NASCAR

Virtual Pit Reporter: News on 25 Cup teams

Share This Story

foxsports admin

 
   
 

1) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: A week after matching Dale Earnhardt's total of 76 NASCAR Cup Series wins, Gordon now hopes to tie one of The Intimidator's records -- most restrictor-plate victories -- in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Gordon is looking to capture his 11th career restrictor-plate win. He has six wins at Daytona, including three Daytona 500 victories, and four wins at Talladega. Gordon has 11 top-fives and 14 top-10s at Talladega but has never captured the pole position there. Earnhardt collected three wins at Daytona, including the 1998 Daytona 500 -- a race that had eluded him for so many years. The seven-time Cup champion won 10 times at Talladega -- eight times during the restrictor-plate era, including win No. 76 in 2000. "Obviously, last Saturday night's win was special," said Gordon. "Anytime you accomplish something that Senior did, you've done something special. But I also know that, if he were still with us, I'd still be chasing him. He taught me a lot on and off the track, and some of the things he did on the track -- especially restrictor-plate tracks -- were simply amazing. I learned so much just by following him in the draft. And I was schooled many other times by him when I thought I had the advantage." Gordon, who leads the point standings by 74, also leads the series in poles (3), top-fives (6), top-10s (7) and average finish (4.5) after eight races. "I have to give a lot of credit to my crew chief, Steve Letarte," Gordon said. "He has done a great job of leading this team, building the team chemistry and preparing great race cars. One of the things that impresses me the most is his ability to stay calm no matter what situation we're facing. When I had problems with my helmet radio before the race at Phoenix, he calmly told me what hand signals I should use during the race to relay the car's handling to him. Luckily, we were able to replace the helmet, but I like the fact that that situation didn't unnerve him. During the race when I was on pit road for our final stop and the caution waved, I was prepared to drive through the pits without stopping. But he quickly surveyed the situation and figured we had enough time to stop and change four tires without losing a lap. While the timing of the caution certainly was lucky for us, his ability to read the situation played a major role as well."
  • Last week: Gordon always enjoyed beating the late Dale Earnhardt. After winning the NASCAR Nextel Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500, Gordon was happy with a tie. Not only was it Gordon's first Cup victory at Phoenix International Raceway; it also was Gordon's 76th career victory, tying him with Earnhardt for sixth place on NASCAR's all-time victory list. To honor the achievement, Aaron Kuehn, a crew member for Gordon's team, handed him a No. 3 flag in remembrance of Earnhardt's famed number, which hasn't been raced since he was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001. "It means the world to me, just to get a win at a track that I've never won at before," Gordon said. "I drove my guts out to win this one. Holding that 3 flag to honor him in that way means a lot to me. I learned so much from him. We wanted to honor him. We've been holding on to that flag for a very long time. To see the driver of the 24 car holding up that No. 3 flag was really special." By handing the winner the No. 3 flag, Kuehn might have made the best pass of the race. "I wanted so bad to get this win somewhere where Jeff hadn't won to make it memorable," Kuehn said. "It was a tribute to that family and everything they have done over the years for this sport. To pay tribute to that man is just awesome."
  • Etc.: At age 35, Gordon is in his 16th Cup season. He has averaged five wins per year. If Gordon competes at the same pace for five more years, he'll accrue more than 100 career Cup victories. Earnhardt's 76th victory came Oct. 15, 2000 at Talladega in his 676th career start. He was 49 years, five months and 16 days old at the time. Gordon's 76th career win came in his 481st career start.

