MOTORSPORTS ROUNDUP News and notes
Chasing a title: Jimmie Johnson figures Jeff Gordon and crew chief Robbie Loomis might have a little bit of an edge as the two Hendrick Motorsports teams battle through the next five races for the points lead and then take on eight other drivers in NASCAR's new 10-race Chase for the Cup. "I've been thinking about this a lot," said Johnson, who goes into Watkins Glen 97 points ahead of runner-up Gordon. "In Jeff and Robbie's positions, they've been here before and won championships. Jeff has obviously won four and Robbie has won one, and they know what it's like to be in that grind and that environment, and they know -- especially in this point system -- it's not over until the last race." Neither Johnson nor Chad Knaus, his crew chief since Johnson moved to full-time Cup racing in 2002, has won a title. "Right now, we have a points lead," Johnson said. "If that continues, we're going to have a little more energy and be a little more revved up over things. That's what I think the difference will be between the two [teams]. We may be a little more on edge and wound up for those final 10 races. But I don't see it being a problem. We've been able to compete for wins and have finished one-two quite a few times."
Stat of the week: The only drivers who have remained in the top 10 in Nextel Cup points throughout the 2004 season are Dale Earnhardt Jr., defending series champion Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler. Going into The Glen, Earnhardt is third, Stewart fourth, Kenseth fifth and Sadler sixth.
Stat of the week II: Starting at or near the front used to be the key to winning at Watkins Glen. Fourteen of the 21 Cup races at the upstate New York track have been won by drivers starting sixth or higher, including seven from the pole. Not much lately, though. Jeff Gordon in 1998 was the last driver to win from the pole, and since then, three of the six races have been won from starting positions 13th or lower. Last year, Robby Gordon won from 14th.