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Virtual Pit Reporter: News on top 25 Cup teams

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1) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Kenseth's average finish of 12.1 at Texas Motor Speedway ranks second, behind Dale Earnhardt Jr., among the 10 drivers in the Chase. TMS is one of four tracks in the Chase where Kenseth has won during his Cup career. The other three are Dover, Charlotte and Phoenix. Kenseth has led the second most laps in Cup competition at TMS with 313. The most is Dale Jarrett with 407. Kenseth has led the most laps in Busch Series competition at TMS with 298. Kenseth is the all-time lap leader at Texas in NASCAR competition with 611 -- 313 in Cup and 298 in Busch. He will drive RK-267, the same car that he drove to fourth place at Atlanta. "Texas is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit," Kenseth said. "We've obviously had some success there, so that helps in my opinion of the track. But the facility is great, it's always a packed house and the fans there are great. It's a fun atmosphere, for sure. The track's kind of like Atlanta, and we're bringing our car that we ran at Atlanta last weekend. Hopefully the results will be the same or better. When we went to Texas in April, we were really fast at the end of the race, and if Kasey (Kahne) hadn't been on another planet we could've challenged for the win."
  • Last week: A fourth-place finish at Atlanta allowed Kenseth to retain first in the standings. "We finished fourth with a 44th-place car on Saturday, so the team did a great job with it," Kenseth said. "That's how we need to run to have a shot at it (the title). All the rest of those guys are going to be running in the top five, and we need to be there in order to have a shot at it."
  • Etc.: Kenseth leads the Driver Rating category at 103.1. A driver's rating is determined by a formula combining several categories, including Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps and Lead-Lap finish. The highest driver rating is 150.0. Kenseth's 10.9 Average Finishing Position in the first seven Chase events is the best of any Chase driver.

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    2) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Johnson is second in the points race, 26 behind Matt Kenseth, after earning two second-place finishes and a victory in the last three races. Johnson, who has left Atlanta second in points in all three years of the "Chase," has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in six races at Texas. "It's been a decent track for us," Johnson said. "We've been learning some things on the 1.5-miles lately and have been a lot more competitive. So I'm excited going there. Hopefully we can get up there and race for the win. But of the three tracks remaining, I guess I'm not really sure on Phoenix and Texas. But I feel really strong about Homestead. Coming into Martinsville and Atlanta, I felt like we were going to be competitive for the win. Going into Phoenix and Texas, I feel like we'll be competitive for a top-five." Johnson will be driving chassis No. 48359, which won at Indianapolis in August. The backup is No. 48363, which finished second at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October.
  • Last week: Johnson's second-place finish at Atlanta has moved him into prime contention to win the 2006 Nextel Cup. "I feel great about it," Johnson said. "But I'm sure every team feels that way, though. I'm sure Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) feels he's got a great shot. He's close, mathematically. Matt (Kenseth) is coming up to some good tracks. I think that everybody is in a good spot. I don't think anybody is really worried about not performing. It's just going to come down to luck and maybe who can outscore one another on the track."
  • Etc.: In the first seven Chase events, Johnson's Driver Rating of 106.9 is the highest of any Chase driver. Johnson is second in the season's Driver Rating with a rating of 100.8. Johnson's 7.6 Average Starting Position in the seven Chase events run so far is the best of any Chase driver. His Average Finishing Position of 6.3 at Texas is second among all drivers.