  • Go back to the top

    2) Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Burton will race chassis No. 186, a new race car for the 2007 season that Burton tested at Daytona in January as part of Preseason Thunder. He has two top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 26 Cup starts at Talladega. "I'm always nervous to run at Talladega," Burton said. "You have to go into that race thinking that there is going to be a multi-car incident, and how am I going to miss it? To me, it's a stressful Sunday morning and once the race gets going, I calm down. But as the laps start winding down, the intensity level just goes through the roof. It's unbelievable how you can feel it there more than any other race track. At every other race track, if you're racing for the lead you might be racing with maybe two or three other guys. At Talladega, you're contending with 30. When the intensity level increases for 30 people versus three, it changes the way you race." Burton has posted five top-five and six top-10 finishes so far this season and has yet to finish a race outside the top-15. Additionally, the 19-time Cup Series race winner is one of only three drivers who have completed every lap so far this season; Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth are the others. He also has completed 84.1% of the total laps (2,266 of 2,694 laps) running in the top 15. Burton has competed in 53 NASCAR Cup Series races on restrictor-place tracks (Daytona and Talladega) and has completed 92.2 percent of the laps. He also has collected one win (2000 Pepsi 400), one pole (2006 Daytona 500), eight top-fives and 18 top-10s. He has led 146 laps and has an average finishing spot of 17.43.
  • Last week: Burton's 13th-place finish at Phoenix dropped him 74 points behind Jeff Gordon in the point standings after eight races. "This stuff is hard," Burton said. "We really fought all night. We just never quite got on it. We were really good when the race started and really good when the race ended. And all the part in between was no good. We struggled in a lot of areas, and that's what this sport is about. It's hard. You've got to be 100 percent on top of your game to run with these guys and we didn't do that tonight, but it wasn't because we didn't try."
  • Etc.: Burton is scheduled to speak on behalf of Cingular's "Be Sensible" safe driving program Thursday at Shelby County High School in Columbiana, Ala. He will speak to 650 students and answer questions about safe driving.

  • Go back to the top

    3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: Kenseth has spent 650 of the last 752 laps (2005 and 2006) at Talladega running in the top 15, which is best among all Cup drivers. He ranks fourth in laps completed (2,472) at Talladega since 2000, Kenseth's rookie season in Cup. He has an average running position during that span of 7.698, tops among all Cup drivers. "We've had a great car at Talladega the past couple of years, and we're taking it back this weekend," Kenseth said. "Of course, I guess like a lot of other cars, it will go into retirement after Sunday since this is the last time we'll run the current speedway cars at Talladega. The past few times at Talladega, we've been in position to win in last 10 laps or so, but I just haven't had much luck when it comes to picking partners at the end of the race. Last fall, everyone stayed tucked in line too long and we were too far back to make a move; in the spring I jumped out of line but had trouble getting help, and in the fall of 2005 I was leading at the white flag and got teamed up on the last lap. So go figure. The good thing is, our car has been as good as anyone for the most part over the past four races there and I think we'll be as competitive this weekend. I can't say enough about how good this team has performed this year. We might be a little off when it comes to the setup, especially with the COT, but I find it hard to believe anyone's been better on pit road this year than our guys."
  • Last week: The top four cars in Saturday night's race were Chevrolet Impala SS, and nine of the top 10 cars were Chevys. The only non-Chevrolet driver was Kenseth, who finished fifth in his Ford. "I feel like I've got an A-plus team," Kenseth said. "I feel like they do a great job. They really prepare the cars well, we always pit it good and Doug Yates and our engine guys do a great job. We've got reliability and horsepower. It's just that we haven't quite hit the combination to make them handle the way we need to here the last few weeks. These great finishes are really good for us to stay up in points, but we've got to just keep working and try to develop the stuff and make it more competitive down the stretch."
  • Etc.: Kenseth's Driver Rating of 105.8 at Talladega is also tops among all Cup drivers since 2005. Driver Rating is 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. In the last seven races, Kenseth has picked up a total of 140 positions from where he started to where he finished, or an average of 20 spots per race.

  • Go back to the top

    4) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Johnson has won three times and his Hendrick Motorsports team owns five victories in the first eight races. The four-driver team credits teamwork as one of the ingredients to the success in 2007. Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Kyle Bush are each in the top six in the points. Gordon leads, Johnson is fourth and Busch is sixth. Johnson will race the car he won with at Talladega in April 2006. "Rick (Hendrick) is really great at putting people together. He can see relationships and how they work -- not only with the driver and the crew chief, but also with management, the engine shop and the chassis guys. It's hard to explain it. I'm not sure we could recreate it. But it's worked for a lot of years." He also talked about the role of having good teammates. "A teammate is someone who you can work with and go to and count on to further your organization and your team," Johnson said. "As drivers, it's our job to be honest and communicate about everything you feel in the cars and make post-race notes and be involved in all the meetings and debriefings we have and put it all out there. I think over time, we've been able to prove that we can work together as teammates and it helps the organization. And when you're having a problem, they're willing to help you. So it's really about having a partner in this deal and not being a single-car team out there on your own. I think that's what happened in years past and why there are multi-car teams." Johnson's lone Talladega victory in 10 starts came in this race last April. "Talladega really promotes four-wide racing, and that is a risky environment out there when that takes place," Johnson said. "I learned a lot winning the Daytona and Talladega last year and how calm you really can be and have a shot at the end of the race. I am going to take those lessons I learned and apply them this weekend." A fourth-place finish in 2004 and a seventh-place finish in 2002 are his only other finishes in the top 10 at Talladega.
  • Last week: Johnson's team overcame battery issues to finish fourth at Phoenix.
  • Etc.: Johnson has completed 1,770 of 1,888 laps at Talladega and has led 168 laps. He owns an average starting spot of 7 and average finish of 21.

