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Virtual Pit Reporter: News on 25 Cup teams

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1) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: After a disappointing finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Gordon enters the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover with a perfect car -- the chassis the No. 24 team will use this weekend, No. 24-428, has been used once, in a victory from the pole at Phoenix. Gordon also won in the "Car of Tomorrow" at Darlington and has three poles and three other top-fives in COT races. But the use of the COT at Dover brings a lot of unknowns, especially this weekend with the cancellation of a test session here a few weeks ago. "From a crew chief's standpoint, I would have preferred to test," Steve Letarte said. "But the crew has been working a lot of hours with two different cars, and it gave them some much needed time at home. Hendrick Motorsports is very well prepared and, between the four crew chiefs, I think we can make good decisions and enter this weekend competitive." In 28 career starts at Dover, Gordon has four wins, three poles, 13 top-fives and 17 top-10s. He has led the most laps on five occasions, including 400 of 500 laps in 1995, 375 of 400 laps in 1998 and 381 of 400 laps in 2001. "We've had some strong runs here in the past, but we haven't experienced that in quite awhile," Gordon said. "I'd like to lead a lot of laps again, but the most important thing is to be there at the end with a chance to win. And in both wins at Phoenix and Darlington, we didn't lead a lot of laps, but we led the one that counted."
  • Last week: Following his early exit from the Lowe's race because of an accident, Gordon's lead in the point standings dropped from a 231-point edge to 132 over teammate Jimmie Johnson. Gordon finished 41st.
  • Etc.: Gordon will spend Thursday at DuPont's headquarters in Wilmington, Del., visiting with some of his biggest fans and supporters. "This sport is sponsor-driven, and I've been lucky enough to spend my entire Cup career with DuPont as my primary sponsor," Gordon said. "It's hard to believe it's been 15 years. They've been with me through the highs -- the wins and the championships -- and the lows, and they're a great partner. On Thursday, I get the chance to interact with the employees and thank them for their support."

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    2) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Johnson owns three victories in 10 races at the "Monster Mile," including a sweep of both races in 2002 -- his rookie season. Johnson's four victories are the most of any driver in 2007. Johnson will drive chassis No. 433 this weekend, and chassis No. 419 will serve as the backup. Neither chassis has been raced. "The track at Dover isn't as sensitive to the heat pounding on it because of the concrete surface," Johnson said. "The rubber takes to the track in a different manner than it takes to pavement tracks. The biggest difference is the surface and the way the track is laid down. When you think about concrete, it is laid in squares, so you have multiple seams and it feels like driving on a washboard road at times because you are going over those seams where they poured the slab. It really jars the car and it is a rough ride all the way around the track. It is extremely hard on tires because of the steep banking and the speeds we carry. You have to have the setup under the car as perfect as you can get it to be able to manage your tires effectively throughout the race. If you get a long green-flag run, you can't be abusive to your car or your tires. I think Dover is so unique. There isn't another track on the circuit that is remotely close to what you have at Dover. So when you find the right setup with the race car and the driver has the right rhythm for it ... it really just applies to (only Dover) so you can fine-tune and hone in on it. A lot of people go to Kentucky and these other tracks, but you can't take anything from there and apply it to Dover."
  • Last week: Johnson finished 10th in Sunday's 600-mile race at Lowe's Motor Speedway and is second in the 2007 points.
  • Etc.: Johnson has felt the difference this year as he tries to defend his Nextel Cup title. "Winning the championship has brought a lot of confidence to me, and I feel established in the sport," he said. "I feel maybe more respected. There certainly has been a change as far as the workload. And I also feel it's my responsibility and I think I've matured as a figure in the sport and feel like I'm doing a little bit better job in general this year with the off-track things. It's been a good year for me and certainly a growing year and it's been fun all at the same time."

