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Virtual Pit Reporter: News on top 25 Cup teams

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1) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: As the Nextel Cup series heads into one of its few off weekends, Johnson continues to lead the points after just two races. ... Johnson has scored top-10 finishes in seven of the nine races since Kansas City last October. One year ago he ranked second in the point standings. ... Johnson has ranked among the top 10 for 71 straight races, since Atlanta in March 2004. ... After the break, it's off to Las Vegas, where he has competed in four races at the desert 1.5-mile oval and scored two top-10 finishes, including one victory (2005). ... Johnson has never finished worse than 16th (March 2004) at Las Vegas and has led in all four of his races there. He has an 8.5 average finish at the track, second only to the late Dale Earnhardt, who had a 7.6 average finish in three races there.
  • Last week: Johnson finished second in the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. Johnson gave it a shot to get by Matt Kenseth on the final restart but couldn't pull off the move. "We're on such a run right now, we want to keep up the momentum," Johnson said. "I thought if I could get to his outside, we might have a chance because it would slow us all down, but as soon as I got to the corner, I could feel my tires chattering. I stayed on the gas a little bit and tried to get underneath him. I gave it a shot, but he had a better car than I did at that point."
  • Etc.: Interim crew chief Darian Grubb continues to impress while he fills in for the suspended Chad Knaus, who doesn't return to the pit box until Bristol at the end of March. In two races, Grubb's worst finish is second place. He was the winning crew chief for the Daytona 500. "Darian should just retire, the way I look at it," Johnson said. "He has four races. Then he should just hang it up and say, 'Man, I was a crew chief and I won the Daytona 500.'"

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    2) Casey Mears, No. 42 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Mears joins Jimmie Johnson as the only drivers to start the season with top-10 finishes in both races. ... Mears begins the season with his career-best points ranking. One year ago he ranked 28th in the point standings. ... Mears has scored top-10 finishes in four of the five races since Texas last November. He finished fourth at Texas, fifth at Homestead, second in the 2006 Daytona 500 and seventh at California. ... Mears has competed in three races at Las Vegas, posting top-15 finishes in all three. Despite his good performance there, he has yet to lead a lap. Mears finished seventh in this race one year ago, duplicating his best Las Vegas finish set in 2004. He has a 9.67 average finish there.
  • Last week: Mears finished seventh at California. "This is what we needed," Mears said. "Our goal was to come out of here with a top-five. We got a top-10, so we've got to be happy with that. It's not going to be easy, but no one said it was going to be easy. It's never easy. I think we've come a long way. I think I've come a long way as a driver. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I just know how much I've learned. I feel like I'm with a great team that makes good decisions and builds good race cars. We've definitely got some work to do with those guys running up front. It's one thing to be running inside the top 10, but it's half a second to get with those guys running in the top three. We've got to go to work and put our heads together to figure out what we're going to do to beat those guys. I feel a lot more confident. I guess it's comfortable more than confident, knowing what I'm getting into week in and week out and knowing what to expect, just more knowledgeable rather than more confident."
  • Etc.: While several Dodge teams chose to run the 2004 Intrepid rather than the 2006 Charger at California, Mears' team stuck with the newer model. "We've got a lot of work to do to get it as good as the car we had at Homestead last November," Mears said. "It didn't turn as well and didn't have the forward bite off the corner. It felt like it was lacking grip. We'll keep working on it."

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    3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Kenseth gained a startling 12 positions in the Nextel Cup points with his victory at California Speedway. But then, it was only the second race of the season, so a huge points gain is possible with 34 races left in the season. ... Kenseth climbed from 15th to third in the standings. One year ago, Kenseth ranked 36th. ... Kenseth has posted top-15 finishes in the first two races in 2006. He has scored four top-five finishes in his last six races, since Atlanta last October. He has competed in six races at Las Vegas, scoring top-10 finishes in his last three races there. Kenseth has scored two victories at Las Vegas (2003 and 2004). His 9.2 finishing average is fourth among all drivers at Las Vegas. Kenseth finished eighth in this race one year ago.
  • Last week: Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 at California, scoring his first top-10 finish of the season. "We had a pretty decent car except for qualifying," Kenseth said. "We had to keep adjusting on it all day and had some great pit stops. But with Greg's problem (Biffle's engine trouble) and a great pit stop, it opened the door for us at the end. Those positions made all the difference for us at the end of the race."
  • Etc.: It was a clean sweep this weekend for team owner Jack Roush, who also won Friday's Craftsman Truck Series race with Mark Martin behind the wheel and Saturday's Busch race with Biffle taking the checkered flag. "The idea of being able to win all three of these races at California with three different drivers is something that's great," Roush said. "I'm going to put this one in the bank and try to draw from it in the future."