  • Go back to the top

    5) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: This will be Hamlin's third start at Talladega in Nextel Cup races. Hamlin had a strong car during the fall race last year at Talladega but was twice caught up in wrecks that required repairs. Despite the repeated trips to pit road, he finished 21st. In his first Cup race at Talladega, Hamlin started 30th and worked his way into the top 10 before a harsh penalty late in the race sent him a lap down and relegated him to a 22nd-place finish. He will have chassis JGR 90 as his primary car, the same car he used at Daytona. He has had that car as high as second place before fender damage dropped him to 28th in the Daytona 500. "We're looking to turn around our fortunes at Talladega," Hamlin said. "It hasn't been a great track for me or the No. 11 team, but that doesn't mean it can't be a great track for us. We feel like we have really good equipment, we were happy with the cars at Daytona, and I know I am getting more comfortable on the superspeedways, so hopefully it will all come together for us. Superspeedway racing is definitely my weakness. It's just a huge departure from the racing I grew up on, and because of that the learning curve has been pretty steep for me. It's getting better each time out, but just when I am feeling comfortable and making good decisions out there, it seems something happens on track that hurts us. So I will approach this weekend like I have every other superspeedway race -- take what the track gives me and not try to force the issue or make mistakes that cost us a good finish."
  • Last week: Although Hamlin was able to rally from 31st place after a pit road speeding penalty to a third-place finish at Phoenix, he tried to explain how difficult it was to pass with the COT. "They built these cars to punch a bigger hole in the air, so these cars have half as much front downforce," Hamlin said. "So the car already doesn't have front grip. Then, you have a car that's punching a bigger hole in front of it, that means even less air gets to the front end. So you have an eighth of the downforce that you had before. There were instances out there where I would be a half-second faster than a guy. I would get within 10 car lengths and automatically be slower. There's not a whole lot we can do as drivers. We're at the mercy of track position right now."
  • Etc.: Hamlin kicks off the program this week in his hometown of Richmond where he will visit Children's Hospital of Richmond, deliver a donation of $25,000 on behalf of FedEx and be presented with the helmet he will wear next weekend at Richmond International Raceway. At the end of the season all 11 race-worn helmets will be auctioned off to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

  • Go back to the top

    6) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Busch, who turns 22 next Wednesday, had his career-best start (sixth) and finish (11th) at Talladega last October. Before that, his best finish in four Cup starts was 32nd. "It's a wild-card race," Busch said. "You expect the unexpected. Hendrick Motorsports definitely has the upper hand, it seems, when it comes to the restrictor-plate races. And even though Kevin Harvick won the Daytona 500, our team really flexed some muscle throughout Speedweeks. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the body shop have built some great cars. The track had a ton of grip last year and it was fun to drive. Everyone gets worried when a track repaves, but Talladega did a great job with it. The track hasn't had much time to age since we were last there in October, but it should be a good race. I expect us to run up front. I hope, of course, this doesn't happen to us, but when the 'Big One' happens, as a driver you have to be prepared. Since I was involved in the Big One in three of the four races I've run at Talladega, all I can say is, when it starts, I just curl up into the fetal position and wait for the noise to stop. You get bounced around like a pinball and hit from every direction. Some of the hits are harder than others, but usually the wreck travels, so the momentum absorbs some energy. It's kind of a scary thought, but it happens, and when it does you need to be prepared."
  • Last week: Busch started 24th but motored into the top 10 with a seventh-place finish at Phoenix.
  • Etc.: Busch is one of 19 drivers eligible for this year's Talladega/Texaco Walk of Fame, located in the Davey Allison Memorial Park in Talladega, Ala. The driver who receives the most votes will be inducted. Fans may vote at www.talladegawalk.com from now until July 15.

