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Virtual Pit Reporter: News on 25 Cup teams

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1) Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Burton, who holds the points lead for the first time since May 1999 after winning at Dover, is relying on chassis No. 172 this week at Kansas to maintain his position. It's a new car that was first raced in August at Indianapolis, where Burton started on the pole and finished 15th. He finished 28th at Kansas last year. "I think history matters, but in our case I don't think we can look back and say, 'Well, we ran 28th so that's how we're going to run this year,'" Burton said. "We have much better equipment now and can compete at a much higher level." He has three top-15 finishes but no top-10s in five races at Kansas Speedway. Burton has posted 22 top-15 finishes and 17 top-10s in 28 races this season. One year ago he ranked 20th in the point standings after 28 races. Burton has a 19.2 average finish at Kansas, ranking sixth among the 10 Chase drivers. In addition to his driving duties with the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend, Burton will return to the wheel of the No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet for the Yellow Transportation 300 NASCAR Busch Series event on Saturday.
  • Last week: Burton's win at Dover marked his 18th career victory in the Cup Series, tying him for 35th on NASCAR's all-time win list with Geoffrey Bodine, Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant. Burton's last victory was 176 races ago, at Phoenix in 2001. The win at Dover vaulted Burton four positions to first place in the point standings, the seventh time in his career he has held the top spot. It is a popular ascension among the drivers. "That is a very rewarding part of that win," Burton said. "I do care what my peers think of me, and it's great to have so many people be happy for you when you win, especially when you are competing against them. It was a hard-fought battle with Matt Kenseth, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He congratulated me, along with a bunch of others, and that felt really good."
  • Etc.: With Clint Bowyer's Busch Series and Jeff Burton's Cup wins last weekend at Dover, RCR has collected 14 wins (Harvick, 10; Burton, three; and Bowyer, one) this season, which passes the previous single-season win record of 13, set in 1995. That year, Dale Earnhardt had five wins in the Cup Series and Mike Skinner had eight in the Truck Series. ... Burton will sign autographs from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Cingular Wireless store at 1813 Village West Parkway, Kansas City, Kan., five minutes from Kansas Speedway.

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    2) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: The Kansas City Chiefs will be playing at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, but Jeff Gordon hopes a rookie "chief" leads him to his third victory of the season -- and third at Kansas Speedway -- about 25 miles away. Gordon has gained seven positions since the start of the Chase two races ago. After back-to-back third-place finishes at New Hampshire and Dover, Gordon is second in the point standings and only six points behind the leader, Jeff Burton. The four-time series champion credits a lot of the team's resurgence to 27-year-old rookie crew chief Steve Letarte, who was promoted to the position following race No. 26 in 2005 and has three wins, 15 top-fives and 19 top-10s in 39 races. "I've got a rookie crew chief that is acting like a veteran," said Gordon. "He's doing a great job back at the shop making sure we bring good cars to the track, and he's making great calls during the races. He's got a great attitude and he's sharp." At Kansas, Gordon has two victories (2001 and 2002), three top-fives and four top-10s. He has led 169 laps -- the most of any driver -- and has a 6.0 average finishing position.
  • Last week: Gordon finished third at Dover.
  • Etc.: Letarte spearheaded an effort to improve the team's intermediate program, at the one-and-a-half and two-mile tracks the No. 24 struggled on much of last season. A test at Atlanta late in 2005 is where the team found hope -- and the necessary changes to contend for their fifth championship. "When we didn't make the Chase last year, it allowed us to go in a different direction," Gordon said. "We needed to try a different route with our intermediate program. We were using the same setups as our teammates, but we weren't finding the same success. Steve and the guys came up with some different ideas that we wanted to try. We tested Atlanta during the Chase last year and tried some things that made the car more comfortable for me. They were different than the setups my teammates were using, but they were working for me and my driving style. We still gather information from our teammates, but we incorporate that into our own cars, our own team and my driving style."

