This Week in Auto Racing September 21 - September 23

This Week in Auto Racing September 21 - September 23

This Week in Auto Racing September 21 - September 23 

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's round two of NASCAR's "Chase for the Nextel Cup" as racing in Dover dominates a light racing weekend.

Nextel Cup

Dodge Dealers 400 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, DE

After Clint Bowyer grabbed his first career "Cup" win in dominating fashion at the New Hampshire International Speedway, the series heads 350 miles south to Dover, DE for round No.2 of the 10-race "Chase for the Nextel Cup."

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

Bowyer headed a group of seven "Chase" drivers who earned top-10s in the first race. Nine of the "Chase" drivers were in the top-15.

The three drivers who fell back in the "Chase" opener were: Kevin Harvick (17th), Jeff Burton (18th) and Kurt Busch (25th). But even those results were not as bad as Johnson's 39th-place finish in last year's first race at NHIS and Johnson rebounded to win his first title.

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 Martin 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."

He has momentum in the form of confidence after crushing the field in the Autism 400, winning by a whopping 7.355 seconds. At the mid-point of the race, Truex Jr. was beginning to run away with it. He was already more than four seconds ahead of Carl Edwards and six seconds over eventual second-place finisher Ryan Newman. Truex Jr.'s torrid pace left just 13 cars on the lead lap as they passed the 250-lap mark. The race came down to three drivers as the laps dwindled down. Truex Jr. led Johnson by 2.569-second with 25 laps to go, but Johnson blew a right-side tire trying to keep up with the No.1 DEI Chevrolet and Newman was too far back to challenge for the win.

The victory, and the confidence that the win brings to a team, will make Truex Jr. a huge threat this weekend.

Busch

RoadLoans.com 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, DE

While the "Chase for the Nextel Cup" shows six drivers within 40 points at the top of the charts, in the Busch Series there is no such "race."

The Busch Series uses the "old" scoring system in which points are accumulated over the entire season. Unfortunately, that means that in some years the championship sees a driver run away and hide from the competition. In 2006 Kevin Harvick beat Carl Edwards by a record 824 points. This season is more of the same with Edwards holding a 733-point edge over Harvick and David Reutimann. If Edwards can expand the lead to 806 points over the next two events, he can clinch the title just by showing up the rest of the way.

But still, there are seven more races to be run and won. And racers like to win no matter whether they are out of the championship or not.

The last time the series was at Dover, Edwards led 122 of 200 laps and edged Denny Hamlin for the win.

With 17 laps remaining Matt Kenseth led the field to the restart. Kenseth received heavy pressure from Edwards, who was running on fresher tires. Fourteen laps to go and Edwards took the inside lane to take over the lead while Kenseth fell all the way to fourth. The 10th caution flag came out with 10 laps remaining when Brad Keselowski crashed. With only five laps left in the race Edwards led Hamlin, Scott Wimmer, Kenseth and Casey Mears to the restart. The No.60 Ford pulled away as Hamlin, Wimmer and Mears battled for second. After seeing the white flag Edwards had comfortable lead when some back markers crashed to bring out final caution flag of the day. Edwards crossed the finish line under the caution flag for the win.

Craftsman

Smith's Las Vegas 350 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, NV

The truck series doesn't need to artificially create a close race like the Nextel Cup Series. That's because Ron Hornaday Jr. and Mike Skinner have both been spectacular in 2007 and the result is a great championship race.

Skinner led for most of the season, but Hornaday Jr. never let up and two races ago took over the top spot in the standings. He had a four-point edge heading into last week's race in New Hampshire.

On the 1.058-mile NHIS oval Hornaday Jr. put on a "show" leading 174 of 200 laps en route to the victory. The win gave the No.33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet driver a 29-point margin over Skinner heading into this week's race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"It's just awesome to get this truck to do what it's done," said Hornaday Jr. "We've finished second three times in this truck, and now we've finally won one. This truck was unbelievable."

"We just flat out got our butts whipped today," Skinner said. "Ronnie put on a clinic."

The race at LVMS is the first of four events at a 1.5-mile oval over the final seven races. Skinner won at LVMS last fall and also won the last time the series was on a 1.5 track at Kentucky. But Hornaday Jr. can argue that he is pretty good on 1.5-mile ovals too, with wins at Lowe's, Atlanta and Homestead.

Both drivers have won four times this year. Skinner leads in poles (9), driver rating (120.4), winnings ($585,600), laps led (956) and top-five (14). Hornaday Jr. leads in points (2,964), and top-10s (17). At LVMS Hornaday Jr. has earned four top-fives in six starts.

It should be another great showdown between the two competitors.

"If we don't do it, Skinner will, so we've got to go out there and try to dominate and lead as many laps as we can," said Hornaday Jr.

