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This Week in Auto Racing August 10 - August 12

This Week in Auto Racing August 10 - August 12

This Week in Auto Racing August 10 - August 12
August 7th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's another busy weekend with key races in Nextel Cup at Watkins Glen, IndyCars at Kentucky and Champ Cars at historic Road America.

NASCAR

Nextel Cup

Centurion Boats at the Glen - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, NY


Five races remain before the "Chase for the Nextel Cup" with four drivers fighting for the final two spots. Just 128 points separate 14th-place Ryan Newman from 11th-place Martin Truex Jr. In between the two are 2004 Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch holding down the final spot and Dale Earnhardt Jr. just seven points out.

Watching these four drivers should be an interesting "race-within-a-race." But none of the four driver are particularly good at road-course events and likely won't get much television time.

When talking camera time at a road course, the first name that comes to mind is Jeff Gordon. The four-time Nextel Cup champion has won four times in 14 Watkins Glen starts with an average finish of 10th.

Kevin Harvick, ninth overall, has one win and four top-10s in six starts. His average finish is a very good 8.0.

Tony Stewart has an even better record than Harvick at the New York road course. The No.20 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has made eight starts, winning three times. His average finish is a stellar 6.8. His 2005 win was most impressive leading 83 of 92 laps.

And then there is Juan Pablo Montoya. The Bogota, Colombia native has made two NASCAR road course starts and won them both.

Montoya's first foray into a NASCAR road race was in the Busch Series at Mexico City. He won that in relatively easy fashion. He then took on Gordon and Stewart at Infineon Raceway. Although he qualified horribly (32nd), he flew through the field and eventually made the winning pass around Jamie McMurray with eight laps remaining. Montoya took the checkered flag 4.097 ahead of Harvick as McMurray ran out of fuel.

The 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner has a chance to become the first driver in NASCAR to win three road-course events in one season. Montoya didn't compete last week in Montreal.

"We're starting to get the hang of the car, getting more comfortable," said Montoya, who finished second at Indy and 16th at Pocono.

There will also be the usual "road-course specialists" in the field, including Boris Said, Ron Fellows, P.J. Jones, Brian Simo and Canadian Patrick Carpentier. In his first effort behind the wheel of a NASCAR Busch Series car, Carpentier finished second to Harvick last week in Montreal.

"Last weekend went perfect," said Carpentier. "It was a fun race and I enjoyed it. This week should be great, I'm even more excited."

It should be a very interesting Sunday.

Busch

Zippo 200 - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, NY


Carl Edwards finished a distant 30th last week in Montreal and with it lost 65 points in the standings. Somehow, the No.60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford driver will have to continue on with just a 787-point lead in the Busch Series championship. Edwards still leads the series with four wins (tied with Harvick), top-fives (13) and top-10 (17).

Behind Edwards are David Reutimann (-787) and Harvick (-919).

In fourth place overall is a surprising name to most - Jason Leffler. In the middle of his second full year of Busch racing, Leffler is set to improve on last year's 13th-place finish.

A Long Beach, CA native, Leffler has put together a solid season including a win two weeks ago at O'Reilly Raceway Park and eight top-10s. This despite a slow early season for the No.38 Braun Racing Toyota in which he finished outside the top-30 in four of the first six events. Since the start of June, Leffler has collected five top-10s and finished outside the top-30 just once.

Leffler began gathering racing notoriety in the USAC Series when he won three consecutive Midget championships between 1997-1999. He was just the third driver to accomplish the feat. In 1998 he also won the USAC Silver Crown championship. He won his first Craftsman Truck Series race in 2003 and his first Busch race in 2004.

Leffler got a taste of Nextel Cup racing in 2005, making 19 starts, but his best finish was a 12th-place at Martinsville and he was released in mid- season. He has improved his driving steadily since and soon should get another shot at the "Big Time."

However, it might be tough for Leffler this week with a field chock full of Nextel Cup drivers looking for extra "practice" time on the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course.

The race will likely be won by a "Buschwhacker" but keep an eye on Leffler as he battles the Nextel Cup guys on Saturday.

Craftsman

Toyota Tundra 200 - Nashville Superspeedway - Lebanon, TN


Mike Skinner continues to dominate the Craftsman Truck Series leaderboard. The No.5 Bill Davis Toyota driver leads the series in points (2,346), driver rating (121.8), winnings ($490,750), laps led (811), wins (4), poles (7), top- fives (11) and races led (14).

Yet with all of these statistics, his lead is only 77 points over Ron Hornaday Jr. The Palmdale, CA native has also had a great year winning three times and earning 13 top-10s. His win total and top-10s are already more than he collected in all of 2006.