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    4) Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Kahne gained eight spots in the points with his fourth-place finish at California. This ties his best points ranking, set after Atlanta in March 2004. One year ago he ranked 34th in the standings. ... Kahne has scored top-15 finishes in the first two races in 2006. He has competed in two races at Las Vegas. He finished second in 2004 and 38th last year.
  • Last week: Kahne finished fourth at California. "We'll take it and go on to Las Vegas," Kahne said. "We have more work to do on the Dodge Charger. This car handled identical to the one we had here last year, so we know we're not where we want to be with the Charger. We're making progress and will continue to make it better. The finish wasn't a surprise. We had good pit stops, and Kenny (Francis, the team director) and the crew made good adjustments on the car. The car was loose on entry, and we didn't let it get away from us. That's the important thing. We had a handle on the car throughout the race and know what the car needed on the next stop to make it better. We had a good finish, a good points day."
  • Etc.: Kahne earned his fourth top-10 finish at California Speedway.

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    5) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Inc.
  • This week: Earnhardt returned to the top five for the first time since Daytona in February 2005, ending a 36-race absence. ... He has posted two top-15 finishes in 2006. ... Earnhardt has competed in six races at Las Vegas, scoring just two top-10 finishes there. He has finished 35th or worse in his last two races there. ... He finished 42nd in this race one year ago. Earnhardt has a 21.3 average finish at the Vegas track.
  • Last week: Earnhardt finished 11th in the Auto Club 500 and climbed from sixth to fifth in the standings. "It's a good little race track," Earnhardt said. "We're just trying to get our car to handle good. But I like coming here. We've totally missed it setup-wise at a lot of tracks like this. This is not really news to everybody, but we've definitely got it turned around in the right direction. Just how much we've gained, I'm not sure."
  • Etc.: Dale Earnhardt Jr. checked in on where he'd like to see the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "Charlotte, because I'm sure NASCAR is going to ask the drivers to make a few appearances over there and it would be right in my backyard," said Earnhardt, who lives 35 miles north in Mooresville, N.C.

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    6) Mark Martin, No. 6 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Martin climbed from 11th to sixth in the point standings Sunday. One year ago he ranked third. He has scored six straight top-15 finishes, since Atlanta last October. He has had only one Did Not Finish (Talladega in October 2005, because of an accident) in the 26 races since Dover in June 2005. ... Martin has competed in eight races at Las Vegas, scoring one victory (1998) and six top-10 finishes, the most among all drivers there. He finished 30th in this race one year ago and has a 12.6 average finish there.
  • Last week: Martin was ninth at California.
  • Etc.: NASCAR has its own version of "Groundhog Day" -- Mark Martin, Todd Bodine and Ted Musgrave finished 1-2-3 in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at California. That's the same order of finish in last week's Truck Series season opener at Daytona. Martin took the checkered flag in a Ford F-150, just ahead of the Toyota Tundras driven by Bodine and Musgrave. "I'm having a blast," Martin said. "It's a privilege to drive this Ford F-150," Martin said.

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    7) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Dodge, Penske Racing South
  • This week: Newman has ranked among the top-10 in 28 of the last 29 races; he dropped to 11th after Fontana last September for one race. Newman has competed in five races at Las Vegas, scoring three top-10 finishes and leading in three of the five. His best Las Vegas finish, a fourth, came there in 2002. Newman finished ninth in this race one year ago and has a 16.0 average finish at the 1.5-mile oval.
  • Last week: Newman finished 20th at Fontana and dropped from third to seventh in the point race. One year ago he ranked 12th in points. "We made a lot of changes overnight, and we finally got the car good at the end," Newman said. "It was just too little, too late. That's pretty much it. We were way too tight the whole race until basically the last three runs. By that time we were a lap down. We passed seventh and eighth there at the end there, so we had about a sixth- or seventh-place car. It's just unfortunate we got behind."
  • Etc.: Ryan and his wife, Krissie, have published a book for the Ryan Newman Foundation, "Pit Road Pets: NASCAR Stars and Their Pets."

