Saturday, October 31, 2009

Talladega Practice Notes

No Happy Hour and Practice write up this week because the times and speeds are irrelevant due to the nature of the draft and restrictor plates. Those who are good like the Busch Brothers, and recently the Roush stable, will be good Sunday.

Dale Earnhardt Jr should have his best chance at winning a race since he finished second at Talladega in the spring.

Qualifying was set by points on Saturday due to rain.

From practice page

Happy Hour/Final Practice for the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is over, the fastest:
#33-Bowyer 193.154
#55-Waltrip 192.116
#48-Johnson 191.214
#43-Sorenson 191.016
#2-Busch 190.863
slowest: #66-Blaney 180.041 & #77-Hornish 178.490. 38 cars have been on track.
notes: NASCAR spent much of the session warning drivers to not drive so agressively during practice. Midway through the session, #55-Waltrip was temporarily parked by NASCAR after bump drafting in the corners.

The First Practice for the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is over, the fastest:
#9-Kahne 195.944
#11-Hamlin 195.944
#98-Menard 197.701
#98-Darnell 194.595
#20-Logano 194.149
slowest: #37-Raines 181.415 & #66-Blaney 180.203
incidents: Several cars bumped off each other early in the session causing #33-Bowyer to spin and #77 Hornish to suffer sheetmetal damage. Bowyer's crew will repair his car, Hornish will go to a backup.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amp Energy 500 Talladega Preview: Time for Kurt Busch to Win!

by Micah Roberts

This weeks race takes us to Talladega Superspeedway where anything can and usually does happen. Because of the volatile nature of the track, Jimmie Johnson will have to tread gingerly through the race because this is likely the only track of the four remaining that could spoil his efforts in becoming the only driver to win four straight Cup titles.

Should Johnson finish 30th like he did in the spring and Mark Martin, who is second in points, win the race, Martin would find himself only one point out of first place in the Chase for the Championship. If Martin were to lead the most laps he would be four points ahead with three races remaining.

All the drivers who are in striking distance will let it all hang out in this race. Included in the group who could really makes things interesting down the stretch that are hoping for similar Johnson results this time around are Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart.

Jeff Gordon is a six time winner at Talladega and swept the season in 2007. Despite having poor finishes in his last two attempts at this beast of a track, not many see the draft better.

Stewart won this race last season, the first Talladega win of his career after placing 2nd six different times over his career. In his first run with his new team this year he finished 23rd, but in his last restrictor plate race he won at Daytona.

The likely strategy for Johnson will be to lay back for much of the race keeping all the action in front of him. With about 10 laps to go we’ll see Johnson press forward and make some moves to avoid finishing too poorly. Johnson would gladly take the ninth he had in this race last season during the Chase and move on to Texas, a place where he a little more control in the outcome.

Among the more impressive plate programs the last two seasons has been Fenway-Roush Racing’s Fords. It used to be all about cookie cutters for this team and they did a complete reversal this season with Matt Kenseth winning Roush’s first Daytona 500 ever. In the process, their cookie cutter program has suffered, most notably Carl Edwards who still doesn‘t have a win this season after netting nine in 2008.

Carl Edwards looked to be on his way to getting Roush’s first Talladega win in the spring since Mark Martin won in 1997, but he ended up in the fence with only a few yards to go in one of the more spectacular crashes you’ll ever see.

“We’re going back to Talladega and we really have nothing to lose at this point in the Chase so we’ll just go for it and try to get a win,” said Edwards. “I’ve heard they raised the fences so that is good. You never like to come back and see a new fence because of you. Our team has
worked hard on our restrictor-plate package and it’s pretty good. Maybe we’ll partner up with somebody like we did last time and make it to the finish line this time to finally get a win at one of these places. That would be a blast.”

Edwards is like many of the Chase drivers who have given up any chance of winning after not performing well up to this point and is just looking for a positive to end the season.

Kyle Busch fit’s a profile similar to Edwards coming in where he is just racing for momentum to carry over into 2010. It’s safe to say that over the last 2 seasons of plate racing, no one has been better than Busch, not in just mere results, but actually having the best car. While with Joe Gibbs, Busch has been dominant in the plate races of Daytona and Talladega.

The best statistical driver at Talladega over the last eight seasons is Kurt Busch. He is without a doubt the best plate racer never to win a plate race. At Talladega in 17 starts he has an average finish of 12.1. In the spring, he raced very well with a chance to win and settled for sixth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr battled strong for the win in the spring and settled for second as the Edwards flip happened right in front of him. This looks like a great opportunity for Junior, who has won five times at Talladega, to get his first win of the season. With all the trouble he’s had this season amid all the mounting pressure of not running well considering the team he drives for, there might not be a better story to root for then seeing him win. His odds to win the race are at 10 to 1 or higher which presents some good value for a driver that should be in the lead pack.

After Bred Keselowski won the spring race at 100 to 1 odds, it should serve as notice that anyone can win this race. A nice long shot this week could be Jeff Burton who gets Todd Berrier as his crew this week and knows how to get a car set real good for plate racing as evident by Harvick‘s great runs including winning the Daytona 2007.

"Honestly, I think this will be one of our best chances ever to win a race at Talladega, Burton said. “Over the past year and a half, everyone back at the shop has worked extremely hard on taking things to the next level, including our engine department. We’ve seen a big difference in our horsepower when it comes to our superspeedway engines and I think we’ll be able to put our best stuff forward this weekend. Back in April, our Caterpillar Chevy was extremely fast. We ended up going three laps down because he had to change an alternator but was lucky enough to get those laps back and then fought our way to finish 10th. In the past, I can honestly tell you that I don’t think I’ve ever been to Talladega with a car fast enough to win a race. My strategy was to always try to get reasonable finishes out of it because I didn’t think I was good enough to win. I think that will be different this time."

With the front pack of drivers likely to have about 15 to 20 shuffling around for the final three laps, it might be a good idea to shop around a few long shots that have shown some kind of knack for the plate races. A driver in a Richard Childress car isn’t a bad place to begin.

Top 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #2 Kurt Busch (12/1)
2) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (10/1)
3) #14 Tony Stewart (10/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
5) #31 Jeff Burton (30/1)

Talladega Superspeedway Facts

At Talladega Superspeedway:
• Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968.

• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on Sept. 14, 1969.

• The track changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989.

• Track’s fourth repaving completed on Sept. 19, 2006.

• There have been 80 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Talladega Superspeedway since the track opened in 1969; two a year every year except the inaugural season, which had just one.

• Richard Brickhouse won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

• Bobby Isaac won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in September 1969. Isaac won the first three poles there.

• 35 different drivers have won poles. Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole in this season’s spring race, his first career pole.

• Bill Elliott leads all drivers with eight poles.