There are also two open-wheel drivers making their debut at LVMS. Former Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve is scheduled to get behind the wheel of the No.27 Toyota and former IRL driver Buddy Lazier will pilot the No.15 Chevrolet.

"IROC really was an eye-opener for me into the world of stock car racing," said Lazier. "It was probably the most fun racing experience for me in my 20 years of professional motorsports. I look forward to a good start and finish and see what develops from there."

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Re: This Week in Auto Racing September 21 - September 23

Dodge Dealers 400 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, DE

Schedule: Friday, qualifying (ESPN2, 3:15 p.m.); Sunday, race (ABC, 1:30 p.m.).

Track: Dover Downs International Speedway (oval, 1 mile, 24 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 400 miles, 400 laps.

Last race: Clint Bowyer raced to his first Cup victory, starting from the pole and leading all 221 of the 300 laps to win at New Hampshire International Speedway. Bowyer entered the 12-driver Chase as the only contender without a victory, and had never finished higher than third in his short Cup career.

Last year: Jeff Burton found his way back to Victory Lane at Dover International Speedway after a thrilling late battle with Matt Kenseth. The win parked Burton in the lead of NASCAR's Chase for the championship and ended his 175-race winless streak.

Fast facts: Chase drivers have won four straight races. ... Bowyer joined Martin Truex Jr., Casey Mears and rookie Juan Pablo Montoya as first-time Cup winners in 2007. ... Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are tied for the lead with 5,210 points, 10 ahead of Tony Stewart. Johnson owns the tie-breaking edge over Gordon because of his six race wins this season to four for Gordon. ... Truex, sixth in the point standings with 5,170, won the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover on June 4.

Next race: LifeLock 400, Sept. 30, Kansas City, Kan.


RoadLoans.com 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, DE

Schedule: Friday, qualifying (ESPN2, 12:05 p.m.); Saturday, race (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.).

Track: Dover Downs International Speedway (oval, 1 mile, 24 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 200 miles, 200 laps.

Last race: Kyle Busch led four times and for all but 25 laps and even made overtime look easy at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 9, earning his ninth career Busch victory and second of the season. Carl Edwards, the runaway series points leader, extended his margin to 733 points over Kevin Harvick, last year's runaway champion, with seven races left on the schedule.

Last year: Clint Bowyer won a green-white-checkered flag finale at Dover International Speedway for his first victory of 2006 after four runner-up finishes.

Fast facts: Defending NEXTEL Cup Dover winner Martin Truex Jr. has entered the race. Truex scored his first career Cup win at the Monster Mile in June. ... Carl Edwards has a 733-point lead over Kevin Harvick and David Reutimann.

Next race: Yellow Transportation 300, Sept. 29, Kansas City, Kan


Smith's Las Vegas 350 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, NV

Schedule: Saturday, qualifying (ESPN2, 12:05 p.m.); Saturday, race (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.).

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (tri-oval, 1.5 miles, 20 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 219 miles, 146 laps.

Last race: Ron Hornaday Jr. led 174 of the 200 laps in the New Hampshire 200 on the way to his fourth victory of the season and the 33rd of his career. Mike Skinner, who wound up third, came into the race trailing Hornaday by four points and left 29 behind with seven events remaining.

Last year: Skinner raced to his first victory of the year, passing Ted Musgrave with 20 laps to go and holding on to take the Las Vegas 350.

Fast facts: Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, will make his NASCAR debut. ... Like Lazier, Jacques Villeneuve (1995 Indy 500 winner) will be making his Truck Series debut. ... In 18 races this season, Hornaday has finished as low as 11th once. In the past five races, he has two wins, two seconds and a sixth.

Next race: Talladega 250, Oct. 6, Alabama.

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A glance at 12 drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship
September 19, 2007

A glance at the 12 drivers competing in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship, in order of points standings:

DRIVER: Jimmie Johnson

TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports

CAR: No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: First, 5,210

POSITION CHANGE: None

WHAT HAPPENED: Johnson was disappointed with a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire International Speedway that left him tied with teammate Jeff Gordon in the standings. He gets the top spot based on the tiebreaker, his series-leading six wins on the season.

SPEAKING: ``We set goals to finish in the top five, so we're a little disappointed to finish sixth,'' crew chief Chad Knaus said.

DRIVER: Jeff Gordon

TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports

CAR: No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: Second, 5,210

POSITION CHANGE: None

WHAT HAPPENED: Gordon had a great car to finish second at New Hampshire, but he was never close to catching winner Clint Bowyer. But Gordon said he was thrilled with his finish, which tied him in points with Johnson.

