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Dodge drivers look to gain in Chase standings

Posted Thursday, Jul 30, 2009, 2:24 pm in Employee News

With only six races left in the “Race To The Chase” in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, all eyes will be on triangular-shaped Pocono Raceway, a 2.5-mile track with three distinctly different turns, for this weekend’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 in Long Pond, Pa.

The 21st of 36 point races that make up the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR’s top-12 drivers look to hold serve in the standings as they position themselves for the championship and the Sprint Cup in the final 10 races of the season.

Kurt Bush (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) remains fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. The 2004 series champion has not been outside the top five in driver points since Las Vegas (March 1) and since his win at Atlanta Motor Speedway last March, Busch has been inside the top five for 16 consecutive races. Despite the impressive consistency all season, Busch isn’t getting caught up in all the Chase hype just yet.

“Our Miller Lite Penske Dodge team is sort of caught up in the middle heading into Pocono this weekend,” said Busch, whose career Pocono record boasts two wins and seven top-five finishes in 17 races. “A lot of things can happen in these next six races leading into the Chase. Unlike those guys at the top of standings (points leader Tony Stewart has a 693point “cushion” over 13th, while second—place Jimmie Johnson has a 501—point lead and third—place Jeff Gordon enjoys a 486—point advantage), we can’t afford to throw caution to the wind just yet and we have to be in a conservative mode definitely for the next couple of races.”

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) may be the hottest driver in the Cup garage. Since the 400 at Michigan five races ago, Kahne has surged seven positions in the NSCS driver standings. In doing so, Kahne has recorded one win (Infineon) and four top-10s to move into eighth position in the standings. And if there is one track that Kahne knows how to get around, it certainly is Pocono Raceway.
In nine career starts at Pocono, Kahne has one win, two top-five and four top-10 finishes in 10 Pocono starts. He also holds the track qualifying record of 172.533 mph (52.164 sec.), set in June, 2004.

“I feel like we have as good a shot to win as anybody out here,” Kahne said. “I think we have a great car, great team. We’ve been running really well and have had some great races, some tough races. I think Pocono is one of our better tracks this year and think that we have a shot at making the Chase. That’s the main goal—that’s what all the teams want to do for their sponsors and owners and the employees that work on these cars. Out of the 14 of 15 (drivers) going for the Chase, I think that we have as a good a shot at winning as from sixth on back.”

Seven Dodge teams are entered in the Sunoco Red Cross 500 seeking to give Dodge its 204th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. All seven drivers are assured berths as they sit inside the top 35 in car owner points. Dodge has earned six wins at Pocono Raceway,

Other notes

• Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Stanley Dodge) has not had a DNF (did not finish) in 21 consecutive races at Pocono, the longest current streak among active Sprint Cup drivers.

• Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 PPG Dodge) earned his third top-10 of the 2009 season with a 10th-place finish at Pocono in June.

• Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger) has improved 275 points from this time last season. Sorenson finished 20th at Pocono in June—a career best at the 2.5-mile track.

Driver standings:
Position, driver (points lead over 13th position)
1. Tony Stewart, 3,054 (693)
2. Jimmie Johnson, 2,862 (501)
3. Jeff Gordon, 2,847 (486)
4. Kurt Busch, 2,608 ( 247)
5. Carl Edwards, 2,556 (195)
6. Denny Hamlin, 2,518 (157)
7. Ryan Newman, 2,506 (145)
8. Kasey Kahne, 2,482 (121)
9. Mark Martin, 2,471 (110)
10. Juan Pablo Montoya, 2,461 (100)
11. Greg Biffle, 2,445 (84)
12. Matt Kenseth, 2,429 (68)

What you need to know:
The race:Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
The place: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
The date: Sunday, August 2
The time: 2 p.m. (ET)

The track: 2.5-mile triangle
The distance: 500 miles/200 laps
Television: ESPN, 2 p.m. (EDT)

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23,244 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Hornish scores career-best Sprint Cup finish

Hornish scores career-best Sprint Cup finish

Posted Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009, 9:56 am in Employee News

Sam Hornish Jr. posted a career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish of fourth in Monday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. The event was postponed one day due to rain.

Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch raced in the top 10 throughout the 200-lap event with both leading the race during the afternoon. Kahne led twice for 35 laps and Busch was at the point for 14 circuits. Kahne finished fourth and Busch ended up ninth.

