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Dodge Dealers 400 News and Notes

Re: Dodge Dealers 400 News and Notes

Johnson wins pole at Dover
September 21st, 2007

Dover, DE (Sports Network) - Defending Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has apparently stepped up his qualifying effort, capturing the pole for Sunday's Dodge Dealer 400, the second race in the "Chase for the Nextel Cup." The pole victory was just Johnson's second of the season, but it was the second in the last three weeks and 11th of his Nextel Cup career.

The No.48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver circled the "Monster Mile" in 23.261 seconds (154.765 m.p.h.).

"We knew we had a great car today unloading and stayed focused on qualifying trim," said Johnson. "We felt like this first pit stall was going to be awfully important and luckily we were able to back it up.

"Qualifying has never really been my strong suit. I think when we do qualify well it shows how good we're gonna be in race trim."

Starting alongside Johnson will be Juan Pablo Montoya who posted a time of 23.402 seconds and led for most of the session.

"Chase" drivers Denny Hamlin (23.442) and Kurt Busch (23.450) will make up row two.

The remainder of the "Chase" field will start in the following order: Martin Truex Jr. (fifth), Kevin Harvick (seventh), Matt Kenseth (10th), Carl Edwards (15th), Kyle Busch (22nd), Jeff Gordon (27th), Tony Stewart (28th), Jeff Burton (36th) and Clint Bowyer (42nd).

Bowyer's dominating win last week at Loudon jumped the second-year driver from 12th place to fourth in the "Chase" standings behind only four-time champion Nextel Cup Gordon, defending series champion Johnson and two-time Nextel Cup champion Stewart. That's pretty heady company for the 28-year-old Emporia, KS native.

In the three years that the "Chase" as been in existence, the results have shown that there is no one absolute method to winning the championship.

In 2004 Busch won with consistency posting nine top-10s in 10 races. The following year Stewart won with just seven top-10s, but no finish worse than 25th. Last year Johnson started the "Chase" finishing 39th, 13th, 14th and 24th before going "crazy" - finishing first or second in five consecutive races. A ninth-place finish at Homestead sealed Johnson's Nextel Cup championship.

The championship still goes through Hendrick Motorsports and Johnson. His sixth-place finish at NHIS left him in a tie for the lead with teammate Gordon. The No.48 Lowe's Chevrolet driver has been in the top-10 for 25 weeks and Gordon has been either first or second for 25 of the 27 weeks.

Sunday's Dodge Dealers 400 will be another "Car of Tomorrow" race and Hendrick Motorsports cars have won six of the 12 previous races with the new car. Gordon won at Phoenix and Darlington, Johnson at Martinsville and Richmond (twice) and Kyle Busch won at Bristol.

But when the series was last at Dover, it was Truex Jr. with the victory. Since earning his first career Nextel Cup victory in early June, Truex Jr. has reeled off seven top-10 finishes in his last 14 starts. A fifth-place result at NHIS jumped the Mayetta, NJ native, who considers the Dover track his "home track," to sixth in the championship.

"We needed a good race to start off the Chase and we got it," said Truex Jr. on his team's website. "You definitely don't want to dig yourself into a hole the first race. I'm really proud of all the guys. Now we can go to Dover with some momentum."

The race is scheduled to drop the green flag on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (et).

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Re: Dodge Dealers 400 News and Notes

Dodge Dealers 400: RCR In The COT   
by: Brian Gabrielle

Clint Bowyer definitely shook up the world, and the points, by winning his first-ever Cup race at Loudon last weekend. Imagine this: if Bowyer's win had come one week earlier, it'd have been merely a footnote; the points he'd have gotten for winning the race would've pretty much evaporated, and he'd have been reset 10 points higher for the Chase than he was. But because his timing is good, Bowyer suddenly vaults from 12th in points to fourth, and considering how consistent he's been all year, is a legitimate (if outside) threat to take the points title.

