Rating of 106.7, third-best

• 130 Fastest Laps Run, second-most

• Fourth-fastest Green Flag Speed

• 1,441 Laps in the Top 15, second-most

• Third-fastest Speed in Traffic

At Dover International Speedway:

• There have been 74 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at Dover International Speedway since the first race there in 1969. There were single races the first two years and two a year since 1971.

• David Pearson won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Bud Pole in 1969.

• Richard Petty won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race in 1969.

• There have been 31 different Bud Pole winners; 20 have won more than one.

• There have been 29 different race-winners; 18 have more than one victory there.

• The track opened in 1960. The first two races were 300 laps, 300 miles.

• Between 1971 and 1996 both races were 500 miles.

• The track surface was changed from asphalt to concrete in 1995.

• The format was changed to 400 miles following the June race in 1997.

• Hendrick Motorsports has won 10 races – three more than any other car owner.

• Roush Fenway Racing has won the last three June races – all with a different driver: Mark Martin (2004), Greg Biffle (2005) and Matt Kenseth (2006).

• Ryan Newman has finished on the lead lap in 80 percent of his Dover races, the best percentage of any active driver with more than one race there.

• There have been just three Bud Pole winners in the last eight races: Ryan Newman (three), Jeremy Mayfield (two) and Jeff Gordon (one). Qualifying was canceled twice in the eight-race period.

• There have been six different race winners in the last six races.

• Eleven of 74 races have been won by the Bud Pole winner, but only three in the past 19 races. Ryan Newman was the last to win from the pole (2003).

• Both races in 2006 were won from the 19th starting position.

• The June 1995 race was won by Kyle Petty who started 37th – the deepest in the field of a race-winner.

• David Pearson won three consecutive races in 1972-73 – the only time a driver has won more than two in a row there.

• There has been one green-white-checkered finish: September 2005 (404 laps).

• Mark Martin has won in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

Dover Active Streaks

• Kyle Bush has finished in the top five in three of the last four races.

• Kurt Busch has started in the top 10 in four consecutive races.

• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.

• Mark Martin has started in the top 10 in three consecutive races.

• Ryan Newman has started in the top five in nine consecutive races.

Driver Rating at Dover

Greg Biffle 117.2

Matt Kenseth 112.3

Mark Martin 106.7

Jimmie Johnson 104.5

Kyle Busch 104.4

Kurt Busch 104.1

Ryan Newman 99.9

Jeff Burton 98.4

Elliott Sadler 97.7

Clint Bowyer 93.6

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005 and 2006 races (4 total) at Dover.

www.autoracingdaily.com

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Team Dupont Set to Race Perfect ‘CoT’ in Dover
by Jon Edwards

DOVER, Del. -- After a disappointing finish in last Sunday’s race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon and Team DuPont enter this weekend’s Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway with a perfect car.

Following his early exit due to an accident from Sunday night’s race, Gordon’s lead in the point standings dropped from a 231-point edge to 132 over teammate Jimmie Johnson. Much of that lead, though, can be attributed to his success in “Car of Tomorrow” (CoT) races. In five CoT races, Gordon has two victories (Phoenix and Darlington), three poles and five top-fives. The chassis the No. 24 team will use this weekend, No 24-428, has been used once – a victory from the pole at Phoenix.

But the use of the CoT at Dover brings a lot of unknowns, especially this weekend with the cancellation of a test session here a few weeks ago.

“From a crew chief’s standpoint, I would have preferred to test,” Steve Letarte said. “But the crew has been working a lot of hours with two different cars, and it gave them some much needed time at home.

“Hendrick Motorsports is very well prepared and, between the four crew chiefs, I think we can make good decisions and enter this weekend competitive.”

In 28 career starts at Dover, Gordon has four wins, three poles, 13 top-fives and 17 top-10's. He has led the most laps on five occasions, including 400 of 500 laps in 1995, 375 of 400 laps in 1998 and 381 of 400 laps in 2001.

“We’ve had some strong runs here in the past, but we haven’t experienced that in quite a while,” Gordon said. “I’d like to lead a lot of laps again, but the most important thing is to be there at the end with a chance to win.

“And in both wins at Phoenix and Darlington, we didn’t lead a lot of laps but we led the one that counted.”

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NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 12
By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon — Gordon's bad luck continued at Charlotte when he was nudged by the loose car of Tony Raines on lap 61. Gordon nearly went airborne before the car of A.J. Allmendinger slammed him, and the No. 24 car hit the wall head-on. Gordon's 231-point lead dwindled to 132 heading into Sunday's event at Dover.

"So this is what it feels like to be Lindsay Lohan?" says Gordon. "Me, I'm totally sober, casually doing about 180 miles per hour, and I get taken out by someone else. Lohan's coked up and drunk and she can't even park straight. At least she kept her panties on. My point is this: I think Lohan needs a NASCAR-trained driver to chauffeur her around, as well as a NASCAR-trained refueler to feed her alcohol."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Tire issues were the story of the race for Johnson. On lap 53, the left rear tire of the No. 48 Chevy fell off, triggering a pileup involving 13 cars. Johnson escaped with minor damage, and was leading on lap 436 before a loose lug nut on his next-to-last pit stop cost him nine spots. He finished 10th, but made up 97 points on leader Jeff Gordon.

"Did I get stuck with Denny Hamlin's tire changers somehow?" asks Johnson. "Did lug nuts all of a sudden become slicker than Michael Waltrip explaining to his sponsors why they're never seen on television? Anyway, I'd like to apologize to everyone taken out by that wheel of mine rolling down the track. It's funny. We're penalized when that happens on pit road, but not when it happens on the track."

3. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin scored his seventh top-10 finish of the year with a ninth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He holds on to fourth in the points, 239 out of first.

"Tell me again," says Hamlin. "What does the '600' in Coca-Cola 600 stand for? Is it minutes? I could have sworn we were out there for at least 10 hours. I think NASCAR should mandate a break halfway through, for napping, eating, manicures, or bitch-sessions with your crew. You know, normal, everyday things."

4. Tony Stewart — Stewart lead 55 laps in Charlotte, but had to pit with seven laps left for 1.1 seconds of fuel (that's about $8 worth for you and me). Stewart finished sixth, but knew he had the car to beat.

"I always get a little misty-eyed on Memorial Day weekend," says Stewart. "I love racing in Charlotte, but I'll always have a soft spot for Indianapolis, especially when women drivers are making such great strides. Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, and Sarah Fisher were the first trio of women to compete in a major American race. But Indy won't be truly sexually integrated until they start letting ugly chicks race there."

5. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth started fifth and was strong early, but the handling on the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford faded late. He still managed a strong 12th-place finish to maintain a solid hold on third in the points, where he is 207 behind Jeff Gordon.

"On a the greatest day of racing of the year," says Kenseth, "with world-class racing in Charlotte, Indianapolis, and Monte Carlo, I was disappointed by only one thing: that Indy got the Chris Daughtry pre-race concert. We get stuck with Kelly Clarkson's awful concert at Daytona. It's just not fair. Luckily, while she was singing, I had my earplugs in, tuned to the latest Clay Aiken release."

6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr — Earnhardt, sporting the special Budweiser Desert Camouflage paint scheme, had a solid drive in Charlotte, qualifying fourth and finishing eighth.

"Hey, if you're in the desert, and you want a Budweiser, and you don't want anyone to see you drink it," says Earnhardt, "then the Budweiser Desert Camou can is for you. What's that? They don't make actual beer cans in that paint scheme? Well, they should, because DEI should take advantage of every marketing gimmick possible while they still have a relationship with Budweiser."

7. Jeff Burton — Burton had moved up his No. 31 AT&T Chevy from 25th to 6th when he was collected in the crash that wiped out Jeff Gordon. Later, a blown rear tire sent him into the wall, and after seven laps in the garage, Burton returned to the track and finished 24th, an acceptable result considering he was 15 laps down.

"You can't win 'em all," says Burton. "Just ask Nextel. They tried to keep me from displaying the AT&T logo on my car, but the courts said otherwise. Now, should I win the points championship, you can best believe I'll be accepting congratulatory phone calls on my rotary phone and not on a Nextel cell phone."

8. Casey Mears — Mears took a gamble on fuel mileage and was dealt a pair of aces — he won the race and ran out of fuel just after crossing the finish. It was Mears' first Nextel Cup victory and somewhat validated the high hopes cast upon him when he joined Hendrick Motorsports and eased the critics who labeled him the weak link at HMS.

"If you would have told me before the race that a Hendrick driver would win the Coca-Cola 600," says Mears, "I would have responded with a popular expression that comments on your skills or deduction while calling you 'Sherlock.' If you would have told me that the winner would be me, I would have told you that you were 'full of shift.' But it's great to get my first win. It really takes a load off, and the other Hendrick drivers finally let me on to the secret handshake."

9. Kurt Busch — Busch started alongside teammate and pole sitter Ryan Newman on the Charlotte front row and led the most laps, 107, before an accident on lap 298 knocked him out of the race. He falls two places in the points to ninth, 519 out of first.

"I guess my brother Kyle, the punk, was right when he said I didn't need help to crash," says Busch. "Don't we make great brothers? We'd make even better teammates. Here's a little scenario I worked out: Ryan Newman to DEI, Dale, Jr. to Hendrick, and Kyle to Penske. If you think Newman and Rusty Wallace had a great relationship at Penske, wait until you see me and Kyle on the same team. Sure, we'll trade information like we trade insults."

10. Kyle Petty — What is Kyle Petty doing in the power rankings? Well, for a number of reasons. Okay, for one. He recorded his first top-five finish in 10 years with a third in the Coca-Cola 600, while driving the Petty Enterprises Dodge sponsored by Coke Zero, which, when mixed with Jack Daniels, creates the popular drink known as the "Jackie O."