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    8) Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Bowyer has begun the 2006 season with two top-15 finishes, the best record among the 2006 Rookie of the Year contenders. ... Bowyer's first start came last April at Phoenix, where he finished 22nd.
  • Last week: Bowyer finished 14th at California and remained eighth in the standings. "That is a good run for us, as poorly as we qualified, to bounce back and rally back to get a 14th-place finish," Bowyer said. "I'm proud of the guys. We worked on the car a lot, and the car got real tight. They kept working on it and getting it better and better. But the caution came out and you have to play the cards you are dealt. You're just trying to do the best you can on the final restart. Everybody is going everywhere, and you've just got to go for it."
  • Etc.: Bowyer believes it's all about momentum after starting off the season with two fine finishes. "We've just got to keep this momentum going," Bowyer said. "This is what we needed to do."

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    8) Brian Vickers, No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Vickers ranked 20th at this point one year ago. Vickers has competed in two races at Las Vegas and has finished 23rd and 43rd.
  • Last week: Vickers finished 18th at California and dropped from seventh to ninth in the points battle. Vickers started off the weekend with a 28th-place qualification effort, so gaining 10 spots in the race was one of the few highlights of his weekend.
  • Etc.: It wouldn't be a race at California Speedway without some celebrities. Hilary Duff and her sister Haylie were two of the stars who took in the race on Sunday. "We are really excited to be here," said Hilary, the 19-year-old Disney actress and singer. "We don't know much about the sport, but our grandma and our dad love the sport. On the way in we saw campers. It's so nice to see everyone with their families. That's really important." ... Another star, Jewell, performed a concert before the race and sang the national anthem. "It was exciting to go around on the parade lap," she said. "NASCAR is really fun to be around."

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    10) Elliott Sadler, No. 38 Ford, Robert Yates Racing
  • This week: Sadler has ranked 14th or better in the points since the 2004 Daytona 500, 74 straight races. He has competed in seven races at Las Vegas, scoring just one top-10 finish, a sixth in 2004. He finished 29th in this race one year ago. His other Las Vegas finishes have all been 20th or worse, and his average finish is 28.4.
  • Last week: Sadler finished 23rd at California and dropped from fourth to 10th in the points.
  • Etc.: The Ford Fusion registered its first Nextel Cup victory on Sunday in only its second series start. ... Fusion is the seventh different Ford model in NASCAR history to win a Cup event, joining Taurus, Thunderbird, Torino, Galaxie, Fairlane and the original Ford. ... The last time Ford Racing swept a NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Busch and Nextel Cup Series weekend was when Roush Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Jeff Burton combined to win all three events at Phoenix in 2001. Biffle captured the Truck and Busch events, and Burton won the Cup feature.

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    11) Dale Jarrett, No. 88 Ford, Robert Yates Racing
  • This week: Jarrett will be sitting on the sidelines this week as he takes a week off to spend time with the family. With the weather in the Carolinas forecast to be in the 70s, Jarrett might even take in a round of golf with his father, Ned, a two-time Cup champion. Dale is one of the top golfers among the many drivers that play the game.
  • Last week: After finishing 17th at California to drop out of the top 10, Jarrett said, "The car just would not go at the beginning of a run. I don't know if it would have been different with old tires on the car or not. We just had too many cautions at the end and gave up a lot of spots. We were good on long runs, and that is what we needed at the end to have any shot (of a top-10 finish)."
  • Etc.: Jarrett's son Jason has decided to temporarily end his racing career and help his dad run the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure. "I have been racing since 1992, and I am excited about this new opportunity with Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure," Jason said. "Racing has been my life, and I look forward to giving our customers that one-of-a-kind experience."

