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NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series News & Notes - Homestead-Miami Speedway

• Take 5: Five Drivers Remain In Championship Contention
• Thursday Press Conference/Teleconference Set In Miami
• Harvick, Hamlin Chasing History-Making Achievements

Fantastic Finale: Five Drivers Have Chance At Championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2006) Jimmie Johnson has a tenuous grip on the points lead going into the finale of a tumultuous Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Has a 63-point lead ever looked less safe?

That’s the margin between Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) and second-place Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), as Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway approaches.

But you can bet Johnson’s optimism is guarded. Here’s why:

While a finish of 12th place or better will give him the championship, Johnson’s average finish at HMS is 15.6, an average dragged down somewhat by last year’s 40th-place finish caused by an accident.

On the other hand, it’s not like any of the five drivers still eligible for the title has excelled at the South Florida 1.5-mile oval.

Of those five – Johnson, Kenseth, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) – none have won a HMS race. And of the five, the best average finish is 9.4, posted by Harvick, who comes into Sunday third in points, 90 behind Johnson.

Harvick also comes off a stirring victory this past Sunday at Phoenix.

“There's really not a lot of pressure to tell you the truth,” Harvick said “It's just go out and go as fast as you can and everybody knows that.”

After falling back in the 10-driver pack early in the 10-race Chase, Johnson has climbed to the top of the standings with a series of solid runs. His overall excellence is reflected in his Driver Rating during the first nine races of the Chase – a Chase-best 110.3.

“I never felt we were out of it,” Johnson said. “I never conceded.”

The second-best Chase Driver Rating belongs to fifth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Obviously the long-shot pick coming into this week, Earnhardt is still talking like the contender he is, saying, “Homestead has been our worst track over the years, but that’ll change this weekend.”

Title Contenders Tale Of The Tape, Homestead-Miami Speedway

Driver                      Starts    Top 5    Top 10    Wins    Avg. Finish    *Chase Driver Rating
  Jimmie Johnson        5            2            3            0             15.6           110.3
  Matt Kenseth            6            1            1            0             25.5             92.5
  Kevin Harvick            5            1            4            0               9.4             99.7
  Denny Hamlin           1            0            0            0             33.0             84.4
  Dale Earnhardt Jr.     6            0            0            0             19.2            105.5
* -- Driver Rating based on Loop Data from first nine races of the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

NASCAR Calling: Teleconference Capability Set For Thursday Miami Press Conference

All five drivers still in the running for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship will be gathered Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. for a press conference at Doral Country Club in Miami, as part of the pre-race buildup to Sunday’s title-deciding Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

This marks the second year for the event, which although geared for media attending the race weekend, will also offer a prime coverage opportunity for outlets not coming to South Florida. A national/international listen-only teleconference capability will also be in place, allowing media to hear all of the press conference’s proceedings.

In addition, a full transcript of the press conference/teleconference will be available approximately 90 minutes after completion of the event, provided by NASCAR via ASAP Sports Reporting.

The transcript will be posted on NASCAR’s media-only Web site,
To access the teleconference, call (800) 722-8946, and ask for the NASCAR Teleconference.
In addition. The press conference will be televised live by SPEED.

For more information on the Thursday event, call the NASCAR Public Relations Department at (386) 253-0611.

In The Loop: Data Shows Stewart Isn’t The Only Potential Spoiler At Ford 400

Looking for potential “spoilers” at Sunday’s Ford 400?

Don’t stop at the recently on-the-roll Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) when targeting drivers outside the Chase as possible Victory Lane visitors on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Data gathered from electronic scoring loops imbedded at intervals around race tracks not only assist NASCAR officials in “freezing” the field during caution periods. The loops have yielded a bevy of telling statistics that serve as solid indicators on just what to expect from drivers week-to-week.