"And, by drinking Coke," says Petty, "you can win a tire signed by me. What fireplace mantle is complete without that? Anyway, I'm really excited about our finish in Charlotte, and so is my dad. King Richard still doesn't dig the ponytail, though."

big_smile

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Observations, opinions and other thoughts on the NASCAR season

Penske Rising  

The results weren't there for Roger Penske's team at Lowe's last week: Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch qualified first and second for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday, but both drivers struggled with their cars on Sunday with disappointing results. Busch crashed out of the race late and finished 32nd, while Newman blew an engine mid-race and finished 39th.

But two bad results can't take the luster away from one of the Nextel Cup's most improved teams in 2007. Before Charlotte, Busch and Newman had combined for five top-10 finishes in the previous three races and were looking like Chase contenders. What's more, even though their seasons have been uneven to date, the feeling in the Penske garage is that the organization is finally on the rise after a nightmarish '06 season that saw Busch win one race and finish 16th in points, while Newman went winless and bottomed out in 18th.

The organization's problems stemmed from a refusal to change the setup of its cars from an old one that had produced a lot of wins. Also making things difficult was the aerodynamically challenged nose of Penske's Dodge Chargers, which often kept Busch and Newman driving unbalanced racecars. Throw in the fact that '06 was Busch's first with Penske and all the pieces were in place for an uneven and frustrating season.

This year should end up better for the pair. Both drivers felt that they had top-five cars at Daytona (Busch led a race-high 95 laps), but accidents during the race kept them from contending for the win. That is a scenario that has played out time and again so far for Penske. I spent a lot of time with the team in Charlotte last week, and I got the same impression that I got when I hung out with Denny Hamlin and his Gibbs crew during the All-Star race: they're close to breaking through. They just haven't had the breaks.

Can they compete for the Cup? I think so. I have to admit that I'm starting to lose a little bit of patience with teams and drivers who refuse to acknowledge the clear superiority of the Hendrick operation to this point. It can't all be luck-good drivers and teams make their own, after all. On the other hand, though, what else are they supposed to say? Giving in would be like losing, and these guys all hate to lose. I'm betting we see a Penske Dodge in victory lane more than once before '07 is over.

The Great Race  

Since this column is called Racing Fan, and not NASCAR Fan, I'd like to take a moment here to direct your attention to a really cool event going on half a world away. The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge began last weekend in Beijing. A recreation of an event that was first run in 1907, this year's edition features more than 100 teams driving their own antique cars through all types of weather and terrain conditions. You won't see this many classic cars in one place if you spend a whole day watching old flicks on Turner Classic Movies. You can check out the race's site here.

I first heard about this extremely cool event from Michele Shapiro, whom I first met a few years ago when I wrote about her desert rallying exploits for Sports Illustrated. For all you Chevy fans, Michele and her partner are driving a modified 1930 Chevy Coupe, which looks like this.

Michele's last update, dated May 28, put her somewhere near the Mongolian border. Stop by and check out her progress. 

Pit Stops

• 10: Dover races won by Hendrick Motorsports, three more than any other owner.

• 175: Number of consecutive races without a win by Jeff Burton, who broke the streak with a victory at Dover last September.

• 136.9: Average finish for Tony Stewart at Dover, the best among active drivers.

• 29: Stewart's average finish at Dover last season, when he finished 25th and 33rd at the track in two starts.

Pro rasslin' meter  

The meter has to be pointing down after last week's Coke 600, when fuel mileage complications created a free-for-all finish. It's hard to argue, after all, that a race won by Casey Mears was fixed. And look who else rounded out the top five: J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty, Reed Sorenson and Brian Vickers. The last 10 laps or so of the race were complete chaos, and they came without any suspicious yellow flags or interference from anybody else. Charlotte was wide-open racing at its best.

Besides that, there wasn't even much smack-talkin' from the drivers. Let's hope things get back to normal in Delaware this weekend. 

Dover Memories

July 6, 1969 David Pearson won the first pole, and Richard Petty won the first race at brand new Dover Downs. The victory was one of 10 for the King during the season, but he would finish second in the Cup standings to Pearson.

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Penske Rising  

The results weren't there for Roger Penske's team at Lowe's last week: Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch qualified first and second for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday, but both drivers struggled with their cars on Sunday with disappointing results. Busch crashed out of the race late and finished 32nd, while Newman blew an engine mid-race and finished 39th.

But two bad results can't take the luster away from one of the Nextel Cup's most improved teams in 2007. Before Charlotte, Busch and Newman had combined for five top-10 finishes in the previous three races and were looking like Chase contenders. What's more, even though their seasons have been uneven to date, the feeling in the Penske garage is that the organization is finally on the rise after a nightmarish '06 season that saw Busch win one race and finish 16th in points, while Newman went winless and bottomed out in 18th.

The organization's problems stemmed from a refusal to change the setup of its cars from an old one that had produced a lot of wins. Also making things difficult was the aerodynamically challenged nose of Penske's Dodge Chargers, which often kept Busch and Newman driving unbalanced racecars. Throw in the fact that '06 was Busch's first with Penske and all the pieces were in place for an uneven and frustrating season.

This year should end up better for the pair. Both drivers felt that they had top-five cars at Daytona (Busch led a race-high 95 laps), but accidents during the race kept them from contending for the win. That is a scenario that has played out time and again so far for Penske. I spent a lot of time with the team in Charlotte last week, and I got the same impression that I got when I hung out with Denny Hamlin and his Gibbs crew during the All-Star race: they're close to breaking through. They just haven't had the breaks.

Can they compete for the Cup? I think so. I have to admit that I'm starting to lose a little bit of patience with teams and drivers who refuse to acknowledge the clear superiority of the Hendrick operation to this point. It can't all be luck-good drivers and teams make their own, after all. On the other hand, though, what else are they supposed to say? Giving in would be like losing, and these guys all hate to lose. I'm betting we see a Penske Dodge in victory lane more than once before '07 is over.

I made a bet on Newman at 18/1 for Dover since this team has been improving each and every week with both types of cars.

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Top 12 drivers - and beyond

Week 13: The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 12 -- And Beyond

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 28, 2007) -- Below is a look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 12, along with some other notable drivers, going into the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Visa on June 3 at Dover International Speedway.

1 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)

The File:
* 35-years-old from Vallejo, Calif., 78 career wins
* Three wins, nine top fives, 10 top 10s
* Five poles
* Average finish of 6.9 this season
* Led in 10 of 12 races for 674 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Four wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles
* 12.5 average finish
* Finished 12th and third, respectively, last season
* Led in 17 of 28 races for 2,198 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* Average Running Position of 9.598, second-best

2 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

The File:
* 31-years-old from El Cajon, Calif., 27 career wins
* Four wins, eight top fives, nine top 10s
* Average finish of 9.9
* Led in eight of 12 races for 612 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Three wins, four top fives, seven top 10s
* 11.4 average finish
* Finished sixth and 13th, respectively, last season
* Led in six of 10 races for a total of 553 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* Series-high 405 Fastest Laps Run

3 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)

The File:
* 35-years-old from Cambridge, Wis., 15 career wins
* One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
* Average finish of 8.8
* Led in 11 of 12 races for 253 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One win, four top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
* 14.75 average finish
* Finished first and 10th, respectively, last season
* Led in 10 of 16 races for a total of 357 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* Series-high 3,949 laps run on the lead lap

4 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet)

The File:
* 26-years-old from Chesterfield, Va., two career wins
* Five top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
* Average finish of 10.4
* Led in seven of 12 races for 612 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One top 10
* 10.0 average finish in two races
* Finished 11th and ninth, respectively, last season

Loop Data Highlight:
* Average Running Position of 10.618, third-best

5 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet)

The File:
* 39-years-old from S. Boston, Va., 19 career wins
* One win, five top fives, seven top 10s
* Average finish of 13.2 this season
* Led in five of 12 races for 27 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s
* 17.462 average finish
* Finished fourth and first, respectively, last season
* Led in eight of 26 races for 127 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* Series-high 829 Quality Passes -- passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions

6 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet)

The File:
* 36-years-old from Columbus, Ind., 29 career wins
* Two top fives, eight top 10s
* Average finish of 14.8
* Led nine of 12 races for 647 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Two wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s
* 8.875 average finish
* Finished 25th and 33rd, respectively, last season
* Led 10 of 16 races for 1,066 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 295 Fastest Laps Run, third-most

7 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet)

The File:
* 31-years-old from Bakersfield, Calif., 11 career victories
* One win, two top fives, five top 10s
* Average finish of 17.1 this season
* Led in six of 12 races for 176 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Two top fives, five top 10s
* 17.583 average finish
* Finished third and 32nd, respectively, last season
* Led in one of 12 races for a total of 133 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* Series-high 1,325 Green Flag Passes

8 -- Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)

The File:
* 27-years-old from Columbia, Mo., four career wins
* One top five, three top 10s
* Average finish of 15.9
* Led in three of 12 races for 37 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One top five, two top 10s
* 12.0 average finish
* Finished 15th and second, respectively, last season
* Led in two of five races for 23 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 2,975 Laps in the Top 15, seventh-best

9 -- Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

The File:
* 28-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., 15 career victories
* Two top fives, three top 10s
* Average finish of 17.2 this season
* Led in seven of 12 races for 302 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Two top fives, four top 10s
* 18.385 average finish
* Finished 16th and fourth, respectively, last season
* Led in three of 13 races for a total of 205 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 799 Quality Passes, second-most

10 -- Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet)

The File:
* 27-years-old from Emporia, Kan., zero career wins
* Five top 10s; one pole
* Average finish of 17.1
* Led in four of 12 races for 21 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One top 10
* 12.5 average finish in two races
* Finished 17th and eighth, respectively, last season

Loop Data Highlight:
* 2,194 Laps in the Top 15, 11th-best

11 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet)