  • Go back to the top

    7) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Stewart has eight top-fives, 10 top-10s and an average finish of 11.938 at Talladega and has led in 10 of his 16 Talladega races for 138 laps. This season, he has two top-fives, five top-10s and an average finish of 16.1. He has led six of the eight races for 584 laps.
  • Last week: Stewart lost a fierce battle to Jeff Gordon at Phoenix and finished second after leading three times for a race-high 132 laps. Stewart appeared ready to secure career win No. 30 and his first of the season when he was handily leading in laps 155-212 and 214-286 of the 312-lap race. But a caution on lap 285 for a three-car accident in turn four jumbled the running order. Just before the caution came out, Jeff Gordon -- Stewart's nearest pursuer -- pitted for four tires and fuel. Stewart pitted under caution but came out in second as Gordon was awarded the No. 1 spot following the series of pit stops. When the race restarted on lap 293, Stewart pursued Gordon and made up considerable ground when the four-time Nextel Cup champion became stuck behind the lapped car of Martin Truex Jr. Stewart brought the estimated crowd of 105,000 to its feet with a daring three-wide pass of Gordon entering turn three. Stewart split the middle, with Gordon down low and Truex on the outside. Stewart emerged off turn four with the lead, but Gordon came back and, in the same corner where the two traded the lead a lap earlier, Gordon got underneath Stewart and made the pass stick for good coming off turn four. Gordon led the final 13 laps. While Gordon celebrated, Stewart sulked because he has seen at least three other potential wins this year go to someone else when the checkered flag dropped (Daytona: led 35 laps, finished 43rd; Atlanta: led 121 laps, finished second; and Bristol: led 257 laps, finished 35th). "We've had decent runs, and that's the disappointing part," said Stewart's crew chief, Greg Zipadelli. "We probably should have more wins this year, and somehow we keep letting them slip away. That part of it is frustrating. I don't know if it's anyone's fault. A lot of it was circumstances. I think everybody did a good job overnight and the changes we made this morning and during the race. Overall the team did a great job this weekend, and I am proud of them. We didn't have that great of a car yesterday and we made a lot of changes. Everybody put their heads together and we came home second. We brought a car that had a shot at winning, and that's all you can do. It's a good night anytime you can run in the top five."
  • Etc.: Stewart's Driver Rating of 108.5 is third best in the series.

  • Go back to the top

    8) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: Edwards is eighth with 967 points, 359 behind Jeff Gordon. He has one top-five and three top-10 finishes in five Talladega Cup starts. His best finish is fifth in the October 2005 race. "We've had some great runs at Talladega over the past few races there," Edwards said. "Believe it or not, I love racing there because it's a really fast track that definitely keeps you on your toes. Hopefully we can stay out of the wrecks or the 'Big One,' as some call it, and we should be fine. I know we have a great Office Depot Fusion for this weekend. If we can just go out there and do our job and have a little bit of good luck, it could be a place we can gain some points."
  • Last week: Edwards finished 11th at Phoenix.
  • Etc.: Edwards is leading the overall Busch Series point standings by 424 points over runner-up Dave Blaney.

  • Go back to the top

    9) Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Bowyer has some work to do if he's going to improve his fortunes at Talladega, where he finished 40th last April and 35th last October in his only two Cup starts. "It's funny because I've always run really well at Daytona and for some reason I seem to crash at Talladega," Bowyer said. "It seems like I always run into bad luck when we go down there. In the spring race last year, I knew they were going to wreck and I elected to fall back and hang out in the back. Me and Kevin (Harvick) both did the same thing. There were about three cars behind us when they started wrecking up front. We got checked up and I'll be darned if those three cars didn't run us over. That was proof enough for me that dropping to the back and waiting for them to wreck doesn't work. You have to go out there, try to lead laps and win the race." Team owner Richard Childress competed as a driver in Talladega's inaugural race in 1969 and used his winnings from that race weekend to help start RCR. Fittingly, he now holds the record as the car owner with the most success at the storied Alabama track, with nine victories to his organization's credit, all of them coming with Dale Earnhardt. Additionally, in 99 starts, RCR boasts four poles, 27 top-fives, 43 top-10s and more than $6.25 million in earnings.
  • Last week: Bowyer finished 22nd after starting 12th at Phoenix. He did win Friday night's Busch race. The green flag waved with six laps to go and Bowyer in front of Kenseth. When Burton tried to pass Kenseth for position, it allowed Bowyer to get away to a four car-length lead with three laps to go. "When I saw that ugly green car (Kenseth's) off my bumper, that's when it got comfortable," Bowyer said. "I was so glad to see him fall back there. Matt Kenseth is the real deal, and anytime you can beat a driver like that it means a lot."
  • Etc.: After featuring a DIRECTV paint scheme at Phoenix, Bowyer's No. 07 Chevy will return to its traditional black-and-white Jack Daniel's colors this weekend.