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    3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: Kenseth is the only driver in the Cup Series who has completed every lap in 2007, a total of 4,053, and his average finish is 8.8, second only to Jeff Gordon. Kenseth made his Cup debut at Dover in September 1998 at age 26. He substituted for Bill Elliott that day and drove to a sixth-place finish. Kenseth scored the first pole of his Cup career at Dover in June 2002; he has two others, Kansas and Bristol in '05. Kenseth's first Cup victory at Dover came last June in the Neighborhood Excellence 400. In addition to his Cup victory, Kenseth also boasts two Busch Series wins at Dover, his first coming in September 1998, the day before his first Cup start, and the second in September 2000. He has one win, four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 15 Dover races. "Dover has been my favorite track for quite a while now," Kenseth said. "I used to always say that, and it seemed like we'd have bad luck there, so last year I kept telling myself how much I disliked it and it worked. We ended up winning there in the spring and coming pretty close to winning last fall. So I guess in that line of thinking again, I really dread going to Dover, it's not one of my favorite tracks. But, in all seriousness, Dover's always been special to me because I made my first start there in Bill Elliott's car and was able to finish sixth that day, just a day after we won our first Busch race there. Then, to win there last year made it even more special. I love the track. It's a super fast one-mile oval that commands a lot of respect, and it's just a lot of fun to race there."
  • Last week: Kenseth finished 12th in the Coca-Cola 600.
  • Etc.: Kenseth has led 637 laps in Busch Series races at Dover, the most among all active drivers in the series. His seven top-five Busch finishes there is tops among all drivers, past or present. "Charlotte didn't go as well as we would have liked," Kenseth said of Saturday night's Busch race. "We had a great qualifying run, but it kind of went downhill from there. We really struggled with the handling of our car and never could get it where we needed it to be. We are taking our Charlotte car to Dover this weekend, and it is a car that has been great to us in the past."

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    4) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: This will be Hamlin's third Cup race at Dover. He has one top-10 finish in his two previous races -- he finished seventh in this race last June.
  • Last week: Hamlin finished ninth in the 600. "Our car was good," he said. "We were going to finish third, but everybody had to pit. Some guys got better fuel mileage than us. We just missed out there. We had a great night. We ran a lot better than what we tested and practiced here, so overall it was a good night for the FedEx/Marine Chevrolet, but it's very frustrating to make up laps late in the race. We just kept getting closer and closer to Tony (Stewart) there and Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). We had the best car at the end. We just didn't have the right fuel tank, we just couldn't afford to come in and top off like some of those guys did, and they lucked out and got a good finish."
  • Etc.: Hamlin applauded NASCAR's announcement last week that the COT would be run in all races in 2008. "I like it," Hamlin said. "I definitely think going to the car early is going to benefit our team. We are running really well with it. Right now we have a little bit of advantage on some other teams. It is going to be better for myself and Joe Gibbs Racing. We will just have to see if we can are able to keep on a roll with it."

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    5) Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Burton has one win, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 26 Dover starts. His lone Dover victory came last September, snapping a 176-race winless streak. He has a 25.1 starting average and 17.5 finishing average at Dover. "At the end of the day, results are what matter," Burton said of last fall's win at Dover. "On the last run, Scott (Miller, the crew chief) and those guys made it right. We went flying up to the front and had a battle with Matt (Kenseth) and eventually got the win. It was a big win because it had been a long time since I had won. We kept putting ourselves in position and finally found a way to do it. Dover was a day when we had to go earn that win. We won the race and took over the points lead. It reminded this team and my peers that we haven't forgotten how to do this. ... Dover is an exceptionally fast race track. For a mile-long race track, it generates a lot of speed. You're in the throttle a lot of the time, there's a lot of banking and you really have to work hard to get your car to turn well. That's what I go to Dover thinking; you have to make it turn well and keep it where you can run on the bottom. You don't want to lock in so you can only run on the bottom. You want to be able to run different grooves. If you can do those things, you can run really well there."
  • Last week: Burton finished 24th at Charlotte. In the season's first 12 races, Burton has earned five top-five and seven top-10 finishes and has finished outside the top 25 only twice. He has a 22.75 starting average and 13.25 finishing average, has completed 3,736 of the 4,053 total laps (92.2 percent) and sits fifth in the point standings. Over those same 12 races last season, Burton's average start was 16.66 coupled with a 16.45 finishing average. He was eighth in points at this time last year.
  • Etc.: Burton believes "The Monster Mile" is an appropriate nickname for Dover. "Definitely," Burton said. "Darlington's nickname and Dover's nickname are the two most fitting of all the race tracks. Dover is just a physically demanding race track. It's very difficult to handle well there. When you hit, you hit hard. It's one of the most difficult race tracks we run on. The corners are really wide, but the straight-aways aren't. It's just a really tough race track."

