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THE CHASE FOR THE NEXTEL CUP <br> A GLANCE AT THE DRIVERS IN NASCAR'S CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE

A glance at the 10 drivers competing in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup, in order of points standings:

Car: No. 97 Sharpie Ford

Chase points: First, 5,850

Position change: None

What happened last week: Everything. Busch wrecked in practice at Charlotte, he wrecked on the first lap of the race, he avoided spilled oil, and successfully drove through the grass to miss an accident. The end result? A miraculous fourth-place finish. Now he heads to Martinsville, where he won in 2002.

Speaking: "Kurt has taken the car to Victory Lane here before, and we all know he knows how to run short tracks. So we'll see if he can keep the fenders clean and hold on to that points lead," crew chief Jimmy Fennig said.

Car: No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet

Chase points: Second, 5,826 points

Position change: None

What happened last week: Earnhardt had an unadventurous night at Charlotte, finishing third. He could have taken over the points lead had Busch not rebounded from all his trouble. Then, his appeal of his 25-point penalty for cursing was denied, leaving Junior 24 points out of first.

Speaking: "I've just got to keep finishing ahead of (Busch). That's all you can do. Kurt's got his A game, and we've got our A game going now," Earnhardt said.

Car: No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet

Chase points: Third, 5,776

Position change: None

What happened last week: Just like Busch, Gordon had a long night at Charlotte. They were involved in the same lap-one accident, and he later spun out. But he, too, survived and finished second to teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Speaking: "It looked like we were going to lose a lot of points at Charlotte, maybe enough to take us out of the championship hunt. But this team didn't give up and we fought back to finish second -- probably the greatest comeback to second I've ever experienced," Gordon said.

Car: No. 38 M&M's Ford

Chase points: Fourth, 5,693

Position change: None

What happened last week: Sadler was disappointed after finishing seventh at Charlotte because his car was strong until the final segment of the race. He blamed himself for not helping crew chief Todd Parrott make the proper adjustments to improve his Ford.

Speaking: "We got the car a little too tight. I don't know if the track changed that much and we didn't keep up with it, or maybe I gave Todd some wrong information. It was a little frustrating there at the end to have a top-three or -four car and finish seventh with it," Sadler said.

Car: No. 6 Viagra Ford

Chase points: Fifth, 5,664

Position change: None

What happened last week: Martin was devastated after Charlotte. He led late, dropped to second place, then was a victim of an accident between Jimmy Spencer and Brendan Gaughan. Deflated afterward, he hinted that his shot at the title was gone and he doesn't anticipate getting back into the thick of it at Martinsville.

Speaking: "Martinsville is a tough track, and it really isn't one of my favorite places to race. To be honest there just isn't room for 43 cars to race there and you spend all day trying not to get caught up in somebody's mess like we did Saturday night," Martin said.

Car: No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet

Chase points: Sixth, 5,646

Position change: None

What happened last week: Stewart had a terrible car at Charlotte and it required constant work from his Joe Gibbs Racing team for him to finish 10th. He's won before at Martinsville and said he's learned how to ensure a strong finish there.

Speaking: "Patience seems to be the biggest variable that can hold you up at a place like Martinsville. Needless to say, after going there a couple of times, I've learned how to be patient -- out of necessity, basically," Stewart said.

Car: No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford

Chase points: Seventh, 5,635

Position change: None

What happened last week: The reigning series champion was good all night, then cut a tire and wrecked 172 laps in. Still, he salvaged an 11th-place finish.

Speaking: "We had an opportunity to win. We were up in the top three all night long and cut a tire down. That cost us big. The guys worked and got the car to the point where we could even race it," crew chief Robbie Reiser said.

Car: No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet

Chase points: Eighth, 5,623

Position change: Plus 1

What happened last week: Johnson proved he owns Lowe's Motor Speedway, winning the race to become the first driver to sweep the season at Charlotte since the late Dale Earnhardt in 1986. Although he's a long shot to rebound to win the title, the victory could give him some much-needed momentum.

Speaking: "We still have hopes, but it's out of our control. With a lot of drivers having one bad race, maybe a top-five is a realistic goal that we can control as a team by our performances on the race track," Johnson said.

Car: No. 12 Alltel Dodge

Chase points: Ninth, 5,579

Position change: Minus 1

What happened last week: Newman finished 14th, pulling it off after losing his shot at contending for the victory with a wreck on lap 312.

Speaking: "All we can do is try our best in these next five races and see where we end up. We've had a lot of stupid stuff happen to us," Newman said.

Car: No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge

Chase points: 10th, 5,501

Position change: None

What happened last week: Mayfield dropped to a whopping 349 points out of first place when he slipped in Kevin Harvick's spilled oil, wrecked and finished 30th.

Speaking: "We've got to look at things realistically. I'd hoped to win it this year, but honestly ... the only way we can win it now is if everybody else has trouble, and that's not the way we want to win something," car owner Ray Evernham said.
Associated Press

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