  • Go back to the top

    10) Mark Martin, No. 01 Chevrolet, Ginn Racing
  • This week: Martin is one of only three drivers to have competed in all 78 restrictor-plate races, but that streak will end this weekend when he takes Talladega off as part of his 2007 limited schedule. Regan Smith will drive the 01 car. Martin's 37 top-10 finishes in restrictor-plate races is the most of among active drivers and the second most all-time. However, Martin has been involved in accidents in six of the last 10 Talladega races and has had only two top-10 finishes during that stretch. Despite having missed two of the eight races in 2007, Martin is 10th in the point standings. He has outscored 29 drivers who have competed in more races in 2007 and 26 drivers who have competed in all eight events. In the six races in which he has competed, Martin has averaged a 6.16 finish. In owner points, the 01 Army team is ranked fifth.
  • Last week: Martin finished 12th in his Car of Tomorrow debut at Phoenix. Martin missed NASCAR's previous two COT races (Bristol and Martinsville). "That was a pretty hard race tonight," Martin said. "We never really did get a handle on the car, and we just weren't able to get going all night. I couldn't get the Army Chevy to hook up coming off (turn) four like we were able to do during Friday's practice. We still have work to do on our Car of Tomorrow program, but we'll keep plugging away and get better. Still, Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) did a great job calling the race and the pit crew was once again awesome. When you don't have it all together and still finish 12th, that says something about the quality of this team. We're like our soldiers, we never give up."
  • Etc.: Martin will return next week at Richmond, where he will begin a stretch of seven straight races before taking off Sonoma in June.

  • Go back to the top

    11) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Harvick, who won the Daytona 500 this year in dramatic fashion, is still looking for his first win at Talladega. In 12 starts at the 2.66-mile track, he has six top-10 finishes and has been runner-up twice. He will be racing the car he drove twice at Daytona in 2006. Harvick said racing at Talladega is "more mental than physical. You're worn out by the end of the race. You spend a lot of time looking in the mirrors anticipating the other guy's next move."
  • Last week: Harvick was seeking his third straight win at Phoenix, and during the middle of the race he did lead twice for 54 laps. "We just lost our car about halfway through the race and just got too tight," he said. He was still able to finish 10th to move from 14th to 11th in the point standings.
  • Etc.: Crew chief Todd Berrier believes the team's biggest advantage at Talladega is its driver. "He knows where to go, who to work with, and how to avoid a bad situation," said Berrier. "Not every driver knows what to do and how to work the pack. Say what you want, but the drivers play a huge role at Talladega."

  • Go back to the top

    12) Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: In nine visits to Talladega, McMurray has posted three top-10 finishes, two of them in the top five. McMurray will be the driving the same car he ran at Daytona in February. "Our speedway car has always been fast since I've been at Roush Fenway Racing," said McMurray. "It (the car he will racing) always runs well and seems to qualify really well, so I'm looking forward (to this weekend)."
  • Last week: After qualifying second at Phoenix, McMurray had high hopes for a good result Saturday night. Instead, he encountered nothing but problems en route to a 23rd-place finish that dropped him out of the top 10 in the points. The problems began on the first pit stop with a faulty air gun. Then on lap 56, McMurray was forced to pit with overheating problems because someone's windshield tear-off was stuck to the front grille. That dropped him a lap down.
  • Etc.: McMurray said "restrictor-plate racing is a lot of fun, if your car is fast. If you don't have a fast car, restrictor-plate racing can be pretty frustrating. Fortunately for me, our speedway car has been really fast every time I've run it."

  • Go back to the top

    13) Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing
  • This week: In the last five races at Talladega, Busch has scored five top-eight finishes, including two top-fives. Overall, Busch has nine top-10 finishes in 12 starts, including three third-place finishes. "I've heard plate racing referred to as a high-speed chess match on wheels, and that's a pretty good description," said Busch. "We're confident we'll have a car that can get the job done (this weekend)."
  • Last week: For the second consecutive week, an ill-timed caution flag late in the race kept Busch from a top-six finish. Instead, he was 18th. "It's going to be another long week at the shop," admitted interim crew chief Troy Raker. "We aren't getting the fuel mileage we need right now. That, combined with bad luck with caution flags, is knocking the wind out of our sails."
  • Etc.: On Monday, Busch made his radio co-hosting debut on "Fast Talk" on the Performance Racing Network. Busch, Kyle Petty, Greg Biffle and Elliott Sadler will split the co-host duties with veteran broadcaster Doug Rice for the rest of the 2007 season. "The bottom line is that this show has been hosted by Benny Parsons for some 14 years, and nobody can ever take his place," said Busch. Parsons died on Jan. 16 after a long battle with cancer.

