[NASCAR] Speed Addicts

Speed Addict’s NASCAR Quarterly Special

Welcome to the first of four NASCAR Quarterly Specials here at the Pulse! We’ve got way too much NASCAR info crammed in here than is necessary, so you better grab you a nice, cold glass of sweet tea and a bag of Doritos, because you’re going to be here for awhile. In case you’re new to this slice of redneck heaven, or if you missed the preview last week, this column is basically a review of the previous eight races on the NASCAR schedule, along with a special preview of Talladega coming up tomorrow (or today, depending on when this column goes up). That makes nine races altogether, which is the first quarter of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Season. Thus, here at the Pulse, the NASCAR sector of the Sports group (ie me) decided to post a very special recap type column that will actually have some meaningful info up. With all that said, reach up their and pull those belts tight one more time! Because it’s “Boogity x3” time

2005 NASCAR Driver Profiles Through Phoenix

First up on our “Tour de Force” is a look at the men behind the wheel. Without the drivers, it’s unreasonably hard to really talk about NASCAR. The first quarter of the 2005 Nextel Cup Season has seen fifty-seven different drivers strap themselves in the craziest thrill rides on Earth, each with varying degrees of success. To wit, we’ve got all fifty-seven of them covered, though only the Top 35 get serious copy devoted to them, since its nearly impossible to come up with meaningful banter on Carl Long or Derrike Cope (sorry, guys).

[Ed. Note – Some drivers will have “**” or “***” attached to their names. This indicates that no information was present for their Nextel Cup rides, so “**” indicates their Busch Series information and “***” indicates their Craftsman Truck Series information.]

01. Jimmie Johnson – $2,213,810
#45 Lowe’s Chevrolet

Points Standings: 1st (1,260 Points)
Crew Chief: Chad Knaus
Car Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Pole Awards: None
Wins: 1 (UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 – Las Vegas)
Top Fives: 5
Top Tens: 7

Jimmie Johnson has, for some time now, been considered as the best young driver in the Nextel Cup. Narrowly missing the Nextel Cup Championship last year by mere points, Johnson has been on a roll ever since the start of the Chase last year. With six wins to his credit since then, Johnson has also been a model of consistency; this year alone, he’s logged seven top ten finishes, with five of those being top fives. Aside from the “cheating” hiccup his team faced in Las Vegas (which he also won, coincidentally), Johnson has been the measuring stick so far in 2005.

02. Kurt Busch $2,428,980
#97 Irwin Industrial Tools/Sharpie Ford

Points Standings: 2nd (1,087 Points / -173)
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig
Car Owner: Roush Racing
Pole Awards: None
Wins: 1 (Subway Fresh 500 – Phoenix)
Top Fives: 4
Top Tens: 5

Kurt Busch won the Chase for the Cup last year in fairly impressive style, holding off a maniac charge by Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at the end to seal the deal. This year, he started off with an impressive second place finish at Daytona, and he hasn’t really let up yet. Four top five finishes, along with a dominating performance at Phoenix last Saturday night have propelled Busch back into the #2 spot in points. If his consistency is there in June, we may be looking at a potential repeat.

03. Greg Biffle $1,681,330
#16 National Guard/Charter Communications Ford

Points Standings: 3rd (1,052 Points / – 208)
Crew Chief: Doug Richert
Car Owner: Roush Racing
Pole Awards: None
Wins: 2 (Auto Club 500 – California, Samsung/Radio Shack 500 – Texas)
Top Fives: 3
Top Tens: 5

Everyone that thought Greg Biffle would be third in points, have two victories and five top ten finishes, please stand up. That’s right, not many of you. Biffle has apparently made the transition from bit player to weekly contender, which is a status that many thought he would reach when he substituted for Darrell Waltrip way back when. If Biffle is a flash in the pan, then at least he’s getting his props now. But if he’s for real in the Chase, then he’s in pretty good shape come August.

04. Jeff Gordon $2,591,650
#24 Du Pont Chevrolet

Points Standings: 4th (1,027 Points / -233)
Crew Chief: Robbie Loomis
Car Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Pole Awards: 1 (Phoenix)
Wins: 2 (Daytona 500 – Daytona, Advance Auto Parts 500 – Martinsville)
Top Fives: 3
Top Tens: 3

Jeff Gordon, along with the Rainbow Warriors and Co. have been up and down the success ladder this year, starting with the Daytona 500. Following his exciting win, Gordon actually hit the skids, finishing out of the Top 20 in California and again at Atlanta. With only three Top Five finishes, Gordon will have to string together a more consistent run in the second quarter. But with two wins already, he’s still in great shape to enter the Chase.

05. Elliott Sadler $1,224,790
#38 M & M’s Ford

Points Standings: 5th (1,009 Points / -251)
Crew Chief: Todd Parrott
Car Owner: Robert Yates Racing
Pole Awards: 1 (Bristol)
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 4

Elliott Sadler, much like Biffle, is beginning to make the transition from occasional threat to a consistent star in the NASCAR ranks. Having won the pole at Bristol, Sadler has logged a top five finish, along with four top tens. Though he failed to win at Bristol and Texas, his historical strong points, Sadler hasn’t ran too badly. Though he’s got some work to do, Sadler made the Chase for the Cup last year. It’s not out of the question for him to make it again.