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    3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Kenseth scored the third pole of his Cup career at Kansas last year. It is the only Chase track where Kenseth has started on the pole. Kenseth's average finish of 19.4 at Kansas ranks seventh among the 10 tracks in the Chase. He has no wins, one top-five (he was fifth last year) and two top-10s in five races at Kansas. "Kansas has been a little bit of a hiccup for us in the past," Kenseth said. "We've had some pretty good cars there before, but we've struggled at times, too." He'll be using the same car that he drove to second place at Indianapolis last month.
  • Last week: After running out of gas while leading with two laps to go, Kenseth finished 10th at Dover. Kenseth led for 215 laps at Dover and has now led the most laps in the 2006 season (1,108), the highest total of his career. "It sounds funny to say, 'We'll bounce back this weekend,' when we finished with a top-10 last week, but as everyone knows, we had the dominant car and didn't win, and that's always frustrating," he said. "You have to keep things in perspective, though. It could have been a lot worse. We still finished 10th, we still cut into the points lead and most importantly, Robbie (Reiser, the crew chief) and the guys gave me an excellent car that was, for most of the day, the class of the field."
  • Etc.: By leading the most laps at Dover, Kenseth has accumulated 115 bonus points in 2006, more than any other driver in the Cup Series.

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    4) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Hamlin, who finished 32nd in his first Cup start at Kansas last year, trails points leader Jeff Burton by 18 points and is tied for third with Kenseth, but Kenseth has the edge with four wins in 2006 to Hamlin's two (both at Pocono). Hamlin has finished in the top 15 in the last 11 races and has 15 top-10s in 2006, more than any other rookie. He has been the highest-finishing rookie in 14 of the 28 races this season and has been running at the finish in the last 22 races.
  • Last week: Hamlin finished ninth at Dover and dropped from second to fourth in the standings. "With about 150 to go I lost all my neck strength, and it went downhill from there," Hamlin said. "I just couldn't take anymore. There were a couple times in the Busch Series that it was like that. I've really never fallen out of the seat like I did today. I think it was worse (because) we didn't have a good car. We struggled all day and had a 30th-place car, and to finish in the top-10 with it, I'm pretty happy with it."
  • Etc.: Hamlin's driver rating of 93.8 for the season is eighth among all drivers and the highest among all series rookies. Hamlin has led 803.09 miles, good for fifth in that category.

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    5) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: After leading the standings for one week thanks to his victory at New Hampshire, Harvick now trails first-place Jeff Burton by 54 points. Harvick, one of five drivers competing in the Chase for the first time, has ranked among the top 10 in the last 22 races, since Texas in April. One year ago he ranked 12th in the point standings after 28 races. Harvick has 15 top-10s in 2006 and has finished in the top 15 in 11 of his last 12 races. But he has just one top-10 finish in five races at Kansas Speedway, a sixth in 2003, though he has led in two of the races. He finished 24th in this race one year ago. His 18.4 average finish at Kansas ranks fifth among the Chase drivers.
  • Last week: Harvick finished 32nd at Dover and dropped from first to fifth in the standings. "I blew up," Harvick said of his car's engine problem. "The guys have done a great job all year. That is the first time we had an engine failure in I don't know how long. What do you do? I blew up a little bit early. These guys have done a great job getting the engines where they need to be. First failure we have had in a long time. We will be fine. Just keep racing." Harvick ended a 39-race streak of running at the finish that dated to California last September.
  • Etc.: Harvick takes a whopping 699-point lead over Carl Edwards into the Busch Series race this weekend and will drive chassis No. 060, a new car. He has two top-five finishes in five Busch races at Kansas. "Performance-wise, everything has gone great," Harvick said of his Busch season. "We have been able to keep all the cars together and we still have been able to run really well, even racing hard each week for points. We have a big enough points lead now that we can gamble a little bit and race to win."

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    6) Mark Martin, No. 6 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Martin was dominant in winning last year's race at Kansas; he needs to replicate that performance to stay alive in the Chase. Martin started from the 19th position in 2005 and had to make his way to the front of the field, completing 25 Quality Passes -- passing a car that's running in the top 15 -- along the way. Once he reached the front, Martin led 139 laps and maintained an Average Running Position of 4.049, second-best in that category. Martin has been running at the finish in the last 35 races, the longest current streak. He has one other top-10 in the five races at Kansas. Martin has a 14.4 average finish at Kansas, ranking third among the 10 Chase drivers. He has led in three of his five races Kansas.
  • Last week: Martin finished 14th at Dover and remained sixth in the standings.
  • Etc.: Martin is the only Chase driver who has not won in 2006. His last victory was the one at Kansas last year.