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    6) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: On the cusp of victory a handful of times already this season, Stewart wants to win now. And while Victory Lane has so far eluded the two-time Nextel Cup champion, Dover may very well be the place where he earns his 30th career Nextel Cup win. Stewart has two wins, nine top-fives and 11 top-10s in 16 Cup starts at Dover. "We just haven't been to Victory Lane yet, and that's what everybody's looking at," he said. "But we're not worried about it, especially with the way the points system is now. I'm not totally satisfied with it, but I don't think anyone is totally satisfied with the way their season is going. You always want to be better than what you are. But it's not like the new points system has changed the way we're racing. We take each race one week at a time just like we've done every other season. You can't be worrying about the points. If you do your job each week and try to win the race, it's like I've always said, the points will take care of themselves -- no matter what the format is."
  • Last week: Stewart is coming off a sixth-place finish at Lowe's.
  • Etc.: With a concrete surface, Dover makes some of NASCAR's top drivers change their driving style. "I don't think you drive it any differently, but because it is concrete, the track has a lot more bumps than an asphalt track would," Stewart said. "There are seams in Dover's surface and places where they've cut the concrete for expansion. Those sections shift and change, and every year when you go there the bumps are a little bit different than they were the year before. Dover is a track that's constantly changing. But it's one of those places where you really can't change your driving style. You still have to do the same things you always do. It's just a matter of finding the package that's right for that race track. But other than that, you go through the same set of scenarios and challenges you would on any asphalt track -- either the car is going to be tight or it's going to be loose."

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    7) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Harvick has two top-five and five top-10 finishes, a 19.8 starting average and a 17.6 finishing average in 12 Cup starts at Dover. He will drive the same chassis he raced to a 17th-place finish two weeks ago at Darlington. "It is like a big Bristol," Harvick said of Dover. "It is a place where you can lean on the banking a lot. You have to make your car turn and, as the race goes on, the track changes a lot as it takes rubber. You have to keep up with the race track as the rubber builds. Getting the balance on the car right is very important -- just running your car free enough where you can get back on the throttle in the middle of the corner and get off the corner without pushing the front tires. It's a pretty sensitive race track, and it is tough to get the balance right. Things happen really fast. There really isn't a lot you can do. But you can usually tell when something is getting ready to happen in front of you. The real trouble spots are driving in too deep under someone getting in and washing up, getting a bad push or loose off the corners. The track is self-cleaning with all the banking, so it's hard to get out of the way if you are in the groove and it all starts coming down the hills."
  • Last week: Harvick climbed one spot in the standings after his 21st-place finish at Lowe's. The 2007 Daytona 500 winner is in seventh, 162 points out of the top five.
  • Etc.: Harvick tested at Virginia International Raceway on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.

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    8) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: In five Cup starts at Dover, Edwards has one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average start at Dover is 17th, his average finish is 12th. His best start and finish at the track came last September when he qualified sixth and finished second. He has led a total of 23 laps at Dover, all but two of them in the fall race of 2006. "Dover is one of my favorite tracks," he said. "It's pretty much a one-groove track, so you need to handle well through the center of the corners in order to keep your position. Bob (Osborne, the crew chief) and the guys have been working really hard on the COT, and I feel like we're making some gains."
  • Last week: Edwards finished 15th in the Coca-Cola 600.
  • Etc.: Edwards and NASCAR Busch Series crew chief Pierre Kuettel were guests this week on the USS Enterprise, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

