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Last Updated Monday, Nov 21, 2005 2:00 am, EST

Checker Auto Parts 500

Status: Final Phoenix International Raceway

Race Capsule

Phoenix International Raceway
  • What:

    Race 35 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, AZ

  • When:

    November 13, 2005 3:40 pm EST

  • Laps:

    312

  • Track Length:

    1. miles

  • Race Length:

    312.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $4,870,213

Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson Passed Stewart for fifth in the waning laps of last week's Dickies 500 and pulled within 38 points of the lead with two races to go; a sixth in this event last year marked his worst result over the final six races of 2004 as he made a furious comeback to finish just eight points behind Kurt Busch in the closest standings finish in stock car racing history; also finished the 2003 season second to Matt Kenseth; only driver besides Edwards with two checkered flags during the "Chase," winning at Dover and Charlotte; has run eighth of better in all but two of the first eight "Chase" races; ran 15th here after brushing Stewart in April, but his 9.5 average finish in Phoenix is second among championship-eligible drivers.
Carl Edwards Passed teammate on the penultimate lap and cruised to his second straight victory last week in Texas; gained 30 points on Stewart with his fourth victory overall, leaving him 77 points off the pace with two races remaining in his quest to become the third different Roush Racing driver to win a championship in as many years; the 26-year-old has run in the top 10 six times in the last seven races since opening the "Chase" with a 19th in New Hampshire; in his first full season on the circuit, has 12 top-fives and 16 top-10s, including a seven here in April; finished 37th in this race among his 13 starts in 2004.
Greg Biffle Endured a pair of spins and was fortunate to finish on the lead lap last week, running 20th in the Dickies 500; slipped a spot to fourth in the standings, 122 points off the pace with two races remaining; tied with Tony Stewart for the circuit lead with five checkered flags but has not visited victory lane since June 19 in Michigan; has recorded three top-fives through the first eight "Chase" events but has run 20th in two of the last three; overheating issues led to a 41st here in April; with titles on the Craftsman Truck Series (2000) and Busch Series (2002), has a glimmer of optimism for completing the trifecta considering the front-runners' previous history here: "Tony and Jimmie (Johnson) got in a little tangle earlier this season at Phoenix and Tony got wrecked. The other thing is, is they have had really flawless runs, and Phoenix is a little bit more of a hazard than Homestead so to speak. But anything can happen. Jimmie has not run that well at Phoenix. If he ends up 18th, I win the race, Tony gets crashed, or something happens to Tony Stewart's car, that puts us right in the position with having to beat them by only about five spots and Homestead to win the title. You know, that is what it's going to take. So I'm saying we're not out of it, but, you know, our hopes are not like they were."
Tony Stewart The 2002 series champion ran sixth last week in Texas and holds a 38-point lead on Johnson with two races remaining; has run in the top 10 in all but two of the last 20 events, a stretch that began with a second in Michigan on July 2 and included all five of his checkered flags this season in an amazing seven-race span; among his six top-10s during the "Chase" include runner-up finishes in New Hampshire, Talladega and Martinsville; has earned 50 lap-leader bonus points during the "Chase," 15 more than any other driver; won this race in 1999 and finished eighth last year among his four top-10s in eight career starts here; his worst showing on this 1-mile track was a 33rd in April.
Jeff Gordon Four-time series champion leads all active drivers with three victories in this event, with most recent coming in a backup car in 2001; went on to win the series championship each year in which he won this event (1995, 1997, 2001); in his other championship season (1998), was leading this race on the final lap but ran out of fuel and Mark Martin took the checkered flag; tied with Biffle for circuit lead with three wins this year; fell one spot to third in the standings after a collision with the wall on lap 165 in Richmond led to a 39th-place finish.
Ryan Newman Was runner-up to Kenseth in this event last year after winning it in 2002; leads the series with three poles this year and has qualified second behind Kahne for each of the last two events; also led the circuit in poles in 2002 (6), 2003 (11) and 2004 (9); ran third last week in Richmond after recording a fifth the previous week in Darlington; was the third time in the last two seasons he has posted back-to-back top-fives; climbed eight spots to seventh in the standings over the last two weeks.
Matt Kenseth The 2003 series champion led 149 laps from the pole and finished third last week in Texas for his fifth top-five during the "Chase"; managed only one top-10 in last year's 10-race battle for the championship; has posted back-to-back top-fives to improve three spots to sixth in the standings, 135 points back; engine trouble led to a 36th in this event last year and his bad luck here continued in April when an early accident saddled him with a 42nd; has recorded 15 of his 16 top-10s and each of his 11 top-fives over the last 22 events; won this event in 2002 and followed with a sixth here the following year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Considered the sport's most popular driver, was leading the circuit standings entering this event last year; tumbled two spots to 11th in the standings after running 14th last week in Richmond; has managed only five top-10s through the season's first 11 events; became the first rookie to win this event in 2000, when it was known as The Winston; has yet to take a checkered flag this year after setting a career high with six in 2004.
Kasey Kahne Gained entry into this event reserved for 2004 and 2005 race winners, past event champions and active series champions since 1995 with his first career checkered flag in last week's Chevy American Revolution 400; led a career-high 242 laps, including the final 106, for his first win in 47 career starts; had six runner-ups, including five as a rookie last year, before finally breaking through; climbed four spots to 15th in the standings; has won the pole for the last three events entered, including last week's Busch Series event; elated at the opportunity to win $1 million in this event: "I'd love to get it. I'd probably go buy a house. I'm still living in my apartment I got 3 1/2 years ago when I moved to Charlotte."
Jamie McMurray Finished 11th last week in Texas and has a 51-point lead on Jeff Gordon for the top spot among drivers not involved in the "Chase"; received $1 million and an invitation to the year-end awards banquet for holding that distinction last year; in his last season driving for Chip Ganassi, who officially released him from his contract Monday to enable him to drive for Roush Racing in 2006; has 10 top-10 finishes this season but has not run in the top five since being runner-up to Stewart in Daytona on July 2; seeking his first win since October 13 2002, when he won the UAW-GM Quality in just his second premier series start; finished 25th here in April and 24th in this event last year; won the Busch Series event here in 2004.
Mark Martin The 46-year-old is fifth in the standings, 123 points off the pace but just one behind fourth-place Biffle; tied with Kenseth for the most top-fives during the "Chase," including a runner-up finish last week in Texas; ended a 57-race victory drought in Kansas on October 9 and followed with a fifth in Charlotte; a 41st at Talladega on October 2 and a 34th in Martinsville three weeks later have damped the four-time series runner-up's chances at a first career title; finished 16th here in April but his 9.055 average finish on this track leads all "Chase" drivers.