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    12) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Busch will race this weekend in the Busch Series event in Mexico City. "I've talked to some guys who went down last year, and they all had a great time," says Busch. "It's going to be cool to see what it's like to be there with Adrian (Fernandez, who will drive a second Hendrick Motorsports car in the event). The guys on the team have told me from working with him last year how incredibly popular he is there, so I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself."
  • Last week: Busch finished 10th at California to jump to 12th in the point standings. "We would have liked to have finished a little closer to the front, but we will take this," Busch said. "It is a good points finish and gets the rest of the season off to a positive start. The crew worked really hard, so I am real proud for my whole crew and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports."
  • Etc.: Kellogg Company has packaged more than six million boxes of Frosted Flakes featuring Busch on the front. The special edition box also highlights "A Triumph of Teamwork" with member of the 5 crew showcased on the back. "I can't tell you how exciting it is," said Busch. "Being on the front of a cereal box is big-time for me. It's really cool, especially for my crew guys who are on the box. I hope we gain a ton of young fans because of it."

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    13) Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Truex will not defend his victory in the Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 this weekend. Instead of going to Mexico City, Truex will spent the week relaxing. "I had a great time in Mexico City last year, but since I'm not running the Busch Series this year I'm going to enjoy the week off," he said.
  • Last week: Truex finished 15th at California to move up three spots in the standings. "It was a good day," said Truex. "Our car was really loose off the corners all day. We made a lot of changes throughout the race and got it better and better. California is not of my best tracks, so to come out of here with a 15th is really great."
  • Etc.: Truex, who is tied for 13th in the Nextel Cup point standings after the first two races, agrees with his fellow rookie drivers that it will take a spot in the top 10 at the end of the season to win the 2006 rookie of the year award. "It is just that strong of a (rookie) class," Truex said.

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    14) Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Watching his favorite basketball team -- the Duke Blue Devils -- will occupy a good portion of Burton's week off from the Nextel Cup Series. But Burton admits he will be eager to get to Las Vegas because "I am so excited about this year. All the tests we have had in our Cingular Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS this year have been really good."
  • Last week: Burton was all smiles after his fifth-place finish at California. "We kept making changes and making changes, and by the end of the race we were really good," said Burton. "We got off a little bit and got it back. That's what I'm most proud of was to get it back. I really like it when you get tight and then you can make an adjustment and make the car too loose. We were our best when it counted, and that's a good thing."
  • Etc.: Burton said it is past time to take "baby steps" in the team's quest to run up front and win races. "It's just time to go," he said. "All of our sponsors deserve to run up front and it's time to go. This new Monte Carlo is certainly better (than last year's version)."

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    15) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Gordon plans to get as far away from the racing scene as he can during one of the rare off weeks during the Nextel Cup season. But he knows the 2006 season has not gotten off to the start that he and the DuPont crew wanted. Instead, bad luck has kept Gordon from the two top-10 finishes he envisioned in the first two races of the season. He hopes to rebound with a good, solid run -- and finish -- at Las Vegas.
  • Last week: Gordon overcame battery problems to finish 13th at California. "I thought we had a motor problem at first because of the way it was acting," said Gordon. "I looked at all the gauges and I finally looked at the voltmeter and it was gone or down to zero. We were just so loose on new tires that we'd lose a lot of time. But we were one of the best cars on the long runs."
  • Etc.: Gordon believes that putting on a good race at California Speedway is "just really difficult. I don't know what we've got to do. I think we've got the cars so good that we're just all running around the bottom of the race track."

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    16) Ken Schrader, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers/JTG Racing
  • This week: Schrader is one driver who wants to race every week of the season, so he will be heading to Texas Motor Speedway and "run the dirt car Friday and Saturday in the Pro Cuts dirt race." On Thursday, he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be holding a press conference in Paducah, Ky., "to announce our schedule and everything we are doing at our race track there," says Schrader. "We just bought it over the winter. It is a real nice little place."
  • Last week: Schrader finished 28th at California. "It was loose, just loose, loose all day," said Schrader. Crew chief David Hyder attempted to tighten up the ill-handling car with numerous adjustments on every pit stop, but nothing seemed to work. "It wasn't pretty, but it could have been worse," added Schrader.
  • Etc.: Glen and Leonard Wood will be inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame on April 22. The induction ceremony will take place in Portsmouth, Va. The Hall, established in 1972, is for athletes, coaches, administrators and other contributors to Virginia sports. Wood Brothers Racing has won 97 races in its more than 50 years of racing in the Cup Series.