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    9) Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing
  • This week: Busch is still looking for his first Dover win and pole after 13 career races. He has had two top-five finishes and four top-10s. He posted his career-best Dover finish, a fourth, in the most recent race there last September. He made his Cup racing debut at Dover on Sept. 24, 2000, starting 10th and finishing 18th in the Jeff Hammond-prepared No. 97 John Deere Ford. "That was a pretty cool weekend for a 22-year-old kid there at Dover in 2000," Kurt recalled. "I was running for the Truck Series Rookie of the Year and was third in the overall points when I got the call to drive the 97 car. Dover is a great track for us to regain the form we had going before, making steady progress up the points ladder."
  • Last week: Busch fell from seventh to ninth after his 32nd-place finish at Lowe's. "It's only a small step back, a momentary hiccup along the road," Busch said.
  • Etc.: Busch will be behind the wheel of his PRS 514 Dodge Avenger at Dover. It is the same car that the team raced to a fifth-place finish at Richmond on May 6.

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    10) Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Bowyer will make his 50th career Cup Series start Sunday. While he's still searching for his first win in NASCAR's top division, Bowyer has earned one pole, four top-five and 14 top-10 finishes over his first 49 starts. He has competed in just two Cup races at Dover, finishing 17th last June and eighth last September. He won the Busch Series race at Dover last September. "It's a long race, but 400 miles at any track is a long time," Bowyer said. "You get off in the corner with a lot of speed and you've got to yank on the wheel and make things happen pretty quickly because the corners are tight and you're going pretty fast. It's just one of those tracks that I enjoy. I like that type of race track, and you've just got to get comfortable and get suited in and good to go. The first time I went to Dover, we were terrible and I felt like I couldn't get out of my own way, and then when we went back, we had the fastest car and almost won the race. ... It's one of those tracks where I've always run pretty well. Fortunately, it seems like Dover is one race track that feels like I figured out pretty early in my career so it's a track I always look forward to."
  • Last week: Bowyer is coming off a 29th-place start at Lowe's.
  • Etc.: Bowyer's 28th birthday was Wednesday.

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    11) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Busch scored three straight top-five finishes in his first three Cup races at Dover before engine failure resulted in a 40th-place finish last September. In the first five COT races, Busch has one win (Bristol) and four finishes of seventh or better. He needs another top-10 run in this weekend's COT race to get back into the top 10.
  • Last week: Busch's hopes of a top-10 finish were wiped out between laps 200 and 251 when he bounced hard off the wall twice. The second time resulted in heavy damage to the car and forced the team to go behind the wall for repairs. As a result, Busch limped home in 30th place.
  • Etc.: While in New Orleans for an appearance on "Live with Regis and Kelly" last week, Busch had a chance to tour the city. "It was amazing to see the destruction from Hurricane Katrina, even two years after the storm," said Busch. "Those folks need ongoing help, so people should keep donating to the American Red Cross."

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    12) Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: A year ago, McMurray led 95 of the final 98 laps before getting passed by Roush Racing teammate Matt Kenseth with three laps to go. McMurray ended up second for his best finish ever at Dover. McMurray has two other top-10 finishes in his eight starts there.
  • Last week: McMurray was one of 13 cars involved in an early race accident that ended any chance McMurray had of scoring his second win at Lowe's. Instead, McMurray had to be content with a 19th-place finish in his battered race car. "It was just one of those days where if you just hang in there and continue to work on the car, you can be there at the end and post a decent finish," said McMurray.
  • Etc.: McMurray, an avid spokesman for autism awareness, hopes to bring more attention to the cause this weekend with an autism-themed paint scheme, driver's suit, helmet and gloves. "After the race, we will auction them off with all of the funds going to the Jamie McMurray Foundation, which supports autism research, education and families afflicted with autism," said McMurray.

