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This Week In NASCAR: It's A Wrap For 2007
An Opinion


November 20, 2007

Written and Compiled By Ron Felix

The following news items are compilations of news gathered by the Insider Racing News staff, written by Ron Felix, NASCAR headlines, PR releases and/or portions of news stories gathered from around the internet. This article may or may not contain an opinion or two, more than likely mine. This edition of "This week In NASCAR" covers the highlights of the past seven days.

In The News...

  • Kenseth Wins Race ~ Johnson Is Champion
  • Jeff Burton Wins Fifth Busch Race
  • Benson Wins Final Truck Race
  • Rudd Wraps Up Long Career
  • ExxonMobil To Back Hornish
  • NASCAR Plates Available
  • Billy Hagan Dies
  • Jim Beam Re-ups With Gordon
  • Jr. Motorsports Re-Enlists With Navy, Keselowski
  • Starr Returns To Red Horse Racing
  • Chevy Breaks Win Record
  • Roush To Build Yates Cars
  • Go-Or-Go-Home Cars To Qualify In Separate Group In 2008
  • Reiser Will Move Up


    Kenseth's 2nd Win In 2007 * CIA Stock Photo
    Kenseth Wins Race ~ Johnson Is Champion
    Matt Kenseth won the Ford 400 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday but the day belonged to Jimmie Johnson and his crew for winning back-to-back Nextel Cup Championships. Kenseth dominated the race, leading 213 of 267 laps was never seriously challenged -- even when pit stops put him behind, he was able to easily drive back to the front. This is Kenseth's second victory of the 2007 season and the 16th of his 292 race career. Kenseth was languishing in 12th place in the chase until the past four or five weeks. That's when they came alive and Kenseth finished fourth in the Championship point standings. It also was the end of a partnership between Kenseth and his crew chief Robbie Reiser. After working with Kenseth for nine years in the Cup Series, Reiser will move up the ladder in the Roush Fenway organization to become the General Manager. "It feels great to win one," said Kenseth, who blew out a rear tire doing burnouts. "I guess I blew out a quarter panel -- at least we don't have to race it again."


    Nextel Cup Series Champ * CIA Stock Photo

    Kurt Busch finished second and Denny Hamlin was third. Jeff Gordon, who trailed Jimmie Johnson by 86 points in the standings going into the race, finished fourth and gained only nine points in an effort to win his fifth Championship. Carl Edwards brought his Ford home in the fifth spot followed by Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and rookie David Ragan to round out the top ten. Ricky Rudd, running in his 906th and final race, finished 21st on the day.

    Johnson won four of the last five races to snatch the Championship away from Gordon. It was the 7th Cup Series Championship for car owner Rick Hendrick. Jeff Gordon set a record along the way also, he finished in the top-ten in 30 of 36 races, a new modern era record. That concludes the 2007 Nextel Cup Series, the Sprint Cup Series moves to Daytona International Speedway on February 17th, 2008, for the Daytona 500. The Budweiser Shootout will be run on Saturday February 9th, 2008.
    To read the full article...     (Insider Racing News)
    For full final race results...     (Insider Racing News)
    For top-40 Nextel Cup drivers points...     (Insider Racing News)

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    Burton Wins 5th Race * CIA Stock Photo
    Jeff Burton Wins Fifth Busch Race
    Jeff Burton wrapped up the NASCAR Busch Series owners' championship for Richard Childress Racing when he took the green flag for Saturday's Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Two hundred laps later, he won the race, notching his fifth win of the year and the 27th of his career in the final event in the series under Anheuser-Busch sponsorship. "It really means a lot to me to win the last race in the Busch Series," Burton said. "I grew up wanting to be a Busch driver -- that's what I wanted to be. So it really means a lot to me to win the final race with Busch as a sponsor."