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    3) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: Hamlin's Driver Rating of 111.4 at Texas is second-best among all series drivers and the highest among all Chase drivers. The race winner this season has had a pre-race Driver Rating ranking in the top four in 13 of the 33 races. The Dickies 500 will be Hamlin's third career start at TMS in a Nextel Cup car. Hamlin ran well at Texas in the spring, qualifying eighth and finishing fourth for one of his six top-five finishes of the season. He made his debut at the track in November 2005, the same weekend he was introduced as the driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2006. Hamlin followed up the announcement by taking the checkered flag in seventh after starting 14th, recording his third top-10 finish in only his fifth career Cup start. "This is a race we have been looking forward to from the beginning of the Chase," Hamlin said. "We have been here twice and been very good both times, including leading some laps here this spring." Hamlin will drive JGR 121, the same car he drove to victory at both Pocono races, leading 234 of a possible 400 laps.
  • Last week: After fighting a loose car and dropping off the lead lap, Hamlin found his way back to finish eighth. The result moved Hamlin into third in the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings, 65 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, with three races remaining.
  • Etc.: Hamlin and members of his team showed what they can do behind the counter of a Dallas-area FedEx Kinko's on Wednesday. The crew made, packed and shipped gifts for patients at the Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth. Hamlin joined with representatives of FedEx to present Cook Children's with a donation of $25,000. For the fifth time this season, Hamlin will wear a helmet designed especially for him by a patient from a local Children's hospital. Alexis Hakalmazian, a 15-year-old Keller student and patient at Cook Children's Medical Facility, designed the helmet named "Healing Hands Coming Together in Search of a Cure" for Hamlin to wear for all Nextel Cup activity this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. "The opportunity to wear helmets designed by patients like Alexis means a lot to me and I know this whole team takes a lot of pride in racing out there for them," said Hamlin. "A lot of these kids can't make it to a race, so we try to give them the next best thing and represent them at the track. Hopefully they feel like part of our team. Plus, these helmets always seem to bring me luck in races, so I owe them a big thank you."

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    4) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Inc.
  • This week: Earnhardt always looks forward to returning to TMS. It's the track where he won his first Busch Series and Cup races. "It's very special," Earnhardt said. "I always love running there. Texas was the place where I realized I could make a career out of racing. Before our Busch Series win there in '98, I wasn't sure I was going to make it as a race car driver. I was living in a double-wide and trying to get my career going. I hadn't had much success in racing up to that point, but we won that race at Texas, and it set the foundation for our championship that year." Earnhardt won his first Cup race in just his 12th career start when he won there in 2000. Since then he has accumulated six top-10 finishes in eight races there, finishing 12th or better in each race except one. He has led five races at TMS for 253 laps. "It's super fast, takes a lot of guts to lay down a good qualifying lap there," Earnhardt said. "In turns three and four you can run three-wide, move around a little bit, and run the high-line if you want to. It's a lot of fun. In turns one and two, you're forced to run the bottom with the springs we're running in these cars now. Also, there's a huge bump between turns one and two over the tunnel. It gets worse every year. They need to do something about that."
  • Last week: Earnhardt led a season-high 95 laps at Atlanta, his most since the same race last year, when he led 142. He finished third. "Our car was so good that we were in the top five all day," Earnhardt said. "That race to the finish with Matt (Kenseth) didn't look very patient, because we were hanging on for dear life to third place. We can talk big-picture racing all day long, but at the end of the race, I want every position I can get and Matt wants every position he can get. I know we lost a lot of points at Martinsville because I was trying to get after it and ended up spinning out, but I'm not going to pull over and let people take the position, either. We're still racing hard and trying to win this championship."
  • Etc.: Earnhardt's 119 Quality Passes at Texas gives him the lead in that category. Earnhardt's quality pass total has helped him achieve an Average Finishing Position of 9.7 over the last three Texas events. A quality pass is a pass of a driver running in the Top 15 under green flag conditions.

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    5) Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Burton has scored four top-10 finishes in the seven races in the Chase, one of four drivers to do so. Burton led in the first four Chase races but not in the last three. He has 19 top-10 finishes and 25 top-15s in 33 races this season. One year ago he ranked 18th in the standings. Burton has one victory and fourth top-10s in 11 races at Texas. His victory came in the first Texas race in 1997 and marked his career-first Cup Series victory. He finished 30th in this race one year ago and sixth there in April, the latter his only top-10 in his last seven races at Texas. He has led in three races at Texas but not in his last seven races there. Burton's 17.454 average finish at Texas ranks seventh among the 10 Chase drivers.
  • Last week: Burton finished 13th at Atlanta and dropped further in the standings. He is 84 points out of first place.
  • Etc.: Burton has an Average Finishing Position of 16.0 over the past three Texas events; his worst-among-all-Chase-drivers Average Starting Position is 31.3.