06. Mark Martin $1,163,120
#6 Viagra Ford

Points Standings: 6th (997 Points / -263)
Crew Chief: Pat Tryson
Car Owner: Roush Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 4

Mark Martin is in his final year, and what better way to go out than to find himself in the thick of the chase. Mind you, we still have a long way to go, but some of the real challengers are being weeded out from the pretenders, and Mark has maintained a consistent run throughout the year. He came up with a solid top ten finish at the Daytona 500, and has basically kept his nose clean since then. Mark may very well find a win at Dover in June, but considering who we’re talking about, Dover may not be the only win for Martin this year.

07. Ryan Newman $1,374,540
#12 ALLTEL Dodge

Points Standings: 7th (994 Points / -266)
Crew Chief: Matt Borland
Car Owner: Penske Racing
Pole Awards: 3 (Las Vegas, Atlanta, Texas)
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 3

Hello, Newman. Ryan Newman has pretty much picked up where he left off last year; incredible qualifying runs, sub-par races. He’s been marginally better this year, with a few top tens to his credit. Historically speaking, Newman’s best stretch runs from Dover to the second Pocono race, so he has probably yet to hit his peak. We have seen in the past how good Newman is when he gets on a hot streak. If he hits another one of his win streaks, then field beware.

08. Carl Edwards $1,059,300
#99 Scotts/Ortho Ford

Points Standings: 8th (979 Points / -281)
Crew Chief: Bob Osborne
Car Owner: Roush Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 1 (Golden Corral 500 – Atlanta)
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 3

Though its far too early to make a fair, or educated judgment, it is striking to see how talented Carl Edwards is, and what kind of role he may play for Roush Racing in the Post-Martin era. With Kurt Busch leading the way, Carl Edwards is probably the most promising rookie that Jack has had in his stable in a long, long time. The Atlanta sweep was impressive, but Carl hasn’t let up much since, staying competitive through most of the first quarter. It may be early, but Rookie of the Year is quite possible for the Back Flip Guru.

09. Sterling Marlin $1,170,240
#40 Coors Light Dodge

Points Standings: 9th (968 Points / -292)
Crew Chief: Steve Boyer
Car Owner: Chip Ganassi Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 3

Chip Ganassi Racing has a true legend in Sterling Marlin. That’s not really hyperbole, either, because year in and year out, Sterling Marlin continues to find himself in the hunt for the Cup. Had he not been sidelined with that neck injury two years ago, Sterling may very well have found himself as the Nextel/Winston Cup Champion. Regardless, Marlin continues to put himself in contention week after week. He may have fallen off a bit, but three top tens are impressive considering the talent he’s up against every week.

10. Rusty Wallace $1,210,960
#2 Miller Lite Dodge

Points Standings: 10th (960 Points / -300)
Crew Chief: Larry Carter
Car Owner: Penske Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 4

Krusty Rusty is undergoing his “Last Call” tour this year, or what not. Truth be told, if he keeps running this well, this Last Call junk may actually be a tease for us die hard Rusty-haters. But really, Rusty has been running extremely well this year, with a solid finish in Daytona to start off his final season. He was also in line for a good finish in Phoenix until good ole Jimmie Johnson spun him out. In other words, thank you Jimmie!

11. Kevin Harvick $1,300,730
#29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet

Points Standings: 11th (951 Points / -309)
Crew Chief: Todd Berrier
Car Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 1 (Food City 500 – Bristol)
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 3

Ever since Daytona, Kevin Harvick has slipped under the radar, thankfully for his sake. With a win in Bristol, and a couple of Top Fives to his credit, Kevin has pretty much erased that troublemaker stigma that he picked up from Jimmie Johnson courtesy the 2nd Gatorade Duel (whose review is up on InsidePulse.com as we speak!). Harvick has been something of a mystery since his debut several years ago; he was a very promising young rookie when he stepped in and won at Atlanta just weeks following the death of Dale Earnhardt, but he’s kind of fell into a lull ever since. Maybe 2005 is his breakout year, who knows.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. $1,812,890
#8 Budweiser Chevrolet

Points Standings: 12th (947 Points / -313)
Crew Chief: Pete Rondeau
Car Owner: Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 3
Top Tens: 4

It’s been a disappointing run for Junior to date, even though he’s logged four top ten finishes. The Daytona race was as much distressing as it was a great finish for Little E, and he really struggled to find the right stuff after that. Being in twelfth place right now is not bad, but it is a far cry from what could have been a banner year for the Budweiser crew. I don’t sound so crazy now that we’ve seen Junior struggle at certain tracks like he has now, do I?

13. Dale Jarrett $1,187,130
#88 UPS Ford

Points Standings: 13th (947 Points / -313)
Crew Chief: Mike Ford
Car Owner: Robert Yates Racing
Pole Awards: 1 (Daytona)
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 1

What can Brown do for you? Well, for Jarrett, it can land you one of the most hilarious ad campaigns out there. As far as the racing aspect of Jarrett’s day goes, he is hanging around near the Chase line, which is about as good as it gets for the UPS crew. Even though I still disagree with the Todd Parrott switch from a year or two back, DJ is still competitive, which is still good to see.