  • Go back to the top

    14) Greg Biffle, No. 21 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: Biffle has yet to finish in the top 10 in eight starts at Talladega. His best finish is 13th. "I'd hate to say that I don't like racing at Talladega because I do, but the superspeedway races are always a gamble," said Biffle. "You just have to be able to keep up and stay out of the wrecks when they happen."
  • Last week: Biffle battled an ill-handling race car all evening as he finished 17th at Phoenix. "We had a couple of difficulties there with it (the car) being too loose in the beginning, and then it just wouldn't turn later in the race," said Biffle, who did move up three spots in the standings to 14th. "We're all still learning about this COT car, and I don't think the fans saw a very good race tonight."
  • Etc.: Biffle is not a big fan of the Car of Tomorrow. He feels NASCAR is "giving us Pinewood derby cars and saying, 'OK, everybody, this is what you're going to race.' NASCAR's claim to fame is they want them hard to drive. Well, it's not that they're hard to drive; it's just that they're not like driving a race car. You couldn't race anybody -- and that's what we want to do. It's our passion, it's in our blood -- we want to race 'em."

  • Go back to the top

    15) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Earnhardt stands second on the all-time win list at Talladega with five victories. His dad won 10 times at the track. In seven consecutive races between October 2001 and October 2004, Junior won five times and finished second twice. He was leading the race last October when he was hit from behind on the last lap to kill his victory hopes. "I believe we have about half a lap of unfinished business there," said Earnhardt.
  • Last week: An untimely caution flag ruined any chances Earnhardt had of finishing in the top 10 at Phoenix. Instead, he had to be satisfied with 19th place. "I'm really disappointed for my team," said Earnhardt. "They worked hard and they deserved a top-10 finish." Still, Earnhardt was able to move up three spots in the standings to 15th.
  • Etc.: Earnhardt was one of the first people to congratulate Jeff Gordon after Gordon scored the 76th win of his career, tying Junior's late father for sixth on the all-time win list. "He's a class act, and I'm happy for him," said Dale Jr., who ran to Victory Lane to shake Gordon's hand after Gordon did a victory lap holding a flag with Earnhardt Sr.'s No. 3 on it. "I saw him with the (3) flag on the big screen. That was cool."

  • Go back to the top

    16) Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Montoya will be making his first Cup start at Talladega, but the track was the site of his first race for Ganassi Racing last October when Montoya competed in the ARCA event. He qualified on the outside pole and finished third. "It's going to be fun to go back there, being my first stock car race was there," said Montoya. "It should be pretty cool." The banking at Talladega is 33 degrees. And that is what surprised Montoya the most when he went there for the first time. "For an open-wheel guy, 22 degrees or 23 degrees like California or Michigan were like really high bank," said Montoya. "Now you go to a place with a 20-degree bank and that's nothing."
  • Last week: It was a long night for Montoya as he finished a disappointing 33rd, three laps back of winner Jeff Gordon. "It just got worse as the night went on," said Montoya. "It was loose in (the corner), tight in the center and loose off. Honestly, as the race went on we got slower and slower and slower and slower and slower."
  • Etc.: NASCAR has fined Montoya $10,000 and placed him on probation for the rest of the year because of an inappropriate gesture he made during a Busch Series practice session last week.

  • Go back to the top

    17) Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Sadler has won three pole positions at Talladega, including two of the last three races run at the track, but he hasn't fared too well in the races -- only two top-10s in 15 starts. Sadler will be driving the same car that ran sixth in this year's Daytona 500.
  • Last week: Sadler struggled all evening as he finished 34th, four laps back of winner Jeff Gordon. "We just couldn't get our car to work today," admitted team director Josh Browne. "We made a lot of adjustments but couldn't find the answer to our handling problems. We've got a lot to learn about this Car of Tomorrow."
  • Etc.: Sadler said, "Talladega is not my favorite track, but actually I'm looking forward to going to Talladega. We think it's a place where we can gain some momentum. We need to gain some spots (in the standings) and get some points, and honestly I can't think of a better place to go right now."