Richard Childress Racing was rumored to be the leaders in Car of Tomorrow development before the season started, but that never really happened.
Hendrick was the top team by leaps and bounds to start the year, with Gibbs a distant second and everyone else fighting for third. As the season has progressed, Penske has made strides, DEI won a race and of course Hendrick and Gibbs continued to dominate the COT. All of a sudden, last Sunday an RCR car finally looked like it was made on a different planet in a COT race, and people are taking notice. While Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton,Bowyer's teammates, continued to struggle a bit, Bowyer's No. 01 made it look easy, and fulfilled the RCR promise from the preseason.

It'll be interesting to see if RCR can keep it going this week in Dover.

Last Week: It was an ugly beginning to the Chase for us: threen on-winning straight-up bets and Tony Stewart toppling Jimmie Johnson in the head-to-head. If it's any consolation, it was our first losing week in almost two months. (I know: it's no consolation.) For the week, then, we lost our full 1.5 units. On the season, we're still at a net positive 7.3 units on 40.5 units wagered (an 18% return). (Note that if you eschewed the conservative betting pattern we outline below, and simply wagered one unit on every recommendation we give, you'd have lost four units, though for the season you'd be up 26.38 units on 108 units wagered (a 24.4% return). Of course, such a betting pattern is riskier on a week-to-week basis.)

Take Martin Truex Jr. (+800), 1/6th unit. Truex dominated the race here in June to earn his first Cup win, and there's little reason to think he can't perform very well again on Sunday. In fact, he could've used his Dover-winning car last week at Loudon, but chose not to. Instead, he used a different car, which finished fifth but never really challenged for a win, and saved his victory-chassis for this week, so it wouldn't be damaged. That tells me the #1 team thinks that a lot of the setup stuff that was successful at Dover the first time around will work on Sunday, too.

Take Jimmie Johnson (+550), 1/6th unit. Johnson is the pole-winner for Sunday's race, and he also practiced fastest earlier Friday afternoon. He's won three Car of Tomorrow races already this season, and has three Dover victories in his 11 starts here. I grant you, J.J. hasn't been all that good at the high-banked COT events: he finished 21st and 16th at Bristol and 15th the first time around at Dover. But I still trust the Hendrick COT program, and it's clear the #48 has some speed going for him
headed into Sunday.

Take Carl Edwards (+900), 1/6th unit. Edwards has made great strides in the COT, as evidenced by his dominating win at Bristol just a few weeks ago. That was a very good sign that Edwards can be competitive in this event; as a "shrunken Dover," Bristol has a lot of the same handling characteristics as the Monster Mile. Edwards finished third here in June,and had a possible winning car at COT Richmond just a couple weeks back before his engine blew while he was leading the race. He hasn't won at Dover, but he's got three top 10s in his last four tries here, and finished second in this race last fall.

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Re: Dodge Dealers 400 News and Notes

Dodge Dealers 400 PostQ    
Jimmie Johnson maintains his stronghold on the top spot on the PostQ forecast. Johnson was ranked as the No. 1 driver earlier in the week on the PreQ due in large part to his 11th place career average finish at Dover International Speedway. He has three wins at the track and has been dominant when it comes to the COT races this season. Johnson recorded just his second pole of the season which came just a few weeks ago at Richmond. He went on to win that race and is a good bet to do so once again. Jump on the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet bandwagon for the Dodge Dealers 400.

Just like Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. retains his position from the PreQ to the PostQ sitting in the 2nd position. Truex qualified in the top 5 while also ranking in the top 5 on the Speed chart. He recorded his first win of his career at this track earlier this season and is looking for a repeat of that performance. Truex has shown that he has all of the skills to be a contender for the championship and with no clear cut favorite he has just as much chance to win the title as anyone. Don’t forget about the DEI driver when it comes to setting your lineup.