Hornaday Jr. is coming off a dominating win at O'Reilly Raceway Park, leading 90 of 201 laps en route to a 0.350-second win over Johnny Benson. Skinner finished 20th in the race, the first time all season that he failed to crack the top-10.

"We just need to keep winning races," Hornaday Jr. said. "If we can just keep gaining 10 points on Skinner each week, we'll be right there and it will be a heck of a Homestead race."

"Nashville is an important race to us because Toyota is big there," said Skinner. "We always have a ton of Toyota employees show up and we hope we can put on another great show this year."1

A motivated Skinner might be more than Hornaday Jr. can handle, but it sure will be fun to watch.

INDYCARS

Meijer Indy 300 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, KY


The IndyCar Series put on quite a show last Sunday, too bad a lot of people didn't see it. ESPN, the supposed leader in sports broadcasting, took the rain delayed event and stuck it on it's Classic channel which is not available to the same amount of viewers.

What many fans missed was a wild race including a spectacular crash that included the championship leader Dario Franchitti sailing upside down and backwards onto the top of Scott Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi race car.

The event took place on lap 143 and it started when Franchitti and Dan Wheldon touched wheels while fighting for the lead. Franchitti was sent airborne. He landed upside down right in front of Dixon and A.J. Foyt IV who had nowhere to go.

"When I went upside down, I thought that was it, but then I hit Dixon," said Franchitti on the team's website. "I have to thank Scott because he definitely softened the blow.

"Mr. Dallara is a personal friend of mine; I've always been a fan of his," Franchitti continued. "He has given us fast cars that are very strong as well. I have to say that the car absorbed all the impact. It is because of that car that I'm sitting here today with just a bruise on my nose. It is just incredible."

After a lengthy cleanup the race continued with less than 10 drivers still on the track. Despite the limited number of drivers, the finish was still quite a show.

The race came down to Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti and they raced clean and hard all the way to the checkered flag. Andretti tried four different times to go around the outside of Kanaan and each time he was denied by the 2004 IndyCar champion. The final margin of 0.0595 seconds was one of the closest of the year.

The win coupled with the accident to Franchitti and Dixon helped the No.11 Andretti Green Racing driver close to within 81 points of the leader and 57 points of second place.

In last year's race, Sam Hornish Jr. edged Dixon for the win.

CHAMP CARS

Generac Grand Prix - Road America - Elkhart Lake, WI

The Champ Car Series travels to a wonderful old track this week, the 4.048- mile circuit in Elkhart Lake, WI.

"Road America is a high-speed track, more what I'm used to in Europe," said former Formula One driver Robert Doornbos. "You sort of have to shift your mind set, just as you'd change the setup on your car after racing on a street course. For one thing, there is so much more speed around the turns compared with the street circuits that you have to be much more delicate and precise with the car. We did well at the test earlier this year, and I can't wait to get back there."

With seven races left in the series, Sebastien Bourdais is on track to win his fourth consecutive series championship. The Frenchman used a win at Edmonton to reclaim the top spot and a fifth-place two weeks ago to maintain his lead. It is where Bourdais always expects to be. In 68 races, Bourdais has been the points leader for 42 of them.

However, Bourdais will bring just a 10-point lead over "rookie" Doornbos into this week's race at Road America. Doornbos cut the lead in half with a win at San Jose.

"It was a tough day for the McDonald's team," said Bourdais. "I made a mistake under yellow. I got a little greedy I guess. I just tried to save too much fuel and tried seventh gear with low revs at the hairpin and when I released the clutch the car died."

Doornbos came back from a first-lap crash to win by a healthy margin, 6.144 seconds over Neel Jani. The victory was Doornbos' second of the season. His first career Champ Car win came at the Grand Prix of Mont-Tremblant earlier this month.

Doornbos got into the back of Jan Heylen's car in the first turn and was forced to pit for a new front nose wing. But he fought back and with 12 minutes to go he had charged back to second behind Jani.

Doornbos closed to Jani's rear bumper, but it wasn't until lap 96 that he got around him on the inside at the same turn one corner that he had his earlier problem.

But it is not just a two-man race. Behind Doornbos is Will Power 24 points back and Justin Wilson just 41 points behind Bourdais.

The last time the series was here, A.J. Allmendinger, now racing in NASCAR, took the victory by 0.674 seconds over Bruno Junqueira. Bourdais finished third.

Expect a continuation of the Bourdais-Doornbos battle this Sunday afternoon.

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Re: This Week in Auto Racing August 10 - August 12

Auto Racing Glance
August 8, 2007

Centurion Boats at the Glen - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, NY

Schedule: Friday, qualifying (ESPN2, 3 p.m.); Sunday, race (ESPN, 1 p.m.).

Track: Watkins Glen International (permanent road course, 2.45 miles, 11 turns).

Race distance: 220.5 miles, 90 laps.