  • Go back to the top

    18) David Stremme, No. 40 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Stremme finished 34th and 33rd in the two Cup races at Talladega last year, but he did finish third in the Busch Series race at the track in 2005. Stremme finished 11th in the Daytona 500 and would be happy with a duplicate finish on Sunday.
  • Last week: Stremme was in the wrong place at the wrong time at Phoenix as he got caught up in a wreck on lap 43. "The 6 (rookie David Ragan) just spun, and there was nothing I could do," said Stremme, who ended up 43rd. "This just hasn't been my weekend. It was like we never showed up. Our car was junk to begin with."
  • Etc.: The last-place finish at Phoenix dropped Stremme six spots in the standings, to 18th. But he still is only 86 points out of a spot in this year's 12-car Chase for the Championship.

  • Go back to the top

    19) Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Dodge, Petty Enterprises
  • This week: Labonte's lone win at Talladega came in 1998, the same year he won his only pole position there. In 27 other starts, Labonte has scored 10 top-10 finishes, including a 10th last October. "Talladega can be a tricky race," said Labonte, "but we're riding a high note going in there (after his first top-10 finish of the year). And we're looking for a better result this weekend."
  • Last week: Labonte finished eighth at Phoenix for his best finish of the season as he jumped from 23rd to 19th in the standings. "It wasn't a bad run as our car worked pretty good all night," said Labonte. "Obviously, we got lucky when we caught that caution and some guys had already pitted. That helped us out a few positions."
  • Etc.: Labonte called Talladega's new pavement "super smooth" and added, "Handling never played a big role at Talladega, but with the new pavement it takes it completely out of it. We used to get separated a little bit with the old pavement, but that's really not the case now. We're just one big pack of cars."

  • Go back to the top

    20) Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Truex finished fifth last fall at Talladega in his fourth Nextel Cup start at the track. Truex won all three Busch Series starts at the superspeedway. "Talladega has been a good track for us," said Truex. "We need a good run, and that's why I'm glad Talladega is next on the schedule."
  • Last week: Truex ran in the top 10 for much of the Phoenix race, but his hopes of a top-10 finish ended on lap 283 when the caution came out four laps after Truex had made his last scheduled pit stop. The unfortunate turn of events put Truex on the tail end of the lead lap and resulted in a 20th-place finish. "Bad luck seems to bite us about every other week," he said.
  • Etc.: Truex said the team just needs to "keep doing what we're supposed to be doing. We bring fast cars to the track, we have quick pit stops and we don't cause any trouble for ourselves. All we can do is stay positive and keep bringing good cars each weekend. Eventually, things are going to go our way."

  • Go back to the top

    21) Tony Raines, No. 96 Chevrolet, Hall of Fame Racing
  • This week: Raines is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Talladega. But he does have three top-20 finishes in his five Cup starts at the track. Raines knows the key at Talladega is "making the right move at the right time, and obviously that's a lot easier said than done."
  • Last week: Raines finished 14th at Phoenix, his second consecutive top-15, and jumped from 25th to 21st in the standings. "It was a decent night," said Raines. "The car was pretty tight much the whole race. We were better on the long runs. It was a good night for the DLP team."
  • Etc.: Crew chief Brandon Thomas said, "You really want your car to be noticed by the other cars. In practice, you want guys to say, 'I got behind the 96 or I got around the 96 and my car was good. That's a car I could work with.' You're not going to win that race alone."

  • Go back to the top

    22) J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Yeley finished 11th in the spring 2006 race at Talladega for his best finish at the track in three Cup starts. He will be driving the same car in this year's Aaron's 499. This will be the seventh time that chassis No. 82 has been driven by a Joe Gibbs Racing driver, all at either Daytona or Talladega.
  • Last week: Yeley was running 12th with just under 30 laps remaining when Carl Edwards ran into the back of Dave Blaney, who was slowing to pit. Yeley spun to avoid the accident, but he bounced off Blaney's car. The damage was severe enough that Yeley was forced to pit several times for repairs, but he was still able to finish 21st.
  • Etc.: Yeley, a Phoenix native, admitted he got a "little giddy when they announced my name during the pre-race because the crowd went nuts. You have someone like me in my second year and you don't get the superstar cheers like a Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr. It was special."

