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Last Updated Wednesday, Jul 20, 2005 5:27 pm, EDT

Pop Secret 500

Status: Final California Speedway

Race Capsule

Auto Club Speedway
  • What:

    Race 25 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    California Speedway, Fontana, CA

  • When:

    September 5, 2004 7:30 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    250

  • Track Length:

    2. miles

  • Race Length:

    500.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $6,036,554

Drivers to Watch

Kurt Busch Recorded fourth straight top-10 finish with an eighth-place showing in Sharpie 500 last week; maintained position of sixth in standings with 3,051 points; won Food City 500 on March 28 and Siemens 300 nearly four months later; 12 top-10 finishes in 24 starts this year after posting 14 in 36 starts last year; finished 23rd in Auto Club 500 here in May after winning that race in 2003; ran 17th in Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 in Rockingham last November.
Kasey Kahne Budding star finished 21st despite qualifying second in Sharpie 500 last week, falling one spot to 11th in the standings; trails 10th-place Ryan Newman by 26 points; fifth on the circuit with eight top-five finishes and tied for second with four poles; no other rookie has more than one top-five finish; has run in the top 10 four times in the last six races; still in search of first career win; won the pole for Auto Club 500 here in May but finished 13th.
Jeff Gordon Won pole but finished 14th in Sharpie 500 last week; remained atop the standings but saw lead over teammate Jimmie Johnson reduced to 24 points; leads the circuit with five victories this year, with most recent coming at the Brickyard 400 four weeks ago; won back-to-back races from the pole at Dodge/Save Mart 350 and Pepsi 400; has circuit-leading 17 top-10 finishes this year; has finished 11th or better in seven of eight races in California, including the checkered flag in the Auto Club 500 in May and the inaugural Cup race here on June 22, 1997; won this race at Rockingham in 1998; is only driver to win more that once in California (three times).
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Led 295 laps and took the checkered flag in Sharpie 500 on Saturday for fourth win of the season and first since Chevy American Revolution in May; was 13th career victory in 171 career Cup starts; also won Busch Series Food City 250 last week, becoming first driver to sweep a weekend in Bristol; clinched a spot in "Chase for the Nextel Cup" with 3,305 points, 75 behind leader Jeff Gordon; has 11 top-five finishes this season; ran 19th in Auto Club 500 here in May and was 13th in Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Speedway last year.
Ryan Newman Climbed three spots into 10th in the standings following a second in the Sharpie 500 last weekend; is just one point behind Bobby Labonte for ninth; has seven top-five finishes this season, including a third here in the Auto Club 500 in May; set track qualifying record here with a lap of 187.432 mile per hour in April 2002; has won four poles and leads all drivers with an average start of 8.5 this year; not burdened by stress of clinging to final spot for "Chase to the Nextel Cup": "The points battle is really tight, but we as a team don't put any pressure on ourselves. We do all we can every weekend. That's all I can ask of these guys. If we put in a sincere effort, the points will work themselves out."
Jimmie Johnson Ended string of three consecutive DNFs with a third in Sharpie 500 last weekend; clinched a spot in "Chase for the Nextel Cup" and closed to within 24 points of teammate Jeff Gordon for standings lead; leads circuit with 15 top-five finishes - four more than any other driver; tied for second with four wins with most recent coming in Pennsylvania 500, completing a season sweep at Pocono Raceway; was runner-up to Gordon in the Auto Club 500 here in May and was second to Bill Elliott in Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 in Rockingham last November; native of El Cajon, California returns home for his 100th career Cup start.
Jamie McMurray Ran seventh in Sharpie 500 last week, marking his fourth top-10 finish in the last six races; tied with Dale Jarrett for 14th in the standings, 45 points behind Ryan Newman for the 10th and final spot in the "Chase for the Nextel Cup"; tied for fifth on the circuit with 13 top-10 finishes this season; top finish was a second in Dodge/Save Mart 350 on June 27; struggled to a 15th-place finish here in May but hoping to rebound: "We ran in the top five in both Michigan races, and usually that's a good sign for Fontana since the tracks are similar. We're taking the same car we finished fourth with in Michigan two weeks ago."
Finished 10th in Bristol last week, marking his fifth top-10 finish in the last seven races; tied for 14th in standings with Jamie McMurray, 45 points out of the critical 10th spot with two races remaining before the "Chase to the Nextel Cup"; best finish to date this year was a second in the Brickyard 400 four weeks ago; has finished third three times; hoping to make up four spots over the next two races: "It's not impossible. We've got to have two good races. We'll concentrate on California this week and if we can have a good race this weekend then we will have a chance going into Richmond in two weeks."
Announced his retirement on Monday, effective at the end of the 2005 season; has 55 career victories, including the checkered flag in this race in Rockingham in 1988 and 1993 - years he was runner-up in the championship; leads all drivers that have competed in at least three races in California with an average start of 10.25; took checkered flag in Advance Auto Parts 500 on April 18 but has not finished higher than 10th since; was involved in a crash on lap 388 in Sharpie 500 last week and finished 26th.
Matt Kenseth Defending series champion is fifth in the standings this year, 224 points behind Gordon; finished ninth in Sharpie 500 last week, marking his fifth top-10 in the last six races; had consecutive wins in Subway 400 on February 22 and UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 on March 7 but has finished in the top three just once in 21 races since; third on the circuit with 15 top-10 finishes; ran fourth in both Auto Club 500 here in May and in Pop Secret Microwave 400 in Rockingham last November; looking to run strong in the final two races entering the "Chase for the Nextel Cup": "More so than thinking about making the top 10 these last two races, we're thinking about running good and trying to get to victory lane and carry some momentum into the last 10."
Tony Stewart Needs to average 38 points over the next two races to clinch a berth in the "Chase for the Nextel Cup", which begins in New Hampshire in three weeks; maintained fourth place in standings despite a 19th in Sharpie 500, which was his 200th career circuit start; took checkered flag twice this year, with most recent coming in Watkins Glen three weeks ago; has recorded two fourth-place finishes (1999, 2001) in six races here; not phased by the move of this race from Rockingham to Fontana: "I don't make the schedule, I just go wherever the race is on that weekend."