• 38 different drivers have posted victories, led by Dale Earnhardt Sr. (10). Eighteen drivers have won more than once. Brad Keselowski became a first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner with his win earlier this season.

• Jeff Gordon leads all other active drivers in victories, with six.

• Hendrick Motorsports has won 10 races, more than any other organization.

• 31 of 80 races have been won from a top-two starting position, including 13 from the pole; 22 have been won from a starting position outside the top 10. The most recent driver to win from the pole was Jeff Gordon in 2007 (spring).

• The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 36th, by Jeff Gordon in 2000. Two of the last four races have been won from the 34th starting position (Jeff Gordon in 2007 and Tony Stewart in 2008).

• Mark Martin’s pace in the 1997 spring race set an all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup record for the fastest race ever. He won the caution-free race with an average speed of 188.354 mph and covered the 500-mile distance in two hours, 39 minutes and 18 seconds.

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. had four consecutive victories (October 2001 through April 2003), the most ever by a driver there. Buddy Baker (three - May 1975 through May 1976) is the only other driver to win more than two consecutive races there.

• Since the inception of electronic scoring in 1993, every race that has ended under green has had a margin of victory under one second.

• There have been 99 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Alabama.

• 65 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Alabama.

NHRA Tales From the Las Vegas Sports Book

by Micah Roberts

The NHRA roars into Las Vegas this weekend for the second time this season. Beyond the ultra-modern facility and the neon lights of the city, the one thing that makes a Las Vegas race stand out above all other races on the tour is that there is legal wagering on the top pro classes -- Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock.

That’s where I come into play. My name is Micah Roberts and I posted the odds on all the Las Vegas events from the inaugural race in 2000 through 2008. Before the Strip was built, I had never been to an NHRA event and had only sparingly watched the drags on television, but I was the guy in Las Vegas who did all the auto racing odds, so it was a natural for me lump the NHRA in with NASCAR, Indy Racing, and Champ Cars. I talked with a lot people who understood the sport thoroughly, used some past results as a reference, and voila, now we had odds and began taking bets.

It took just one day of qualifying on that inaugural weekend for me to figure out that NHRA was nothing like NASCAR, where qualifying doesn’t mean as much as the final practices. It was a learning process and when bets came in, we moved the odds up or down on drivers based on overall risk for each. If we didn’t have much money on a particular driver, we’d bump him up a little bit and if a driver had lots of action, we’d drop him a notch.

To gain knowledge and get involved I walked around the pits and talked with the drivers and told them who I was and what I did. I also was writing for a local weekly newspaper covering motorsports and was able to kill two birds with one stone.

Every one of the drivers I talked with were intrigued by the odds. They had never seen it done before and many commented how the odds legitimized drag racing with other big league sports, something I had never even thought about.

read more here on

Hamlins Wins at Martinsville


Hamlin wins at Martinsville:
#11-Denny Hamlin won the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway under a green-white-checkered finish for his 3rd win of the season [most ever in a season for Hamlin] and 7th of his career. #48-Johnson finished 2nd, followed by #42-Montoya, #18-Busch, #24-Gordon, #26-McMurray, #39-Newman [pole winner], #5-Martin, #14-Stewart and #29-Harvick. The five other Chasers finished as follows: #83-Vickers 11th; #2-Busch 17th; #99-Edwards 20th; #16-Biffle 25th and #9-Kahne 32nd.
There were 15 cautions for 76 yellow flag laps and there were 23 lead changes among 12 drivers.
Scheduled TV Race Re-Airs:
ESPN2: Monday, October 26 at 2:30am/et
ESPN Classic: Monday, October 26 at 1:00pm/et
SPEED, Wednesday, October 29 at 12:00pm/et
For race results, awards and more, see my Race Results Page.(10-25-2009)

Race Fast Facts - Martinsville Speedway:
#11-Denny Hamlin won the TUMS Fast Relief 500 (61st Running), his seventh victory in 147 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
This is his third victory and 17th top-10 finish in 2009.
This is his second victory and eighth top-10 finish in nine races at Martinsville Speedway.
#48-Jimmie Johnson (second) posted his 15th top-10 finish in 16 races at Martinsville Speedway. It is his 21st top-10 finish in 2009.
#42-Juan Pablo Montoya (third) posted his second top-10 finish in six races at Martinsville Speedway.
#20-Joey Logano (12th) was the highest finishing rookie.
#48-Jimmie Johnson leads the point standings by 118 points over Mark Martin.(NASCAR Statistics)(10-25-2009)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday's Martinsville Practices Wiped Away Due to Rain

Saturday practices for the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway have been canceled due to rain. The first practice was scheduled for 10:00am/et and Happy Hour/final practice was scheduled for 11:15am/et. See weather links on my Martinsville Race Info Page - weather section(10-24-2009)

Pit Stall Selections - Martinsville: The selections of pit stalls for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway have been made. Pole sitter #39-Newman chose pit stall 1 [as do most pole sitters].
Outside pole sitter #24-Gordon took pit stall 11, the next stall with an opening in front of it.
#1-Truex Jr., who starts 3rd took the 10th pit stall, the first stall with an opeing behind it.
The 43rd and final pit stall was taken by #82-Speed, who starts 18th.
To see where all the drivers/teams pit stall is, see the pit selection chart on the Martinsville Pit Stall Selection chart.(10-24-2009)

Newman on pole at Martinsville: #39-Ryan Newman won the Coors Light Pole Award for the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway with a lap of 96.795mph for his 2nd pole of the season and 45th career pole [Newman has only won 3 races from the pole]. #24-Gordon starts 2nd fastest followed by #1-Truex Jr., #5-Martin, #00-Reutimann, #07-Mears, #20-Logano, #96-Labonte, #43-Sorenson and #29-Harvick.
The non Top-35 drivers who made the race: #82-Speed(18th), #37-Kvapil(25th), #87-Nemechek(28th), #71-Gilliland(35th), #09-Marlin(38th), #66-Blaney(39th), #36-McDowell(42nd) and #64-Cope (43rd).
The one driver who failed to qualify: #73-Wise.
See qualifying results, pole progression, qualifying ordewr and starting lineup on my Martinsville Qualifying/Starting Lineup page.(10-23-2009)


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Martinsville Preview: Johnson Tough To Beat This Week, but Hamlin Might Do It

By Micah Roberts

How in the world does anyone stop Jimmie Johnson? There are only five races left in the Chase and Johnson has himself a hefty 90-point lead in his quest to win an unprecedented four straight NASCAR Cup Championships.

As if winning three races in five of the Chase races thus far wasn’t bad enough, Johnson goes to a track this week where he’s won six times, including this year in March. The only active driver with more Martinsville wins than Johnson is his teammate and owner Jeff Gordon with seven wins.