14. Tony Stewart $1,413,640
#20 The Home Depot Chevrolet

Points Standings: 14th (913 Points / -347)
Crew Chief: Greg Zipadelli
Car Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 3

[Ed. Note – The Last ONE!] Tony the Tiger has three top tens, one of those being a Top Five. It’s been a rough ride outside the track, as Tony has had run-ins with Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson here and there, but Tony has been able to carry Joe Gibbs Racing with Labonte struggling so badly. Tony found himself in the Chase last year, but didn’t make much noise thereafter. With his Daytona troubles aside, Tony is one of the favorites heading into the Coca Cola 600 in a few weeks.

15. Jamie McMurray $1,145,880
#42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge

Points Standings: 15th (912 Points / -348)
Crew Chief: Donnie Wingo
Car Owner: Chip Ganassi Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 2

Along with Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray is helping complete a rather formidable stable in the ranks of NASCAR: Chip Ganassi Racing, that is. McMurray has two top five finishes behind him, though if he wants to actually make this year’s Chase, he’ll need to step it up considerably. McMurray has picked up just about everything he can learn from Sterling; it’s time to step out from behind Marlin and crank it up.

16. Jeremy Mayfield $1,108,580
#19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge

Points Standings: 16th (904 Points / -356)
Crew Chief: Slugger Labbe
Car Owner: Evernham Motorsports
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

Jeremy Mayfield has yet to find himself in the Top 10 this year, but with a veteran crew chief in Slugger Labbe leading the way, Jeremy Mayfield may yet find his way back to the good days again. Mayfield, for you new people to NASCAR, was a teammate of Rusty Wallace’s several years ago, and logged a very successful stretch in the late 1990s. Though he may not find that kind of success again, here’s to Jeremy Mayfield and his run back to the Chase.

17. Jeff Burton $1,118,320
#31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet

Points Standings: 17th (879 Points / -381)
Crew Chief: Kevin Hamlin
Car Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 1

How Jeff Burton has managed to stay this competitive in the points standing is beyond me. His Top Five performance earlier on, along with good runs sporadically here and there have put him in the $1,000,000 club with some of NASCAR’s elite. Kevin Hamlin, much like Lopez, is a very underrated crew chief. I can remember when Burton was in danger of going out without a sponsor earlier on this year; look at him now.

18. Michael Waltrip $1,194,270
#15 NAPA Chevrolet

Points Standings: 18th (866 Points / -394)
Crew Chief: Tony Eury Jr.
Car Owner: Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 3

Michael Waltrip. So many things can be said for Mikey, but to make a long story short, Michael has been on the rebound since the Daytona-California double blow that really knocked him down and out. In fact, if it weren’t for those two mishaps with the engine, Michael would be ahead of Junior in the points right now. Nevertheless, Waltrip has really came on strong as of late, logging a Top 10 finish at Texas, then following that up with a 2nd place finish at Phoenix. Talladega is the only other track that Michael has won at besides Daytona; with the momentum he has built up, and a decent car, we could see a return to victory lane for the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. (God willing!)

19. Scott Riggs $1,332,700
#10 Valvoline Chevrolet

Points Standings: 19th (847 Points / -413)
Crew Chief: Doug Randolph
Car Owner: MBV Motorsports
Pole Awards: 1 (Martinsville)
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 3

Scott Riggs, a member of the MBV Motorsports crew, has ran much better than expected so far in 2005. Three top tens, including a Top Five finish and a Bud Pole Award at Martinsville have improved Riggs’ standing immensely. He’s not up to snuff with the big guns in NASCAR yet, but I do believe that he has the drive and determination to get there eventually. Darrell Waltrip is very high on Scott Riggs, and with D.W., I tend to follow his lead. Riggs has a bright future ahead of him.

20. Kasey Kahne $1,135,440
#9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge

Points Standings: 20th (810 Points / -450)
Crew Chief: Tommy Baldwin Jr.
Car Owner: Evernham Motorsports
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 2

Ray Evernham Motorsports found something special last year in Kasey Kahne, also known as the Alliteration Monster from the Northwest in Speed Addict circles. Kahne has, or had a knack for finishing in second place last year, but the sophomore slump has apparently bit Kasey, because he’s 20th in points and only has two top fives to his credit. Granted, he’s doing better than guys like Bobby Labonte, but Kasey is primed to break out and become the next big thing (no relations to Brock Lesnar, hopefully).

21. Dave Blaney $884,263
#07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet

Points Standings: 21st (798 Points / -462)
Crew Chief: Philippe Lopez
Car Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

Richard Childress Racing is really struggling to find an identity, and Blaney is no different. I didn’t even realize he was driving the Jack Daniels Chevrolet until I started doing research for this project. Despite having a Top 10 to his credit, I really have no recollection as to how Blaney has managed to stay so close to the Top 20 in points. A lot of his success can be traced to Philippe Lopez, who is probably the most underrated crew chief in the game today.

