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Last Updated Monday, Nov 20, 2006 1:16 am, EST

Checker Auto Parts 500

Status: Final Phoenix International Raceway

Race Capsule

Phoenix International Raceway
  • What:

    Race 37 of 38 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, AZ

  • When:

    November 12, 2006 3:25 pm EST

  • Laps:

    312

  • Track Length:

    1. miles

  • Race Length:

    312.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $4,892,924

Drivers to Watch

Jeff Gordon Chase points: 6,000 (6th) Registered his third consecutive top-10 finish by placing ninth at Texas but still is sixth in the standings, 157 points off the lead; essentially has no chance for a fifth career title; delivered a critical sixth-place finish at Atlanta to stay alive; has registered five top-10 finishes in the eight Chase races; like Busch, another Hendrick Motorsports driver that has run into bad luck throughout the postseason; dropped three spots to 10th in the standings after finishing 24th at Lowe's, where he was running fifth before his engine blew up just 32 laps from the finish; got caught up in an 11-car crash late at Talladega and completed just 167 laps en route to 36th-place finish; plummeted four spots after placing 39th at Kansas, where he experienced fuel problems with just 28 laps left; has won twice this year to push his career total to 75, most among active drivers; has six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 15 career starts at this track; finished third in this event last season and ran 10th in the spring race.
Kevin Harvick Chase points: 6,052 (5th) Gained one spot and 16 points in the standings after placing third at Texas but still has a very outside chance at winning first career title; trails Johnson by 105 points with just two races left; took the worse hit of any Chase driver at Atlanta, where he struggled to 31st place and dropped four spots to sixth in the standings; still tracking an unprecedented double after capturing the Busch Series title four weeks ago, his second career Busch championship (2001); no driver has won the Nextel Cup and Busch titles in the same year; has been very erratic in his last 13 races, with three of his four victories coming in that span but just three other finishes better than 11th; captured his first checkered flag of the season in the spring race but struggled to 23rd in this event last year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chase points: 6,079 (3rd) Continued pursuit of first career title with courageous performance at Texas, where he battled flu-like symptoms and rebounded from an early crash to finish sixth; is third in the standings and trails Johnson by just 78 points; climbed right back into Chase contention with an impressive third-place performance at Atlanta; title chances took a serious hit at Talladega, where he was knocked off the lead in the final lap by Brian Vickers; managed 23rd place in that race; has 10 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s this season; won this race in 2003 and 2004 but struggled to 40th place in this event last season after crashing on lap 113; ran 23rd here in the spring race.
Kyle Busch Chase points: 5,924 (8th) Finished fourth last week at Texas, his best finish since placing second in the regular-season finale at Richmond; eliminated himself from Chase contention after another disappointing performance at Atlanta, where he finished 27th in the race and remained 10th in the standings; ran sixth at Lowe's and placed 11th five weeks ago at Talladega but has not overcome a pair of finishes outside the top 35 in the first two Chase races; ran 36th from the pole in the spring race here but won this race last season, his second career victory.
Matt Kenseth Chase points: 6,140 (2nd) Finished 12th at Texas and lost his Chase standings lead to Jimmie Johnson, who was runner-up to Stewart; trails Johnson by just 17 points; maintained his Chase lead with a fourth-place finish at Atlanta but saw his cushion in the standings shrink to just 26 points; has four top-10 finishes in the eight Chase races and has placed outside the top 15 just once this postseason; reclaimed the Chase lead despite finishing 11th at Martinsville, where he capitalized on Burton's crucial engine failure; had consecutive wins in August to run his season total to four and grab the standings lead heading into the Chase; won the series title in 2003 despite capturing only one victory, prompting the change to the Chase format; ran third here in the spring and placed 32nd in this event last season.
Kasey Kahne Chase points: 5,867 (10th) Struggled to 33rd place at Texas and fell to 10th in the standings; another Chase driver who saw his title hopes come to an end at Atlanta, where he finished 38th after crashing with David Stremme on lap 256; finished seventh at Martinsville, recorded his series-leading sixth checkered flag of the season at Lowe's and was runner-up to Vickers at Talladega; failed to cash in on claiming the pole at Kansas, spinning out as he tried to make it to the pits on his final stop after running out of fuel and finishing 33rd; is second in the circuit to Kurt Busch with five poles, fueling his first appearance in the season-ending title run; ran sixth here in the spring but finished just 27th in this race last year.
Jeff Burton Chase points: 5,973 (7th) Saw his hopes of a first career title end last week in the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he ran 38th after completing just 269 laps; fell two spots to seventh in the "Chase for the Championship" points standings and trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 184 points; finished 13th at Atlanta to fall into a tie with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for fourth in the standings; lost his lead in the standings after a disastrous outing at Martinsville, where he dropped four spots to fifth after blowing an engine in lap 218 and finishing 42nd in the 43-car field; captured his only checkered flag of the season at Dover; has seven top-five finishes and 19 top-10s, teaming with Kevin Harvick to lead a resurgence by Richard Childress Racing; ran ninth here in the Subway Fresh 500 on April 22 and finished 15th in this event last season; two-time winner at this track has five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 14 career starts here.
Mark Martin Chase points: 5,904 (9th) Placed 22nd at Texas, his fourth consecutive finish outside the top 20; like Busch and Kahne, another driver who had his title hopes dashed at Atlanta, where he was wrecked by Sterling Marlin off a restart with 15 laps remaining and finished 36th; has no chance to win elusive first series title, which would have been a wonderful capper to a remarkable career; championship hopes took a disastrous hit over the last three weeks; struggled to 24th place at Martinsville and had an even worse day at Lowe's, where he finished 30th after crashing hard into the fourth-turn wall while attempting to enter the pits on lap 241; trails Johnson by 253 points; has yet to win a pole or a race this season, again raising questions about points distribution in the Nextel Cup standings; won here in 1993 and has eight top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 20 career starts at this track; placed 11th here in the spring and ran 14th in this event last season.
Denny Hamlin Chase points: 6,077 (4th) Recorded his third straight top-10 finish with a 10th-place at Texas and continued his late surge in the Chase standings; is fourth in the standings and trails Johnson by 80 points; outstanding circuit rookie revived his title hopes at Martinsville, where he finished second behind Jimmie Johnson; was involved in a massive 14-car crash at Lowe's and slipped to sixth in the standings; also fell three spots after running 21st at Talladega; has two wins this season, both at Pocono, becoming just the second rookie in series history to win both races at a single track; finished 13th in this race last year but struggled to 34th here in the spring.
Jimmie Johnson Chase points: 6,157 (1st) Recaptured the lead in the Chase standings after finishing second to Tony Stewart at Texas; owns a 17-point cushion over Matt Kenseth with just two races remaining; got off to a poor start in the Chase but is more than alive after finishing second at Atlanta one week after capturing the checkered flag at Martinsville; revived fading title hopes with runner-up finish to Kasey Kahne four weeks ago at Lowe's; appeared primed for at least a runner-up finish and possibly the checkered flag at Talladega before being wrecked by teammate Vickers in the final lap; led 105 laps at Kansas but was flagged for speeding on pit road, resulting in a 14th-place showing; has won five times this season - including victories at superspeedways Daytona and Talladega; ran seventh here at the spring race and finished seventh in this event last season.