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    6) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Harvick has one top-five and two top-10 finishes in seven races at Texas and has led in four of the races. "Texas is a good track to rebound at because we've run good there," Harvick said. "... Historically we've been pretty good there, but running 10th isn't going to get it at this point. We have to win and things have got to happen to everyone else to get us back in the hunt." His fifth-place finish at Texas in April is his career-best Texas finish. A year ago he started 33rd and finished 16th in this race. Harvick knows he may be down in the point standings, 121 points back, but he still has a chance. "I think it's going to come down to luck, myself," he said. "I think in racing and any other sport that you can think of, luck plays a major factor in what you do. I think all 10 teams are really good and have performed well week in and week out, and everybody is pushing as hard as they can right now. We haven't been in the Chase for two years, so if we lose it all and finish 10th, we still won four races this year."
  • Last week: After a disappointing 31st-place finish at Atlanta, Harvick lost the most spots among Chase participants, dropping four places to sixth. "I think it's going to come down to who has the least amount of problems because all the teams, if you look at the race results and the running order, in a lot of the races, through the races, I think that most of the top 10 teams are going to be in the top 10 pretty much most of the time," Harvick said. "All 10 of those teams are there for a reason and seem to be running good every week. It just seems like a lot of crazy little things are happening."
  • Etc.: Harvick will be behind the wheel of a new chassis, No. 179, which recently made its debut at the NASCAR mandated Homestead-Miami Speedway test. ... Although Harvick is searching for his first Cup Series win at Texas, he has been no stranger to Victory Lane in the Lone Star State. In 2001, he drove Richard Childress Racing's (RCR) No. 2 ACDelco Busch entry to victory, and then he did the same in 2005 behind the wheel of RCR's No. 21 Reese's Busch entry.

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    7) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Texas might be the toughest remaining challenge for Gordon, who is seventh in the standings, 146 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, with only races at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway remaining this season. Coincidentally, those three are the only tracks where Gordon has yet to visit Victory Lane in NASCAR's premier series. Earlier this year, the four-time Cup Series champion won at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time, giving him victories at a record 19 of the 22 tracks currently on the Cup schedule. "This is a difficult race track," Gordon said of Texas. "It's very fast, the transitions in the corners are very abrupt and the walls come at you pretty fast. It's a track that challenges all of us, but one that I enjoy." In the inaugural event in 1997, Gordon led 69 laps but was involved in an accident and finished 30th. His three other Texas finishes of 25th or worse came between 1998 and 2000, but he then had four consecutive top-five finishes from 2001 to 2004. However, it was 2004 when Gordon thought he had a real shot at the win. Leading with less than 26 laps to go, he lost power on his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. After switching to his backup battery, he recovered to finish third. "That was very disappointing," Gordon said. "We had a great shot at the victory, with probably the best handling car I've ever had here, but electrical problems ruined that opportunity. We haven't been the same here since." Last year marked the first time the Cup Series visited Texas twice during a season, and Team DuPont scored 14th- and 15th-place finishes in those two events. Even after finishing 22nd here earlier this year, Gordon is full of optimism heading into the Dickies 500. "I've said from the beginning that this race was the one I was most concerned about performance-wise during the Chase," said Gordon. "We don't have a good track record here recently, which gives us concern. But we've made a lot of changes with the car, the setups and the team, and our intermediate program has improved since we last visited Texas."
  • Last week: Gordon finished sixth at Atlanta.
  • Etc.: Gordon leads three season-to-date loop data categories -- Average Running Position (10.784), Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap (92.9%) and Laps in the Top 15 (7,616 of 9,741). Gordon's season Driver Rating of 99.3 is third among all drivers.