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    13) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Earnhardt scored his lone win at Dover in September 2001 in the first major motorsports event following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. He has five other top-10 finishes at the track in 14 starts. "We've been hit-or-miss at Dover," said Earnhardt. "We've been really fast, won and led a lot of laps, and then we've had days where we've struggled, crashed or just missed it altogether."
  • Last week: Earnhardt was forced to pit for fuel with only seven laps remaining to put an end to his hopes of a top-five finish. "I thought we finished second to Tony (Stewart)," said Earnhardt, who ended up eighth. "We were easily a top-three or a top-five car all night. We needed the strong finish for points, so we couldn't gamble on fuel like those guys (the top five) did."
  • Etc.: Earnhardt said the Coca-Cola 600 was a "very positive weekend as a whole for the team. We miss Tony Jr. (Eury, the crew chief who was suspended for six weeks for a COT violation at Darlington), but Tony Gibson (the interim crew chief) and all of the guys all stepped up and picked up the slack. It gives us all confidence that we are going to keep running strong every week like we have been all season."

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    14) Mark Martin, No. 01 Chevrolet, Ginn Racing
  • This week: Martin will be seeking his fifth win at Dover this weekend. In his previous 41 starts there, he has scored 19 top-five finishes, the most of any active driver. Martin also posted his first Busch Series win at the track in 1987. Overall, he has 25 top-10 finishes there, including four top-fours in the last six races. Martin is the only driver to have won in all three of NASCAR's major series at Dover.
  • Last week: Martin rallied from an early flat tire and handling problems to finish 11th in the Coca-Cola 600. "This was a really tough race," said Martin. "You saw a lot of good cars just lose it and wreck out there tonight. There were several times where I thought I might do the same thing. We really did have the car running at its best at the end, and it's unfortunate to get beat like that on fuel mileage." Martin was running fifth when he pitted for gas on lap 391 of the 400-lap event.
  • Etc.: Martin admits he has "not exactly set the world of fire with the Car of Tomorrow. But we were better at Darlington than we were at Richmond and we were better at Richmond than Phoenix, so we are getting better."

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    15) J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: In three starts at Dover, Yeley's best finish is 25th. And he believes "Dover is going to be the biggest test for the COT car. It's the fastest race track that we will be on with the COT this year." Yeley will be driving the same car he ran last month at Richmond, where his 14th place was his best finish in a COT race to date.
  • Last week: Conserving fuel was the name of the game for Yeley during the final 59 laps of the 600. And his ability to excel in that area paid major dividends as he finished second for the best finish of his young Nextel Cup career. Yeley jumped five spots in the point standings to 15th. "I just started rolling off the throttle early trying to save as much fuel as I could," said Yeley. "We had a top-eight car and finished second. What an awesome day!"
  • Etc.: Yeley said no one can put any more pressure on him than he already has. "I've won races and I've won championships and I want to do the same thing at this level," he said. "We've got the equipment to do it; it's just a matter of finding all the pieces to get it done. I think last weekend proved that we are capable of running up front."

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    16) Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Truex finished sixth last fall at Dover in his second Cup start at the track. "It's no secret that I love racing at Dover," said Truex. "I grew up going to races there, and I kinda made a name for myself racing there in the Busch North Series. And I won there a couple of times in the Busch Series."
  • Last week: Despite getting caught up in a multi-car accident early in the 600, Truex was able to rally to finish 16th. "We had everything go wrong that could go wrong; we got caught up in a big wreck, my radio went out for a few laps and my eyes started burning for some reason," said Truex. "Still, we ended up with a pretty good finish." The top-16 finish enabled Truex to move up two spots in the standings to 16th.
  • Etc.: Truex calls Dover a "fun place to race because it's fast and banked pretty good. People might think that it's not fast because the track is only a mile long. Trust me, you can really 'haul the mail' around there."

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    17) Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Dodge, Petty Enterprises
  • This week: Labonte scored his lone win at Dover in 1999. He has 13 other top-10 finishes in 29 starts at the track. Labonte believes the "biggest challenge this week will be the Car of Tomorrow. We are all going in with blind eyes (after the Dover test was canceled earlier this month). And we only have a few hours (of practice) to get it right."
  • Last week: After finishing 13th in the 600 to climb from 19th to 17th in the standings, Labonte wanted to talk more about his teammate, Kyle Petty, than his own performance. "That was a good run for Kyle (who finished third) tonight," said Labonte. "We stayed out of trouble but didn't have the car we wanted. We just couldn't get it the way we wanted."
  • Etc.: Labonte says this weekend's race will be "like having a huge test, but only a few hours to study for it the day before. There is a lot of information to find out -- the shocks and springs, the tires on concrete and now the new (COT) cars are all factors you have to study. You are trying to cram it all in a few hours."