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    17) Robby Gordon, No. 7 Chevrolet, Robby Gordon Motorsports
  • This week: Gordon and the team plan to use the week off to get ready for the next five-week run. "If the guys in the shop and the guys on pit road keep doing what they've done for the first two races, we'll be able to run with some of the bigger teams, and that was our goal coming in (to 2006)," Gordon said.
  • Last week: Gas-mileage problems ended any hopes Gordon had of finishing in the top 10 at California. "We had a top-10 car," said Gordon. "But once we had the problem in the pits, which put us two laps down, we just wanted to finish as the first car on our lap, and we did." Gordon said he had just crossed the start-finish line on lap 79 and was going to pit on the ensuing lap when the fuel-pressure gauge started to fluctuate. "Between losing fuel pickup on that lap and then stalling it when we got to pit road caused us to lose so much track position," he said.
  • Etc.: Gordon said he is "very confident" that his single-car team can contend for a top-10 spot in the point standings. "It's not about how many cars you field that determines where you'll finish," he said, "it's how well prepared each of these cars are, and I believe we're as well prepared as most."

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    18) Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: McMurray will drive the Rusty Wallace-owned Dodge in Sunday's Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 at the 2.518-mile road course in Mexico City. McMurray will be one of nine Nextel Cup drivers competing in the Busch Series event.
  • Last week: After finishing sixth at California, McMurray said he told his team, "You guys have just really fast race cars here. I whined the entire race that it was too tight and we were still running in the top five, top eight most of the day. I'm just very, very excited (about the rest of the season)." McMurray joined the Roush Racing team during the offseason. "I'm just fortunate to be part of this (organization)," McMurray said after his second consecutive top-10 finish at California. He was fourth a year ago.
  • Etc.: McMurray said one of the big benefits of running for Jack Roush is the ability to get information from others in the organization, such as Greg Biffle. "It was nice during happy hour to pull notes from Greg's car because I felt he was the best," said McMurray. "He had a little different rear springs, and we tried his springs and that's what we ended up racing."

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    19) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Harvick does not have the week off -- he will be driving the Coast Guard Chevrolet in Sunday's Busch Series race in Mexico City. Harvick finished second in the inaugural race at Mexico City a year ago. Harvick is scheduled to drive the No. 21 car in 30 Busch Series events in 2006.
  • Last week: Harvick suffered through a long day at California as he battled an ill-handling race car all afternoon and finished a disappointing 29th. Harvick said the car started out loose and then got tight after the team made numerous changes. "We just couldn't get the car right," said crew chief Todd Berrier.
  • Etc.: Harvick said he decided to run the full Busch Series schedule "before NASCAR changed the impound schedule. However, with NASCAR backing off practice time, limiting our tests and limiting the amount of tires available, I think it will give us a chance to understand the tire pressures and how they are wearing. I also enjoy running in the Busch Series because it gives me a chance to do what I love without all the pressure of the Cup Series."

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    20) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Hamlin heads to Mexico City this weekend to compete in the second Busch Series race ever held in Mexico. Hamlin admits road racing is not his strong point, but he says he is looking forward to the race to gain the experience he needs to run well on road courses.
  • Last week: Hamlin was the top closer at California as the rookie driver picked up seven positions in the final 25 laps to finish 12th. "That was a late race rally for sure," he said, smiling. "We were pretty bad there in the middle of the race. We battled back. We got the car a little bit better."
  • Etc.: Hamlin said he thought he got "better and better as the race (at California) went on. The biggest thing is track experience. You can't beat it. I had a lot of fun out there." He paused before adding, "I gained a lot of friends and enemies, but that's what you've got to do late in the race."

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    BEST OF THE REST

    21) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Edwards spent the first part of the week snowboarding before heading to Mexico City for the Busch Series race on Sunday. "Road racing will be a blast," says Edwards. "I can't wait. Do something different is good. It's going to be a fun week."
  • Last week: Edwards was his usual jovial self after his third-place finish at California. "I had a blast," said a smiling Edwards. "It was just a fun day. We had some bad luck in the (Daytona) 500, but every day is a new day and I tell you what, if anything, that was a motivator. We probably had a fifth- to ninth-place car and we ended up third, so for that I'm really excited. I was just so happy to finish and be able to see the leader."
  • Etc.: Edwards admitted he had a "terrible night" as he flew home after the Daytona 500. "I just couldn't believe that we started the year like that (finishing 43rd and last after being involved in a wreck)," added Edwards. "So many people patted me on the back and said, 'Don't worry, Mark Martin started 40th in points and he's been able to make it (the top 10, qualifying for the Chase).' The deal now is just to make that Chase."