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    7) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Inc.
  • This week: Earnhardt has three top-10 starts and two top-10 finishes in five races at Kansas but has led in three of the five races there. Last year, he was involved in a crash on lap 15 with a lapped car and later returned to the track to finish 34th. His most recent pole came at Kansas on Sept. 27, 2002. Earnhardt already is 102 points out of the lead in the Chase. "It has been a really frustrating Chase for us," Earnhardt said. "We've let some solid top-five, top-10 runs slip away." Earnhardt will be using a chassis that has four straight top-six finishes.
  • Last week: Earnhardt started 13th for the second consecutive week, but a flat right front tire knocked the team out of contention, forcing him to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop on lap 282. His troubles were compounded when a yellow flag came out on lap 298, trapping Earnhardt two laps behind the leaders. He went on to finish 21st. "It's another frustrating day, but what can you do?" Earnhardt said. "... The car was good early on in the high line. I could really get a run on a lot of guys running up top, but we were never worth a damn in the low groove. The nose would push, push, push all day, and it got worse and worse as the race went on. We took two tires (on a lap 208 pit stop) to try to get some track position, and we were hanging on to the top 10, but then the (right front) tire started going down and we dropped back. After that, it was a case of trying to pick off whatever cars were on our lap. It's not a good day, but it could certainly have been a lot worse if we would have crashed when the tire went down."
  • Etc.: Earnhardt has finished 12th or better at four of the five races at 1.5-mile tracks this season, most recently taking fifth at Kansas' sister track, Chicagoland Speedway. "I'm confident going into this weekend because we've improved a ton on these big, flat tracks like Chicago, Michigan and California," he said.

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    8) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Johnson, who has only one top-10 finish in the last seven races, is 136 points out of the lead after leading the points for all but four of the first 26 races in 2006. Johnson has scored 18 top-10 finishes in 28 races this season, tied with Matt Kenseth for the most among all drivers. Johnson's best Kansas finish was sixth last year, and he has three top-10 finishes in four races there. He also has qualified in the top four three of the four times. "Our goal this weekend is to win practice, win the pole and win the race," he said. "Not necessarily in that order. I've never won at Kansas and I couldn't think of a better weekend to win there than this weekend. Like I told you last week, don't count us out. I think this Lowe's team can make up a lot of points in a quick period of time. Our plan is to show that starting at Kansas."
  • Last week: Johnson finished 13th in the Dover and climbed from ninth to eighth in the standings. "What's a great day for one driver may be a disaster for another," Johnson lamented. "What might be a good day in June for that driver might seem like a bummer in September. That's kind of how Dover was for us last weekend. We finished 13th and ran really well throughout the day and would have finished better if we hadn't got caught out on a yellow flag. But I'd have to say when it was over we were all disappointed. I guess it boils down to expectations. Although 13th is a good run -- better than what happened to us in New Hampshire and better than what happened to a few guys at Dover -- we had pretty high expectations and thought we would walk away with the trophy."
  • Etc.: Johnson leads all drivers this season in quality passes with 1,424. Those are passes of drivers running in the top 15. Johnson's driver rating of 105.6 at Kansas Speedway is sixth-best among his fellow drivers. Johnson has run the fastest lap at Kansas 14 times, fourth best among all drivers.

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    9) Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Kahne's best start at Kansas (second) came during his rookie season in 2004. He led 39 laps and finished 12th in that race. He has no poles, no wins, no top-fives and no top-10s in his two races at Kansas but has completed all 534 laps. "I know Kenny (Francis, team director) and the crew will have a great car at Kansas," Kahne said. Kahne is 182 points out of the lead.
  • Last week: Unable to avoid Tony Stewart's spinning Chevrolet, Kahne finished 38th in the Dover 400 and dropped from eighth to ninth in the standings. "We've had disappointing finishes in the first two races in the Chase," said Kahne. "The accident last week was a devastating blow to our title hopes. Those things happen. We're disappointed, but there are eight races left. We have a great team. The guys have done an awesome job this year. We'll regroup just fine. Maybe we'll dominate the last eight races, who knows? We had an awesome race car at Dover."
  • Etc.: Kahne's average starting position at Kansas is 22nd and his average finishing position is 15th.

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    10) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Busch has 15 top-10 finishes and 20 top-15s in 28 races in 2006 but has never led and never had a top-10 in his two races at Kansas. He finished 21st in this race one year ago, and his 29.0 average finish there ranks ninth among the top 10 drivers. He will drive chassis No. 394, a new car that was tested at Kentucky Speedway earlier this month. "Sometimes the tracks you race on once a year take a little longer to get adjusted to, but it should be a quick adjustment," Busch said. "We didn't have a very good run (last year at Kansas), but Kansas is a pretty cool place; it is sort of like Chicago. We've run well at Chicago and we run well at Vegas, both similar type tracks to Kansas. The biggest thing for us going in to Kansas is to make sure we get a good finish. We will probably run the same setup we did at California or at Chicago and see if we can't rebound with a strong finish there and keep going."
  • Last week: A 40th-place finish at Dover has virtually dropped Busch out of contention in the Chase. "I can sit here and say we're done, but I guess you never know until it's over," Busch said. "I guess we won't know until Homestead, but right now it doesn't look good for the No. 5."
  • Etc.: The No. 5 crew is still in a tie with the No. 48 crew of Jimmie Johnson for first place in the pit-crew competition.