The File:
* 22-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., four career wins
* One win, three top fives, six top 10s
* Average finish of 19.1
* Led in seven of 12 races for 87 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Three top fives
* 12.25 average finish
* Finished fifth and 40th, respectively, last season
* Led in two of four races for 112 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 162 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most

12 -- Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal/IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford)

The File:
* 30-years-old from Joplin, Mo., one career win
* Two top fives, five top 10s; 18.3 average finish
* Led one of 12 races for two laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One top five, three top 10s
* 14.5 average finish
* Finished second and 17th, respectively, last season
* Led one of eight races for 95 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 16th-fastest Green Flag Speed

13 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)

The File:
* 32-years-old from Kannapolis, N.C., 17 career wins
* One top five, five top 10s
* Average finish of 16.7
* Led five of 12 races for 237 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* One win, three top fives, six top 10s
* 16.286 average finish
* Finished 10th and 21st, respectively, last season
* Has led in eight of 14 races for 366 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 3,270 Laps in the Top 15, second-most

18 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge)

The File:
* 30-years-old from South Bend, Ind., 12 career wins
* One top five, four top 10s; two poles
* 21.8 average finish; Led five of 12 races for 52 laps

Dover International Speedway Outlook:
* Three wins, five top fives, seven top 10s; three poles
* 9.0 average finish
* Finished 14th and 24th, respectively, last season
* Led seven of 10 races for 672 laps

Loop Data Highlight:
* 750 Quality Passes, fifth-most

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Power Rankings: Back to COT regulars
FOXSports.com

Following NASCAR's version of Survivor: Lowe's Motor Speedway, it's back to the Car of Tomorrow this week in the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Visa at Dover International Speedway.

It's also back to the same COT standouts as previous races this season.

1. JEFF GORDON: For four-time champ, Charlotte must be his own twilight zone. Despite his first DNF of 2007, he still holds a 132-point lead over Jimmie Johnson. Has four wins, five poles at Dover.

2. JIMMIE JOHNSON: Late-race miscue in pits didn't allow J.J. ample time to contend in the end. Top 10 breaks four-race streak of top-fives. Four time Dover winner.

3. TONY STEWART: Top in class at LMS. Solid at Dover with an average finish of 8.875. Expect a revenge run and first win of the season.

4. DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Solid run at hometown track. Took on stronger leadership role in the absence of regular crew chief.

5. DENNY HAMLIN: Third among Gibbs cars on Sunday. Dover average of 10th-place could set up for season's breakthrough win — if he can get around his teammate Smoke.

6. MATT KENSETH: Ford's only hope. Defending Dover winner would be a favorite at the Monster Mile — if it weren't a COT race. Still a contender.

7. JEFF BURTON: Wreck repercussions killed Charlotte hopes. Defending fall Dover winner will be a player on Sunday.

8. BRIAN VICKERS: No racer worked harder for a top-five on Sunday. If he makes the race at Dover, he'll get the Toyota train rolling.

9. CARL EDWARDS: Led just one lap at Lowe's but others misfortunes allowed the No. 99 to climb in the points. Runner-up at Dover in the fall will be in the mix.

10. KEVIN HARVICK: Needs a comeback run to get the momentum rolling for summer stretch. Has just two top-fives at Dover in 12 starts.

11. KURT BUSCH: On a roll but needs to work on his night moves. Dover in the daylight will get Busch back on track.

12. KYLE BUSCH: Misery at Lowe's won't carry over at Dover. Doesn't like COT, but the kid drives the bejeebers out of it.

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

COT comes to Dover roller coaster
FOX Sports

As teams learn about the Car of Tomorrow, or the New Car, drivers must slow down enough to get it through the turns. If drivers follow that game plan at Dover International Speedway, it should be an exciting race.

There's always been good racing at The Monster Mile because it's a multi-groove track, where drivers can run high, low or in the middle. The New Car will continue to allow that to happen, and drivers will lean on each other a little bit more than normal.

Who to Watch

Jeff Gordon: Tied with Bill Elliott, Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd for most Dover wins among active drivers, Gordon also has two COT victories. Rick Hendrick and his whole organization have dominated the New Car races because they keep testing and gaining the necessary information to figure out the car. If they can do it, there's no reason the other organizations in NASCAR can't do it.

Jeff Burton: You've got to look at the drivers' past records at this track and expect them to be strong again. Burton won the last Cup race at Dover in September, and he finished second in the first Car of Tomorrow race on a similar high-banked concrete track at Bristol. Both Burton and Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick should be solid this weekend.

Tony Stewart: With two wins at Dover, Stewart should lead Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley. The Gibbs cars have led the most COT laps, and they are very close to winning a race this year. They're not rolling over, throwing up their hands and quitting.

Elliott Sadler: If you listen to Ray Evernham talk about his program and watch his cars on the track, they're getting better. Sadler was caught up in a crash early last week, and Kasey Kahne showed moments of brilliance. The further we go into the season, these teams will get stronger and stronger.

What to Watch

Rollercoaster ride: A 400-mile race at the Monster Mile seems like 600 miles. It will wear you out. This racetrack can be harder on a driver than Charlotte because it's almost like a four-hour, roller-coaster ride. You go uphill and downhill. You'll get thrown sideways and back and forth. If your seat isn't right, your back can get tired in a hurry because you have to hold yourself in the seat. You need that seat to hold you. If a racer doesn't have his car exactly right, driver fatigue will set in early.

Focus factor: Also like Lowe's Motor Speedway, Dover is so fast that drivers have to stay focused and in anticipate the next turn. As you're coming up off the corner on the bottom, another driver will be rimriding around the top of the track. When you exit the corner, you're both fighting for the same real estate against the wall on the front and back straightaways. You've got to be on your guard for all 400 laps. The spotter has to be on his game and anticipate as well, noting drivers on the inside and outside so you don't get cut off or in advertently cut off somebody else.

Same COT issues: We're going to have some of the same issues because drivers will be unhappy with the way the car performs. It doesn't drive like they want it to drive, but that's going to be the case until NASCAR and Goodyear fine-tune their adjustments and make the car more driver-friendly. 

No way for crews to prepare: Dover's pit road is one of the most dangerous on the circuit, and there's really no way to get ready for it. Crews will make their practice area smaller and tell the drivers to be very precise get into the pit box. When the adrenaline gets going, you throw caution to the wind, and you've got to trust that these drivers won't get into the outside wall or get into each other and wind up getting into you.

Race to the Chase: Jamie McMurray is hanging in the 12th position in the standings, and everybody is gunning for him. How about Dale Earnhardt Jr.? He looked impressive with an eighth-place finish and snuck up a little bit tighter in 13th place in the standings.

Expect unexpected: Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 will be our last race broadcast of the season so you've got to tune in to find out if there will be any surprises. You never know what's coming at you when NASCAR on FOX comes on Sunday from the Monster Mile.

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Dover

This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Dover Int'l Speedwafor the Autism Speaks 400 - the sixth Car of Tomorrow event of the 2007 season. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 400-lap event.

Who's HOT at Dover
*
Tony Stewart has the best finishing average among active drivers at 8.9.
* Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott and Ricky Rudd lead all active drivers with four wins each.
* Matt Kenseth finished in the top 10 in both races last season, including a win in this event.
* Ryan Newman has the best average start at 6.2.
* Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth lead all drivers with respective driver ratings of 117.2 and 112.3.
* Jimmie Johnson has finished inside the top 10 in four of the last five races, which includes one win.

Keep an Eye on at Dover

* Kyle Busch posted an average finish of 3.0 in his first three of four starts at Dover.
* Denny Hamlin has led the most laps in COT competition with 563.
* Kurt Busch (Dodge) and Dave Blaney (Toyota) hold the best average finish with the COT among their manufacturers at 15.2 and 28.4, respectively.
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. will pilot the same car that has posted a combined average finish of 13.0 in three races.
* Jeff Burton scored two top fives last year at Dover, including a win in the fall.
* Martin Truex Jr. has won two Busch Series races at Dover and is coming off a sixth-place finish last fall in the Cup Series event.

COT Performers
Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in starting average (3.2) and finishing average (2.2) in the five Car of Tomorrow races that have been contested so far. Gordon is tied with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most wins with two. Kyle Busch, who won the first COT race driving for Hendrick, has a finishing average of 10.2. Denny Hamlin has dominated the competition by leading an impressive 563 laps, but has yet to win a race. Hamlin ranks second in average start (5.4) and average finish (5.0). Matt Kenseth (Ford), Kurt Busch (Dodge) and Dave Blaney (Toyota) hold the best average finish among their manufacturers at 8.6, 15.2 and 28.4, respectively. David Gilliland has the worst average finish among all the drivers that have made every COT start at 37.4. COT Driver Averages | COT Lap Leaders

Rookie Report

David Ragan is the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate that has made a NEXTEL Cup Series start at Dover International Speedway. In his Cup Series debut, Ragan finished 42nd after he crashed his No. 06 Ford and fell out of the race on lap 47. Ragan has also made one Busch Series start at Dover (finished 18th), but Paul Menard has made the most starts with six, capturing one top 10 in 2005. David Reutimann has had the most success in NASCAR competition at Dover, scoring two fifth-place finishes in the Truck Series. Rookie Standings

Qualifying Tidbits
Prior to Jeff Gordon's pole in the 2006 fall race, Ryan Newman and Jeremy Mayfield won two poles each in the last four races at Dover International Speedway when qualifying was contested. Three years ago in the June event, Mayfield established the new track qualifying record of 161.522 mph when he drove the No. 19 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. Qualifying in June of 2005 was rained out along with the 2003 fall race. Rusty Wallace was the last driver to win a pole in a Ford, which came in the fall of 2002. Gordon's pole last fall was the first by a Chevrolet since 1996 when Bobby Labonte took the top spot. Only 15 of 74 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 10, most recently coming last year in both races with Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Dover Winners

Looking For Speed
Although he has a past champion's provisional to fall back on, Bill Elliott leads all drivers that are required to qualify on time with a 10.7 starting average at Dover. Three-time pole winner and Dover qualifying record holder Jeremy Mayfield is second in starting average at 16.1. Mike Bliss, who has qualified for four Dover races, holds the worst average start among the group at 30.0. David Reutimann, Paul Menard and AJ Allmendinger have yet to make a NEXTEL Cup start at Dover. Qualifying Averages


Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Jeff Gordon
(Points: 1921): Gordon will be making his 29th start at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. With four wins at the track, he is tied with Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott for the most wins among active drivers at the track. He last won on June 3, 2001 after leading 381 laps in the race. Gordon leads all active drivers with the most laps led at "The Monster Mile" with 2,198. Overall, Gordon has finished in the top five 13 times and the top 10 17 times and has started on the pole three times. Last year in this event, Gordon started third, led 81 laps, and finished 12th - ending a streak of two consecutive DNFs. In the fall, he won the pole and finished third.

2. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -132): In 2002 at Dover International Speedway, Johnson swept the season after leading a combined total of 358 laps. He captured his third win at the track in the 2005 fall race after leading 134 laps from the fifth starting position. Last year in this event, Johnson had an eventful weekend after multiple incidents that started with a spin in qualifying. In the race he started 42nd and quickly found himself a lap down after a mid-race accident. In the end Johnson was able to rally back to finish sixth - his seventh top 10 in 10 starts at Dover. This weekend Johnson will race a brand new car (chassis No. 433) in the Autism Speaks 400.

3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -207): Kenseth captured his first win at Dover International Speedway in this event last year after leading 83 laps from the 19th starting position. Sunday will mark Kenseth's 17th start at the one-mile oval dating back to 1998 when he made his first NEXTEL Cup start after stepping in for Bill Elliott. Along with his victory, Kenseth has recorded nine top-10 finishes and one pole, which was the first of his career. This weekend Kenseth will return in the same car (chassis RK-473) that finished seventh last month at Darlington.

4. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -239): Hamlin will be making his third NEXTEL Cup start at Dover International Speedway. Last year in this event, Hamlin battled back to finish 11th after falling a lap down because of a tangle with Jeremy Mayfield on pit road. He was able to make the lap up and was one of 21 drivers to finish on the lead lap. This weekend Hamlin will look to add on to his series lead in COT laps led (563) in hopes of trying to score his second consecutive top 10 at Dover.

5. Jeff Burton
(Points Behind: -344): Burton scored his best finishes with Richard Childress Racing in five races at Dover International Speedway in 2006 after finishing fourth in June and winning the fall race. The victory ended a 175 NEXTEL Cup race winless drought. Prior to his Dover races with RCR, Burton captured eight top 10s with Roush Racing dating back to 1996. This weekend Burton will climb into a new Car of Tomorrow chassis (No. 196) for the 400-lap race.

6. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -391): Last year in this event, Stewart was credited with a 25th-place finish at Dover International Speedway after Ricky Rudd relieved him under the first caution on lap 38. Stewart was unable to compete in the demanding race after he fractured his right scapula the weekend prior in Charlotte. In the fall, Stewart finished 33rd after a crash took him out of contention, marking his worst finish in 16 starts. Prior to 2006, Stewart posted two wins (both in 2000), nine top five and 11 top-10 finishes. His average finish (8.9) is the best among all active drivers and he is fourth in laps led with 1,066.

7. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -506): Last year in this event, Harvick captured his best finish (third) at Dover International Speedway after a gas only pit stop late in the race. The finish was his fifth top 10 at "The Monster Mile." Harvick's only other top-five finish came in the fall race in 2003 when he led 133 laps en route to a fourth-place finish. That event marked the only time Harvick has led in 11 starts at Dover. This weekend Harvick will be back behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 190) that has posted a combined 15.8 average finish in all the COT races.

8. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -507): Last year in the fall event, Edwards scored his best finish, of second, in five career starts at Dover International Speedway. This weekend Edwards will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis RK-464) that he started 28th and finished 11th with at Phoenix.

9. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -519): Sunday's race will mark Busch's 14th at Dover International Speedway. Last year he finished 16th and fourth, respectively, in his first two track starts with Penske Racing. His three additional top 10s came with Roush Fenway Racing - the team he has led all his Dover laps (205) with. Last year in this event, Busch started fourth before handling problems relegated him to 16th-place finish. This weekend, Busch will pilot the same car (chassis No. 514) that finished fifth at Richmond last month.

10. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -543): Last fall, Bowyer captured his first top 10 in his second career NEXTEL Cup Series start at Dover International Speedway. That weekend also saw him go to victory lane in the Busch Series. The team will be bringing the same chassis (No. 192) that has combined for a 12.5 average finish in four races.

11. Kyle Busch
(Points Behind: -562): Busch's finishing average at Dover International Speedway took a hit last fall after the engine in his No. 5 Chevrolet expired near the halfway point of the race. The 40th-place finish dropped his average to 12.2 after finishing fifth or better in his three previous attempts. This weekend he will be driving the same car that finished seventh at Phoenix in April.

12. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -601): Dover International Speedway is the site of McMurray's best finish with Roush Racing. His second-place finish in this event last year was his third top-10 finish at the track. That race also saw McMurray lead his only laps at Dover when he held the No. 26 Ford up front for 95 circuits. This weekend McMurray will pilot the same car that finished ninth and 23rd, respectively, at Bristol and Phoenix.

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -614): Earnhardt Jr. is making his 15th appearance at Dover International Speedway. He won his only race at the track in September 2001. In addition to his win, Dale Jr. has three top fives and six top 10s at the one-mile track. He has led in eight races for 366 laps. In the 2003 fall race he started second - after rain cancelled qualifying - and then went on to lead 48 laps before posting his only Dover DNF. After qualifying fourth in the 2005 fall race, a loose wheel in the beginning of the race ruined Junior's chance of a good finish. In 2006, he finished 10th and 21st, respectively. Dale Jr. will pilot the same car (chassis No. 051) that has posted a combined average finish of 13.0 in three races.

14. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -632): Martin's last of four wins at Dover International Speedway came in the June race in 2004. Since then, Martin has gone on to capture three more top fives, bringing his series leading total to 19. Martin, who is third in laps led at Dover with 1,700, will make his 42nd start, and first driving a Chevrolet, at Dover on Sunday.

15. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -660): Yeley hopes to ride the momentum of last weekend's career-best NEXTEL Cup finish into Dover as he has yet to finish inside the top 20 in three career starts.

16. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -689): Truex Jr. has won two Busch Series races and is coming off a sixth-place finish last fall in the Cup Series at Dover International Speedway. He will make his third Cup start at Dover racing the same chassis (No. 020) that finished 11th at Darlington last month.

17. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -690): Labonte made his first NEXTEL Cup Series start at Dover International Speedway on June 2, 1991. Since then, Labonte has competed in 28 more races at "The Monster Mile" capturing one win (1999), three poles, 11 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes. The last time Labonte led a lap was in the June event back in 2003 when he led 34 circuits of a track total 143. Last year, Labonte finished 13th and seventh, respectively, in his first track starts with Petty Enterprises.

18. Ryan Newman
(Points Behind: -707): Newman has put together a pretty impressive record in his 10 starts at Dover International Speedway. In the last eight races, Newman has captured three wins and has led 672 laps. His last and seventh top 10 came in the 2005 fall race when he finished fifth. Two of Newman's three Dover poles have come in the last three events. Newman's last win at Dover came in 2004 when he dominated the race leading 325 laps on his way to his only win in the "Chase for the Cup." This weekend Newman will drive the same chassis (PRS-515) that finished sixth at Richmond last month.

19. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -732): Biffle scored his first and only win at Dover International Speedway in the 2005 June race. In that event he started second on points and led for the first time at Dover for a total of 150 laps. Since the victory, Biffle has finished 13th or better, including two top 10s in 2006. He qualified a best fifth in his first outing at the track in the 2002 fall race. Biffle, who also has two Busch Series wins at Dover, will race a brand new car (chassis No. RK-472) in the Autism Speaks 400.

20. Elliott Sadler
(Points Behind: -739): Last fall, Sadler finished 16th in his first start at Dover International Speedway behind the wheel of the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge. In that event, he led 30 of his track total 186 laps led. His best Dover finish came in the 2005 fall race when he piloted the No. 38 Robert Yates Ford to a sixth-place finish.

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

NASCAR at Dover
May 31, 2007
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com


This weeks race takes us to Dover, for the 13th race of the season and sixth Car of Tomorrow race overall. The Hendrick team is still a gigantic favorite to win this week, but the gap may be closing as each of these teams get more comfortable with their cars and preferred set-ups.

The preferred set-up this week may be up in the air a bit for all teams because of cancelled pre-season testing. It’s likely to be similar to what the teams used at Bristol, at least for those who did well. For the others, it’s back to the drawing board. Though the tracks of Bristol and Dover are half the distance of each other, crew chiefs still consider the mile track of Dover closer to Bristol than any other track because of the width, banking, and concrete surface.

There may not be a 100 to 1 lottery ticket out there this week like Casey Mears brought a lucky few last week, but some chances could be taken because of the large odds on a few really improving teams out there. The huge advantage that Hendrick has over the other teams because of having more laps in testing has to even up sooner or later. Based on what a few drivers and organizations have shown going up against the Hendrick Empire, that gap is indeed closing.

Here’s a look at the top-12 drivers in points heading into this week’s race at Dover.