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    22) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Stewart will not be racing at Mexico City this weekend. Instead, he plans to enjoy the week off from the Nextel Cup grind. Stewart will spend part of the week working on the opening of his track in Eldora, Ind.
  • Last week: Stewart was in a positive mood following the Auto Club 500 despite suffering engine failure and finishing last (43rd). "To be able to fight back from a (flat) tire problem and a pit stop that cost us 15 spots and to do what we did today, I was really impressed," said Stewart, who was in position to contend for the win when his engine expired on lap 215. "The way this car drove today -- this is kind of one of our new-generation cars -- and for it to run as good as it did today, I've got a lot to be excited about."
  • Etc.: Stewart likes what he sees when he looks at the big picture. "We don't normally run this strong early in the season, so I'm really excited about where we're at right now," he said. "Last year when we were here (California) we were in bad shape when we left, and we knew we had a lot of work to do."

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    23) J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Yeley is one of seven Nextel Cup drivers who are planning to run the full Busch Series schedule. As a result, he will be in Mexico City this weekend hoping to boost his hopes for a championship run in that series.
  • Last week: Yeley finished eighth at California for his best finish in his brief Nextel Cup career. The Auto Club 500 was his eighth start in the Cup Series. "We definitely needed a good finish after Daytona, which puts back to 41st in points," said Yeley. "We want to get up there and be solid every week, and this is a good race to start if off. Our first top-10 sounds good."
  • Etc.: Yeley said his top-10 run at California was a "big confidence boost. It was kind of a throwback to what I'm used to, put the thing up on the fence and let her eat. Man, that was a lot of fun."

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    24) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Sorenson is looking forward to his second trip to Mexico City. "It was a mind-opening experience racing in Mexico last year," says Sorenson. "To travel to another country and just be thrown into another culture, it is really interesting and it totally broadens your mind. Our goal this weekend is to get a top 10." Sorenson made his road-racing debut a year ago in the Mexican event.
  • Last week: A pit road miscue and a miscommunication ruined any chance Sorenson had of finishing in the top 10 at California. The rookie driver was running in the top 10 when he made a routine green-flag pit stop on lap 134. However during the pit stop, a lug nut fell off the left rear and Sorenson had to pit a second time. This put him a lap down. He thought he had earned the lap back with 25 laps to go when NASCAR told his crew they were the beneficiaries of the "Lucky Dog Award." But after further review, NASCAR determined that J.J. Yeley was slightly in front of Sorensen when the caution came out. As a result, Sorenson had to be content with a 21st-place finish.
  • Etc.: Even with all his troubles at California, Sorensen left the race track believing the future is bright. "We were one of the fastest cars all day, and that is a big confidence booster," said Sorensen. "We certainly would've liked to finish better, but we can leave here knowing we had a competitive race car."

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    25) Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge, Penske South
  • This week: Busch will enjoy the weekend off before the Nextel Cup Series heads to his home track at Las Vegas. The team plans to continue to run the 2004 Intrepid. "We tested the Intrepid against the Charger at Las Vegas (last month). There's more difference between the two Dodge cars right now than there is between the Ford and the Dodge." Busch drove a Ford last year for Roush Racing.
  • Last week: The week started off on the great side as Busch won the pole position in only his second start for Penske. But he struggled during the race and then, to add to his troubles, he got hit from behind and spun off turn four with 24 laps left in the event. Busch was able to recover from the spin to finish 16th. "We just missed our setup," said Busch. "We were so fast in practice and sat on the pole, and it was hard to change the car. We learned quite a bit."
  • Etc.: Busch says his new team has cars "that can go fast when the track is fresh and green just like (Ryan) Newman has shown before. We just need to build a little more downforce into it and keep the front valence on the car. We went way too soft with the springs (at California), and that really hurt our chances."

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

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