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    11) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Stewart has two fourth-place finishes, two eighths and a 14th in the five races at Kansas. Stewart, who has led only one lap in the five events, and Jeff Gordon are the only active drivers with four top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile speedway.
  • Last week: On lap 12 of the 400-lap race at Dover, Stewart spun and collected Chase contender Kasey Kahne. "Wrecking is one thing, but when you take out somebody that's in the Chase, you've screwed up a whole team's year," said an upset Stewart. "And of all people, it's one of my good friends." Stewart was able to return to the race and finished 33rd.
  • Etc.: Stewart said, "I don't think this Chase thing was thought out well enough. The guys that have an opportunity to win the Chase are the guys that just don't have bad luck. That's all there is to it. It's not about anything else. This Chase thing needs a lot of work, and it's not a matter of how many cars make the Chase. It goes a lot deeper than that.."

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    12) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: In the last two races at Kansas, Biffle has finished third and second and has led 111 laps. He is the only driver with two consecutive top-five finishes there.
  • Last week: Biffle's fifth-place finish at Dover was his fourth top-10 at the Monster Mile in nine starts. It allowed him to close to within 214 points of Tony Stewart in the battle for the million-dollar bonus that goes to the 11th-place finisher in the point standings. "We were not the fastest car, but we were a top-five car and that is where we finished, so it was a good day," said Biffle.
  • Etc.: Biffle would not change a thing about the Chase. "I really like the way it is," said Biffle. "I like the format. I like the way that it works. I think it works well. I've heard rumblings of a wild-card person, like maybe the guy who has won the most races, but I don't know that I'd do anything to it."

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    13) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Edwards was third in this race a year ago. He led one lap in that event and hopes to lead a lot more this weekend as he goes after his initial victory in 2006. "It would be really neat to get our first win at my hometown," said Edwards, a native of Columbia, Mo. "We ran really well there a year ago."
  • Last week: Edwards finished second at Dover, his 14th top-10 finish of 2006. "Track position was really important today," said Edwards. "My car was just unbelievable at the beginning of the race, and anytime I could get away from everybody and be in clean air, I was in way better position. This was the best car I've ever had here. It was a blast to drive."
  • Etc.: While Edwards is winless in 2006, he does have nine top-five finishes, or more than four of the 10 drivers in the Chase. Of the Chase drivers, only Matt Kenseth (13), Jeff Gordon (12) and Kevin Harvick (12) have scored more top-fives than Edwards.

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    14) Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing South
  • This week: Busch has two top-10 finishes in the five Kansas races. He will be driving the car that he piloted to second-place finishes in both races at Pocono earlier this year. "It's a strong car that Kurt seems to like a lot," said crew chief Roy McCauley.
  • Last week: Busch was all smiles after his fourth-place finish at Dover. "It was a real good day for us," said Busch. "We were trying something new, trying to get a jump on next year, and it really paid dividends today. We didn't have any problems, and that's what it takes to have a good, solid run these days."
  • Etc.: Busch, the 2004 Nextel Cup champion, thinks former teammate Matt Kenseth will win the 2006 title. "No driver and team are as consistent as Matt and the 17 team," said Busch. "I don't see any weak spots from them for the remainder of the season. Busch rates Jeff Gordon as his second choice. "Some people might be surprised that I have Jeff with the second-best odds, but maybe not after his performance during the first two races of the Chase," Busch said

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    15) Casey Mears, No. 42 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Mears finished eighth at Kansas a year ago, his first top-10 finish at the track. "We are still trying to finish as high in the points as we can and still win a race before the year is over," said Mears. "We still believe we can win one before we move on (to Hendrick Motorsports in 2007)."
  • Last week: Mears ran out of fuel with less than three laps remaining at Dover and ended up 22nd. Mears was running 14th when he was forced to pit for gas. "We needed one more caution to make it to the end," said Mears. "We knew it was a gamble (to run the final 100 miles without stopping)."
  • Etc.: Car owner Chip Ganassi announced Sunday that Juan Pablo Montoya had been released from his Formula One contract and would begin testing immediately for his Nextel Cup debut. Montoya's first test was Monday in an ARCA car at Talladega. "We want to get him in as many races as we can the rest of the year, and if that's ARCA, Busch or Cup it really doesn't matter," said Ganassi.

