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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 4, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas Page 4E — Herald-Zeitung — Sunday, December 4, 2005 The Nextel Cup Series Awards Ceremony, scheduled for Dec. 2 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, culminates more than a week of activities for champion Tony Stewart, the next IO drivers in the points standings, the champions of the Busch and Craftsman Truck series and regional NASCAR champions from across the country. Stewart was scheduled to appearances on a wide variety of television shows, including “Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS and NBC’s “Today” show. He and other top-ranking drivers were also scheduled to appear at the New York Stock Exchange, the Fire Department of New York training facility, the Ronald McDonald House and hospitals. One recent addition to the celebration was the “Victory Lap,” in which the cars of the top IO drivers were paraded through the city. The champion also was scheduled to take part in a Times Square photo shoot on the day before the awards ceremony. NASCAR Chairman Brian France was scheduled to be honored with a Sports Leadership Award at the Greater New York March of Dimes luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria. Among other honorees were soccer star Mia Hamm and Willie Randolph, manager of the New York Mets. As for the awards ceremony itself, comedian Jay Mohr was scheduled to perform, as well as singers Toni Braxton and Gavin DeGraw and jazz pianist Erie Lewis. Television coverage is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. EST on the TNT cable network. Live coverage of the entire banquet, which actually begins at 7 p.m., will also be featured on XM Satellite Radio, and Motor Racing Network will provide coverage in some markets. — Monte Dutton — IN THE SPOTLIGHT- Jeff Gordon Nextel Cup Series No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet -v.    d i Buy tickets to Darlington and get a nifty CD • YOUR TURN • LETTERS FROM OUR READERS N*TK'f,r- i~ ct uh ► lf you have a question or a comment, write: NASCAR This Week, c/o The Gaston Gazette, PO. Box 1893, Gastonia, NC 28053 Stewart’s big year A few facts and figures about Stewart’s championship per formance: ► He won his second champi onship in the series’ 57th year. ► Stewart posted three poles, five victories, 17 top-five finishes and 25 top-lOs. ► Joe Gibbs has won three championships as an owner: Stew art’s two (2002, 2005) and Bobby Labonte s one (2000). ► Stewart is the eighth Rookie of the Year to subsequently win a championship. ► Stewart's biggest points lead (officially) was 213 points following a second-place finish at Bristol in August. Obviously, the margin was narrowed for the Chase. Had there been no Chase (and the championship been based on the full season), he would've won by 235 points, though his actual margin — over Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards — was 35. NASCAR invades New York for annual awards banquet ► What did we learn from the final weeks of the season? One of the most important conclusions is that Jeff Gordon is likely to be back in the top IO next year and is a real contender for a fifth championship. ► The Driver of the Year was undoubtedly Tony Stewart, but the Story of the Year was Carl Edwards. ► That having been said, the favorite next year might well be Greg Biffle, who won more races than Stewart. Biffle and Edwards tied for second place, though Biffle gets the runner-up spot officially by virtue of winning six races to Edwards’ four. ► In 2002, Matt Kenseth won more races than anyone else, then won the championship a year later. Jeff Gordon pulled that feat off twice. ► On the other hand, a number of drivers with the most wins in a single season have never won a championship. Among them are Tim Richmond (1986), Davey Allison (1991-92) and, at least so far, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson. ► Johnson, by the way, has finished in the top five in the points standings in each of his four seasons. ► Stewart has finished seventh or better in all seven of his Cup seasons. ► Who’s the best driver who com peted regularly in Cup (or what's now known as Cup) without ever winning the championship? Certainly Mark Martin belongs in that discussion, but many would cite drivers from the past like Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen and Jim Paschal. ► It's great that Rusty Wallace’s “Last Call” received so much attention, but it’s kind of a shame that Ricky Rudd, who has 23 ca reer victories, retired with relatively little fanfare. That was ultimately Rudd’s choice, but he will be greatly missed. Rudd hasn’t completely eliminated the possibility that he might be available for occasional races, by the way. ► Last week we cited Gordon and Stewart as the only “active" drivers with multiple championships. We should’ve used the word “full-time," as two-time champion Terry Labonte still competes on a limited basis. ► Only he and Jeff Gordon, among drivers