SPARTA, KY. - Information gained during October tests at Kentucky Speedway will play an important role in the “Chase for the NEXTEL Cup” and Rookie-of-the-Year standings as drivers prepare for pivotal season-ending races at Kansas Speedway, Lowes Motor Speedway (LMS), Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (HMS).
Robert Yates Racing driver Dale Jarrett tested yesterday on the 1.5-mile tri-oval at Kentucky and rookie title contender Brian Vickers tested today tomorrow. Scott Wimmer, a third rookie contender, is expected to visit for a two-day test October 20-21.
A successful test by Jarrett can help teammate Elliott Sadler in his quest for his first career series championship. Sadler begins the week eighth in the “Chase for the NEXTEL Cup” standings after slipping two positions following his 22nd-place showing at Talladega on October 3. He will start the October 10 Kansas race 152 points behind series leader Kurt Busch. Sadler finished 42nd at Kansas last season, fifth in Coca-Cola 600 at LMS in May, 29th at AMS in March, and 21st at HMS last season.
Jarrett, who has yet to post a win this season, enters the Kansas race hoping to extend his top-five finish streak to three and place himself in stronger contention for a $1 million year-end paycheck by gaining more ground on current 11th-place driver Jamie McMurray. Jarrett moved within 78 points of McMurray with a third-place finish at Talladega on October 3 and has charted a total of six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes through 29 starts this season. Jarrett finished 33rd at Kansas last season, 18th at LMS in May, ninth in Atlanta in March, and 26th at HMS last season.
All three rookies are pursuing Kasey Kahne for top honors among a pack of six drivers. Vickers is second in the rookie battle and trails Kahne by 93 points. Wimmer stands third and two points behind Vickers while Gaughan is fourth and trails Wimmer by three points.
Vickers, whose two pole awards and 10 top-five starts have yielded only three top-10 finishes this season, said his test will help his team finish the season strong and aid teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" progresses.
“We’re trying a lot of stuff for different places and everything is going pretty good so far. We’ve learned a lot and hope to learn more before the day is over," Vickers said. "Everything we do and everything we learn we share among the (Hendrick) teams so it could definitely help them (Gordon and Johnson) as well as us.”
Each rookie driver has raced at Kentucky Speedway and the four remaining 1.5-mile tracks. Kahne, Wimmer and Vickers, who sealed the NASCAR Busch Series title with an 11th-place run at Homestead-Miami in 2003, all gained experience in the Busch Series. Gaughan logged his competitive miles in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Kahne could receive a boost from part-time Evernham teammate Bill Elliott, who is scheduled to join Wimmer at Kentucky Speedway in two weeks.
Fans can view testing from the area outside the Turn 3 Fan Center at no charge. Visit the Fan Zone section of our Web site and click on the Track Schedule page for the most updated test information.
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