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    16) Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Bowyer grew up just over 100 miles southwest of Kansas Speedway in Emporia, Kansas. "Going home is a big deal for me and my family," said Bowyer. "I've got a big fan following, and all my family and friends are still back in Kansas. It's important for me to run well (this weekend)." Bowyer will be making his first Cup start at his home track.
  • Last week: Even though his engine started going sour in the waning laps at Dover, Bowyer was able to finish eighth for his second top-10 finish in the last four races. He now has eight top-10 finishes in his rookie season. "That's a really good run," said crew chief Gil Martin. "We were really happy with the car. We were able to salvage an eighth-place out of that so the day wasn't a total wash."
  • Etc.: Bowyer remembers driving by Kansas Speedway "three or four years ago on the way to a dirt track" and dreaming about racing there someday. "Now it's a reality. It's pretty cool," he said.

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    17) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Dodge, Penske Racing South
  • This week: Newman and Jeff Gordon lead all drivers with three top-five finishes at Kansas. In 2003, Newman led a top-three finish for Dodge. That remains the only top-three sweep for Dodge since the car manufacturer returned to Cup racing full-time in 2001. "We've struggled at the intermediate tracks this year, and we're hoping to figure something out since we race quite a few of these tracks in these last eight races," said Newman.
  • Last week: Newman led the first 28 laps at Dover, but the team struggled afterward and an ill-timed caution flag forced Newman to be content with a 24th-place finish. "It felt great leading early today, but we still didn't get the finish we needed," said Newman. "I like a lot these tracks coming up, so we'll keep digging and see if we can park the Alltel Dodge in Victory Lane soon."
  • Etc.: Newman said that not being in the Chase "gives us a chance to try things on our cars that we probably wouldn't try if we were running for the championship. We've got to figure out what the problems have been for us, though, and now is the time to try experimenting with different setups."

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    18) Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: The Joplin, Mo., native has two top-10 finishes in three starts at Kansas and is looking forward to running at his home track. "It's always neat to see all the fans from back home coming out to the track to support us," said McMurray.
  • Last week: McMurray rallied in the final 100 laps at Dover to finish 17th and move up one spot in the standings to 18th. McMurray is only 102 points out of 15th place. "It's a shame we weren't able to catch a caution flag early during that long green-flag run," said McMurray. "That would have made all the difference in the world today."
  • Etc.: Crew chief Bob Osborne said the team is taking a "brand-new car out of the Roush stable. The guys at the fab shop have worked really hard on this car over the last few weeks. We are expecting a lot out of this car, and with this being Jamie's home track, we want to make sure he runs well."

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    19) Brian Vickers, No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Vickers has finished 11th and 19th in his two starts at Kansas. "Kansas has been a good track for the Hendrick Motorsports teams with Jeff (Gordon) winning twice and Jimmie (Johnson) running well (three top-10 finishes in four races)," said Vickers. "We still feel we can win a race before the year is over."
  • Last week: Vickers battled major handling problems all afternoon at Dover as he limped home in 29th place, five laps back of winner Jeff Burton. On several occasions, Vickers said the car felt like it was in "a four-wheel drift, making it tough to steer." None of the adjustments the crew made seemed to help correct the problem.
  • Etc.: Vickers believes "there should be more of a points separation from first to 10th place in the Chase. It's great that the 10th-place driver has the opportunity to win the championship, but I don't think it should be as easy. I'd like to see more of a cushion than just the 50 points that separate first from 10th when the tallies are reset for the final 10 races."

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    20) Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Sadler has one top-five finish in five starts at Kansas. His best finish in the other four races is 12th. Sadler said he "can't wait to get to Kansas this weekend. I'm excited. I think we will be very competitive. I think we're going to be really, really good at tracks like Kansas, Charlotte and Atlanta."
  • Last week: Sadler finished 16th at Dover. "Overall, we had a great day," he said. "We ran very well. We led some laps, but we just got caught on that caution one time (he had just pitted when the yellow came out to drop him off the lead lap). We can't help that. We definitely had a top-five car today."
  • Etc.: Sadler has five finishes of 16th or better in his six starts since joining Evernham Motorsports. "The communication continues to improve," said Sadler. "Josh (Brown, team director) understands what I'm looking for in the race car and he's make good calls on adjustments."