Last race: Kurt Busch dominated Pocono Raceway from the opening lap and drove his way back into championship contention, giving himself a perfect belated birthday gift: a trip to Victory Lane in the Pennsylvania 500. A day after he turned 29, Busch snapped a 51-race losing skid that lifted him into the 12th and final spot of the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings with five races left until the championship races start.

Last year: Kevin Harvick passed Tony Stewart for the lead with three laps to go to win his first road race.

Fast facts: Juan Pablo Montoya will try to become the first driver to win on three road courses in the same season. He won the Busch Series race at Mexico City before taking the Sonoma event on June 24. ... Busch hadn't been in the top 12 in points since a 100-point penalty for reckless driving in June knocked him six spots down to 17th. ... Robby Gordon didn't compete at Pocono after he was suspended by NASCAR for his conduct at the Busch race in Montreal the day before. On Tuesday, he was fined $35,000 and placed on probation through the end of the year. ... Jeff Gordon and Stewart have combined for seven wins, 10 top-five finishes and 13 top-10 placings at Watkins Glen. ... This will be the ninth Car of Tomorrow event this season. ... Patrick Carpentier will replace Scott Riggs in the No. 10 Dodge this weekend.

Next race: 3M Performance 400, Aug. 19, Brooklyn, Mich.


Zippo 200 - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, NY

Schedule: Saturday, qualifying, 11:35 a.m., race (ESPN2, 3 p.m.).

Track: Watkins Glen International (permanent road course, 2.45 miles, 11 turns).

Race distance: 200.9 miles, 82 laps.

Last race: Kevin Harvick won the inaugural Busch race at Montreal, even though Robby Gordon insisted he did. Gordon refused to forfeit his position on the track when ordered to by NASCAR late in the race, officials said he intentionally knocked then-leader Marcos Ambrose out of the race, and then refused to pull off the track as ordered.

Last year: Busch held off Gordon over the last lap to win the Zippo 200.

Fast facts: Gordon avoided a lengthy suspension Tuesday when NASCAR fined him $35,000 and placed him on probation through the end of the year for his misconduct during the race in Montreal. The penalties came with the stipulation that Gordon will be suspended indefinitely if he disrupts another event this season or NASCAR deems his actions inappropriate. ... Series leader Carl Edwards finished 30th at Montreal, but still has a 787-point lead over David Reutimann in the standings. ... The last nine winners of this event started in the top 10.

Next race: Carfax 250, Aug. 18, Brooklyn, Mich.


Toyota Tundra 200 - Nashville Superspeedway - Lebanon, TN

Schedule: Saturday, qualifying, 1:30 p.m., race (Speed Channel, 6 p.m.).

Track: Nashville Superspeedway (tri-oval 1.33 miles, 14 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 200 miles, 150 laps.

Last race: Ron Hornaday Jr. passed Travis Kvapil 30 laps from the finish of the 201-lap Power Stroke Diesel 200 on July 27, then maintained his lead after two late restarts - the last of which came on lap 199.

Last year: Johnny Benson took advantage of some bumping by race leaders Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner, passing both to win the Toyota Tundra 200.

Fast facts: A victory in this race will make Hornaday the only driver to sweep all three concrete-surfaced tracks on the truck circuit. He won at Dover earlier this season and has two career victories at Bristol. Hornaday was 33rd in last year's event. ... Points leader Mike Skinner won the pole in the 2005 Nashville event en route to a fourth-place finish, and led a race-high 50 laps last year. He has won four races this season and has finished no lower than eighth. ... Ted Musgrave has six top-5 finishes in as many starts at the Superspeedway.

Next race: O'Reilly 200, Aug. 22, Bristol, Tenn.


Generac Grand Prix - Road America - Elkhart Lake, WI

Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 6:50 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 3:30 p.m.; Sunday, race (ABC, 3 p.m.).

Track: Road America (road course, 4.048 miles).

Race distance: 210.496 miles, 52 laps.

Last race: Robert Doornbos survived a mishap on the first lap that dropped him into last place, recovering to win the San Jose Grand Prix and close in on points leader Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman finished fifth and his lead over Doornbos in the championship race dwindled to 10 points (216-206). Bourdais had won the first two San Jose races and at Edmonton the previous week.

Last year: A.J. Allmendinger passed Bourdais with seven laps to go, then held onto the lead after an extended red-flag delay to win the Grand Prix of Road America. Allmendinger prevented Bourdais from clinching his third straight series title.

Fast facts: Doornbos has finished on the podium in six of the nine races this season. ... Alex Tagliani had three straight podium finishes at Road America from 2002-04. ... Tagliani, Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira are the only three active Champ Car drivers to win this race. ... The series did not compete at Road America in 2005.

Next race: Grand Prix of Belgium, Aug. 26, Liege.


