NASCAR ROUNDUP | News and notes
Nemechek wins pole: Joe Nemechek withstood a rain delay Saturday to win his first pole of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season at Michigan International Speedway. He enters the GFS Marketplace 400 today in 17th place in the points standings, meaning he most likely won't be in the Chase for the Cup. Four races remain before the competition. "I hope this is a turn for our luck for the season," said Nemechek, who drove his Chevrolet at 191.581 mph. "We're looking forward to good things." Jeff Gordon, fighting to make the Chase for the Cup, will start second. Kasey Kahne will go third and Kyle Busch fourth. Season points leader Tony Stewart qualified 36th at 187.583 mph. Stewart has won only one pole this season, but has won five of his last seven starts. He holds a 1-5-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 10th. A shower hit the track after 43 of 48 drivers had made their qualifying runs, leading to a nearly hour delay. If rain had washed out qualifying, NASCAR would have set the field by the points standings, and Nemechek would have started near the middle of the pack.
Family ties: Rusty Wallace may be making his last run at Michigan International Speedway. His family, however, apparently is far from finished on the 2-mile oval. Wallace's son, Steve, won his first career ARCA stock car race at the superspeedway Friday. His father offered advice and motivation throughout the week, but nothing as important as during the race's final two laps. "He told me to drive that thing like I've never driven in my whole life," Steve Wallace said. "That's what I did." The younger Wallace, who turned 18 Thursday, realizes he has a long way to go. He has competed in only three ARCA races. "I don't see anything changing real soon," he said. "We're just going to keep our heads on straight and go win more races." Rusty Wallace, 49, is retiring at the end of the season, and the former NASCAR champion is making it a good ending. He is fourth in the Nextel Cup driver points standings and has 12 top 10 finishes in 22 starts.
First anniversary: Carl Edwards will mark a special anniversary with today's race. It was one year ago at MIS that Edwards made his Nextel Cup debut. Now, 35 races later, Edwards has two wins, 13 top-10 finishes and is 10th in the season point standings. "Yesterday, when I got to the trailer my crew chief stuck out his hand, shook my hand and said, 'Congratulations on a year,' " Edwards said. "I can't believe it. It just doesn't feel like it." Edwards clearly recalls his first race at Michigan. "I remember the start of the race and just being so excited that I was driving in a Nextel Cup race," he said. "Then the end of the race was so spectacular that I finished 10th, my teammate Greg Biffle winning and all the Roush drivers finishing in the top 10. It's something I'll never forget."
Sweeps: Greg Biffle will try to become the sixth driver to win both Cup races at Michigan in the same season. Bill Elliott did it twice -- in 1985 and 1986. So did David Pearson, who won both events in 1972 and 1976. Others to accomplish the feat were Bobby Allison (1971), Cale Yarborough (1983) and Bobby Labonte (1995). Biffle also won in Michigan last August and could join Elliott and Pearson as the only drivers to have won at least three in a row.
Sellouts streak: NASCAR's popularity is solid in Michigan. Today's race will be the 30th consecutive Cup sellout at the track, which has 137,234 grandstand seats and holds about 160,000 spectators, overall. The sellout streak began in June 1991. Michigan typically hosts two Cup races each season. Michigan again will host two Cup races next year, one in June and one in August.