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    21) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Sorenson will be making his first Nextel Cup start at Kansas. He'll be driving the same car he almost won with at California, with one important improvement. "We've got a new engine package we're trying out that I'm told has more torque," he said.
  • Last week: Sorenson led once for 39 laps at Dover and was running fourth with two laps to go when he ran out of gas. As a result, he ended up 11th. "Looking back on it we probably should've pitted for gas during that last caution (with 77 laps remaining), even if we didn't get tires," said Sorenson. "I think our car was good enough to finish top-five, and it was. Still, we had a really good car today, probably one of the best performances we've had all year."
  • Etc.: Sorenson said he found a "line" at Dover that "I'd never dreamed that I'd run. I was running up high and then there at the end I'd diamond it and come right off the bottom there. I learned a lot today about this race track and different grooves you can run."

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    22) Scott Riggs, No. 10 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Riggs has not fared well at Kansas Speedway. In his two starts at the 1.5-mile track, his best finish is 26th. But because Evernham Motorsports has run so well at the intermediate tracks this season, Riggs is optimistic about this weekend. "I think it will be another good weekend for all three Evernham teams," said Riggs.
  • Last week: Riggs finished 34th after suffering tire problems and crashing with a little more than an l00 laps left in the Dover event. "The car wasn't bad," said Riggs. "We kept making adjustments to it, and it'd go from tight to loose. We were trying to find a happy medium between all our (tire) pressures and stuff (when the accident happened)."
  • Etc.: Riggs still has hopes of finishing in the top 20 in the point race. He is only 68 points back of teammate Elliott Sadler. "And we've still got a shot at the top 15," adds Riggs, who is only 170 points out of 15th place.

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    23) Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Truex will be making his Nextel Cup debut at Kansas. He hopes to duplicate Ryan Newman's first start at the 1.5-mile track when Newman finished second in 2002 for the only top-five finish by a rookie at Kansas. Four other first-year drivers have earned top-10 finishes at the facility.
  • Last week: Truex finished a career-best sixth at Dover as he won the rookie of the race honors for the first time this season. He gave his pit crew a lot of the credit. "We had a fast car and some incredible pit stops," he said. "They've worked so hard to make us better, and I'm glad to see them get rewarded."
  • Etc.: Truex said he was glad to finally get the finish the team deserved. "We've run like this a bunch of times and didn't have anything to show for it," he said. "It's been a really tough year. It's really tested all of us and made us all better"

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    24) Dale Jarrett, No. 88 Ford, Robert Yates Racing
  • This week: Jarrett has one top-10 finish in the five Cup races held at Kansas, an eighth in 2004. His four other finishes are 30th or worse. So it came as no surprise when Jarrett said "the track hasn't been that kind to us, certainly, but that doesn't make it a place I don't look forward to racing at."
  • Last week: Jarrett finished 15th at Dover for his third top-15 finish in the last five races. "The car got really tight there during the first part of the race, and it just wouldn't turn," said Jarrett. "Butch (Hylton, the crew chief) and the team made some good calls, and we got a little lucky there at the end of the race with the way the cautions fell and got a top-15 finish."
  • Etc.: Jarrett said that every team has an "obligation to ourselves and to our sponsors to give it everything we can (during the Chase). Just because it didn't work out that we are a part of the Chase, I think that's motivation to go work harder."

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    25) Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Dodge, Petty Enterprises
  • This week: Kansas has not been one of Labonte's better tracks; his best finish in the five races at the 1.5-mile track is 16th. And that is why he is glad he is running both races this weekend. Saturday, Labonte will drive the No. 77 Busch Series car owned by Kevin Harvick. "This is an opportunity that will help us be even more competitive on Sunday," said Labonte.
  • Last week: Good pit strategy and a little luck allowed Labonte to finish seventh, his fifth top-10 finish of the season. Labonte rallied from a lap down, and when the cautions fell the right way late in the race he was one of only 11 cars on the lead lap. "We know where our car is off," said crew chief Paul Andrews. "We adjusted to our limits today. We know where the problems are. We can fix it."
  • Etc.: The Richard Petty Driving Experience will take its Safe Driving Program to Texas A&M University on Thursday and Friday with hands-on training and demonstrations intended to make the Aggies more safety conscious behind the steering wheel. It will be the first university-oriented program of its type offered in Texas.

  • Go back to the top
    Tagged: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Reed Sorenson, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Casey Mears, Dale Jarrett, Scott Riggs, Kasey Kahne

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