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    8) Mark Martin, No. 6 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Martin will drive RK-231, a car that finished 19th in its last run at Pocono in July. He has one win, four top-fives and six top-10 finishes in 11 races at Texas. Martin posted a Cup win at Texas in the second race there in 1998. Martin has won three times in the Busch Series at Texas in only four races, including the inaugural Busch race there in 1997. Martin will take part in both the Busch and Cup races this weekend at Texas, marking his final Busch race of 2006. "Texas is a great race track," Martin said. "It's the type of place that suits my driving style. I've always done pretty well on the 1.5-mile tracks, and Texas has been pretty good for us in that mix."
  • Last week: A late race crash took Martin out of the Atlanta race, dropping him to a 36th-place finish. "Our luck has really taken a turn for the worse in the last few races, but all we can do is just keep doing what we've been doing and keep moving forward," Martin said. "We've had really good cars and we've run well in the Chase, it's just hard to come back from three straight weeks of that kind of luck and wrecks. Still that takes nothing away from this team."
  • Etc.: Martin's Driver Rating of 89.8 for the season is the lowest among all Chase drivers and 12th overall, but his Driver Rating at Texas is 102.7, third-best among all Chase drivers and fifth overall.

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    9) Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: In the first Texas race this year, Kahne drove chassis No. 128 to victory from the pole. He led 63 laps en route to posting his second win of the season. Kahne has qualified in the top three in three of his four starts at Texas and has finished in the top five twice. In his first start at Texas, Kahne started third and finished second in the spring race of 2004. He led 148 laps but finished a close second to Elliott Sadler, now an Evernham Motorsports teammate. His only Texas finishes outside the top five came as a result of engine issues that took him out of the race early. ... Kahne is ninth in the Chase standings, just 89 points out of sixth and 184 out of second. He is 210 behind the leader. Kahne, who has claimed the pole five times this year, will drive chassis No. 131, the same car he drove to victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway last month.
  • Last week: Kahne finished 38th at Atlanta after he was involved in a crash with David Stremme. "Atlanta is behind us," Kahne said. "We had a car capable of winning, but it didn't happen. We move forward."
  • Etc.: Kahne will be running a special paint scheme promoting the launch of the 2007 Dodge Nitro. ... Kahne has a Driver Rating of 102.7 at Texas, third among Chase drivers and 11th among all drivers.

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    10) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Busch will drive chassis No. 349, which finished a solid sixth at Lowe's Motor Speedway last month. Busch will attempt the NASCAR trifecta again this weekend. When the checkered flag waves on Sunday evening, Busch will have logged eight hours of on-track practice and more than 1,020 miles of racing while competing for trophies in all three series. The last time Busch attempted all three races in one weekend was in August at Bristol, where he finished sixth in the Trucks, seventh in the Busch Series and second in the Cup Series. Busch finished 40th in this race at Texas one year ago and 15th there in April, his only top-15 finish at Texas. However, he was seventh on the last lap before he was hit by Clint Bowyer and lost eight spots. Busch finished 21st in his first race at Texas and has never led a lap around Texas in the Cup Series. Busch might not find any relief in his decline in points at the Texas event. He is 24th in the Driver Rating category there, last among the 10 Chase drivers. "We haven't had the runs we've wanted to at Texas," Busch said.
  • Last week: Busch crashed on the fourth lap and finished 27th at Atlanta.
  • Etc.: Busch has two Craftsman Truck Series starts at Texas. At age 16 in 2001, Busch qualified fifth and finished 25th in his first start there. Upon his return to the track in a Chevy Silverado last season, he qualified fourth and finished third with a strong run for Billy Ballew Motorsports.