22. Kyle Petty $928,116
#45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge

Kyle Petty is one of those feel-good stories that you can’t help but want to cheer for. Kyle has been through so much over these past few years, what with the loss of his son Adam at New Hampshire. To spend so much of his time working to get the Victory Junction camp off the ground… he’s a testament to the good that can be found in sports if you look hard enough. Petty has ran well all year long, and each time he finds himself in the Top Ten, I for one will be cheering him on. Good job, indeed.

Points Standings: 22nd (796 Points / -464)
Crew Chief: Paul Andrews
Car Owner: Petty Enterprises
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

23. Brian Vickers $925,114
#25 GMAC/ditech.com Chevrolet

Points Standings: 23rd (795 Points / -465)
Crew Chief: Lance McGrew
Car Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 2

Similar to Jason Leffler’s standing in Joe Gibbs Racing, Brian Vickers is the “young gun” for Hendrick Motorsports. It does mean something for Brian to be groomed by guys like Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Two top ten finishes, including a top five have really boosted the stature of Vickers. Now then, let’s see how he evolves as the season progresses, because it only gets harder from here.

24. Joe Nemechek $1,066,460
#01 U.S. Army Chevrolet

Points Standings: 24th (793 Points / -467)
Crew Chief: Ryan Pemberton
Car Owner: MB2 Motorsports
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 2

Joe Nemechek experienced something of a resurgence last year. He won at Kansas last year, and had a stretch of Top 10 runs as well. Though he hasn’t been as impressive through the start of the 2005 season, Joe has logged two top ten finishes for Ryan Pemberton and MB2 Motorsports. Ever since Jerry Nadeau went down in a horrific crash last year, Joe has stepped up admirably for the U.S. Army Chevrolet crew, and is a testament to the will and desire that makes NASCAR drivers the best.

25. Kyle Busch $1,057,650
#5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet

Points Standings: 25th (792 Points / -468)
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Car Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Pole Awards: 1 (California)
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 2

Kyle Busch, the younger brother of Kurt Busch, is something of a prodigy like his brother was when he first broke into the big time. He finished 2nd in Las Vegas, 8th in Phoenix, and took the pole in the second race of the year at California. With a few more good runs in the coming weeks, Busch may find himself in the hunt for Rookie of the Year. What’s more, Kyle has absolutely dominated in the Busch Series at Charlotte, which is coming up in a few weeks. Here’s to an outside shot at the 600, perhaps.

26. Casey Mears $1,114,220
#41 Target Dodge

Points Standings: 26th (791 Points / -469)
Crew Chief: Jimmy Elledge
Car Owner: Chip Ganassi Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 2

Young Casey Mears, in his third season, has two top tens to his name, including a very strong 4th place finish in Texas two weeks ago. Even though it seems like we’ve beat the following into the ground by this point, the key for Mears is to be more consistent. He’s finished outside the Top 20 four times, even though he’s only failed to finish once. With a few more Top 10 finishes, Mears may make the same leap that Carl Edwards has.

27. Mike Bliss $829,213
#0 NetZero/Best Buy Chevrolet

Points Standings: 27th (767 Points / -493)
Crew Chief: Bob Barker
Car Owner: Haas CNC Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

Save the Bob Barker jokes for another day, because Mike Bliss is in the house! Word to your mother! No, in all seriousness, the 2002 Craftsman Truck Series Champion has had a decent streak here and there in 2005. He logged four consecutive Top 20 finishes to start the year, then hit a rough patch midway through the first quarter. Over the last two weeks in Texas and Phoenix, though, Bliss has started to creep back into that 20th place range. Here’s to hoping that Bliss may find some more success as the races progress.

28. Matt Kenseth $1,191,690
#17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford

Points Standings: 28th (745 Points / -515)
Crew Chief: Robbie Reiser
Car Owner: Roush Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

For my money, Matt Kenseth has been the most disappointing driver of 2005 so far, but his problems may very well stem back past the start of the 2005 campaign. If you recall Kenseth going head first into the tires during the Chase for the Cup last year, it seems as if Kenseth has never really recovered. Sure, he has a Top 10 finish to his credit, but no former title contender has struggled as mightily as he has this year. Kenseth was a model of consistency in his championship year in 2003, but with the emergence of guys like Jimmie Johnson, Kenseth is going to have to start winning races if he wants to have a chance in the Chase for the Cup.

29. Jeff Green $1,018,490
#43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge

Points Standings: 29th (687 Points / -573)
Crew Chief: Greg Steadman
Car Owner: Petty Enterprises
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

It’s a shame that Petty Enterprises have been reduced to this. That’s not really a knock on Jeff Green, it’s just that the name doesn’t mean much anymore to the casual fan. Now, Jeff Green can run when he wants to, but he just has not caught many breaks so far. If he can ever find his groove, then maybe the #43 car can find some prestige again, because it’s next to being dead on the water now.

30. Travis Kvapil $859,828
#77 Kodak/Jasper Engines Dodge

Points Standings: 30th (668 Points / -592)
Crew Chief: Shane Wilson
Car Owner: Penske/Jasper Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

The young Kvapil has had trouble finishing races, which is not going to help him advance up the ladder any farther. Aside from a solid 7th place finish at Bristol, Travis has logged three DNF’s this year (Atlanta and Phoenix for accidents, then Martinsville due to losing an engine). If he can run seventh at Bristol, then Travis has the goods to run well at other short tracks like Richmond as well. All it takes is a little more experience to really put him over the top. But most importantly, to win races, you have to… say it with me… finish the races!