1) Jeff Gordon

* 35-years-old from Vallejo, Calif., 78 career wins
* Three wins, nine top fives, 10 top 10s
* Five poles
* Average finish of 6.9 this season
* Led in 10 of 12 races for 674 laps
Dover Career:
* Four wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles
* 12.5 average finish
* Finished 12th and third, respectively, last season
* Led in 17 of 28 races for 2,198 laps

Jeff Gordon became the youngest driver ever to win at Dover in 1995 at the age of 23 years and 10 months old. In that race, Gordon led 400 laps and had a margin of victory of 2.34 seconds. His last win at Dover was in the spring of 2001. Because of the COT running this week, Gordon is an easy consensus favorite to win the race based on his previous 5 COT runs this season. At an average finish of 2.2 in the 5 races with 2 wins, Gordon will be tough to beat. The only positive on wagering against Gordon in this race is that his worst COT finish this season came at Bristol, a track that will be the starting point in set ups notes for this week. However, the bad news is that his worst COT finish was third.

2) Jimmie Johnson
* 31-years-old from El Cajon, Calif., 27 career wins
* Four wins, eight top fives, nine top 10s
* Average finish of 9.9
* Led in eight of 12 races for 612 laps
Dover Career:
* Three wins, four top fives, seven top 10s
* 11.4 average finish
* Finished sixth and 13th, respectively, last season
* Led in six of 10 races for a total of 553 laps

Johnson took the first two Dover races he ever started in and won. He had some rocky times after that but came back strong with a win two years ago in the fall. Like Gordon, Johnson is stellar in the COT. Also, like Gordon, Johnson’s worst COT finish in 5 races came at Bristol where the banking and concrete make it close in relative set-ups.

3) Matt Kenseth
* 35-years-old from Cambridge, Wis., 15 career wins
* One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
* Average finish of 8.8
* Led in 11 of 12 races for 253 laps
Dover Career:
* One win, four top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
* 14.75 average finish
* Finished first and 10th, respectively, last season
* Led in 10 of 16 races for a total of 357 laps

Matt Kenseth won this race last year, and nearly swept the two Dover races as he led a race-high 215 laps before running out of fuel at race’s end in the September event. His COT average in the five races leads Ford with a finish of 8.6 per race. His best run came at Phoenix where he finished fifth. Like the Dodge teams have come on, expect Ford to be much more competitive as they get more laps in the COT.

4) Denny Hamlin
* 26-years-old from Chesterfield, Va., two career wins
* Five top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
* Average finish of 10.4
* Led in seven of 12 races for 612 laps
Dover Career:
* One top 10
* 10.0 average finish in two races
* Finished 11th and ninth, respectively, last season Only Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have been better than Hamlin in the COT. Hamlin has three third's and a second place finish in the five races for an average of 5.0. Hamlin appears to be getting better each week as the team readies for a Pocono defense soon. This might be the week Hamlin finally breaks through in the win column this season after a few late race disasters prevented them from wins.

5) Jeff Burton
* 39-years-old from S. Boston, Va., 19 career wins
* One win, five top fives, seven top 10s
* Average finish of 13.2 this season
* Led in five of 12 races for 27 laps
Dover Career:
* One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s
* 17.462 average finish
* Finished fourth and first, respectively, last season
* Led in eight of 26 races for 127 laps

Burton won the second race at Dover last season to snap a 175 race winless streak. At the time, the win also pushed Burton into first place in the Cup Series standings. His best COT finish came on the high concrete banks of Bristol with second place. Look for a good run out of Burton again this week.

6) Tony Stewart
* 36-years-old from Columbus, Ind., 29 career wins
* Two top fives, eight top 10s
* Average finish of 14.8
* Led nine of 12 races for 647 laps
Dover Career:
* Two wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s
* 8.875 average finish
* Finished 25th and 33rd, respectively, last season
* Led 10 of 16 races for 1,066 laps

Tony Stewart experienced early success in his career at Dover but hasn’t cracked the top 10 there in over two years. He has an average finish there of 8.9, best among active drivers. His COT runs have been steady but still isn’t what most expected from the Home Depot team. Many believe the results Hamlin is getting should be the same for Stewart.

7) Kevin Harvick
* 31-years-old from Bakersfield, Calif., 11 career victories
* One win, two top fives, five top 10s
* Average finish of 17.1 this season
* Led in six of 12 races for 176 laps
Dover Career:
* Two top fives, five top 10s
* 17.583 average finish
* Finished third and 32nd, respectively, last season
* Led in one of 12 races for a total of 133 laps

Harvick’s best Dover finish happened last year in this race with a third and his best finish in the COT happened at Bristol with fourth. He’s had mixed reviews in the COT’s five races.

8) Carl Edwards
* 27-years-old from Columbia, Mo., four career wins
* One top five, three top 10s
* Average finish of 15.9
* Led in three of 12 races for 37 laps
Dover Career:
* One top five, two top 10s
* 12.0 average finish
* Finished 15th and second, respectively, last season
* Led in two of five races for 23 laps

Edwards has been very efficient in every COT race this season. He hasn’t been good enough to win the races, but he’s done just everything he can to wheel that baby into position inside the top 10. Look for the same type of run or better this week. In Edwards last run at Dover he finished second.

9) Kurt Busch
* 28-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., 15 career victories
* Two top fives, three top 10s
* Average finish of 17.2 this season
* Led in seven of 12 races for 302 laps
Dover Career:
* Two top fives, four top 10s
* 18.385 average finish
* Finished 16th and fourth, respectively, last season
* Led in three of 13 races for a total of 205 laps

Penske team looks better each week and it’s not just in the COT either. Though the actual final results don’t show it, Busch has been ultra-competitive against everyone. He’s on the upswing and definitely a guy you don’t want to mess with in match-ups, at least if it’s betting against him.

10) Clint Bowyer
* 27-years-old from Emporia, Kan., zero career wins
* Five top 10s; one pole
* Average finish of 17.1
* Led in four of 12 races for 21 laps
Dover Career:
* One top 10
* 12.5 average finish in two races
* Finished 17th and eighth, respectively, last season

Much like Edwards, Bowyer has been on the tier below the Hendrick and Gibbs drivers in COT races. That black Jack car is starting to feel like its getting winning vibe to it and it taste pretty refreshing. That car just looks like a winner!

11) Kyle Busch
* 22-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., four career wins
* One win, three top fives, six top 10s
* Average finish of 19.1
* Led in seven of 12 races for 87 laps
Dover Career:
* Three top fives
* 12.25 average finish
* Finished fifth and 40th, respectively, last season
* Led in two of four races for 112 laps

We have a great combo of a driver who loves Dover and has been better than most in each COT race. He took the Bristol race despite hating the way his car drove. As rookie two years ago, he finished second in each Dover race.

12) Jamie McMurray

* 30-years-old from Joplin, Mo., one career win
* Two top fives, five top 10s; 18.3 average finish
* Led one of 12 races for two laps
Dover Career:
* One top five, three top 10s
* 14.5 average finish
* Finished second and 17th, respectively, last season
* Led one of eight races for 95 laps

He came out of no where last season to make a run for the checkers in this race. It was like the team finally switched the “stop being terrible” button on the dash, and BINGO, they were competing for a win. Their COT runs have been very good this year with a best of ninth coming at Bristol.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
13) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

* 32-years-old from Kannapolis, N.C., 17 career wins
* One top five, five top 10s
* Average finish of 16.7
* Led five of 12 races for 237 laps
Dover Career:
* One win, three top fives, six top 10s
* 16.286 average finish
* Finished 10th and 21st, respectively, last season
* Has led in eight of 14 races for 366 laps

Junior took a win at Dover in the fall of 2001, but has had only one top-five there since. His best COT finish was at Martinsville with a fifth. Before you know it, Martin Truex Jr is going to be the driver we start talking about from DEI as the focal point. Wouldn’t be surprised if Truex outperformed Junior on what has become the Jersey native’s home track. In fact, I’d probably lay odds that Truex will be better than Junior this week.

18) Ryan Newman

* 30-years-old from South Bend, Ind., 12 career wins
* One top five, four top 10s; two poles
* 21.8 average finish; Led five of 12 races for 52 laps
Dover Career:
* Three wins, five top fives, seven top 10s; three poles
* 9.0 average finish
* Finished 14th and 24th, respectively, last season
* Led seven of 10 races for 672 laps

He’s done things at Dover that no one has before. Like Busch, this team is running very well everyone for Penske. His last two COT races saw him take fourth and sixth on two pretty tough tracks. He could be the long shot driver this week to take a chance on taking down Chevy.

TOP 5 Dover Finish Prediction:
1)       #11 Denny Hamlin (7/1)
2)       #12 Ryan Newman (30/1)
3)       #24 Jeff Gordon (5/1)
4)       #5 Kyle Busch (10/1)
5)       #48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)

DOVER ODDS and ENDS
• There have been 74 Cup races at Dover since the first race there in 1969. There were single races the first two years and two a year since 1971.
• David Pearson won the first Bud Pole in 1969.
• Richard Petty won the first Cup race in 1969.
• There have been 31 different Bud Pole winners; 20 have won more than one.
• There have been 29 different race-winners; 18 have more than one victory there.
• The track opened in 1960. The first two races were 300 laps, 300 miles.
• Between 1971 and 1996 both races were 500 miles.
• The track surface was changed from asphalt to concrete in 1995.
• The format was changed to 400 miles following the June race in 1997.
• Hendrick Motorsports has won 10 races – three more than any other car owner.
• Roush Fenway Racing has won the last three June races – all with a different driver: Mark Martin (2004), Greg Biffle (2005) and Matt Kenseth (2006).
• Ryan Newman has finished on the lead lap in 80 percent of his Dover races, the best percentage of any active driver with more than one race there.
• There have been just three Bud Pole winners in the last eight races: Ryan Newman (three), Jeremy Mayfield (two) and Jeff Gordon (one). Qualifying was canceled twice in the eight-race period.
• There have been six different race winners in the last six races.
• Eleven of 74 races have been won by the Bud Pole winner, but only three in the past 19 races. Ryan Newman was the last to win from the pole (2003).
• Both races in 2006 were won from the 19th starting position.
• The June 1995 race was won by Kyle Petty who started 37th – the deepest in the field of a race-winner.
• David Pearson won three consecutive races in 1972-73 – the only time a driver has won more than two in a row there.
• There has been one green-white-checkered finish: September 2005 (404 laps).
• Mark Martin has won in all three of NASCAR’s series at Dover.