    Burton denied former Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin a chance to win the final series race. Martin, the all-time series leader with 47 victories, finished 1.718 seconds behind Burton but held off current Roush Fenway drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who came home third and fourth, respectively. Though Edwards had clinched the NASCAR Busch Series title two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway, Saturday brought the official trophy presentation for the final championship before the series takes on sponsorship from Nationwide Insurance next year. Stephen Leicht ran fifth, followed by Greg Biffle, Tony Raines, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

    David Ragan's spin off Turn 4 on Lap 169, which interrupted a green-flag cycle of pits stops, left the leaders mired mid-pack for final restart on Lap 177. Burton restarted in first position, but 19th in the running order, followed by Edwards and Kenseth, who had survived a blown tire and a spin on Lap 86 that left him temporarily one lap down. Over the next few laps, Martin was able to pull up beside Burton but couldn't clear the No. 29 Chevrolet, which Burton shared with driver Scott Wimmer in winning the owners' title for Childress by 255 points over the No. 20 Chevrolet driven by Denny Hamlin for Joe Gibbs Racing.

    Subsequently, Edwards and Martin swapped second position, with Martin securing it on Lap 197. On the final lap at the 1.5-mile speedway, Kenseth overtook Edwards for third. "We were pretty close tonight, but we couldn't pull it off, with Jeff Burton running the way he did," said Martin, who finished second for the second time in three races in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. "But we gave it our best shot. We got 'em two second-place finishes, but we couldn't get the job done." Despite failing to finish the race, Ragan left with the consolation of having won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Busch Series.
    For full final race results...     (Ford 200 Results)

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    Benson Celebrates * CIA Stock Photo
    Benson Wins Final Truck Race
    Johnny Benson passed leader Kyle Busch on the last lap of a green-white-checkers finish to win the Ford 200 Craftsman Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday night. It was Benson's ninth victory in his 100 race career and was his fourth win this year. Kyle Busch held on to finish second and needless to say, he wasn't happy with the result. "I wasn't the one that threw the caution," said Benson. "That's his gripe with whomever. But it sure made for a great event for the fans." Rick Crawford brought his Ford home in the third spot and Kevin Harvick finished fourth. Rounding out the top ten were Jason Leffler, David Starr, Ron Hornaday, Justin Marks, Regan Smith and Dave Blaney.

    The race focused on the close fight for the Series Championship. 50 year-old Mike Skinner led 49 year-old Ron Hornaday Jr. by 29 points when the race began and Skinner had put his Toyota on the pole. It appeared that Skinner was in the driver's seat, he was leading the race but he started experiencing a problem on lap 27, with what he thought was a flat tire. Skinner pitted under green and the team opted to take only right side tires. It didn't help Skinners problem, something was still vibrating and on lap 74, Skinner still thinking something was wrong, started to pit when his right rear wheel came off. Skinner went to the garage and had a hub and axle replaced. When he returned to the track he was eleven laps down and had lost the championship to Hornaday by 54 points. This is the third Craftsman Truck Series Championship for Hornaday and the first for Truck owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick. "This is an unbelievable year," said Hornaday "No matter what happened today, it was a great year. To beat Mike Skinner in the fashion we did, it's pretty cool."  ...Daily Headlines
    For full final race results...     (Ford 200 Results)

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    Rudd Wraps Up Long Career
    After 31 seasons in NASCAR’s most elite series, #88 SNICKERS® driver Ricky Rudd started the final race of his career this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rudd began his racing career at age nine as a go-kart driver and was given the opportunity to drive in the NEXTEL Cup Series at the young age of 18. Shortly after his first series start, Rudd earned “Rookie of the Year” honors in 1977, and the Virginia native saw his racing career take off. Rudd went on to win at least one race in 16 consecutive seasons, which is a record he shares with NASCAR veteran Rusty Wallace.

    Over the course of his career, Rudd has achieved numerous accolades including being named as one of NASCAR’S “50 All-Time Great” drivers, 1992 IROC Series Champion, 1997 Brickyard 400 Champion, and the 2006 Virginian of the Year to name a few. Rudd competed for 30 straight seasons before taking the 2006 season off in an effort to evaluate his career and decide on his next steps. After taking a year away from the sport, Rudd decided he missed the thrill of competition and returned in 2007 as the driver of the #88 SNICKERS Ford Fusion for Robert Yates Racing.