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    11) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Chevrolet, Joe Gibbs Racing
  • This week: In nine starts at Texas, Stewart has finished in the top-10 six times, but he is still looking for his first win there. In April, Stewart led 99 laps before finishing third. "We've really come on with our 1.5-mile program, so I think we're going to be a lot better (this weekend)," says Stewart.
  • Last week: Stewart led seven times at Atlanta for a race-high 146 laps, including the last 11, to win his fourth race of the season and second in the Chase. The victory was Stewart's 28th of his career, which ties him for 20th on the all-time win list with Rex White. "This is pretty special because Atlanta is home to Home Depot," said Stewart. "We did what we wanted to do. We got up front early and stayed up front all day."
  • Etc.: Stewart finished third in the final International Race of Champions (IROC) event of the season to earn his first IROC series championship and the 11th championship of his career. "To know that my heroes -- Mark Martin, A.J. Foyt -- have won this (championship) and all the other champions that have won this title, it's awesome to have this honor," said Stewart.

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    12) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Edwards' last Cup victory came at Texas a year ago. And that is why he says, "Texas Motor Speedway is one of my favorite tracks on the NASCAR circuit. It's a place where you can carry a lot of speed, which makes for some great racing. I think we're all coming to Texas with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. It's going to be a blast."
  • Last week: Edwards finished seventh at Atlanta to extend his streak of top-15 finishes to six. But neither Edwards nor crew chief Wally Brown was happy with how the car performed. "The car was just inconsistent," Edwards said. Brown added, "Overall, the car was pretty average today. We just weren't able to get the car exactly where it needed to be to contend for the win."
  • Etc.: On Wednesday, Edwards and Office Depot delivered more than $65,000 in classroom supplies, including 30 new computers, to Earl Travillion Attendance Center (ETAC) in Hattiesburg, Miss., an elementary school that was hit by Hurricane Katrina last year.

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    13) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: Biffle won the spring race at Texas in 2005, but that is his only top-10 finish in five starts at the track. He'll be driving a new car that was tested at Homestead. "I know this National Guard team is capable of getting another win before the end of the season," he said.
  • Last week: After finishing fifth for his fifth top-10 finish in the last eight races at Atlanta, Biffle pointed out, "We had a third-place car for sure and maybe a winning one if we could have gotten a crack at them. But I wanted to let Matt (Kenseth) duke it out with Junior for the spot. I could have got by them both easy, but I'm trying to help him (Kenseth) win the championship."
  • Etc.: Biffle was elated with the team's performance at Atlanta. "If we had a season like we had tonight all year with runs like this, we certainly would have been in the Chase and probably would have been a championship contender for sure," he said.

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    14) Casey Mears, No. 42 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Mears has three top-10 finishes in the last four races at Texas, including back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2005. While he didn't run as well as he had hoped in the spring race (he ended up 14th), Mears believes this weekend might be his best shot at getting a victory before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2007.
  • Last week: Mears seemed headed for a top-15 finish at Atlanta when he got caught up in an accident on lap 310. "That was disappointing," said Mears, who ended up 28th. "The Texaco/Havoline Dodge was loose all night, but the team was making the most of it. We were staying on the lead lap and going to get a decent finish."
  • Etc.: Juan Pablo Montoya, who will drive the 42 car in 2007, finished 11th in his first Busch Series race Saturday at Memphis Motorsports Park. Car owner Chip Ganassi was so pleased with Montoya's performance that he announced Monday that Montoya would compete in the three remaining Busch Series events to get ready for next season.

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    15) Brian Vickers, No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
  • This week: Texas has not been a good track for Vickers. His best finish there is 12th, in his first race at the speedway in 2004. But Vickers believes the team is "riding momentum," and this may be the weekend where he finally scores a top-10 finish at Texas.
  • Last week: Vickers struggled during the first half of the Atlanta race, but crew chief Lance McGrew made major changes to the car on lap 198 and Vickers was able to rally from 32nd to 19th. Vickers has finished in the top 20 in the last five races to close to within 27 points of 14th place in the standings.
  • Etc.: Vickers believes the team is on a "good run and all of us on the GMAC Racing team are really trying to end the season with some solid runs. Last year we finished 17th and, if we continue at our current pace, beating that shouldn't be a problem."