31. Ricky Rudd $1,079,590
#21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford

Points Standings: 31st (659 Points / -601)
Crew Chief: Michael “Fatback” McSwain
Car Owner: Wood Brothers Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 2

Though his streak of at least one win per season is now a memory, Ricky Rudd is still a competitive force for the Wood Brothers. With new crew chief Fatback McSwain at the helm of the Good Ship Motorcraft, Rudd has placed in the top ten twice in 2005, and the coming races in places like Dover have been kind to Ricky in the past. Good money says Rudd can crack the Top 20 in points before the season is out.

32. Ken Schrader $826,313
#49 Schwan’s Home Service Dodge

Points Standings: 32nd (651 Points / -609)
Crew Chief: David Hyder
Car Owner: BAM Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

Ken Schrader is, to use a popular Southern reference, “one of the good ole boys” in the garage. Though his best days are long behind him, Schrader can still be counted on to give everything he’s got, each time out. He falls into the same category with guys like Ricky Rudd and Bobby Labonte; the key is to stay in the Top 35. The more chances he gets, the better he’s going to run down the line.

33. Scott Wimmer $927,131
#22 Caterpillar Dodge

Points Standings: 33rd (630 Points / -630)
Crew Chief: Derrick Finley
Car Owner: Bill Davis Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

Scott Wimmer is in that rookie-sophomore slump that claims a lot of victims, though he has shown brief glimmers of hope. Aside from nearly leading the Daytona 500 earlier this year, along with decent streaks in Martinsville, Wimmer has shown that he is far from incompetent behind the wheel. The key in the second quarter for Wimmer is to stay consistent in his finishes in order to stay in the Top 35 in points, where he’ll get a chance to race every week. All he needs is a bit more confidence, and a bit more seasoning.

34. Bobby Labonte $1,106,700
#18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet

Points Standings: 34th (615 Points / -645)
Crew Chief: Steve Addington
Car Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

Bobby Labonte has had a rough go if it as of late. If Matt Kenseth wasn’t around, Labonte would be the most disappointing driver to date. It’s not that Labonte has been driving poorly, though he is far from his Winston Cup Championship form of a few years ago. A lot of his woes have to do with the constant trouble he finds himself in. If he can put a couple of good runs together, Labonte may yet find himself back to respectable levels.

35. Jason Leffler $755,733
#11 FedEx Express Chevrolet

Points Standings: 35th (599 Points / -661)
Crew Chief: Dave Rogers
Car Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

Jason Leffler has been seen by some as the next generation for Joe Gibbs Racing. Of course, no one expected Bobby Labonte to struggle as badly as he has, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to hear talk about Leffler stepping up to replace Labonte before this year is over. Of course, the skill level hasn’t evolved yet like many had hoped, but Leffler does have some promising attributes to his credit. Leffler is not above finishing in the top ten here and there.

36. Mike Wallace $782,238
#4 Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet

Points Standings: 36th (597 Points / -633)
Crew Chief: Chris Carrier
Car Owner: Morgan-McClure Motorsports
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

37. Bobby Hamilton Jr. $834,855
#32 Tide Chevrolet

Points Standings: 37th (533 Points / -727)
Crew Chief: Harold Holly
Car Owner: PPI Motorsports
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

38. Kevin Lepage $576,133
#37 Patron Tequila Dodge

Points Standings: 38th (439 Points / -821)
Crew Chief: Billy Poindexter
Car Owner: R&J Racing
Starts: 5
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

39. Robby Gordon $443,063
#7 Harrah’s Chevrolet

Points Standings: 39th (377 Points / -883)
Crew Chief: Bob Temple
Car Owner: Robby Gordon Motorsports
Starts: 6
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

40. Hermie Sadler $328,333
#66 Peak Fitness Ford

Points Standings: 40th (259 Points / -1001)
Crew Chief: Unknown
Car Owner: Peak Performance Motorsports
Starts: 4
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

41. John Andretti $403,388
>#14 VB/APlus at Sunoco Ford

Points Standings: 41st (225 Points / -1035)
Crew Chief: David Charpentier
Car Owner: PPC Racing
Starts: 3
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

42. Johnny Sauter $235,013
#09 Miccosukee Gaming & Resorts Dodge

Points Standings: 42nd (218 Points / -1042)
Crew Chief: Unknown
Car Owner: Phoenix Racing
Starts: 3
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1

43. Terry Labonte $230,765
#44 GMAC Chevrolet

Points Standings: 43rd (212 Points / -1048)
Crew Chief: Peter Sospenzo
Car Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Starts: 3
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

44. Bill Elliott $258,968
#91 Stanley Tools Dodge

Points Standings: 44th (195 Points / -1065)
Crew Chief: Chris Andrews
Car Owner: Evernham Motorsports
Starts: 3
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