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    18) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Dodge, Penske Racing
  • This week: Newman has won three times at Dover and has seven top-10s in his 10 starts at the one-mile track. He will be driving the same car that he ran at Richmond last month when he finished sixth. Newman has finished sixth or better in the last two COT races.
  • Last week: After winning the pole and leading the first 10 laps of the race, Newman's day began to go downhill. First, he ran into tire problems to drop a lap down. Then, just after Newman had gotten back on the lead lap, the engine expired. Newman ended up 39th to fall from 13th to 18th in the standings.
  • Etc.: Newman's last victory was in September 2005 at New Hampshire. "The importance of winning is at an all-time high just because it's been so long we have won," he said. "We are going to Dover knowing that we have a car and a team that are capable of winning this race."

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    19) Greg Biffle, No. 21 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
  • This week: Biffle has three top-10 finishes in the last four races run at Dover, including a victory in the 2005 spring race. He also has two Busch Series victories at the track. "I'd have to say that my Cup win in 2005 might be one of my more memorable wins," said Biffle. "We didn't run up front, really, for most of the race and then something just clicked and we took off. I'd definitely love to have the same kind of race this weekend."
  • Last week: Biffle's day was a short one at Lowe's -- he lasted only 45 laps before major tire problems sent him hard into the backstretch wall. The damage to his car was so severe that he was forced to park it for the day, and he ended up 43rd (last) to drop from 16th to 19th in the standings. "We blew a right-front tire," he said. "I hate to talk bad about anybody or bash anybody, but I just have to tell you that I think we've got the worst tires in racing, period."
  • Etc.: Greg Erwin is the new crew chief for the 16 team, replacing Pat Tryson. Erwin was most recently the crew chief at Robby Gordon Motorsports. "I feel like this is one of the top crew chief opportunities in the Nextel Cup garage," said Erwin. As for this weekend, Erwin is bringing a "brand new car. It is a little more similar to what our (Roush Racing) teammates have been running."

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    20) Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Sadler has only three top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Dover. And he admits the team is a "little frustrated that we didn't start off the season like we wanted to. We didn't have the COT down like we thought we should. I think it's made us all a little stronger and made us pull together a little more."
  • Last week: Sadler was one of the 13 cars involved in an accident on lap 53 at Lowe's. His car required extensive repairs in the garage. He returned to the track on lap 186 and finished 36th to drop to 20th in the Nextel Cup standings.
  • Etc.: Ray Evernham is moving closer to a partnership agreement with Montreal Canadiens owner George N. Gillett. Gillett, also the owner of the Liverpool soccer team in the English Premier League, has been talking with Evernham since early in the season.

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    21) David Stremme, No. 40 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Stremme has not had much luck at Dover. He finished 41st and 18th in the two Nextel Cup races in 2006. And in six Busch Series starts at the track, his best finish is 16th. Stremme knows he needs a good run this weekend to boost his hopes of getting back into the top 12. He trails 12th-place Jamie McMurray by 138 points.
  • Last week: Stremme finished 17th in the world's longest stock car race for his eighth top-20 finish of the season. "The good news is that we had a solid car capable of running up front," said Stremme. "We turned lap times consistent with the leaders all night." A problem with the left front wheel ruined any chance Stremme had of finishing in the top 10.
  • Etc.: Stremme stands 10th in the number of laps run in 2007. He has completed 96.67 percent of the laps run in the first 12 races of the season (3,918 out of the 4,053). "This is the type of consistency we need to get back into the top 12 (in the Nextel Cup standings)," said Stremme.