  • Go back to the top

    24) Joe Nemechek, No. 13 Chevrolet, Ginn Racing
  • This week: In 24 starts at Talladega, Nemechek has finished in the top 10 five times, including one third-place finish in the fall of 2000. His best finish in the spring race was sixth in 2001. Nemechek has won three poles at the track.
  • Last week: Nemechek finished 16th at Phoenix. It was the fifth top-20 performance of the season for Nemechek, who gained two spots in the standings and sits in 24th place. "We missed the race in Bristol, and that hurt us in the standings," notes Nemechek. "But we're now picking away at the points and heading in the right direction with consistent runs. We're going to get better."
  • Etc.: Nemechek finished ninth in the Daytona 500, and that is one of the reasons why he feels so confident about this weekend. "We (Ginn Racing) have had great plate cars and stout engines from Hendrick -- there's no reason why we shouldn't be a contender this weekend," said Nemechek.

  • Go back to the top

    25) Jeff Green, No. 66 Chevrolet, Haas Automation Racing
  • This week: Green finished seventh last October at Talladega for his second top-10 finish in 11 starts at the track. "I'm looking forward to this weekend," said Green. "We had two good finishes last year at Talladega (he was 14th in the spring race), so I'm hoping for more of the same. I seriously believe a top-five is not out of the question."
  • Last week: Green finished sixth at Phoenix, his second sixth-place finish in the three COT races run this season. He finished sixth in the first COT race at Bristol last month. "Like I have been saying, we just seem to have a better handle on the COT than the other car," said Green. "A lot of credit for that goes to Hendrick Motorsports. They're a tremendous resource, and they've been a tremendous help to this team."
  • Etc.: Green has already matched his top-10 total from last year. But he said, "I don't think anyone in the organization is satisfied with where we're at right now. We've had a couple of bright spots, but we're still struggling with the old car on the mile-and-a-half tracks."

  • Go back to the top

    26) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Dodge, Penske Racing
  • This week: Newman has three top-10 finishes in 10 starts at Talladega, including two fourth-places. The car he will be driving this weekend is the same one he drove to a third-place finish in the 2006 Daytona 500. Newman said he will be "looking for some people to work with and hopefully earn a good finish on Sunday without getting caught up in a wreck."
  • Last week: Newman seemed headed for his first top-five finish of 2007 when disaster struck as he made his last scheduled pit stop. Just as his car came to a stop, the yellow flag was waved. A miscommunication led to Newman leaving too soon. A second later the left front wheel came off. And then Newman broke the sway bar off as he backed into his pit. As a result, he finished 38th.
  • Etc.: The team tested Wednesday at Virginia International Raceway in preparation for the two road-course races later this summer. The team has another COT test scheduled for Tuesday at Rockingham (N.C.).

  • Go back to the top
    Tagged: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Regan Smith, Jeff Green, Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan, Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler, David Stremme, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Joe Nemechek, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Petty, Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin

    More Stories From foxsports admin



    NASCAR Videos

    Larry’s Notebook: Is Jimmie Johnson Behind the Curve? Posted: Jul 15, 2014
    Larry McReynolds weighs in on whether or not the No. 48 will be at a disadvantag...

    Larry’s Notebook: Off-Week Blues Posted: Jul 15, 2014
    Larry McReynolds weighs in on which teams will benefit the most from the week of...

    Winner's Weekend: Brad Keselowski Unstoppable at Loudon Posted: Jul 15, 2014
    The biggest issue the No. 2 team faced at Loudon was where to hide the champagne...

    More Than Sports on MSN

    Fox Sports Store

      itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
      Chase Authentics Danica Patrick Big Rig Tri-Blend T-Shirt - Charcoal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Danica_Patrick/browse/featuredproduct/974547/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_974000/ff_974547_xl.jpg&w=100 26.95 Chase Authentics Danica Patrick Big Rig Tri-Blend T-Shirt - Charcoal
      Kyle Busch One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Kyle_Busch/browse/featuredproduct/1011659/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1011000/ff_1011659_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Kyle Busch One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black
      Matt Kenseth One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Matt_Kenseth/browse/featuredproduct/1011661/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1011000/ff_1011661_xl.jpg&w=100 9.99 Matt Kenseth One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black
      Chase Authentics Carl Edwards 2013 Driver Schedule T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Carl_Edwards/browse/featuredproduct/1041164/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1041000/ff_1041164_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Chase Authentics Carl Edwards 2013 Driver Schedule T-Shirt - Ash