45. Jimmy Spencer $150,450
#50 U.S. Micro Corporation

Points Standings: 45th (176 Points / -1084)
Crew Chief: Buddy Sisco
Car Owner: Arnold Motorsports
Starts: 2
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

46. Boris Said $337,963
#136 CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet

Points Standings: 46th (164 Points / -1096)
Crew Chief: Frank Stoddard
Car Owner: MB/Sutton Motorsports
Starts: 2
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

47. Randy LaJoie $236,603
#34 Mach One Inc. Chevrolet

Points Standings: 47th (134 Points / -1126)
Crew Chief: Mike Steurer
Car Owner: Mach One Inc.
Starts: 3
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

48. Stanton Barrett ** $158,503
#36 KC Masterpiece Chevrolet

Points Standings: 48th (113 Points / -1147)
Crew Chief: Ricky Pearson
Car Owner: DCT Motorsports
Starts: 2
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

49. Clint Bowyer ** $61,700
#2 ACDelco Chevrolet

Points Standings: 49th (97 Points / -1163)
Crew Chief: Gil Martin
Car Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Starts: 1
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

50. Shane Hmiel ** $140,348
#32 Win Fuel Chevrolet

Points Standings: 50th (77 Points / -1183)
Crew Chief: Todd Lohse
Car Owner: Braun Racing
Starts: 2
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

51. Mike Garvey $127,553
Number/Sponsor Unknown

Points Standings: 51st (74 Points / -1186)
Crew Chief: N/A
Car Owner: N/A
Starts: 2
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

52. Mike Skinner *** $260,113
#5 Toyota Tundra Toyota

Points Standings: 52nd (73 Points / -1187)
Crew Chief: Jeff Hensley
Car Owner: Bill Davis Racing
Starts: 1
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

53. Eric McClure $98,513
#173 ARC Dehooker Chevrolet

Points Standings: 53rd (67 Points / -1193)
Crew Chief: Tim Brewer
Car Owner: Rabe Racing Enterprises
Starts: 1
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

54. Martin Truex Jr. ** $252,593
#8 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet

Points Standings: 54th (61 Points / -1199)
Crew Chief: Kevin Manion
Car Owner: Chance 2 Motorsports
Starts: 1
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

55. Morgan Shepherd $96,513
#89 Victory in Jesus/Red Line Oil Dodge

Points Standings: 55th (48 Points / -1212)
Crew Chief: John Latchford
Car Owner: Victory in Jesus Racing
Starts: 1
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

56. Kenny Wallace ** $243,038
#22 Stacker 2 Ford

Points Standings: 56th (43 Points / -1217)
Crew Chief: Wes Ward
Car Owner: PPC Racing
Starts: 1
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

57. Carl Long $135,300
#200 Buyer’s Choice Auto Warranties Chevrolet

Points Standings: 57th (34 Points / -1226)
Crew Chief: Dom Turse
Car Owner: McGlynn Motorsports
Starts: 2
Pole Awards: 0
Wins: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0

2005 Nextel Cup Race Review (Thru Phoenix)

With the completion of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega on Sunday, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series will have raced nine of the thirty-six point races on the schedule (the Nextel All-Star Challenge not included). Even though 3/4ths of the NASCAR season remains, the past eight races to date include some of the best racing on the circuit, and are the exact kind of races that get you primed for the May-June run back to Daytona. Here’s a quick look back now at the previous eight races.

Race 1: Daytona 500
Date: Sunday, February 20th, 2005 from Daytona Beach, Florida
Time: 1:00 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Dale Jarrett
Distance: 2.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jeff Gordon

Race 2: Auto Club 500
Date: Sunday, February April 27th, 2005 from Fontana, California
Time: 2:00 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Kyle Busch
Distance: 2.0 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 3: UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400
Date: Sunday, March 13th, 2005
Time: 2:00 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Race 4: Golden Corral 500
Date: Sunday, March 20th, 2005 from Atlanta, Georgia
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.54 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Carl Edwards

Race 5: Food City 500
Date: Sunday, April 3rd, 2005 from Phoenix, Arizona
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Elliott Sadler
Distance: 0.533 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Kevin Harvick

Race 6: Advance Auto Parts 500
Date: Sunday, April 10th, 2005 from Martinsville, Virginia
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Scott Riggs
Distance: 0.526 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jeff Gordon

Race 7: Samsung/RadioShack 500
Date: Sunday, April 17th, 2005 from Justin-Ft. Worth, Texas.
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 8: Subway Fresh 500
Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2005 from Phoenix, Arizona
Time: 7:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Jeff Gordon
Distance: 1.0 Mile per Lap
2005 Winner: Kurt Busch

Inside Pulse Quarterly Performance Awards

Here at the Pulse, we like to reward those who have raced their tails off over the past eight races. These drivers (and races) are the epitome of what we come to expect from NASCAR. So far this year, our slice of redneck pie has not disappointed: while the colorful cast of characters is there as always, this year has seen its share of thrills, spills, and cheating freaks. Oh yeah, and Kurt Busch jokes. Here’s a list of the non-sanctioned Inside Pulse Performance Awards for Quarter #1!