One of the pillars of strength for Johnson during his three straight Championships has been Martinsville where he has won the last three years in Chase races. The flat half-mile paper-clip layout has been to Johnson’s liking and despite his standing in points, he’s always let it all hang out with disregard for points.

Johnson has won five of the last six races at Martinsville and every since his debut of 35th in his rookie season, he’s never finished outside of the top-10. In 15 starts, Johnson has 11 top-4 finishes. That is just ridiculous, but a sign of just how great he is on this track.

Johnson realizes that this is his best track record wise, but still has his eye on Talladega as the track that could make or break his fourth straight title.

"Sure, that's the track that you don't have any control at,” Johnson said, “But at the same time, I mean, we're only halfway through this thing. So much can happen. Somebody at Martinsville can lose their brakes and clean you out. With the double file restart there's going to be a lot of bumping and banging. Someone can get into you and knock a valve stem out or cut a tire. I mean, it's a nice points lead, but there's no need for anybody to get too excited yet. We've got good tracks ahead for us, so from a team standpoint we're excited and optimistic, but at the same time there's a lot of danger out there and we've just got to be smart."

Can this week be any different than the last three seasons?

If there is anyone to say that Johnson won’t win this week it may the Virginian himself, Denny Hamlin. He won this race in the spring last season and led the most laps while finishing second to Johnson in the first race this year. In his last six races at Martinsville, Hamlin has finished no worse than sixth.

If the Virginian can’t get there, then it will be up to Jeff Gordon who hasn’t finished outside the top-4 in his last nine Martinsville races. Gordon last won on the track in 2005 when swept the season, but since then Johnson has taken over.

Martinsville has been a place where Hamlin has been phenomenal at statistically speaking, The question is, why exactly?

“It’s probably a combination of all those - knowing the track and feeling comfortable with that type of racing,” Hamlin said. “In terms of places where I have a lot of laps, certainly Martinsville is the place I have the most. Between the Late Model races here and then Cup, trucks and Nationwide this is a place I know well. On top of that, it’s a track that reminds me of the kind of short flat tracks that I grew up on. While I know I have become a much better intermediate and superspeedway driver, those are still my best tracks.”

Of the three, Johnson, Gordon, and Hamlin, they have all hit the top-6 in the last six races at Martinsville. If thinking of betting against anyone of them, it likely is to be worse than betting on UNLV Football on the road.

For Gordon, all his success at Martinsville and looking afar since he hasn’t there in the Jimmie era, he feels working out to manage those continuous shortt turns is essential to getting back in the winners circle there.

"It's extremely important to work out,” Gordon said. “I've not always been the best one at it, and I'm obviously a lot more focused on it now with my back and strengthening that area. I think mentally and physically it's a good thing to put in your regimen, whether you're a race car driver or not a race car driver."

The one wild card is Tony Stewart who finished third this year with his new team. Over his 21 career starts he has two wins and is fourth among active drivers in average finish position. Stewart also has led the third most laps among the active drivers behind Gordon and Johnson.

Of the Chase racers, Mark Martin may have a nice shot at competing with the heavyweights above. While he was on his part-timer farewell tour for two seasons he didn’t race at Martinsville. In his first outing this year he finished seventh under the Hendrick umbrella. He’s got two career wins on the track with the last coming in 2000.

Of the non-Chasers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. may have the best chance of finishing well. He finished second in this race last year and was eighth earlier this year while driving Tony Eury Jr garbage. Despite his whining last week about how the season has gone, he should be primed and focused to have a good run at a track he’s always ran well at.

"We've had some pretty good runs at Martinsville, and I like racing on the short tracks,” said Earnhardt Jr, “Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) have always run really well there and can give good advice and feedback. Lance (McGrew, crew chief) has built some good race cars for me, and he is bringing a brand new car. I think we've got a good shot."

Top 5 Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (8/1)
2) #24 Jeff Gordon (7/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (4/1)
4) #14 Tony Stewart (8/1)
5) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (25/1)

Visit for all kinds of Martinsville Stats and Driver History

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Martinsville Facts: Johnson, Gordon, and Hamlin Look to Be Top Choices to Win

by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At Martinsville Speedway:

• Opened in September 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville Speedway, originally a dirt track, is one of the oldest continuously-operating racing facilities in the United States.
• The first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville was on July 4, 1948.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on Sept. 25, 1949.
• The track was paved in 1955.
• The first 500-lap event at Martinsville was in 1956.
• Concrete corners were added atop the asphalt track in 1976.

• There have been 121 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950.
• Curtis Turner won the pole for the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville in 1949.
• Red Byron won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville.
• 55 drivers have won poles, led by Darrell Waltrip with eight. Jeff Gordon, with seven poles, can tie that mark this weekend.
• Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Darrell Waltrip share the consecutive pole record, each with three.
• 45 different drivers have won races, led by Richard Petty with 15.
• Fred Lorenzen holds the consecutive win record (4).
• 17 races have been won from the pole, the last by Jimmie Johnson in October 2008.
• Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven victories.
• Petty Enterprises has won 19 races, more than any other organization. Hendrick Motorsports, with 19 wins, can tie that mark this weekend.
• Kurt Busch won the 2002 fall race from the 36th starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.
• Three drivers average a top-10 finish: Jimmie Johnson (5.3), Jeff Gordon (6.8), Denny Hamlin (8.0).

NASCAR in Virginia• There have been 265 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Virginia.
• 158 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Virginia.
• There have been 18 race winners from Virginia in NASCAR’s three national series.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Johnson and Team Lowe's Win The Final Race At "Lowe's" Motor Speedway

by NASCAR Media Services

Jimmie Johnson has done it again. He won the NASCAR Banking 500 Saturday night, extending his lead over teammate Mark Martin to 90 points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Johnson drove away from the field after dicing with teammate Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of the 334-lap race.

It was Johnson's sixth win at Lowe's Motor Speedway and put him another step closer to a fourth consecutive championship, which would be a first in NASCAR history.

Trailing Johnson at the finish line were Matt Kenseth, with his best finish since winning at Auto Club Speedway in February, Kasey Kahne, Gordon, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex and Kurt Busch.

Martin had his worst night of the Chase thus far after accidentally hitting the rear of Juan Pablo Montoya's car on a restart. The accident ended Montoya's streak of top-five finishes at four, and relegated Martin to a 17th-place finish. Montoya didn't fare so well. He wound up 35th.

It was not a good night for other Chase drivers as well. Denny Hamlin ran with the leaders before losing an engine. Carl Edwards was the victim of an accident and his damaged car lost an engine when he returned to the track in an attempt to get as many points as possible. Edwards was 39th. Brian Vickers had another terrible run, finishing 34th.