For example, based on loop data gathered from the 2005 Ford 400:

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) had the top HMS-specific Driver Rating; at last year’s event, he compiled a 134.6 Driver Rating while finishing fourth. In addition, Edwards – who is outside the Chase field, in 12th place this week – has accumulated the third-highest number of points during the Chase races, an average point total of 141.7 per race. … Edwards never fell out of the top 15 during last year’s race.

• Don’t count out Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), who had the second-best Driver Rating at last year’s Ford 400, 125.8, and a fifth-place finish.

• And of course, don’t forget Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), winner of the last two Ford 400s. Biffle had a Driver Rating of 118.6 a year ago at HMS.

Keys To Victory: HMS Layout “Racy”

Much was made of Homestead-Miami Speedway’s reconfiguration two years ago, which resulted in increased banking – and increased “racyness.” Consensus now holds that HMS is no ordinary intermediate layout. Following is further consensus, regarding ways to best negotiate the 1.5-mile season-finale site on Sunday.

• Contenders Beware: The five Chase drivers eligible for the championship must take care of their equipment and avoid trouble. It’s their final opportunity this season to win the championship and they must strike a balance between being aggressive and racing with patience.

• Getting Into The Groove: Homestead-Miami provides 2-3 good grooves for racing. It is key that the driver find the right groove and get the car to handle well with the progressive banking the track has to offer.

• Negotiating Pit Road: Getting onto pit road at Homestead-Miami can be a bit tricky. The driver can’t afford to let his guard down and carry too much speed into the access road.

Harvick Trying To Pull Off Ultimate NASCAR ‘Double’

Winning the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship is motivation enough for any driver.

Kevin Harvick’s motivation goes beyond that. It is a motivation working double-time, resulting from his season-long double-duty in both NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series competition.

Harvick, who clinched his second NASCAR Busch Series title last month (he won the title for the first time in 2001) is trying to become the first driver to win both series championships in the same season.

If anyone can pull this off, it would seem to be Harvick.

After all, he is the only driver to win the NASCAR Busch Series title while also competing full-time in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup; in his championship 2001 season, he finished ninth in the points, in NASCAR’s top series.

35th Spot In Owner’s Points Takes On New Meaning

Weekly, the top 35 teams in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car owner point standings are guaranteed starting spots in a race field. Those outside the top 35 are forced to rely on their qualifying efforts, to get into the show.

Coming out of Homestead, the 35th spot is even more important. For the first five races of 2007, the top 35 “locked-in” status will be based on the final 2006 car owner points.

Meaning, if you end this season out of the top 35, there’s a chance you could end up failing to make the Daytona 500 field next February.

This week, the final locked-in spot belongs to the No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge owned and driven by Kyle Petty. Only 47 points behind: the No. 14 Ginn Clubs & Resorts Chevrolet owned by Bobby Ginn and driven by Sterling Marlin – a two-time Daytona 500 champion.

2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Owner Points

Pos.    Points  Team                   Owner                Driver                 

30th     3,131    No. 01 Chevrolet    Bobby Ginn         Joe Nemechek
31st     3,070    No. 7 Chevrolet      Robby Gordon     Robby Gordon
32nd    2,973    No. 21 Ford           Glen Wood          Ken Schrader
33rd     2,958    No. 40 Dodge        Felix Sabates      David Stremme
34th     2,923    No. 19 Dodge        Ray Evernham     Elliott Sadler

35th     2,849   No. 45 Dodge       Kyle Petty          Kyle Petty

36th     2,802    No. 14 Chevrolet   Bobby Ginn         Sterling Marlin

Hamlin No Ordinary Rookie

Denny Hamlin likely will be announced as the 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year this weekend. But in addition to that honor, Hamlin is also trying to become the first driver to win Rookie of the Year and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship in the same season.

If that doesn’t happen, then there’s another goal. Hamlin can try and match the best-ever final points finish by a rookie of the year – second, by James Hylton, in 1966.

This year, Hamlin will become the 10th rookie of the year to finish the season in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10. That is an elite group that includes reigning and 2002 series champion Tony Stewart and seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.