SPEAKING: ``We drove the brakes, the tires and just about everything off it. My congratulations to Clint - he was the class of the field,'' Gordon said.

DRIVER: Tony Stewart

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

CAR: No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: Third, -10

POSITION CHANGE: None

WHAT HAPPENED: Stewart led 39 laps but had to settle for third when he couldn't catch Bowyer or Gordon late in the race.

SPEAKING: ``If last week anybody asked me if running third was going to disappoint me, I doubt I would've said that it would. If we can finish third in all 10 races, I think we'll probably win a championship,'' Stewart said.

DRIVER: Clint Bowyer

TEAM: Richard Childress Racing

CAR: No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: Fourth, -15

POSITION CHANGE: Plus 8 places

WHAT HAPPENED: Bowyer scored the first victory of his career, leading all but 88 of the 300 laps en route to a dominating performance that has legitimized his place in the Chase.

SPEAKING: ``That's what you've got to do. You've got to start off on the right foot. I knew this was going to be a good track and to be able to get out of here with a good finish is really great,'' Bowyer said.

DRIVER: Kyle Busch

TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports

CAR: No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: Fifth, -35

POSITION CHANGE: Plus 4

WHAT HAPPENED: Busch used pit strategy to finish fourth despite struggling early in the Car of Tomorrow. He's never been a fan of the COT, but made the most out of it to move up in the standings.

SPEAKING: ``I guess (the COT) just doesn't fit my driving style or whatever. But I'm trying to get accustomed to it and we're trying to get it accustomed to me,'' Busch said.

DRIVER: Martin Truex Jr.

TEAM: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

CAR: No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: Sixth, -40

POSITION CHANGE: Plus 1

WHAT HAPPENED: Truex finished fifth to open his first Chase admirably. Now he heads to Dover, where he won in June for his first Nextel Cup victory.

SPEAKING: ``We're looking forward to (Dover), we're hopefully taking the same car and hopefully have the same results. But I know everyone here is better then they were last time. We're going to need to get better, too,'' Truex said.

DRIVER: Matt Kenseth

TEAM: Roush Fenway Racing

CAR: No. 17 Dewalt Tools Ford

CHASE POINTS: Seventh, -54

POSITION CHANGE: Plus 1

WHAT HAPPENED: Kenseth started 30th but finished seventh, yet still wasn't thrilled with the result.

SPEAKING: ``We need to run better than that, obviously, to contend for a championship,'' Kenseth said.

DRIVER: Carl Edwards

TEAM: Roush Fenway Racing

CAR: No. 99 Office Depot Ford

CHASE POINTS: Eighth, -63

POSITION CHANGE: Minus 4

WHAT HAPPENED: Edwards wrecked his primary car in Friday practice, had to go to a backup and finished 12th.

SPEAKING: ``We need to run better than that, but it's nobody's fault but my own for wrecking the primary. If this is as bad as it gets, we're going to be great,'' Edwards said.

DRIVER: Denny Hamlin

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

CAR: No. 11 Fed Ex Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: Ninth, -82

POSITION CHANGE: Minus 3

WHAT HAPPENED: Hamlin was off all day and struggled to make up much ground at the track where he won in July. He started 15th and finished 14th.

SPEAKING: ``It's easy to go back and think about what you could have done differently to change the outcome in New Hampshire, but I know it won't affect the way we prepare for the rest of the Chase. There are a lot of laps left in this Chase and ... opportunities to win races and challenge for the championship,'' Hamlin said.

DRIVER: Kevin Harvick

TEAM: Richard Childress Racing

CAR: No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: 10th, -88

POSITION CHANGE: Plus 1

WHAT HAPPENED: Harvick had two flat tires that had to be fixed under green and caused him to finish 17th.

SPEAKING: ``We really had a decent car. We just couldn't come back from two flat tires,'' Harvick said.

DRIVER: Jeff Burton

TEAM: Richard Childress Racing

CAR: No. 31 AT&T Chevrolet

CHASE POINTS: 11th, -91

POSITION CHANGE: Minus 1

WHAT HAPPENED: Burton's car struggled all race and he was mired in the middle of the pack. He finished 18th.

SPEAKING: ``We missed it. We have to get it better for next week and get back in this thing,'' Burton said.

DRIVER: Kurt Busch

TEAM: Penske Racing

CAR: No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge

CHASE POINTS: 12th, -102

POSITION CHANGE: Minus 7

WHAT HAPPENED: Busch lost a cylinder and struggled with carburetor problems while finishing 25th, worst of all the Chase drivers.

SPEAKING: ``It's kind of a bummer, but we worked hard to get in this Chase and we'll still work hard. This one is a big lump, but it didn't hurt us, so we'll see what happens,'' Busch said.

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