It has been a season to forget for Greg Biffle but this could be a race that he could post his eighth top 10 of the season. Biffle may even take a few chances that the championship contenders will not to get his first win of the season. He is the highest ranked non-Chase driver as he his projected to finish in the top 5. He has looked good this weekend qualifying in the top 10 while also ranking in the top 10 on the Speed chart. Don’t be surprised to see the #16 Ameriquest Ford in the top 10 at the end of the day.

The lowest ranked championship participant is Tony Stewart. Stewart is sitting in the 16th place due qualifying in the 28th position. He wasn’t much better in the practice sessions either as he ranks just 16th on the Speed chart. Stewart has what it takes to get into the top 10 but he may not be in contention for the win. Another knock on the #20 Home Depot driver is the fact that he has not finished in the top 15 in the last four races at the track while posting back-to-back finishes outside the top 30. It could be a long day for Smoke.

Although Juan Pablo Montoya qualified in the 2nd spot he may not stay up front for very long. In his lone start at Dover Montoya finished in the 31st spot. While he was fast in qualifying Montoya managed to rank just 20th on the Speed chart. The rookie driver is very aggressive and has drawn the ire of plenty of the Cup veterans. With a difficult track as the Monster Mile up next anything can happen – and usually does. Don’t expect Montoya to make it to the end of the race with a clean car.

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Re: Dodge Dealers 400 News and Notes

Green Flag: Sylvania 300

Chase contenders have dominated victory lane at New Hampshire International Speedway in the first race of the playoffs. For that matter, they have also been perfect at Dover International Speedway—the venue for next week's race—and with five of their number on the first three rows, there is a good chance the streak will continue.

The AOL game is setup to require you to take drivers in less powerful equipment from the bottom tiers, however, and that forces fantasy owners to look beyond the top 12. Tiers one and two are likely to be dominated by drivers competing for the Cup, but there are some strong values in three and four as well. The short, flat tracks of New Hampshire, Phoenix International Raceway and Martinsville Speedway are usually kind to dark horses.

Tier One
There are three drivers who have been perfect on the short, flat tracks this year and once you have identified them, there is no reason to look any further at this level. Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, and Jimmie Johnson each have a five- or six-race top-five streak to their credit, stretching back to this race last year.

Johnson finished 39th in last year's Sylvania 300, but that was after he sustained crash damage and it's hard to hold against him. He came back to win at Martinsville, Gordon won at Phoenix and Hamlin took the first New Hampshire race. Between them, these three drivers have an average finish of 2.4 on these three tracks in 2007, which literally means they have been each other's only competition.

As of the writing of this article, rain threatens to wash out Saturday's activities, or at least seriously curtail the practice sessions. If that happens, the Sylvania 300 with in effect become an impound race and fantasy owners are still stinging from the effect of last week's procedures on Kyle Busch. With stellar options open in the tier, that is enough to wave a red flag over the Young Gun.

Tier Two
Clint Bowyer is perhaps the most well-balanced driver in the garage. He never seems harried by his circumstances and is always upbeat no matter the circumstances. He is not worried that he failed to win a race during the regular season and is seeded last in the playoffs. He just wants the media to stop talking about it. The best way to do that is to go out and win the first championship race, and he's got enough momentum to do that.

Both of his teammates should also be considered this week. Jeff Burton was once the class of the field on the short, flat tracks, and even though the top-fives are coming with slightly less regularity, he has seven top-15s on these three courses in his last eight attempts.

Kevin Harvick won twice at Phoenix last year and took this edition of New Hampshire in the fall. If not for a freak fire in his Chevy at Martinsville in the spring, he would have a perfect top-10 record dating back to the start of last year on the short, flat tracks. He got his bad luck behind him last week at Richmond International Raceway and is a great value once more.

Last week, Greg Biffle complained he was racing with the donkeys when he was swept up in a crash that another driver started. Of course, he qualified badly enough to deserve to be amongst the braying herd and he hasn't earned an oval track top-five of his own since week five at Bristol Motor Speedway. For that matter, the top-10s haven't come with much regularity either.