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    24) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Sorenson finished 11th last fall at Dover for his best Cup finish at the track in his rookie Nextel Cup season. He led 39 laps that afternoon. In four Busch Series starts at the track, Sorenson had four top-10 finishes, including a second in his first race at the speedway.
  • Last week: Sorenson was all smiles after finishing fourth for his first top-five finish of his young career as he moved up five spots in the standings. "We needed a boost," said Sorenson. "We might not have had a fourth-place car, but we had a 10th-place car. The last four laps I wasn't even going full throttle, maybe half-throttle to save a little fuel, and as soon as I crossed the (finish) line it ran out. I was very worried about the fuel lasting."
  • Etc.: Sorenson was delighted that his close friend Casey Mears won the 600. "One of the few buddies I have out there won the race, so I'm pretty pumped up," said Sorenson. "I had a good run and my boy won, so I'm pretty excited. Casey and I are pretty good friends. He was my teammate last year, and we still talk a lot."

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    26) Kyle Petty, No. 45 Dodge, Petty Enterprisess
  • This week: Petty will be making his 50th start at Dover this weekend. His last Cup victory came at the track on June 4, 1995, when he led 271 laps. Petty will be shooting for his 15th top-10 finish at the one-mile speedway. After the Dover event, Petty will take a break from driving as he joins the TNT crew that will broadcast the next six Nextel Cup races.
  • Last week: Petty finished third at Lowe's, his best result since the fall race at Dover in 1997. The top-five vaulted Petty from 31st to 26th in the standings. "We had a top-10 car and we were able to get a top-five finish with it," said Petty, one of the drivers able to run the final 58 laps without pitting for fuel. "We've really struggled with our pit crew, and they stepped up huge today. They're the ones that put us in position to have the good run there at the end."
  • Etc.: Petty, who will turn 47 on Saturday, said the best thing about his 600 performance was the ability "to race and be competitive with these guys. I would have taken that and gone to the house (in a good mood) tonight. It feels dang good to race with these guys, to race side-by-side with J.J. (Yeley) and Ricky (Rudd) and Reed (Sorenson). The third place, that's just a cherry on the sundae as far as I'm concerned."

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    29) Casey Mears, No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: While Dover has not been a good track for Mears, he hopes to ride the momentum from Sunday's victory to another top-10 performance this weekend. "This (the 600 win) definitely solidifies that we are a team that can win races and can run up front," said Mears, who has one top-10 finish in eight starts at Dover.
  • Last week: Instead of trying to run down leader Tony Stewart, Mears decided to gamble on fuel mileage during the final 59 laps of the 600. And it was the right decision as Mears scored the biggest win of his career. "There at the end we had a really good car race," said Mears. "We made a good decision to win the race. I can't believe we are sitting here (in Victory Lane). I am very, very relieved."
  • Etc.: "For a lot of reasons, this is a very special day," said Mears after scoring the first win of his Nextel Cup career on Memorial Day weekend. "Obviously because of my uncle's (Rick Mears) success in the (Indianapolis) 500 (he won four 500s), but on top of that, the National Guard. Memorial Day weekend, what a better car to win than the National Guard car this weekend."

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    40) Brian Vickers, No. 83 Toyota, Red Bull Racing
  • This week: Even after his brilliant performance in the Coca-Cola 600, Vickers can't afford to look past Friday and qualifying since he remains outside the top 35 in car owner points. "We've always qualified pretty well at Dover, so I feel pretty good about the weekend," said Vickers, who won a Busch Series event at the track in 2003. He has never qualified worse than 27th.
  • Last week: Vickers led four times for 76 laps before running into power steering problems during the last half of the 600. Still, he was able to finish fifth to earn the first top-five finish of the season for the Toyota camp. "I think we had the best car tonight, and we showed that every time we took the lead," said Vickers. "If we could've just had power steering, I really think we could have won the race."
  • Etc.: Vickers was quite pleased with the new engine that the Toyota teams used for the initial time in the 600. "They gave us some more motor this weekend, and I think it showed," said Vickers. "It really shows what the engine is capable of when you can get the motor wound up and keep it wound up."

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    Tagged: Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Reed Sorenson, Bill Elliott, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Casey Mears, Elliott Sadler, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, David Stremme, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, Robby Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers

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