Meijer Indy 300 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, KY

Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, race (ESPN2, 6:30 p.m.).

Track: Kentucky Speedway (tri-oval, 1.5 miles, 14 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps.

Last race: Tony Kanaan held off protege Marco Andretti for the final 27 laps of the Firestone Indy 400 at Brooklyn, Mich., to earn his third win of the season and the 10th of his career. The race was marred by a spectacular crash in which Dario Franchitti's car soared high in the air, backward and upside down before coming down on top of the car driven by Scott Dixon. Franchitti was able to walk away without injury.

Last year: Sam Hornish Jr. passed Dixon with four laps to go and quickly pulled away to win the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

Fast facts: Franchitti still leads Dixon by 24 points in the standings. ... Ryan Hunter-Reay, making only his second IndyCar start since replacing Jeff Simmons at Rahal Letterman Racing, finished sixth at Michigan, the last car on the lead lap. ... Scott Sharp snapped a 40-race winless skid by taking the 2005 event. ... Danica Patrick won the pole for the 2005 event, but finished 16th.

Next race: Grand Prix of Sonoma (Calif.), Aug. 26

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Bill Davis Racing to release Mayfield at season's end
SCENEDAILY.COM

Bill Davis Racing officials announced Tuesday that driver Jeremy Mayfield will not return to the team next year.

Mayfield joined BDR for the 2007 season as the team expanded to a two-car operation for Toyota's first season in Nextel Cup, but he has struggled this year, qualifying for only eight of the 21 races.

"Jeremy has done all we asked of him and more as part of what has been an enormous challenge in 2007 for the entire BDR Cup program," team owner Bill Davis said in a news release. "It has been a huge undertaking to bring Toyota online for their first NASCAR Nextel Cup season at the same time all the teams in the sport were facing the dual competition platforms as we transitioned to the car of tomorrow.

"Add to that the challenge of facing the healthiest overall car count in years for the Nextel Cup Series, the elements involved with the top-35 watermark, as well as the education of a company that was in its first NASCAR Nextel Cup motorsports sponsorship, and it has made for some trying times for all involved.

"We have had great support from Toyota on this endeavor, but it takes more than just manufacturer support to compete on this level. It takes a tremendous amount of additional sponsorship support that just did not materialize as we had anticipated."

Mayfield's No. 36 Camry team was new for 2007 and did not have a guaranteed starting spot in the first five races of the season because it was outside the top 35 in owner points. And after missing the first four races of the year, Mayfield never could get in the top 35.

Mayfield also has gone through several crew chief changes this year as the team searched for the right chemistry.

"I've been in this sport long enough to know that it takes time to bring a brand new car up to speed in what is probably the most competitive racing series in the world," Mayfield said. "When I made the decision to move here to BDR with an untested car and a sponsor completely unfamiliar with NASCAR, I knew it would be somewhat of a gamble. I believed then, and I believe now, that Toyota has a bright future in the Cup aeries and is making progress every weekend.

"You only have to look at their success in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and now in the Busch Series to see where it can go. I think Bill will be successful in resolving the issues that have hampered the No. 36 team this year.

"But I think I have delivered what I can to the effort and looking at the total picture - what's best for me, what's best for the team - I believe this is the right time for me to consider other opportunities."

No replacement driver has been named.

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Bourdais wins pole at Road America
August 11th, 2007

Elkhart Lake, WI (Sports Network) - Sebastien Bourdais captured the pole for Sunday's Generac Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. The No.1 Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver circled the historic 4.048-mile road course in one minute, 41.535 seconds to take the top spot. The lap was more than 1.5 seconds faster than his nearest competitor.

The pole victory added one championship point to Bourdais' total his second of the weekend.

Starting alongside Bourdais will be Will Power who put up a time of 1:43.116.

Robert Doornbos (1:43.134) and Graham Rahal (1:43.162) will make up row two.

"Road America is a high-speed track, more what I'm used to in Europe," said former Formula One driver Doornbos. "You sort of have to shift your mind set, just as you'd change the setup on your car after racing on a street course. For one thing, there is so much more speed around the turns compared with the street circuits that you have to be much more delicate and precise with the car. We did well at the test earlier this year, and I can't wait to get back there."

With seven races left in the series, Bourdais, who just announced that he would leave the series to drive for Formula One's Toro Rosso in 2008, is on track to win his fourth consecutive series championship. The Frenchman used a win at Edmonton to reclaim the top spot and a fifth-place two weeks ago to maintain his lead. It is where Bourdais always expects to be. In 68 races, Bourdais has been the points leader for 42 of them.

However, Bourdais will bring just a 12-point lead over "rookie" Doornbos into this week's race at Road America. Doornbos cut the lead in half with a win at San Jose.

The race is scheduled to drop the green flag on Sunday at 3 p.m.

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