Tier Three
The Gene Haas teammates Jeff Green and Johnny Sauter have been stout on the Car of Tomorrow (COT) tracks—particularly the flattened versions. Neither of them performed particularly well at Martinsville, but when both drivers recorded top-10s at Phoenix, it was time to stand up and take notice. At New Hampshire in July, Green earned a second consecutive sixth-place finish while Sauter finished 14th after recording a ninth at Phoenix. If those same setups work this week, these drivers will be the most pleasant surprise of the race again.

It's hard to know what Brian Vickers will do this week. On the one hand, he's been very strong when he makes races, but qualifying is something he's failed to do in every short, flat track event this year. Last year, in his Hendrick Motorsports ride, he was consistently 17th or better, but the Toyota does not behave like the Chevy and fantasy owners might be best served observing him this week instead of starting him.

Tier Four
There is a paucity of promise in Tier Four, but Paul Menard certainly put his best pedal extremity forward in qualification and its practice period. He held onto the provisional pole for while and then slipped back further in the pack, but since he is staying at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) next year, he probably has one of the engines under his hood that has not been sabotaged by the wicked stepmother. At Phoenix this year, he finished 25th, which wouldn't be encouraging in any of the other tiers, but might get the job done here.

A.J. Allmendinger has been coming on lately. He seems to take qualifying by spells—making several races in a row and then failing to qualify for several. For the moment, however, he's not only making races, but running fairly strong. His last two races have been the most encouraging. Two weeks ago at California Speedway, he recorded a career-best 18th. Last week, his result wasn't quite as good, but he finished on the lead lap for the first time in his career and recorded a respectable 23rd.

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Re: Dodge Dealers 400 News and Notes

Shared pit stall could cramp Bowyer

DOVER, Del. -- Despite what your parents might tell you, sharing isn't always a good thing.

Because he posted the slowest qualifying time for the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway, Clint Bowyer will start 42nd for Sunday's race. That performance was a far cry from Bowyer's dominating victory in last Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup.

Worse yet, Bowyer must share his pit stall with Michael Waltrip -- who starts 43rd -- until a car falls out of the race. They're sharing because Dover has only 42 pit stalls. As soon as another stall opens up, Bowyer's team has the option either to move to the vacant pit or to require Waltrip to move.

As of the end of final practice Saturday, the No. 07 and No. 55 teams were still working out the deployment of equipment and personnel.

"I don't quite know yet," Bowyer said of the pending arrangements. "I know (my crew chief Gil Martin) is working on it. We dug ourselves in a hole, and we've got to get shovels out and dig our way out."

An encouraging sign for Bowyer, who is fourth in the Chase standings, was his performance during Saturday's two practice sessions. He was 12th fastest in the morning and improved to fifth quickest during Happy Hour.

"I'm still excited about the race," Bowyer said. "We've got a good opportunity. We're sitting good in the points. We're just going to have to drive cautious, but we're going to have to drive hard. We've got to get up through them.

"It's going to take some time, but once they get strung out, I think we've got a good enough car in the long run, we'll be able to drive up through them. It's just going to take some time."


Wrestler Ric Flair, grand marshal for the 200, concedes that Hulk Hogan has more marquee power when it comes to fan recognition, but Flair draws the line when it comes to the action in the ring.

"He knows and I know that he can't lace my boots as a performer," Flair said. "In wrestling, I'm Richard Petty -- I'm 200 wins ahead of him."


Denny Hamlin, who posted the fastest speeds in both Saturday practice sessions, was feeling puny after Happy Hour, so much so that he took on fluids intravenously between the end of final practice and the start of the Busch Series race.

Fighting off flu symptoms, Hamlin started the race in the No. 20 Chevrolet, with future Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch standing by in the event Hamlin needed a relief driver.

Hamlin didn't need the assist, however. In fact, Hamlin passed Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 186 of the 200-lap event and cruised to the fifth Busch victory of his career.

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