Dover Streakers

• Kyle Bush has finished in the top five in three of the last four races.
• Kurt Busch has started in the top 10 in four consecutive races.
• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.
• Mark Martin has started in the top 10 in three consecutive races.
• Ryan Newman has started in the top five in nine consecutive races.

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Autism Speaks 400 PreQ    
       
Although Jimmie Johnson didn’t post a top 3 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway ending a streak of eighth consecutive races with a top 3 he did finish in the top 10. The wreck marred event that ended with Casey Mears winning on fuel strategy saw a lot of top contenders fail to finish up front. Johnson, however, managed to be one of the few big name drivers to record a decent finish while points leader, and teammate, Jeff Gordon wrecked early and finished well back in the field. Johnson made up a handful of points and is looking to make up even more ground this weekend at Dover International Speedway. Johnson has three wins in 10 career starts at the track with seven top 10s overall with an average finish of 11th place. Johnson is on a roll this season and with this being a COT event, in which Hendrick Motorsports has won the all five COT races this season, expect Johnson to be a dominant car once again.

For the third consecutive week Denny Hamlin had a car that could win only to see his chances end when having to pit for fuel late in the race cost him a chance to visit victory lane. He has been on a roll, however, posting his third straight top 10 and sixth in the last seven races. In two starts at Dover last season, which is dubbed the Monster Mile, Hamlin averaged a 10th place finish. In 10 career speedway starts Hamlin has posted seven top 10s with three straight top 3 finishes. Hamlin is hungry for a win and should be running up front when all is said and done.

Silly Season always seems to start earlier and earlier every year. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. looking for a new ride next season there is an opening at DEI and Ryan Newman’s name has already been mentioned as a possible replacement. Newman does have a year remaining on his current contract but if he continues to struggle as he has since the start of last season Penske may allow him to leave. Newman, however, may stay if he can turn it around and until last weekend was running well before an engine problem relegated him to a 39th place finish after winning the pole. He again ranks among the top 10 on the PreQ forecast for Dover as he averages a 9th place finish in 10 career starts. He has three wins with seven top 10s while posting a lowest finish of 24th place. Newman needs just a little luck to make the Chase for the Championship and is hoping the race at Dover provides just that.

The Coca-Cola 600 had a first time winner as Casey Mears took the checkered flag for the first time in his career. Mears may not have had the best car at Lowe’s but a win is a win and that is all that anyone will remember. Mears’ head may come out of the clouds quickly as Dover has been unkind to him in his career. In eight career starts Mears has finished outside the top 20 seven times with an average finish of 26th place. He has struggled on speedways in his career averaging a 26th place finish in 23 starts with just one top 10. Mears should continue to run better in his new ride at Hendricks Motorsports but it is unlikely to have a fun day at Dover.

Kasey Kahne’s struggles continued at Lowe’s where he finished in 23rd place 10 laps down to the leaders. Kahne has recorded just one top 10 this season which came in the season opener and has since posted just two other finishes better than 20th place. It doesn’t look like Kahne will bust out of that slump anytime soon and Dover is a track that has given him fits in his career. In six career starts at Dover he has an average finish of 26th place with four finishes outside the top 20. Kahne is not the best superspeedway drivers averaging a 17th place finish in 23 career starts on the track type and with his current slump stay away from the #9 Dodge Dealers Dodge.

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Team notes: drivers eye 'Monster Mile'

NASCAR team reports as the Nextel Cup circuit gears up for the Dover 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Jeff Gordon

No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports

This week: In 28 career starts at Dover, Gordon has four wins, three poles, 13 top-fives and 17 top-10s. He has led the most laps on five occasions, including 400 of 500 laps in 1995, 375 of 400 laps in 1998 and 381 of 400 laps in 2001.

Last week: Following his early exit from the Lowe's race because of an accident, Gordon's lead in the point standings dropped to 132 over teammate Jimmie Johnson. Gordon finished 41st.

Etc.: Gordon will use Car of Tomorrow chassis No. 24-428, which has been used once, in a victory from the pole at Phoenix. Gordon also won the COT race at Darlington and has three poles and three other top-fives in COT races.

Jimmie Johnson

No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports

This week: Johnson owns three victories in 10 races at the "Monster Mile," including a sweep of both races in 2002 — his rookie season. Johnson's four victories are the most of any driver in 2007. Johnson will drive chassis No. 433 this weekend, and chassis No. 419 will serve as the backup. Neither chassis has been raced.

Last week: Johnson finished 10th in Sunday's 600-mile race at Lowe's Motor Speedway and is second in the 2007 points.

Etc: Johnson has felt the difference this year as he tries to defend his Nextel Cup title. "Winning the championship has brought a lot of confidence to me, and I feel established in the sport," he said.

Matt Kenseth


No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing

This week: Kenseth made his Cup debut at Dover in September 1998 at age 26. He substituted for Bill Elliott that day and drove to a sixth-place finish. Kenseth scored the first pole of his Cup career at Dover in June 2002; he has one win, four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 15 Dover races. Kenseth's first Cup victory at Dover came last June. He also boasts two Busch Series wins there.

Last week: Kenseth finished 12th at Lowe's.

Etc: Kenseth has led 637 laps in Busch Series races at Dover, the most among all active drivers in the series. His seven top-five Busch finishes there is tops among all drivers, past or present.

Denny Hamlin

No. 11 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing

This week: This will be Hamlin's third Cup race at Dover. He has one top-10 finish in his two previous races — he finished seventh in this race last June.

Last week: Hamlin finished ninth in the 600. "Our car was good," he said. "We were going to finish third, but everybody had to pit. Some guys got better fuel mileage than us. We just missed out there."

Etc: Hamlin applauded NASCAR's announcement last week that the COT would be run in all races in 2008. "I like it," Hamlin said. "I definitely think going to the car early is going to benefit our team."

Jeff Burton

No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing

This week: Burton has one win, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 26 Dover starts. His lone Dover victory came last September, snapping a 176-race winless streak. He has a 25.1 starting average and 17.5 finishing average at Dover.

Last week: Burton finished 24th at Charlotte.

Etc.: In the season's first 12 races, Burton has earned five top-five and seven top-10 finishes and has finished outside the top 25 only twice. He has a 22.75 starting average and 13.25 finishing average and sits fifth in the point standings. Over those same 12 races last season, Burton's average start was 16.66 and average finish was 16.45, and he was eighth in points.

Tony Stewart

No. 20 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing

This week: On the cusp of victory a handful of times already this season, Stewart wants to win now. And while Victory Lane has so far eluded the two-time Nextel Cup champion, Dover may very well be the place where he earns his 30th career Nextel Cup win. Stewart has two wins, nine top-fives and 11 top-10s in 16 Cup starts at Dover.

Last week: Stewart is coming off a sixth-place finish at Lowe's.

Etc.: Stewart insists he's not worried about his lack of victories thus far this season, "especially with the way the points system is now. I'm not totally satisfied with it, but I don't think anyone is totally satisfied with the way their season is going."

Kevin Harvick

No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing

This week: Harvick has two top-five and five top-10 finishes, a 19.8 starting average and a 17.6 finishing average in 12 Cup starts at Dover. He will drive the same chassis he raced to a 17th-place finish two weeks ago at Darlington. "It is like a big Bristol," Harvick said of Dover.

Last week: Harvick climbed one spot in the standings after his 21st-place finish at Lowe's. The 2007 Daytona 500 winner is in seventh, 162 points out of the top five.

Etc.: Harvick tested at Virginia International Raceway on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.

Carl Edwards

No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing

This week: In five Cup starts at Dover, Edwards has one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average start at Dover is 17th, his average finish is 12th. His best start and finish at the track came last September when he qualified sixth and finished second.

Last week: Edwards finished 15th in the Coca-Cola 600.

Etc.: Edwards has led a total of 23 laps at Dover, all but two of them in the fall race of 2006. "Dover is one of my favorite tracks," he said. "It's pretty much a one-groove track, so you need to handle well through the center of the corners in order to keep your position."

Kurt Busch

No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing

This week: Busch is still looking for his first Dover win and pole after 13 career races. He has had two top-five finishes and four top-10s. He posted his career-best Dover finish, a fourth, in the most recent race there last September. He made his Cup racing debut at Dover on Sept. 24, 2000, finishing 18th.

Last week: Busch fell from seventh to ninth after his 32nd-place finish at Lowe's. "It's only a small step back, a momentary hiccup along the road," Busch said.

Etc.: Busch will be behind the wheel of his PRS 514 Dodge Avenger at Dover. It is the same car that the team raced to a fifth-place finish at Richmond on May 6.

Clint Bowyer

No. 07 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing

This week: Bowyer, who has not yet won a Cup Series race, will make his 50th career Cup Series start in NASCAR's top division Sunday. He has competed in just two Cup races at Dover, finishing 17th last June and eighth last September. He won the Busch Series race at Dover last September. "The first time I went to Dover, we were terrible and I felt like I couldn't get out of my own way, and then when we went back, we had the fastest car and almost won the race," he said.

Last week: Bowyer was 29th at Lowe's.

Etc: Bowyer's 28th birthday was Wednesday.

Kyle Busch

No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports

This week: Busch scored three straight top-five finishes in his first three Cup races at Dover before engine failure resulted in a 40th-place finish last September.