Other drivers in the Chase wound up better with Ryan Newman finishing 11th; Tony Stewart 13th and Greg Biffle 16th.

The race was delayed several minutes by a cold, spitting rain but it stopped and Johnson took off from the pole in quest of another win at LMS, a track he owns in recent statistics.

Sam Hornish Jr. brought out a caution on Lap 3 when he spun and barely glazed the second Turn 2 wall. The race was back underway at Lap 7 and Hornish spun again, this time off the fourth turn. Once again, the former Indy 500 winner escaped with no serious damage to his car.

When the race resumed on Lap 13, it was Johnson out front, followed by Martin, Kyle Busch, Newman, Kahne, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Montoya, Kenseth and Hamlin. Montoya had gained 10 spots in just a few laps from his 18th starting position.

Rain prompted NASCAR officials to throw a caution again on Lap 35. Following pit stops, Kenseth was the leader on the 42nd lap restart with Johnson and Kyle Busch right behind him. Rounding out the top 10 were Hamlin, Biffle, Kahne, Montoya, Gordon and Newman.

Johnson eventually regained the lead with Hamlin in second and Kenseth third. By Lap 70, Johnson had built nearly a full-second lead, showing everyone why he has been so successful at this 1.5-mile hometown track.

However, just a few laps later, Hamlim zoomed to the front in his FedEx Toyota owned by Joe Gibbs.

All of the frontrunners pitted under green between Laps 93 and 96 and when the smoke cleared, it was Kenseth in front briefly before Hamlin took back over, followed by Kyle Busch, Johnson, Montoya, Mears, Martin, Bowyer, Kahne and David Reutimann.

Kyle Busch spun in Turn 4 at 120 laps to bring out another caution. Gordon was the leader on the 124th lap restart with Biffle, Newman and Hamlin in tow.

Martin got into the back of Montoya on the restart, causing considerable damage to Montoya's Chevrolet. Montoya dropped well back in the pack due to the accident because his right rear fender was bent outwards, acting like a parachute catching the wind.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled into the garage shortly after the restart with transmission problems.

At the halfway mark (162 laps), the top 10 were Gordon, Hamlin, Johnson, Kahne, Kenseth, Biffle, Newman, Bowyer and Bill Elliott.

Montoya brought out a caution when his ill-handling car spun shortly before the halfway point. He lost two laps while his crew made repairs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Charlotte Final Practices: Johnson's Speeds Are Way Beyond Second Fastest

by M Roberts

Jimmie Johnson is at it again. During the final practice sessions for Saturday night’s NASCAR Banking 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson set a blistering pace that no other driver had an answer for.

During the first session, Johnson wasn’t just good, he was off the charts good. His early lap of 187.162 mph was almost 2 mph faster than the second best time of teammate Mark Martin. That kind of speed differential rarely happens and is something he didn’t even do when he won an unprecedented five of six Charlotte races from off 2002 to 2005.

Greg Biffle was one of the drivers who was trying to keep pace with Johnson during the session - and did a decent job with the third best speed, noted that Johnson was just too quick in and out of turns three and four.

During Happy Hour, Johnson was just as good with the fastest lap of 185.478 mph early in the session followed once again by Martin with the second quickest lap. In just about all fazes of practice, Johnson dominated the day including having the best 10-lap average.

The chassis Johnson brought this week was the same one he led 17 laps with in Atlanta six weeks ago before having rear-end problems and finishing 36th. In the primary practice using race trim, Johnson was also fastest then and not so coincidentally, Martin was the second fastest then too, but not by such a wide margin.

Johnson’s dominance didn’t extend to just Friday. He was fastest in limited practice Thursday night just before qualifying. where he won the pole too. In what may be the most dominant display of consistency by two teammates, Mark Martin finished second fastest in every session including sitting on the front row with Jimmie. This is only the second time all season that one driver has lead all three practice sessions, and definitely a first for a 1-2 exacta.

A few of the areas that Johnson didn’t reign supreme at were some longer average runs. In the first session Juan Pablo Montoya - using the new chassis that finished fourth at Kansas - had the best average speed while running only 17 laps.

The driver that made a nice impression as someone who may be able to challenge Johnson was Kyle Busch who had the best 20 lap average among all drivers in the first practice session while running 43 laps, the most among all drivers. During Happy Hour, Busch was able to run the fifth fastest lap.

Busch brought his fifth place Richmond chassis this week with hopes that they can get that car dialed in like it was Memorial Day Weekend when Busch led the most laps in the rain shortened Coca-Cola 600. Despite not running well on the sister track of Atlanta in September, Kyle may be back to being a contender to win on a 1.5-mile track and he does have history on his side in Charlotte. He’s on a streak that has seen him finish in the top-6 in his last four starts.

Mark Martin leads all drivers with 17 top-5 finishes at Charlotte and brought the car that he won at Michigan with. He’s looking to take all those great practice times to the winners circle at Charlotte for the fifth time in his career, while also retaking the points lead from Johnson.

Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne, who won on the sister track of Atlanta last month comes in with good, but not stellar practice times. When he won in Atlanta, it was almost the exact same scenario where he was good in practice, but showed no signs of looking like a winning car.

Kahne should be okay Saturday based on history. He has an average finish of 3.3 in his last three starts at Charlotte with three wins overall.

Tony Stewart brought his winning Kansas Chassis to Charlotte this week and his practice times are looking very similar to what he ran in Kansas with very good average speeds.

Ryan Newman is happy to be visiting Charlotte again because it’s the site of his best start and finish of 2009. He brought his Chicagoland car, which finished sixth there, and ran sixth quickest in Happy Hour.

Friday’s Early Practice Session:
1) Jimmie Johnson 187.162 mph - AVG 24 laps @ 182.204race
2) Mark Martin 185.790 mph - AVG 33 laps @ 181.445
3) Greg Biffle 185.242 mph - AVG 25 laps @ 180.620
4) Matt Kenseth 184.805 mph - AVG 32 laps @ 179.745
5) Denny Hamlin 184.786 mph - AVG 41 laps @ 181.382
Top average speed: Juan Pablo Montoya 17 laps @ 182.509
Most laps run: Kyle Busch - 43

Friday’s Final Practice (Happy Hour)
1) Jimmie Johnson 185.478 mph - AVG 48 laps @ 181.094
2) Mark Martin 184.849 mph - AVG 44 laps @ 181.190
3) Denny Hamlin 184.685 mph - AVG 54 laps @ 181.033
4) Robby Gordon 184.237 mph - AVG 30 @ 180.198
5) Kyle Busch 183.974 mph - AVG 45 laps @ 181.211
Top average speed: Kyle Busch
Most laps run: Martin Truex Jr - 59