Best Driver: Greg Biffle
Second – Jimmie Johnson
Third – Jeff Gordon

Best Crew Chief: Doug Richert (Greg Biffle)
Second – Jimmy Fennig (Kurt Busch)
Third – Robbie Loomis (Jeff Gordon)

Best Qualifier: Ryan Newman
Second – Kyle Busch
Third – Dale Jarrett

Best Race: 2005 Daytona 500 (02/20/2005)
Second – Subway Fresh 500 (Phoenix – 04/23/2005)
Third – Food City 500 (Bristol – 04/03/2005)

Best Performance: Jimmie Johnson
Second – Greg Biffle
Third – Kurt Busch

Most Improved Driver: Greg Biffle
Second – Kevin Harvick
Third – Carl Edwards

The DUNCE Award: Chad Knaus (Crew Chief, Jimmie Johnson)

Rookie of the Quarter: Carl Edwards
Second – Kyle Busch
Third – Jason Leffler

Most Disappointing Driver: Matt Kenseth
Second – Bobby Labonte
Third – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Predicted Cup Champion: Jeff Gordon

Best Kurt Busch Imitator: Kurt Busch
Second – Rusty Wallace
Third – Kurt Busch

NASCAR’s Best of the Best 2005 (Quarter #1)

The show just keeps getting better, folks. A lot of new fans tend to ask NASCAR gurus about which races to watch in order to get more interested in the product. Unfortunately, a lot of NASCAR dipsticks scream and shout their love for every single race on the schedule, which is why people tune into Michigan or New Hampshire and come to hate auto racing with a passion. Thus, for all you newbies out there, this is for you: the best of the best from the first quarter of NASCAR action. And, because I promised it, and the masses (all two of you) screamed for it, I let That NASCAR Guy and his pet chimp-man Neo out of their holding cell for a while so they could get some print time. Get it while it’s hot, my peeps.

1. Daytona
That NASCAR Guy – The Daytona 500 is the best race of the year, hands down. It doesn’t matter if there are thirty cars in contention or two, the race is the greatest. The Jeff Gordon move, as I call it, will become one of those Daytona memories that never go away, and boy was that a tell-tell sign of the Hendrick boys dominating again! Kurt Busch also got off to a great start with that out of nowhere second place finish, and will also be a formidable force in the Chase this year.

2. Bristol
That NASCAR Guy – It’s Bristol! You guys really need to understand that Bristol owns you like a bottle of scotch in Anna Nicole Smith’s private stash. What you have is forty three cars packed onto a racing surface the size of a mountain back road. This year’s spring race was no exception to the rule; it rocked, accordingly. Kevin Harvick may not have been the pick of most, but all the door-bangin’ for your viewing pleasure? C’mon, guys, it’s not rocket science.

3. Martinsville
Speed Addict – Martinsville and Bristol are interchangeable, really, because I thought the racing at Martinsville was actually a bit better than Bristol. TNG disagrees though, so huzzah. Martinsville was much more a sentimental event than anything else, as it marked the first time Rick Hendrick and his crew took to the track since ten people in his private jet crashed en route to Martinsville last fall. Jeff Gordon winning the whole event not only seemed appropriate somehow, but it really capped off a damn good race as well. Kasey Kahne almost made a race out of it near the end, but spinning those tires on the restart ended his chances to win.

4. Phoenix
Speed Addict – Phoenix is my favorite race track for various reasons, and this year landing on my birthday makes it a sentimental favorite of mine. That’s not to say that the race was bad; Heavens no. Kurt Busch really turned in a dominating performance here, much better than I’d like to give him credit for. Michael Waltrip, bless his soul, tried his best to catch up, but the outside retaining wall was his undoing in the end. I really enjoyed them racing under the lights, because it added that extra special touch to the happenings.

5. Atlanta
Neo – Carl Edwards is the man, yo. Doing back flips off his car like that is pimp as Hell, no lies. I hate NASCAR, but that guy owns it like nobody! (Okay, I made all that up.)

6. Texas
That NASCAR Guy – Darrell Waltrip said that he was expected a rubber-band type race (where the start and finish would be exciting, and the middle would be cars strung out in single file). The start was exciting, as most races here attest, but the finish was less than spectacular. Greg Biffle was the star of the show here, as he not only took a big step up in the Chase for the Cup, but he also proved that he’s not a one trick pony on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Tour.

7. Las Vegas
That NASCAR Guy – Maybe it’s appropriate that the largest gambling town in America would also play host to the largest assortment of bad gamblers and cheaters on the NASCAR schedule. Six different guys got busted for cheating in one way, shape, or form, though a lot of the suspensions were reduced or tossed out later on. Jimmie Johnson won the race, but the real story was the implications that followed the crackdown on cheating in the ranks of the Nextel Cup.

8. California
Speed Addict – The problem with California is that it’s a carbon copy of Michigan, which is the last kind of racetrack that you want to go to a week after Daytona. Speeds are high here, but without all the drafting as such, its really hard to string together decent racing. Such was the case this year, as Greg Biffle outran the field when he said he was going to, and ended up taking the checker flag by a fairly safe margin. The race wasn’t bad, per se, and Johnson tried to make it an exciting finish. That’s just a testament to the strength of the NASCAR’s early schedule.