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    16) Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing South
  • This week: Busch has an impressive five top-10 finishes in seven starts at Texas but hasn't won there. On Tuesday, Busch tested at Kentucky Speedway, and he hopes the test "will help us when we get to Texas this weekend."
  • Last week: Busch rallied in the final 100 miles to finish 14th at Atlanta. "We got real, real loose, made adjustments on it and didn't get the handle on it until the end," said Busch. "The sun went down and the track tightened up. We had a 10th-place car at the end, but we just got too far behind early."
  • Etc.: It has been an up-and-down year for the 2003 champion. He did win Bristol, but that was his only top-10 finish in the first eight races of the season. Then during the middle of the year, Busch put together five straight top-10 finishes. But in the last 13 races, he has only two top-10 finishes.

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    17) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Dodge, Penske Racing South
  • This week: Newman's March 2003 victory at Texas is his only top-15 finish in six starts there. "Texas has been a difficult track for this team to figure out, even more so than the other mile-and-a-half tracks," says Newman. "I'm not sure why this track has been so hard for us, but it seems like every other race we end up getting caught in some sort of wreck."
  • Last week: It was a long afternoon for Newman at Atlanta. Major handling problems dropped him two laps off the pace in the first half of the race, and then he brushed the second-turn wall on lap 231. Twelve laps later, Mike Bliss ran into the back of Newman, who ended up 30th.
  • Etc.: Newman returned to his open-wheel roots on Oct. 25 and emerged victorious in the South Georgia Motorsports Park 100. "We had a great car tonight," said Newman. "The car was really fast, and it was great track to drive at."

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    18) Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
  • This week: Bowyer finished 19th in the spring race at Texas. "We had a good car and were headed for a decent finish and got wrecked on the last lap," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to capitalize on our notes from the spring race and close the deal this weekend."
  • Last week: Bowyer was an unhappy driver after finishing 25th at Atlanta. "The car was good all night," said Bowyer. "We had a top-10 car, no doubt. We got the side of the car torn off coming down pit road, and then we had to come back and fix it. We just can't catch a break. We can't buy a break."
  • Etc.: NASCAR Driver Not-Stop, a reality-based program that will feature Bowyer and his team, is set to make its debut Sunday night on ESPN2.

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    19) Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Dodge, Petty Enterprises
  • This week: Labonte has three top-five and five top-10 finishes at his home track. Labonte, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, finished 10th in the spring race. "We had a good run in April, and we know we're better," he said. "I always cherish getting to come back to Texas. This is a special place for us (the Labonte family)."
  • Last week: Labonte overcame an overheating race car to finish 12th at Atlanta and move up one spot in the standings to 19th. "Finishing 12th was good, but we had a car that was going to be in the top 10," said Labonte. "We had a fast car. We went from 20th to eighth before the first caution (on lap five). So that was exciting."
  • Etc.: Labonte has used six straight top-15 finishes to jump eight spots in the standings. He was 27th when "things started going our way," said Labonte. "We are getting better and better. We feel we can win one before the year is over."

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    20) Scott Riggs, No. 10 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Riggs finished seventh in the spring race at Texas, his first top-10 finish in four starts there. Riggs is optimistic that he can run even better this weekend. "We just feel real good about our intermediate program," said Riggs. "We feel all three (Evernham) cars will have a good showing at Texas."
  • Last week: Riggs finished 22nd at Atlanta. "We were just too loose at the start, and we got caught a lap down," said Riggs. "When nighttime came, the car tightened up. The adjustments we made were good ones. We had a car that could run in the top 10 (in the final 100 miles). But once you get more than a lap down there isn't much you can do."
  • Etc.: Jeff Seaberg, the driver of the No. 10 hauler, won the 2006 Pilot Truck Challenge and a check for $50,000. "I could not be happier about Jeff's victory," said Riggs. "The skill of these hauler drivers in NASCAR rivals that of the drivers on the race track."