Top 10 Rated Drivers at Charlotte after all practice and qualifying sessions are completed. Rating will also consist of information from September’s Atlanta race along with other recent 1.5-mile races. Current state of the team will also have a slight bearing.
1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Mark Martin
3) Kyle Busch
4) Denny Hamlin
5) Kasey Kahne
6) Tony Stewart
7) Ryan Newman
8) Juan Pablo Montoya
9) Jeff Gordon
10) Greg Biffle

Johnson Wins Pole at Charlotte; His Third Pole of 2009


Johnson on pole at Lowe's:
#48-Jimmie Johnson won the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway with a lap of 192.376mph for his 3rd pole of the season and 22nd career pole. #5-Martin is 2nd fastest followed by #9-Kahne, #17-Kenseth, #14-Stewart, #39-Newman, #71-Bliss, #25-Keselowski, #24-Gordon and #18-Busch.
The eight non Top-35 drivers who made the race: #71-Bliss, #25-Keselowski, #02-Gilliland, #82-Speed, #87-Nemechek, #21-Elliott, #13-Papis and #08-Terry Labonte who used a past champions provisional to make the race.
The four drivers who failed to qualify: #36-McDowell, #09-Marlin, #66-Blaney and #37-Kvapil.(10-15-2009)

Qualifying Fast Facts - Lowe's Motor Speedway:
#48-Jimmie Johnson won the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America with a lap of 28.070 seconds, 192.376 mph.
This is his 22nd pole in 286 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
This is his third pole and 23rd top-10 start in 2009.
Johnson broke the record for fastest qualifying lap in the new car. The previous fastest qualifying lap in the new car was run by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas Motor Speedway in April 2008 (190.907 mph).
This is his third pole in 17 races at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte.
#5-Mark Martin (second) posted his 17th top-10 start of 2009 and his 28th in 50 races at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte.
#9-Kasey Kahne (third) posted his eighth top-10 start at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte. It is his 17th in 31 races this season.
#20-Joey Logano (12th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.(NASCAR Statistics)(10-15-2009)

Read More on Qualifying Page....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Charlotte NASCAR Banking 500 Preview: It May Be JPM Time Saturday Night

by Micah Roberts

After four Chase races, three-time defending Champion Jimmie Johnson has taken over the NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship lead. His win at California on Sunday was his second of the Chase in the last three races, his all-time track leading fourth overall, and fifth overall of the season.

It’s a remarkable feat that Mark Martin was able hold on for as long as he has. Hanging with Johnson is a tough feat to do. Through the four races, even with a 10-point lead and finishes of first, second, seventh, and fourth, Martin’s excellence isn’t good enough.

Carl Edwards is one driver who can relate with Martin about the dominant wrath of Johnson when it becomes crunch time in NASCAR. Last season in the 10 race Chase, Edwards had eight finishes within the top-4 that included three wins, but it still wasn’t good enough to keep up with the machine that Johnson is.

This by no means makes it over. I think we’re just so programmed into thinking that Johnson will win because he’s given us no reason to think he won’t. Winning three straight titles has only happened once so there isn’t a lot to go by as far as watching history and seeing a three-time champ fail in their bid for a fourth title. Johnson is writing history as we go right before our eyes.

Martin is only 12-points away from Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya is only 58-points out after another impressive run saw him finish third at California. Tony Stewart is 84-points out in fourth while the hard charger of the week, Jeff Gordon, is 105-points out in fifth place.

After a rough first race of the Chase for four-time Cup Champion Gordon, he’s come on strong with sixth at Dover and then back to back second’s at Kansas and California. This week he’s going to another mile-and-a- half track that he and his team should be ready for. All season long, these have been the type of tracks where Gordon has excelled the best and it’s just his luck that three of the next six races are on these type of tracks.

Of all the drivers may have a shot at catching Johnson by beating him at his own game, it could be Gordon even though he’s over 100 points behind right now. We talked about the three races he should do well at, which Johnson will too. Martinsville and Phoenix are tracks where both have run at as well. Between those five tracks, there doesn’t appear to be enough point differential for Gordon to catch Johnson.

The one major variable in the mix is Talladega, which could be described to Johnson as Superman’s kryptonite because it’s the one place he can’t control and dominate. In 15 career starts there, he’s had only four top-5 finishes including a win there in 2006. This season in his first attempt there Johnson finished 30th, one position better than he had starting the year off at the other restrictor plate track in Daytona.

If Johnson were to mirror what he’s done this year at Talladega on Nov 1, it could shake up the entire Chase. The difference between finishing first and 30th is 112 points which means that there is still hope for all the drivers, especially great plate drivers like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.

Remember earlier in the year when Montoya started talking about just wanting to make the Chase and he had a plan to shoot for top-10’s and if he accumulated enough of them, he should be in good shape. At the time based on the way his team had run on all the ovals, we just kind of said, “Yeah, okay, sure JP, good luck with that.”

But then he started to do it and before we knew it he had cracked the top-12 and then was entrenching himself into the top-8 and it got to a point where he was so good every week that there was never a doubt that he wouldn’t make the Chase.

Now after four races in the Chase, JPM is sitting third in points chasing down Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin for the Championship. It truly is a remarkable accomplishment. After bringing out new chassis’ for the first three races, last week they brought their Indy chassis and rolled nice. In the four Chase races, JPM has two thirds and two fourths.

After almost three full seasons, Montoya has finally become one of the good ole’ Boys. He used to be accused of conceitedness because he kept to himself. Writers and other teams thought he was full of himself because he was the International Superstar who had won at Indy and Monaco and thought NASCAR was beneath him.

But the fact was, Montoya didn’t like how was running and was somewhat embarrassed by his finishes. Plus, he wasn’t one of the guys. He didn’t come from any of their stock car series on the way up.

But now that he’s competing, he’s chit-chatting with everyone in the garage, especially those in contention, trying to pick their brains for any piece of knowledge he can extract to better himself. He’s also become more endearing with the media with his frank candidness saying whatever he’s thinking with no sugar-coating.

Welcome to NASCAR JPM, Good luck in the JJ hunt. Based on the last run he had in Atlanta, a track very similar to Charlotte, this may be the week Montoya captures his first win of the season and his first non-road course win in the series.

TOP 5 Charlotte Finish Prediction:
1) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (14/1)
2) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
3) #5 Mark Martin (10/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (14/1)
5) #9 Kasey Kahne (14/1)

Johnsons’ Last Race at Lowe’s
This weeks race at Charlotte marks the final race under the track sponsorship of Lowe’s. However, Lowe’s will still be sponsoring Jimmie Johnson who will be bringing a chassis that has raced only once, a 36th at Atlanta, in hopes of winning his sixth race in Charlotte which would tie a track record.