Mother Nature disrupted the racing activities throughout the weekend. Friday’s qualifying was rained out. Fortunately, there were only 43 cars attempting to qualify, so all were assured spots in the starting field. Weather conditions improved Saturday with the Sprint Cup drivers getting in two scheduled practice sessions.

Rains throughout the morning hours on Sunday produced obstacles NASCAR and track officials could not overcome. Although the rain stopped in the afternoon, there was no solution to stopping the water seeping up through the racing surface, forcing the event to be postponed until Monday.

Hornish’s previous best was a sixth, recorded earlier this year at Richmond. It was his fourth top 10 of the season and second in the last five events. Hornish ran as high as second and, on a couple of occasions, made a serious challenge for the lead.

Pit strategy played a key role in getting the No. 77 PPG Dodge Charger into the top 10. Once there, Hornish made the most of the opportunity, holding off strong challenges for the position over the final 13 laps.

“We didn’t have a good car all day,” Hornish said. “We were pretty good starting out (the race) and then we got really loose in the middle portion and kind of ran out of things to try. We tried to get some track position (with pit strategy). Once we got track position, we were able to hold on and took a car that was probably a 15th-place car at the end and got us up to fourth. I’m just really happy with the PPG Dodge. It was a lot of fun going out there and racing today. The closer you get up to the front, the more fun it is.

“The pit strategy worked out really well. We made some changes on the PPG Dodge that didn’t quite help us out. We got back in the pack and ran out of things to try other than getting some track position. Once we got up there, we weren’t good enough to win, but we were a top-five car. I’m just real proud of all these guys that work on the PPG Dodge and look forward to next weekend and try it again.”

Kahne was never out of the top 10 except during the two green-flag pit cycles during the race. The No. 9 Budweiser Dodge was extremely fast when out front in clean air.

“We were in the top five all day with our Budweiser Dodge, he said. “The team does an awesome job. The cars have been great. Kenny Francis (crew chief), Keith Rodden (car engineer) and everybody behind the scenes have been doing a really good job. Our pit stops are flawless. The guys do a great job .. in and off pit road really quick .. so thanks to them, we keep rolling. We just need to keep it up each week and get into the Chase.

Kahne entered the race eighth in the Chase standings, 121 points from 13th. He moved up one spot to seventh, but more important, extended that advantage to 180 points.

Busch, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Aug. 4, had a car capable of winning the race. Five of the 10 cautions fell in the final 50 laps and the double-file restarts, instituted recently by NASCAR, proved to be treacherous. The last restart proved just that as Busch failed to get the kind of restart he had throughout the race. On one occasion, he picked up seven positions on the first lap following a restart in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.

“We had a great car and a nice solid run today, coming out with a top 10,” Busch said. “Nobody gained or lost any points. I just felt like we had a car to win the race with 40 to go and we just had some untimely yellows. We didn’t get any yellows last week to get the lucky dog, but got a bunch of yellows this week to take a possible win away. Our Miller Lite Dodge was fast.”

Like Kahne, Busch extended his advantage over 13th-place in the Chase standings. He extended a 247-point margin to 289.

AJ Allmendinger finished 17th in the No. 44 Valvoline Dodge. He managed to work his way up to 11th late in the race before getting shuffled in the restarts.

Driver, team, finish:
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 PPG Dodge, 4th
Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, 5th
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, 9th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 Valvoline Dodge, 17th
Elliott Sadler, No. 24 Stanley Dodge, 24th
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Dodge, 32nd
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Air Force Dodge, 35th

Driver standings after 21 races:
(Chase field set following race 26)

Pos., Driver, points, (lead over 13th)
1., Tony Stewart, 3,188 (726)
2., Jimmie Johnson, 2,991 (529)
3., Jeff Gordon, 2,989 (527)
4., Kurt Busch, 2,751 (289)
5., Denny Hamlin, 2,713 (251)
6., Carl Edwards, 2,665 (203)
7., Kasey Kahne, 2,642 (180)
8., Juan Montoya, 2,631 (169)
9., Ryan Newman, 2,627 (165)
10., Mark Martin, 2,622 (160)
11., Matt Kenseth, 2,564 (102)
12., Greg Biffle, 2,563 (101)
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