NASCAR Q & A

This is a feature that I’ve been working on for awhile now, as you all know. I was planning on adding this in with Know Your NASCAR, but the questions that I was coming up with really deserved their own little section. From now on, readers are welcomed to (and encouraged to) send your questions in, and I’ll answer any and all of them that I get, so long as I don’t run out of questions to answer. This week, we take a look back at the first eight races of the NASCAR schedule… along with a very special entry from Patrick Nguyen! (Insert God Notation Here.) Patrick, you’re up, buddy.

Q: “How do teams pick their drivers? It’s not like there’s a NASCAR driver draft. Is there a farm system or a minor league kind of thing that the teams choose from? Or is it a ‘I knew Goldberg so I’m the driver of his racing team’ kind of thing?” – Patrick
A: Good question. A lot of these guys get their start on the dirt tracks or local Friday night racing leagues. Some of it is “word of mouth” type association; a car owner (like, for instance, Rick Hendrick, who’s Jeff Gordon’s car owner) will scout around different racing leagues, if you will, and if he likes a particular driver, he’ll stick him in his car on the Busch series, or the AutoZone Elite series. If the driver is good enough, he’ll put him in his Nextel Cup car. That’s also why all the shitty drivers on the main circuit are all racing for the shitty teams; the car owners don’t have enough money to A: Put a decent driver in the car, and B: Groom the rookies in the “minor” racing leagues as they were.

Back in the old days, when the atmosphere of racing was very much like that of the dirt tracks today, guys simply got the money together, put their name on a car and hit the tracks. It wasn’t until after NASCAR became organized in the late 40s/early 50s that organized teams started to come together in the form we know them as today. In fact, it was quite possible up until the 1960s and 1970s to simply enter their cars for each individual race. But then, that was when NASCAR raced at places like Columbia, South Carolina at the fairgrounds, so the standards were somewhat low. By the late 1970s, you started seeing the formation of big time groups led by the likes of Richard Childress and Junior Johnson. It was, in fact, those two guys (and, more specifically, the drivers underneath them) that really got the inter-team feuds going. Witness Dale Earnhardt (Childress) vs. Darrell Waltrip (Johnson) saga for further proof.

Q: What is the real connection between NASCAR and Country Music?
A: Eh, it’s a southern thing, really. NASCAR was born in the south, country music is really only popular in the south… and west, perhaps. It’s a geographical thing, nothing much more.

Q: What track do you prefer more: Daytona or Bristol?
A: More often than not, it depends on revisionism. Daytona and Bristol are, like, polar opposites from each other, though the door-banging is present at both tracks. As bad as it sounds, it may come down to your preference in crashes; that is, if you want to see pileups and hard licks, you take Bristol. If you want to see cars flipping across the start / finish line (ala Elliott Sadler at Talladega), then you pick Daytona. Daytona probably edges Bristol by a slim margin, if only because of the nature of the races held their. I mean, are you taking the Daytona 500… over the Food City 500?

Q: At what point are drivers eliminated from competition in the “Chase for the Cup”?
A: There are several different answers, really. The technical answer is the second Richmond race, when the 10 drivers (plus anyone who is within 400 points, I believe) are narrowed down for the final ten races. The more logistical answer varies from driver to driver. If you’re 35th in points and you’re racing at Pocono for the second time, you’re in pretty deep garbage. Typically, the top fifteen drivers are the only real threats to crack the Chase past Pocono and Kansas, though that’s in no means set in stone.

Q: Which track is more prone to seeing “the Big One”: Daytona or Talladega?
A: Talladega, for one specific reason. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you have probably noticed that, while the two tracks are considered “sister” tracks because of their similarities and their HUGENESS, Talladega is a wee bit bigger. But more importantly, there is something about the tri-oval at Talladega that spells disaster far more frequently. This isn’t to say that you can’t see cars doing barrel rolls at Daytona, heavens no. But if you had to put your money on seeing the Big One, Talladega is the better bet.

Q: Should Canada have a NASCAR Nextel Cup Race?
A: This one wont be that hard to answer. NASCAR has traditionally flourished in areas considered “southern” or “southwestern” (ie the Carolinas and Texas for examples). Pretty much any prairie/Midwestern state is also prime NASCAR country. I’m no expert, but culture-wise, Alberta doesn’t sound too different from that description. I don’t know, maybe Scott Keith could answer that one better. On a serious note, though, I’m not immune to the possibility of seeing the NASCAR circuit hit Toronto before all is said and done.

Q: Why is drafting so important at big tracks like Talladega?
A: Aerodynamics 101, folks. It’s a proven formula; two cars running nose to tail can go faster than one running out by its lonesome due to the reduced air pressure on the pack of cars. That’s why you’ll see so many cars in one or two lines today. Aero is also the cause of things like push and drag.

Q: Do you still hate Kurt Busch?
A: I never said I hate him. I just… okay, I lie.

Victory Lane

That’s twenty-eight pages of madness finally behind us. Enjoy Talladega today, guys, and look forward to the return of the RaceDay Pulse tomorrow or Tuesday! We just ran out of time and space to add the Talladega preview, so we apologize again. Peace out, chickadees.

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