"Without a doubt, it really would be nice to win there,” Johnson said. “It has been a great relationship with the track and Lowe's and then all the victories we have had there have been really neat. The track, I really think since it was resurfaced, it just changed the dynamic of the race for us. I had some lines that worked really well. I think our setup worked really well for the abrasive track. Rough tracks with bumps and things like that seem to work well for me with my background. It just worked. It was one of those tracks that just worked. They ground the track and it still worked well for us. We came back and it was resurfaced and we were competitive but we didn't have an advantage by any means. I really think the surface has a lot to do with it. It has made the track more forgiving than it was in the past and I think it helped close the gap. I am hoping the track hurries up and ages and gets rough and bumpy and turns back in to the track it used to be.

"We work on stuff each time we go back. This year I think we'll be better yet. The last few times we have been there, we have just been super tight and needed more front grip with the car. I think we are a little smarter even from the All-Star and the Coca Cola 600 weekend, we're smarter now than we were then and hopefully it makes a difference."

Log On to for More Driver Stats and Charlotte Race Info

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lowe's (Charlotte) Motor Speedway Facts

compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At Lowe’s Motor Speedway:

• Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway, as Lowe’s Motor Speedway was then known, in 1959.
• The track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 19, 1960.
• The first NASCAR Nationwide Series race was May 29, 1982.
• The track was repaved midseason in 1994.
• The track name changed from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1999.
• The first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at LMS was on May 16, 2003.
• The track was re-paved again before the 2006 season.

• There have been 101 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, two races per year since the track opened in 1960. In 1961, there were two 100-mile qualifying points races held the week before the May race. The first six fall races at Charlotte were 400-mile events (1960-65).
• 37 drivers have posted poles, led by David Pearson with 14.
• Fireball Roberts won the pole for the first race, in 1960.
• David Pearson posted 11 straight poles at Lowe’s from the fall of 1973 through 1978
• Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in poles, with eight.
• Jeff Gordon won five straight poles for the spring races between 1994 and 1998.
• 42 drivers have won races, led by Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip with six each. David Reutimann became a first-time series winner in May after winning the Coca-Cola 600.
• Joe Lee Johnson won the first race, in 1960.
• Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson lead all active drivers in victories, each with five.
• There have been 13 back-to-back victories, including three in-a-row by Fred Lorenzen (fall 1964 and both 1965) and four straight by Jimmie Johnson (both in 2004 and 2005).
• A sweep has occurred eight times, including each season from 2004-2007.
• 13 races have been won from the pole, the last by Jimmie Johnson in the 2004 Coca-Cola 600.
• Jimmie Johnson won the 2003 Coca-Cola 600 from the 37th starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.
• Jimmie Johnson is the only driver with more than one LMS race to average top 10 finishes (9.1). He comes just short of the all-time best average finish there, held by Rex White (9.0).
• A number of active drivers earned their first win at LMS: Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears and David Reutimann.

NASCAR in North Carolina
• There have been 509 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in North Carolina.
• 414 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as North Carolina; 342 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
• There have been 42 race winners from North Carolina in NASCAR’s three national series; 28 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jimmie Johnson Wins at Fontana & Now Leads The Chase

Associated Press

FONTANA, Calif. -- Jimmie Johnson is back in control of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship.

The three-time defending Sprint Cup champion easily pulled away from Jeff Gordon following a restart with three laps left to win the Pepsi 500 on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway for his fifth victory of the year and 45th overall.

The win was Johnson's fourth at the 2-mile oval and sent a message to the rest of the contenders he has no plans of giving up his spot atop the series easily.

The native Californian took his time drinking in the moment, doing several burnouts and goofing off along the back straightaway before NASCAR officials reminded him he needed to make a stop in Victory Lane.

"I just wanted to have a little fun with it," Johnson said.

Read More on ESPN....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

California Happy Hour: Mark Martin Fastest, but Hamlin Looks Best

by M Roberts

Saturday’s final practice sessions helped give a little more insight to who may win Sunday’s Pepsi 500 at California Speedway. The usual suspects, who seem to be there every week, are at it again this week.

Hendrick teammates Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson showed off again in practice each leading one of the two Saturday sessions. Johnson was fastest in the first session which only ran 18 minutes because the track was running behind on the schedule due to fog on the track.

During Happy Hour, Mark Martin jumped out front early with the fast lap of 180.293 mph and no one could top it for the remainder of the hour. The current points leader and former California winner showed everyone that he isn’t going away anytime soon in the Chase.

Juan Pablo Montoya had a great day of practices and looks to be a contender again this week, not just for points, but for the actual win. He’s been knocking on the door too many times of late having cars nearly as good as the elite. Along with the great individual laps times, he was also fastest in average speeds during Happy Hour that ran at least 19 laps as he did.

What’s kind of surprising is that Martin, Johnson, and Montoya all brought their Indy Chassis’ this week as their primary car at California. First, it’s odd that all three who were the dominant drivers in that Indy race would all be thinking the same thing. Secondly, Indy is relatively flat with tight turns opposed to California’s sweeping turns with lots of room, yet minimal banking of 14 degrees for a track so big.

At Indy, Johnson won, Martin finished second, and Montoya had the best car of the day leading 116 laps, but was caught speeding on pit row, taking what looked to be a sure win away from.

The surprise of the day came with the crew at Richard Childress Racing. They were able to place all four of their drivers within the top-16 during Happy Hour, highlighted by Casey Mears being second fastest and Kevin Harvick fourth.

Perhaps even more startling than the RCR stable doing well in practice, was that Roush-Fenway drivers didn’t impress as they always have since the track opened in 1997. Roush has won a total of seven races on the track by five different drivers.

Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth were good in the shortened first session, but in Happy Hour they didn’t show anything at all and were led by a fast lap of Jamie McMurray who was eighth fastest. It’s likely Edwards will be running for a top-5 in this race, but there’s also lots evidence that suggest maybe he won’t.

Following a series high nine wins in 2008, Edwards still is sitting on zero wins for 2009. After Roush had won the first two races of the season with Kenseth — including California — the entire team has clammed up with an output of zero wins.

It’s just practice, but it’s also a sign — among many — of how far the entire team has fallen by not practicing well on a track they have always done well at.

Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin continued his strong run from Friday into Saturday’s sessions by being second fastest during the limited early practice and followed that up with a third during Happy Hour, where he had the top average times among all drivers running at least 30 laps.

Jeff Gordon won the first race ever on this track and has three altogether. He finished second to Kenseth back in February and continues to run strong on these types of tracks, including the 1.5-mile tracks as well. He was ninth fastest in the early practice and sixth best in Happy Hour.