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    ExxonMobil To Back Hornish
    ExxonMobil announced that it is expanding its longstanding relationship with Penske Racing by sponsoring three-time IndyCar Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr. when he moves to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008. After an incredibly successful eight-year stint in the IndyCar Series that saw Hornish Jr. become the driver with the most wins in the Series’ history (19 wins), garner three series championships (2001, 2002 and 2006) and win the 2006 running of the Indianapolis 500, he will make the move to stock car racing full time and pilot the #77 Mobil 1 Dodge in 2008. Hornish Jr. is the latest open-wheel driver to transition to NASCAR. Hornish Jr. will be the third full-time member of Penske Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, which also includes veteran drivers Ryan Newman in the #12 Alltel Dodge and Kurt Busch in the #2 Miller Lite Dodge.

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    NASCAR Plates Available
    The NASCAR Foundation, in partnership with the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF), has announced a new NASCAR-themed, official Florida license plate that will be available to fans for purchase at this weekend’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET, ABC). Net proceeds from the sale of the specialty plate will benefit The NASCAR Foundation and the Florida Sports Foundation. To purchase a NASCAR specialty plate, fans must prove that they have a vehicle registered in the state of Florida, a valid Florida driver’s license and proof of insurance. The annual specialty license plate is $27. Residents not traveling to the track this weekend may still purchase a NASCAR specialty plate at their local Department of Motor Vehicles. For more information, please visit (www.hsmv.state.fl.us).

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    Billy Hagan Dies
    Billy Hagan, whose team won the Nextel Cup championship with driver Terry Labonte in 1984, died Friday. He was 75. Hagan (born March 22, 1932-November 16, 2007) in Lillie, Louisiana) is a former NASCAR driver/owner. He made three starts in NASCAR's Grand National/Winston Cup division, finishing eighth in his first start, the inaugural Talladega 500 in a self-owned 1968 Mercury. He didn't field another car until 1975, finishing 19th once again at Talladega. He also fielded a car for five races for Skip Manning.

    In 1976, he fielded the #92 Stratagraph Chevrolet for Manning, and he won Rookie of the Year honors. Manning was released in 1978, and replaced by Terry Labonte. Labonte won the Southern 500, and won the championship together in 1984. Labonte left the team in 1986, and was replaced by Sterling Marlin. Labonte returned to the team in 1991, but was unable to continue their success. 1994, marked Hagan's last season as a single car owner, fielding cars for John Andretti and Randy MacDonald. In 1996, his shop was purchased by Triad Motorsports.

    Hagan continued to serve as a co-owner of the operation until the team's demise in 1999.

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    Jim Beam Re-ups With Gordon
    Jim Beam said Friday that it will continue its relationship with Robby Gordon Motorsports as the primary sponsor of the No. 7 Ford driven by Robby Gordon for 13 Sprint Cup and two Nationwide Series races in 2008. It will be the fourth year of the company's partnership with RGM, according to the Sports Business Daily, a sister publication to Business First. Jim Beam, a whiskey brand of Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc., is distilled in Clermont, Ky.

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    Jr. Motorsports Re-Enlists With Navy, Keselowski
    JR Motorsports announced that the U.S. Navy has re-signed with the team to field the No. 88 Navy Accelerate Your Life Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with driver Brad Keselowski through 2008. The team also unveiled a new "Dress White" paint scheme for the Navy Chevrolet.

    JR Motorsports first joined forces with the U.S. Navy in 2005, fielding the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the 2006 season. In 70 races together the JRM Navy team has scored three top fives, 16 top 10s and 35 top-20 finishes.

    Keselowski, 23, was recruited to join the Navy team midway through the 2007 season. In 13 starts in the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet he has accumulated five top 10s and eight top-15 finishes.