Last week: Busch's hopes of a top-10 finish at Lowe's were wiped out between laps 200 and 251 when he bounced hard off the wall twice. The second time resulted in heavy damage to the car and forced the team to go behind the wall for repairs. As a result, Busch limped home in 30th place.

Etc.: In the first five COT races, Busch has one win (Bristol) and four finishes of seventh or better.

Jamie McMurray

No. 26 Ford, Roush Racing

This week: A year ago, McMurray led 95 of the final 98 laps before getting passed by Roush Racing teammate Matt Kenseth with three laps to go. McMurray ended up second for his best finish ever at Dover. McMurray has two other top-10 finishes in his eight starts there.

Last week: McMurray was one of 13 cars involved in an early race accident that ended any chance McMurray had of scoring his second win at Lowe's. Instead, McMurray had to be content with a 19th-place finish in his battered race car.

Etc.: McMurray, an avid spokesman for autism awareness, hopes to bring more attention to the cause this weekend with an autism-themed paint scheme, driver's suit, helmet and gloves.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

No. 8 Chevrolet, DEI

This week: Earnhardt scored his lone win at Dover in September 2001 in the first major motorsports event following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. He has five other top-10 finishes at the track in 14 starts. "We've been hit-or-miss at Dover," said Earnhardt.

Last week: Earnhardt was forced to pit for fuel with only seven laps remaining to put an end to his hopes of a top-five finish. He finished eighth.

Etc.: Earnhardt said he pitted for fuel late in the Lowe's race because "we needed the strong finish for points, so we couldn't gamble on fuel like those guys (the top five) did."

Mark Martin

No. 01 Chevrolet, Ginn Racing

This week: Martin will be seeking his fifth win at Dover this weekend. In his previous 41 starts there, he has scored 19 top-five finishes, the most of any active driver. Martin also posted his first Busch Series win at the track in 1987. Overall, he has 25 top-10 finishes there, including four top-fours in the last six races.

Last week: Martin rallied from an early flat tire and handling problems to finish 11th in the Coca-Cola 600. Martin was running fifth when he pitted for gas on lap 391 of the 400-lap event.

Etc.: Martin is the only driver to have won in all three of NASCAR's major series at Dover.

J.J. Yeley

No. 18 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing

This week: In three starts at Dover, Yeley's best finish is 25th. "Dover is going to be the biggest test for the COT car," he said. "It's the fastest race track that we will be on with the COT this year."

Last week: Conserving fuel enabled Yeley to finish second in the Coca-Cola 600 — the best finish of his young Nextel Cup career. Yeley jumped five spots in the point standings to 15th.

Etc.: Yeley will be driving the same car he ran last month at Richmond, where his 14th place was his best finish in a COT race to date.

Martin Truex Jr.

No. 1 Chevrolet, DEI

This week: Truex finished sixth last fall at Dover in his second Cup start at the track.

Last week: Despite getting caught up in a multi-car accident early in the 600, Truex was able to rally to finish 16th. "We had everything go wrong that could go wrong; we got caught up in a big wreck, my radio went out for a few laps and my eyes started burning for some reason," said Truex. "Still, we ended up with a pretty good finish."

Etc.: The top-16 finish at Lowe's enabled Truex to move up two spots in the point standings to 16th.

Bobby Labonte

No. 43 Dodge, Petty Enterprises

This week: Labonte scored his lone win at Dover in 1999. He has 13 other top-10 finishes in 29 starts at the track.

Last week: Labonte finished 13th in the 600 to climb from 19th to 17th in the standings.

Etc.: Labonte believes the "biggest challenge this week will be the Car of Tomorrow. We are all going in with blind eyes (after the Dover test was canceled earlier this month). And we only have a few hours (of practice) to get it right. ... There is a lot of information to find out — the shocks and springs, the tires on concrete and now the new (COT) cars are all factors you have to study."

Ryan Newman

No. 12 Dodge, Penske Racing

This week: Newman has won three times at Dover and has seven top-10s in his 10 starts at the one-mile track. He will be driving the same car that he ran at Richmond last month when he finished sixth.

Last week: After winning the pole and leading the first 10 laps of the race, Newman's day began to go downhill. First, he ran into tire problems to drop a lap down. Then, just after Newman had gotten back on the lead lap, the engine expired. Newman ended up 39th to fall from 13th to 18th in the standings.

Etc.: Newman has finished sixth or better in the last two COT races.

Greg Biffle

No. 16 Ford, Roush Racing

This week: Biffle has three top-10 finishes in the last four races run at Dover, including a victory in the 2005 spring race. He also has two Busch Series victories at the track.

Last week: Biffle's day was a short one at Lowe's — he lasted only 45 laps before major tire problems sent him hard into the backstretch wall. The damage to his car was so severe that he was forced to park it for the day, and he ended up 43rd (last) to drop from 16th to 19th in the standings.

Etc.: Greg Erwin is the new crew chief for the 16 team, replacing Pat Tryson. Erwin was most recently the crew chief at Robby Gordon Motorsports.

Elliott Sadler

No. 19 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports

This week: Sadler has only three top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Dover.

Last week: Sadler was one of the 13 cars involved in an accident on lap 53 at Lowe's. His car required extensive repairs in the garage. He returned to the track on lap 186 and finished 36th to drop to 20th in the Nextel Cup standings.

Etc.: Sadler admits the team is a "little frustrated that we didn't start off the season like we wanted to. We didn't have the COT down like we thought we should. I think it's made us all a little stronger and made us pull together a little more."

SUNDAY RACE WINNER

Casey Mears

No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports

This week: While Dover has not been a good track for Mears, he hopes to ride the momentum from Sunday's victory to another top-10 performance this weekend. He has one top-10 finish in eight starts at Dover.

Last week: Instead of trying to run down leader Tony Stewart, Mears decided to gamble on fuel mileage during the final 59 laps of the 600. And it was the right decision as Mears scored the biggest win of his career.

Etc.: Mears said his victory in the 600 "definitely solidifies that we are a team that can win races and can run up front."

OTHERS

David Stremme (No. 40 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) has not had much luck at Dover. He finished 41st and 18th in the two Nextel Cup races in 2006. And in six Busch Series starts at the track, his best finish is 16th. ... Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) finished 11th last fall at Dover for his best Cup finish at the track in his rookie Nextel Cup season. He led 39 laps that afternoon. In four Busch Series starts at the track, Sorenson had four top-10 finishes, including a second in his first race at the speedway. ... Kyle Petty (No. 45 Dodge, Petty Enterprises) will be making his 50th start at Dover this weekend. His last Cup victory came at the track on June 4, 1995, when he led 271 laps. His third place at Lowe's was his best finish since the fall race at Dover in 1997. ... Casey Mears (No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports) has not done well at Dover, but he hopes to ride the momentum from Sunday's victory to another top-10 performance this weekend. "This (the 600 win) definitely solidifies that we are a team that can win races and can run up front," said Mears, who has one top-10 finish in eight starts at Dover. ... Brian Vickers (No. 83 Toyota, Red Bull Racing), even after his fifth-place finish at Lowe's, can't afford to look past Friday and qualifying since he remains outside the top 35 in car owner points

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Dover Odds and Ends
June 1, 2007
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

DOVER ODDS and ENDS

•There have been 74 Cup races at Dover since the first race there in 1969. There were single races the first two years and two a year since 1971.

•David Pearson won the first Bud Pole in 1969.

•Richard Petty won the first Cup race in 1969.

•There have been 31 different Bud Pole winners; 20 have won more than one.

•There have been 29 different race-winners; 18 have more than one victory there.

•The track opened in 1960. The first two races were 300 laps, 300 miles.

•Between 1971 and 1996 both races were 500 miles.

•The track surface was changed from asphalt to concrete in 1995.

•The format was changed to 400 miles following the June race in 1997.

•Hendrick Motorsports has won 10 races – three more than any other car owner.

•Roush Fenway Racing has won the last three June races – all with a different driver: Mark Martin (2004), Greg Biffle (2005) and Matt Kenseth (2006).

•Ryan Newman has finished on the lead lap in 80 percent of his Dover races, the best percentage of any active driver with more than one race there.

•There have been just three Bud Pole winners in the last eight races: Ryan Newman (three), Jeremy Mayfield (two) and Jeff Gordon (one). Qualifying was canceled twice in the eight-race period.

•There have been six different race winners in the last six races.

•Eleven of 74 races have been won by the Bud Pole winner, but only three in the past 19 races. Ryan Newman was the last to win from the pole (2003).

•Both races in 2006 were won from the 19th starting position.

•The June 1995 race was won by Kyle Petty who started 37th – the deepest in the field of a race-winner.

•David Pearson won three consecutive races in 1972-73 – the only time a driver has won more than two in a row there.

•There has been one green-white-checkered finish: September 2005 (404 laps).

•Mark Martin has won in all three of NASCAR’s series at Dover.

Dover Streakers

•Kyle Bush has finished in the top five in three of the last four races.

•Kurt Busch has started in the top 10 in four consecutive races.

•Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.

•Mark Martin has started in the top 10 in three consecutive races.

•Ryan Newman has started in the top five in nine consecutive races.

Dover International Speedway Data

Race #: 13 of 36 (6-3-07)

Track Size: 1 mile

•Banking/Corners: 24 degrees

•Banking/Straights: 9 degrees

•Frontstretch: 1,076 feet

•Backstretch: 1,076 feet

Qualifying/Race Data

2006 pole winner: Ryan Newman (154.633 mph, 23.281 seconds)

2006 race winner: Matt Kenseth, 109.865 mph, 6-4-06)

Track qualifying record: Jeremy Mayfield (161.522 mph, 22.288 secs., 6-4-04)

Track race record: Mark Martin (132.719 mph, 9-21-97)

Estimated Pit Window: Every 72-78 laps, based on fuel mileage

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Newman rockets to second straight pole

DOVER, Del. -- Penske Racing driver Ryan Newman scored his second consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup Series pole, and his third of the season, Friday at Dover International Speedway.