Saturday’s Final Practice (Happy Hour)
1) Mark Martin 180.293 mph - AVG 37 laps @ 174.036
2) Casey Mears 179.897 mph - AVG 40 laps @ 173.661
3) Denny Hamlin 179.252 mph - AVG 39 laps @ 175.034
4) Kevin Harvick 179.131 mph - AVG 33 laps @ 174.327
5) Ryan Newman 178.434 mph - AVG 33 laps @ 173.158

Saturday’s Early Practice (Ran only 18 minutes due to being behind schedule on the day because of early fog at the track):
1) Jimmie Johnson 180.655 mph - AVG 9 laps @ 176.940
2) Denny Hamlin 180.442 mph - AVG 8 laps @ 177.343
3) Juan Pablo Montoya 180.162 mph - AVG 13 laps @ 176.153
4) Kurt Busch 179.969 mph - AVG 18 laps @ 174.651
5) Mark Martin 179.807 mph - AVG 11 laps @ 176.728

TOP 5 Rated Drivers at California based on Happy Hour, current state of team, recent past history at Cal, and this seasons performances on 1.5 and 2-mile tracks.
1) Denny Hamlin
2) Jimmie Johnson
3) Mark Martin
4) Jeff Gordon
5) Juan Pablo Montoya
6) Carl Edwards
7) Kurt Busch
8) Tony Stewart
9) Greg Biffle
10) Kevin Harvick

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

California Pepsi 500 Preview: Biffle and Gordon Eyeing Victory

by Micah Roberts

The last time we visited the scenic landscape of beautiful Fontana, California for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was a week after the season opening Daytona 500. At that juncture, Matt Kenseth had won two races in a row and it looked like Roush-Fenway Racing was going to dominate the year and win their third Championship.

Why wouldn’t we think that? The year prior, Carl Edwards had won nine races finishing a close second to Jimmie Johnson for the Championship. Greg Biffle charged hard in the Chase getting two wins and finishing third in points. Kenseth had made his fifth Chase in a row, and setting 2009 a blaze with two straight wins was unheard of. Even the youngster on the team, David Ragan, had a bright future in store because he barely missed the Chase and finished 13th.

Here we are now, 28 races later, and Carl Edwards doesn’t have a single win which would make him the biggest drop off in wins from one season to the next by a full time driver if he doesn’t win at least three more in the next seven races.

Greg Biffle has ran well, but still doesn’t have a win. Matt Kenseth, who started so fast, failed to miss the Chase for the first time in his career. David Ragan, for his climb up the ladder, has turned 2009 into a disaster sitting 31st in points just ahead of Paul Menard and Robby Gordon.

Needless to say, something has gone wrong in the Roush stable and we haven’t even discussed Jamie McMurray.

However, if there is one track that can get the Roush group going, California Speedway is it. Since 1998, Five different Roush drivers have won seven times. Of those drivers, Kenseth leads the way with three wins.

Last week at Kansas, Kenseth had a turnaround despite a DNF. During the final practice sessions for the race on Saturday, he had top-3 times in both practices which was a major change of pace because Kenseth hasn’t been fast in any practice on any track all season. Whatever they did made his car go faster and may be enough reason to think he may be able to duplicate what he did in February in Fontana.

Greg Biffle had a great run last week at Kansas finishing third and in this race last season he finished second. In the first race run there this season, Biffle finished fourth. Despite his good finish last week, he still lost a position in points to Jeff Gordon he finished just ahead of him. However, Biffle still feels pretty confident coming into this weeks race.

"I have always loved racing at California, said Biffle. “I think we could have won the last two races there. We just ran out of time last fall and I made a mistake in the pits earlier this year. The 3M team is at the top of their game and we should have had the win last weekend at Kansas. I made a decision to put on four tires at the end and it didn’t work out for us. I guess the way I’m looking at this weekend is that I owe these guys one, so I’m going to do everything I can to get the 16 car into victory lane."

Biffle has one win and four top-5 finishes at California. Earlier this season at California, Biffle was running the fastest laps on the track in second place and catching the leader when he stopped on the front changer’s air hose during a late-race pit stop. He restarted 11th with 35 laps to go and finished fourth.

Look for Biffle to have similar results this week, if not better.

Carl Edwards is the mystery driver of them all. How he fallen so far while using many of the same chassis’ from last season’s fantastic run is beyond anyone’s estimation. He hasn’t even come close to contending for a win. It’s not as and a fall as Ragan’s, but it could be considered worse just because of what he did last season. All year it seems like Edwards is battling for 11th place.

The winner of this race the last two seasons has been Jimmie Johnson. This is the site of El Cajon, CA native Johnson’s first career win. In 13 career starts, he has won three times. He had a little trouble after the last pit stop last week and saw him finish ninth after leading 53 laps on the day. He ended up losing eight points to current leader Mark Martin, sitting 18 points behind.

This week, Johnson is going to inducted into the California Speedway’s “Walk of Fame”, whatever that is. The honor comes for his excellence on the speedway where his three wins are tied with Kenseth and Jeff Gordon in all-time track wins.

Johnson will look to get win number four this week using the same chassis that he won at Indianapolis with in July.

Jeff Gordon won the first race ever on the track and has three wins overall in his 18 starts. He finished second in the first race there this season, just like he did last week.

"I feel like our mile and a half program has really improved this year," said Gordon.

"California was a track earlier in the year where I felt like we let one slip away. And I'm hoping that we can get that one back the next time we go."

With the way that he has ran on 1.5 and 2-mile tracks this season, Gordon could again be a good choice to win this week.

Juan Pablo Montoya used his third straight brand new chassis in the Chase last week at Kansas and finished fourth. The guy has completely transformed into a rock-solid NASCAR driver along with finally getting some good equipment. He currently sits third in points and with his run last week should be considered a real candidate to win.

"Three top-five finishes in the first three Chase races is huge, you know," Montoya said. "And it's what we need to do every weekend. A championship is beating everybody else. We come here to race and to win races and to win races you've got to beat everyone else. We know that we've got good cars. We know we're in a very good position but at the end of the day it's 10 races."

I’ve always been dismissive about his chances just because of his mediocre past in the series, but I have flip-flopped. When Theresa Earnhardt opens her wallet for the betterment of the team - a first since she took control of the team, I have to change my opinion. Too bad there wasn’t a road course race in the Chase.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #16 Greg Biffle (12/1)
2) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
3) #2 Kurt Busch (16/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (5/1)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)

California Auto Club Speedway Facts: Johnson's Average Finish of 6.2 Leads Way

Compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At Auto Club Speedway:

• Groundbreaking for California Speedway, as Auto Club Speedway was originally known, took place in November 1995.
• The first race there was a NASCAR Camping World Series West race won by Ken Schrader on June 21, 1997.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 22, 1997 and won by Jeff Gordon.
• September 2004 was the first night race and that was also the first year there were two races a year for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series.
• The track name was changed to Auto Club Speedway in February 2008.