still competing regularly, have won the championship more than once. Terry Labonte, not a full-time participant nowadays, also pionships. The Dodge Charger 500 at Darlington Raceway won't be run until May 13, 2006, but if you buy tickets to the race by Dec. 23, you will receive an audio CD, “Great Darlington Finishes" that features Motor Racing Network accounts of eight of the leg endary track’s more memorable races. Narrated by Eli Gold, the CD’s running time is approximately 30 minutes. For more information, call toll free I 866-459 RACE, or visit Stewart’s championship puts him in select company Tony Stewart became the 14th driver to win more than one champi onship in NASCAR’s premier series. The others are Buck Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Tim Flock, Jeff Gordon, Ned Jarrett, Terry Labonte, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Herb Thomas, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Weatherly and Cate Yarborough. The record holders are Earnhardt and Richard Petty, each with seven. John Clark/NASCAR This Week Jeff Gordon, foreground, hangs out in the garage area with team owner Rick Hendrick, right, and teammate Jimmie Johnson, left. Sweet Finish Gordon was among strongest finishers at the end of the season By Monte Dutton NASCAR This Week When NASCAR changed the manner of determining its championship in 2004, the ruling body also attempted to sweeten the pot for those who failed to make the Chase. Eleventh place in the Nextel Cup points standings now features a $1 million payout of its own, and this year four-time champion Jeff Gordon claimed that distinction. Eleventh place left Gordon unfulfilled, to be sure, but down the stretch he regained the form that produced championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001. “I was just really thrilled the way we ended the season,” said Gordon. “Not making the Chase, we just tried to get some momentum, and I feel like we have recently.” A ninth-place finish in the season finale gave Gordon top-10 finishes in five of the final seven races, highlighted by a victory, his fourth of the season, in Martinsville, Va. “All that matters to me is performing and being up front,” he said. “The points always take care of themselves "All that matters to me is performing and being up front. The points always take care of themselves when you run weir Jeff Gordon when you run well. All that matters to me is battling for wins and being competitive, and if we’re doing that, then, like I said, the points work themselves out. “I really never focused one time on points throughout these last IO races. Our focus was just on trying to make our team better, and I think we did.” Gordon would’ve preferred that his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, win the championship, but he gracefully paid tribute to Tony Stewart. “I just think Tony Stewart is a great race-car driver,” Gordon said. “He’s capable of making a race team better than it is. He brings a lot to the table, and he’s good at a bunch of different race tracks.” Among drivers still competing fulltime in NASCAR’s premier series, only Gordon and Stewart have won multiple championships. “I do think that when you win more than one, it puts you in an elite group and you’re going to be looked upon differently,” Gordon noted. “You get into one group when you win one, you get into another group when you win two and it takes you to another level. He (Stewart) is capable of winning more. “You know, to me it’s nice to see a talented race-car driver with a good, quality team winning the championship. Tm just saying that those are the type of combinations that win championships and we had a lot of those battling for that championship this year. You know, those guys were the top of the field.” Contact Monte Dutton at [email protected] Folks in Great White North missing out on Waltrip? I'm so pleased that our newspaper ... runs a full page of "NASCAR This Week." ... My husband wouldn't miss it. You have one of the best in the whole world. ... Can you please let me know what became of Darrell Waltrip? Emily Le Blanc Burton, New Brunswick (Canada) Thanks for the compliments. Most people in the States know "what became of Darrell Waltrip." Once he retired, Waltrip became the colorful race analyst for Fox telecasts. We're sorry you apparently miss out on his off-beat observations during the first half of the season, when Fox and FX handle the race broadcasts. Why don’t lapped cars move to the top of the track? I watch NASCAR every week. I think it would be a good idea for the lapped cars to pull on the outside of the lead-lap cars on a caution so that the lead-lap cars don't have to race to the pit-commitment line and get caught speeding on pit road. Mike Sanders Brazil, Ind. We think the reason the lapped cars are placed on the inside is, at least in part, to give them a reasonable chance to regain spots on the lead lap once the racing resumes. We're not sure changing the alignment would prevent speeding penalties on pit road, but thanks for letting us know how you feel. ;