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    Starr Returns To Red Horse Racing
    Red Horse Racing saw a lot of success in 2006, including one win, six top-five, 12 top-10 finishes, and a fourth place finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Point Standings. So it’s no surprise that the team is anxious to duplicate those results. In an effort to make that happen, Red Horse Racing announced today that veteran NASCAR driver David Starr would return to race the No. 11 Toyota Tundra for Red Horse Racing in 2008 and the sponsorship lineup would be unveiled at a later date.

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    Chevy Breaks Win Record
    With a win by Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, at Phoenix last weekend, Team Chevy surpassed its season win record of 25 victories set in 1958. Now, with one race left in the season, Chevy is gunning for 27 wins in one season which would give the bow-tie brand the impressive statistic of having won exactly 75 percent of all points-paying races in 2007.

    "This has been an historical season for Chevrolet," said Pat Suhy, GM Racing NASCAR Group Manager. "To score 26 victories in one season is truly a standout performance. We've exceeded our goals. Such record-breaking numbers, for both the Monte Carlo SS and the new generation Impala SS race cars, are a direct result of the solid commitment and many hours of hard work by each and every one of our Chevy race teams and the hard working men and women at GM Racing."

    The win was also the 13th victory in 16 appearances for the Impala SS race car, which made its debut this season. Equally as noteworthy is the win statistic for the Monte Carlo SS, which has 13 wins in its final season of competition (out of 19 races). The Monte Carlo SS will run its last race in this weekend's Nextel Cup event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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    Roush To Build Yates Cars
    Roush Fenway Racing will be building all of Yates Racing’s Sprint Cup next season, and team co-owner Jack Roush said he’s looking forward to helping the Yates group return to its performance levels of old. Starting with the 2008 season, Roush Fenway Racing will manufacture all of Yates Racing’s cars, with Yates moving to Concord, N.C., next to Roush Fenway’s shops. Yates, meanwhile, will lease its current shop in Mooresville, N.C., to Petty Enterprises.

    “We’re making preparations to enter into a service agreement with them that will avail them of the technology and of the vehicles with the engineering essence and the vehicles that are coming out of our construction activities,” said Roush Saturday morning at Phoenix International Raceway. “We want to try to breath some blue sky and some viability back into the program.”

    One of the benefits of Roush Fenway Racing building cars for both teams is that in the long run, it will result in cost savings, because the cost for R&D, tooling, etc., will be spread over a larger number of cars, Roush said.

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    Go-Or-Go-Home Cars To Qualify In Separate Group In 2008
    Cars not guaranteed starting spots because they’re not in the top 35 in car owner points will qualify together at the beginning of qualifying sessions in 2008, Nextel Cup Series director John Darby confirmed Saturday. “We’ll group them up front,” Darby said in the garage at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Qualifying order for all cars entered in Cup events has been set by a random draw. But some complained that “go-or-go-home” cars qualifying early or late in the draw, depending on weather and track conditions, might have an unfair advantage toward making the race on speed.

    Darby said that NASCAR could have changed the rule during the season. “But then if you think you missed a race because of where you qualified in February or March, and we change it in April, people would have said that’s not fair,” Darby said. “We thought it would be better to say that as of Jan. 1, 2008, this is the way we’re going to do it.”(thatsracin.com)

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    Reiser Will Move Up
    One of the longest tenured crew chief-driver relationships in Nextel Cup will end after Sunday's finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Robbie Reiser, who has been Matt Kenseth's crew chief since they entered NASCAR's premier series in 2000 and long before that in the Busch Series, will become the general manager at Roush Fenway Racing. He will replace Max Jones, who will move into the GM role at Robert Yates Racing. RYR and Roush recently formed an alliance that basically will allow them to work as a seven-car operation without violating NASCAR's four-car cap.

    Reiser will follow in the footsteps of his father, who was the general manager of Roush"s Busch Series and Truck Series teams. The elder Reiser lost a battle with cancer prior to the Homestead race two years ago, which prompted his son to consider a move that would allow him more time with his family.(espn.go.com)





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