• There have been 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since the track opened in 1997.
• Four drivers have competed in all 18 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek.
• Joe Nemechek won the pole for the inaugural race in 1997.
• There have been 12 different pole winners, led by Kurt Busch (three). Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon each have two poles.
• 12 different drivers have posted victories. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth each have won three races.
• Rick Hendrick has won seven races, more than any other car owner.
• Nine of the 18 races were won from starting positions outside the top 10; only one has been won from the pole (Jimmie Johnson in 2008).
• Matt Kenseth won the 2006 spring race from the 31st starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started.
• Four active drivers have averaged a top-10 finish: Kyle Busch (9.2), Carl Edwards (6.7), Jimmie Johnson (6.2) and Matt Kenseth (9.0).
• Kyle Busch won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole (2/05) and first race (9/05) at Auto Club Speedway.

NASCAR in California
• There have been 125 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in California:
• 406 NASCAR drivers have their home state recorded as California.
• There have been 32 race winners from California in NASCAR’s three national series.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stewart Wins at Kansas: Gordon Hard Charging With 2nd

by Ed Hinton

Maybe, as Mr. Lincoln said of his Gettysburg Address, this will be little noted nor long remembered.

Then again it might be recalled, at the end of this Chase, as Jeff Gordon's great turning point, his moment of launch.

Gordon was catching Tony Stewart by a hefty tenth of a second a lap in the waning minutes of Sunday's Price Chopper 400. This was little noted, except by ESPN TV announcers, who moved on to celebrating Stewart once he had the race won.

Nor is it much remembered a day later. Second place is, as they say in NASCAR, the first loser. The story coming off the Kansas Speedway stop in the Chase is that Stewart is back in the hunt.

Gordon never said postrace, at least to the media, what drivers usually say in such situations: that he simply ran out of laps.

"We were better than Tony there at the end, but not enough," he told reporters at the track. That is, not enough to run down Stewart in the 27-lap sprint that followed the final caution.

Read More.......

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kansas Happy Hour Review: Jimmie Johnson Fastest Again

by M Roberts

Jimmie Johnson has many in the NASCAR world saying, “oh no, here we go again” as the all-time leader in Chase wins (15) is running as good as ever in his quest for a fourth straight title. At Kansas this week, you had better brace yourself, because Johnson is dialed in.

He had a dominant first session Saturday with the fastest lap time by a large margin along with the top average speed, a sign that he’ll be tough to chase down late if doesn’t encounter any issues on the track. During happy hour, he laid down the fastest lap at 172.983 mph early in the session and continued on with his great average times which were second best while running 47 laps.

Johnson won this race last season and has a total of five top-10 finishes in his seven career starts. He brought his chassis from the last Atlanta race where he started third but finished 36th after suffering a broken axle. The car was brand new for that race and Johnson was fastest in the more relevant practice prior to the race. He’s only 10 points from points leader Mark Martin, and much to the dismay of many, it’s possible he could take the lead for good this week.

Matt Kenseth is watching the Chase from afar for the first time since it was introduced, but Kansas has seemed to reinvigorate the slumping team. He finished fifth there last season and has led 98 laps combined over the last two seasons. He’s not usually a driver that tops the speed charts during practice, especially this season, but he looks very strong this weekend with great runs in both sessions Saturday. He was third fastest in both.

Juan Pablo Montoya brought a new Chassis for this race, as he’s been the last few weeks showing the seriousness of his organization to improve upon their third place status in points. In the first session, Montoya had the 17th quickest lap but was second only to Johnson in average speeds. During happy hour Montoya laid down a big lap with the fourth fastest time and was fastest overall in average speeds even though he ran half the laps as most with only 23.

David Reutimann’s best runs this season have been on the 1.5-mile tracks this season and based on his practice runs Saturday, Kansas will be no different as he was fourth fastest in the first session and 11th in happy hour, where he ran the most laps of the late session with 64.

This season Ruetimann has finished fourth in Vegas, 11th at Texas, 12th at Chicago, and won the rain shortened Charlotte race. He was equally as good on the 2-mile tracks of California and Michigan this year, which because of the similar banking are similar to the setup needed for Kansas. He may not win, but he should have a car capable of running near the top-5 this week.

Jeff Gordon has won twice at Kansas and has finished in the top-5 in his last two starts. Of all drivers with at least four starts on the track, Gordon leads with an average finish of 9.8. In the first session, Gordon was eighth quickest with great average times. During happy hour, Gordon came right back another great run with the sixth quickest lap.

Mark Martin is sitting on his seventh pole of the season this week using the chassis that he won with at Darlington and Chicagoland. Of all the 1.5-mile tracks, Chicago is probably the most similar to Kansas which may spell bad news for everyone chasing him this week. Martin was sluggish in the first practice with the 19th fastest lap, though he had great average times. During happy hour, he came strong with the second fastest lap in the 20th minute and had the third best average times.

Clint Bowyer has an average finish of 7.7 in three starts at his home track and came out with the fifth quickest lap in happy hour. He brought the same chassis that finished 18th at Indianapolis.

Kasey Kahne was 10th quickest in the early session and 12th best in happy hour, but should be considered to be rated higher on the basis of his Atlanta win and finishing third at Chicago.

Top 5 - Saturday’s Early Practice Session:
1) Jimmie Johnson 173.388 mph - AVG 23 laps @ 168.765
2) Denny Hamlin 172.574 mph - AVG 22 laps @ 168.287
3) Matt Kenseth 172.552 mph - AVG 30 laps @ 168.037
4) David Reutimann 172.079 mph - AVG 32 laps @ 167.029
5) Tony Stewart 172.079 mph - AVG 8 laps @ 169.919

Best Average Speeds: Jimmie Johnson & Juan Pablo Montoya (min. 20 laps)

Top 5 - Saturday’s Final Practice (Happy Hour)
1) Jimmie Johnson 172.983 mph - AVG 47 laps @ 168.085
2) Mark Martin 172.855 mph - AVG 35 laps @ 167.083
3) Matt Kenseth 172.205 mph - AVG 38 laps @ 167.404
4) Juan Pablo Montoya 172.018 mph - AVG 23 laps @ 168.214
5) Clint Bowyer 171.161 mph - AVG 40 laps @ 167.349

Top 10 Rated Drivers at Kansas based on Saturday’s practice sessions, past performances at Kansas, Chicagoland, Michgan, and California, current state of team, with a mix 2009 runs on the 1.5-mile tracks.

1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Mark Martin
3) Jeff Gordon
4) Juan Pablo Montoya
5) Matt Kenseth
6) Denny Hamlin
7) Kasey Kahne
8) David Reutimann
9) Clint Bowyer
10) Brian Vickers