ROY Finishes In Final Top 10

Driver               Pos.         Yr. 
James Hylton     2nd          1966
Shorty Rollins     4th          1958
Tony Stewart      4th          1999
Ryan Newman    6th          2002
Dale Earnhardt   7th          1979
Jody Ridley        7th          1980
Earl Ross           8th          1974
Kevin Harvick      9th           2001
Walter Ballard   10th           1971

Advantage, Dodge: 6-Point Lead in Manufacturers’ Championship 2nd-Place Battle

Chevrolet has clinched its 30th Manufacturers Championship in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but the battle for second place continues between Dodge and Ford.

Chevrolet clinched the title on Sept. 17, at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Coming into Homestead-Miami Speedway, Dodge has a 199-193 lead over Ford. (Chevrolet is the runaway leader, with 273 points).

Ford has won the championship 15 times.  Dodge has won it twice – in 1970 and ’75. Dodge returned to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2001 after a long absence.

On Deck: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champions Week in New York City

For the 26th consecutive year, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony is coming to the famed Waldorf=Astoria hotel in New York City. This year’s event is set for Friday night, Dec. 1 and, as always that will culminate a full week of activities for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, and an entourage of other titlists – from the NASCAR Busch Series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Autozone Elite Divisions and the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series.

From a media standpoint, there are a variety of opportunities, starting with a third-year event that has quickly become perhaps THE highlight of NASCAR’s yearly week in Manhattan – Victory Lap, when the 10 drivers who competed in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup jump behind the wheels of show cars and provide a colorful – and raucous – parade through Midtown.

This year’s Victory Lap is set for Wednesday, Nov. 29, starting at 8:30 a.m. in front of Good Morning America’s Time Square studios on 44th Street and Broadway. Victory Lap ends approximately a half-hour later at the ESPN Zone in Times Square, at 42nd and Broadway. Following will be a media availability session from 9:30-10:30 with drivers.

Moving on…NASCAR’s annual luncheon for New York and Northeast media is again slated for the renowned 21 Club on Wednesday afternoon from 12:30-2:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Nov. 30, the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon will be held at Cipriani’s Restaurant, which for the first time will be a combination of two long-running previous events.

For a number of years, NASCAR held an annual press conference on Thursday afternoon of Champions Week, featuring the top-10 drivers and a “state of the sport” theme, while the NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) had its annual Myers Brothers Breakfast on Friday morning, where  a variety of year-end awards were presented.


Jimmie Johnson has finished first or second in five consecutive races. The last time that a driver posted five straight finishes of first or second was by Jeff Gordon between Loudon and Martinsville in 1998. Two of those finishes were victories. The last time a driver posted six consecutive first or second-place finishes was also by Gordon, between Bristol and North Wilkesboro in 1996. Gordon won four of those six races. Incidentally, Gordon's streak came one race after he had won four straight between Pocono and Michigan.

• Four drivers have posted five or more victories this season: Kasey Kahne (six), Tony Stewart (six), Jimmie Johnson (five) and Kevin Harvick (five). The last time there were four drivers with five or more victories each in a season occurred in 1969: Bobby Isaac (17), David Pearson (11), Richard Petty (10) and LeeRoy Yarborough (seven). And, for the sake of comparison, there were 54 races in 1969.

The Race: Ford 400
The Place: Homestead-Miami Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Nov. 19
The Time: 2:50 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Distance: 400 miles (267 laps)
Purse: $5,200,543
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle
2005 Pole: Carl Edwards
Pos.  Driver       Pts.
 1      Johnson     6,332
 2      Kenseth     6,269
 3      Harvick      6,242
 4      Hamlin       6,242
 5      Earnhardt   6,217
 6      Gordon       6,165
 7      Jeff Burton   6,107
 8      Martin         6,059
 9      Kahne         6,013
10     Busch         5,973
Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Friday—Practice,  11:35 a.m.-1:05 p.m.  Qualifying, 3:10 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 1-2 p.m. and 2:35-3:20 p.m.