Newman's lap of 152.925 mph on the high-banked 1-mile concrete oval knocked crowd favorite Dale Earhnardt Jr. (152.387) off the top spot for Sunday's Autism Speaks 400, the 13th of this year's 36 points races.

It was the 40th career pole for the 29-year-old Newman, tied for 12th on NASCAR's list of career pole winners.

Earnhardt Jr. (Chevrolet), Bobby Labonte (Dodge), Kasey Kahne (Dodge) and Carl Edwards (Ford) rounded out the top five qualifiers.

"Honestly, I didn't think it was that good of a lap," Newman said. "It was just a little smoother . . . than our run in practice."

Newman, who drives a Dodge, also started on the pole at Atlanta and Lowe's Motor Speedway this year. However, the 12-time Cup winner hasn't been back to the winner's circle since the fall of 2005. It's a streak he'd like to end this weekend, and the fact that this track is the site of three previous Newman wins could favor the former engineering student.

"Our performance this year has been better than our results," said Newman, currently 18th in the Nextel Cup point standings. "Dover is one of my favorite race tracks; it's a track that lends itself to good racing."

Sunday's start will be the best starting position of the season for Earnhardt Jr. and his Dale Earnhardt Inc. team, besting a fourth-place effort a week ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"We had a real good car in practice," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I knew if I did a clean lap, we'd be somewhere in the top 10.

"The crew made some changes between practice and qualifying and made it even better than it was in practice."

Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon qualified sixth in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle completed the top 10.

Among those who were required to qualify based on their qualifying speed -- because their respective team owners aren't in the top 35 in owner points -- owner/driver Michael Waltrip made the 43-car lineup for only the second time this season. His No. 55 Toyota will start 23rd. He had failed to qualify for 11 consecutive races after qualifying for the season-opening Daytona 500.

Waltrip's teammate, David Reutimann, wasn't as fortunate. Reutimann was one of six drivers who failed to make Sunday's show.

Dover is the sixth Car of Tomorrow race of the season. The five previous COT events have been won by Hendrick drivers.

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:


mvbski wrote:



Penske Rising  

The results weren't there for Roger Penske's team at Lowe's last week: Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch qualified first and second for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday, but both drivers struggled with their cars on Sunday with disappointing results. Busch crashed out of the race late and finished 32nd, while Newman blew an engine mid-race and finished 39th.

But two bad results can't take the luster away from one of the Nextel Cup's most improved teams in 2007. Before Charlotte, Busch and Newman had combined for five top-10 finishes in the previous three races and were looking like Chase contenders. What's more, even though their seasons have been uneven to date, the feeling in the Penske garage is that the organization is finally on the rise after a nightmarish '06 season that saw Busch win one race and finish 16th in points, while Newman went winless and bottomed out in 18th.

The organization's problems stemmed from a refusal to change the setup of its cars from an old one that had produced a lot of wins. Also making things difficult was the aerodynamically challenged nose of Penske's Dodge Chargers, which often kept Busch and Newman driving unbalanced racecars. Throw in the fact that '06 was Busch's first with Penske and all the pieces were in place for an uneven and frustrating season.

This year should end up better for the pair. Both drivers felt that they had top-five cars at Daytona (Busch led a race-high 95 laps), but accidents during the race kept them from contending for the win. That is a scenario that has played out time and again so far for Penske. I spent a lot of time with the team in Charlotte last week, and I got the same impression that I got when I hung out with Denny Hamlin and his Gibbs crew during the All-Star race: they're close to breaking through. They just haven't had the breaks.

Can they compete for the Cup? I think so. I have to admit that I'm starting to lose a little bit of patience with teams and drivers who refuse to acknowledge the clear superiority of the Hendrick operation to this point. It can't all be luck-good drivers and teams make their own, after all. On the other hand, though, what else are they supposed to say? Giving in would be like losing, and these guys all hate to lose. I'm betting we see a Penske Dodge in victory lane more than once before '07 is over.

I made a bet on Newman at 18/1 for Dover since this team has been improving each and every week with both types of cars.

wink

Newman rockets to second straight pole

Glad to see he has a good car for this race.  8)

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

Waltrip qualifies for first race since Daytona  big_smile
June 1, 2007

DOVER, Del. (AP) -Michael Waltrip is finally back on track.

After missing 12 straight races, the two-time Daytona 500 champion qualified 23rd Friday for Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway.

Embarrassed by an off-track incident where he fell asleep at the wheel and was charged with reckless driving and failing to report an accident, a cheating scandal that cost him his crew chief and the string of DNQs, this has been a miserable season for Waltrip and his No. 55 NAPA Toyota team.

``There's been too many times when we showed up with a car that was out in left field and we had to try and get it competitive,'' Waltrip said. ``Today we unloaded and we were competitive. That's the difference.''

Waltrip, who hasn't raced in Nextel Cup competition since the season-opening Daytona 500, hugged teammate Dale Jarrett, the former series champion in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing, after qualifying and they shared a few words. Jarrett qualified 22nd.

Waltrip was caught cheating during Daytona 500 preparations when NASCAR found a fuel additive in his engine, and was docked a record 100 driver points. He eventually parted ways with crew chief David Hyder.

``I think we'll continually get better,'' Waltrip said. ``It's quite a position to be in, knowing you've been close so many times and rolling out there. When your heart and soul is into something, and it is so hard to get it heading in the right direction, it's really tough to take.''

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified second, said he knows how much of a struggle this season has been on Waltrip.

``I know he's been in a rough spot,'' Earnhardt said. ``This is good for him. I'm sure he's going to try and make the best of it this weekend.''

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Re: Autism Speaks 400 News and Notes

The Dover Groove

The first time the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series raced the Car of Tomorrow (COT), there were mixed reviews after the race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Since then, they have used the COT four more times. Some drivers who once hated the new car have grown to love it, while others would still rather stay in their old machines.

With NASCAR's announcement that the COT will be used for the entire 2008 season, anyone that has not gotten a handle on the new ride better get to work.

Fast.

Very soon, Hendrick's Reign of Terror in the Impala will come to an end and fantasy owners will see their roster options expand. After seeing how the non-Hendrick teams fared at Darlington Speedway, owners may want to look at a few other organizations this week.

Favorites
For anyone not a fan of Hendrick Motorsports, the 2007 season has been rather boring so far. The organization has won five races in a row and nine of 12 events this season. Moreover, they have yet to lose a COT race.

It will be tough for them to keep their streak going this week. The other teams have had five races in the new car to get up to speed and rest assured that they are as tired as anyone of seeing a Hendrick Chevrolet in victory lane each week. Now, they have the power to do something about it.

Jimmie Johnson does not seem to care what car he drives or where he drives it. The entire No. 48 Chevrolet team simply performs on a higher level than just about anyone else. He had bad luck at Lowe's Motor Speedway last week and still ended up 10th, which gives him two wins and five top-10s in the old car. He has been even better in the COT, wracking up two victories and four consecutive top-fives. His only bad outing was at Bristol, but the team has worked out all the kinks since then.

Matt Kenseth has not been on Johnson and Jeff Gordon's level in the COT, but he has been consistent. So far, he has not finished worse than 11th with the new body style and that was at Bristol. Lately, Kenseth has been getting back to his 2006 form, which is very good news heading into Dover. Last year, the No. 17 Ford was untouchable in Delaware. He led 83 laps en route to a victory in June, and then paced the field for 215 circuits in September before he ran out of fuel while challenging for the win.

Dark Horses
So far in the COT races, almost anyone without a Hendrick or Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet falls under the "dark horse" category. This week is not so different from those other five races, but some of the teams are starting to close the competition gap, namely Penske Racing South.

Ryan Newman is only a dark horse based on his awful yearlong performance in 2006. That was the first year he failed to notch a top-five at Dover in his career. Before that, he had three wins and only one finish lower than eighth there. With every week, Newman is getting closer to his old "Rocket Man" form, and he has looked especially good in the COT races of late.

For a rookie, Clint Bowyer did well at Dover in his first try. Last June, he finished 17th and stayed on the lead lap. When he returned there in September, he nabbed an eighth-place result. This is a driver who improves with every bit of experience he gets and he earned another eighth-place finish at Bristol in March. Since then, he has had top-10s at Richmond International Raceway and Darlington in the new body style. That gives him just enough momentum to make him a candidate for a strong run this week.

Avoidance Principal
NASCAR is all about momentum, whether it is for the season level or limited to a particular track. That is why many fantasy owners will look at what happened last week at Charlotte and assume that the same drivers who surprised people there will do the same at Dover. Just remember that Dover and Lowe's are totally different tracks and they will be racing a different car as well.

Darrell Waltrip may be preaching that Casey Mears is ready to contend for his first series championship—since Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Kenseth and David Pearson did the same thing—but fantasy owners will not want to get quite so excited this week.

The newest member of the Hendrick stable ran well at Lowe's, but fuel mileage is what got him that first win. The other thing to remember is that he will be racing on the high-banked, one-mile track of Dover—a speedway where he owns just one top-10 in eight starts and crashed five times in his first nine attempts. Let Waltrip ride on the Mears bandwagon alone until the driver proves he can be consistent; keep in mind that his win was just his second top-10 and fourth top-20 of the season.

Ricky Rudd has a great reputation at tracks like Dover and Bristol, but he is still shaking off the rust from taking a year off. That is not to say that he cannot contend for a top 20. However, fantasy owners should not expect a repeat performance from the Coca-Cola 600. He has had just one top-20 in the COT and he was 38th at Bristol in March. It is clear that Rudd and the No. 88 Ford team still have work to do to get back to top form.

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