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    21) Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Chevrolet, DEI
  • This week: Truex has two top-15 finishes, at Texas including an eighth in the April race. He believes another top-10 run is a real possibility this weekend "if our luck stays on the good side. We had a real strong car at Atlanta, and I know we will have one equally as strong this weekend. We just need for things to go right all the way to the checkered flag."
  • Last week: After running in the top 10 for most of the first 300 laps, Truex smacked the wall on lap 304 of the 325-lap event after running into wheel problems. As a result of the heavy damage, Truex was forced to settle for a 37th-place finish. "That's kind of the way our whole season has gone," he said. "We just have been having some freaky stuff happening to us."
  • Etc.: Truex won the International Race of Champions (IROC) event at Atlanta on Saturday in a thrilling finish. "I didn't know until I crossed the finish line that I won," said Truex. "It was one of the better races I've been a part of."

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    22) Dale Jarrett, No. 88 Ford, Robert Yates Racing
  • This week: Jarrett has one win and three top-five finishes in 11 starts at Texas. He'll be driving the same car he used at Atlanta, with solid results. "I feel that was a very good race for our team," he said.
  • Last week: Jarrett was disappointed with his 11th-place finish at Atlanta. "It's unfortunate we got the car messed up; at one point we had a really, really fast race car," said Jarrett. His hopes for a real good night ended on lap 310 when he was part of a five-car accident.
  • Etc.: Jarrett pointed out that his performance at Atlanta was "one of the few times (this year) that we can talk about where we passed cars and did a good job because we had a good race car. That's a nice gain for this race team."

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    23) Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge, Evernham Motorsports
  • This week: Sadler has one win and three top-10 finishes in nine starts at Texas. "We expect the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger to be very competitive at Texas," said Sadler. "I've had success at the mile-and-a-half tracks in the past, and Evernham Motorsports certainly has a history of impressive performances at those tracks."
  • Last week: Sadler ended up 21st at Atlanta. "We just missed on the setup at the start of the race and got ourselves in a hole we couldn't dig out of," said Sadler. "My team kept working on the race car and we finally got it to turn in the corners, but we had too much to make up."
  • Etc.: Sadler says his team wants to "end the season on a positive note, so these next three races are very important to the 19 team. We're looking to build momentum for the 2007 season."

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    24) Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford, Roush Racing
  • This week: In five starts at Texas, McMurray has four finishes of 11th or better, including a second in the spring race in 2005. "Texas is a track where I have run really well in the past," said McMurray, who is in dire need of a good run this weekend. McMurray's best finish in the last 10 races is 17th.
  • Last week: McMurray finished 40th at Texas after running into Jeff Gordon on lap 170. "The 24 was just going really slow at the top of the track and the sun is in your eyes so bad getting into turn one that by the time my spotter said something, I wasn't 10 feet from him," said McMurray.
  • Etc.: Crew chief Bob Osborne says he feels "really good about the car we are bringing this weekend to Texas. The guys at the shop and our R&D department have invested a lot of time and effort into our intermediate program. I know the 26 team is hungry for a strong finish."

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    25) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Dodge, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • This week: Sorenson finished 13th in his Nextel Cup start at Texas in April. "We had a strong run in the spring race at Texas in the Cup car, and we've had some successful runs (two top-fives) in the Busch car there," says Sorenson. "I like the track, and we should be a little better the second time around."
  • Last week: Sorenson's hopes of a top-10 finish before the hometown crowd ended early when he was squeezed into the wall in the Atlanta event. "I'm not sure what happened with the 21 car (Ken Schrader)," said Sorenson, who ended up 29th. "You're going so fast here and he or his spotter just didn't realize I was coming around on the outside that fast. I had nowhere to go."
  • Etc.: Crew chief Jimmy Elledge has selected chassis No. 402 for this weekend's race at Texas. Sorenson has driven this car twice before this season, finishing seventh at Chicagoland Speedway and eighth in the second Michigan event.

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

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