CONCORD, N.C. -- The second time around has not come any
easier for Jeremy Mayfield, who has been toiling along in obscurity
through the first four rounds in the Chase for the championship.
Mayfield made the Chase last season, had early troubles in the
first few events and never recovered. He finished the year 10th in
This version hasn't gone much better -- although he hasn't had
any on-track problems, his finishes haven't been terrific and
Mayfield heads into Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway
in ninth place in the points.
"We've got to step it up a little bit and we all know that,"
Mayfield said. "We're trying hard to do that. It's not a one
person deal -- the whole team has got to step up and do more than we
ever have and dig deeper than we've ever dug."
The problem for Mayfield is not that he has run poorly since the
Chase began, he just hasn't been strong enough. He hasn't been
lower than 16th, but has notched just one top-10 finish.
His Chase rivals, meanwhile, have racked up top-10s, leaving
Mayfield 157 points behind leader Tony Stewart.
"Everybody is running strong every week," Mayfield said.
"That's the way we've got to get. A little bit will take us a long
way. We could get top five finishes the rest of the way and not
move up, or we could get top five finishes and win the thing.
"But the other guys are going to have to have trouble, too.
That's something you haven't seen yet -- but it's coming."
On second thought
Car owner Ray Evernham has changed the
schedule Erin Crocker will run next season, pulling her out of a
planned attempt to run a full Busch Series schedule.
Crocker will instead compete in the Craftsman Truck Series and
run a handful of Busch and ARCA races next season. Evernham said
the decision was made to give Crocker more time to develop.
"Erin not having raced on pavement a lot and not having raced
traffic and things like that, we felt this would be a better way to
get more experience racing without having all the pressure,"
Evernham said. "In fairness to her, I want her to learn without
people running all over her all of the time."
Crocker has competed in two Busch races this season, at Richmond, Va.,
and Dover, Del., and finished 39th and 35th. She was in accidents
in both events, and suffered a cracked rib in the Dover wreck.
Crocker said she's looking forward to running in more than 40
races next season, but admits she is disappointed it won't be in
the Busch Series.
"I am not going to lie, I was a little disappointed when we
first talked about it because I am a competitive person and we had
plans," she said. "But in the long run, this is better for me."
Bowyer currently drives in the Busch Series for Childress, and
will continue to do so next season as he attempts to run both a
full Nextel Cup and Busch schedule. The official announcement is
scheduled for Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Bowyer is currently second in the Busch points with one
win and 25 top-10 finishes. He trails leader Martin Truex Jr. by 49
points entering Friday night's event.
Blaney, in his first full season with Childress, is currently
31st in points with one top-10 finish.
Texas Instruments is using Friday night's Busch
Series race as a tryout for its entry into full-time Nextel Cup
racing next season.
Texas Instruments will sponsor the Hall of Fame Racing car
scheduled to debut next season under ownership of Troy Aikman and
Roger Staubach. To gain experience, the company is fielding a Busch
car for Tony Stewart to test everything from the viability of the
paint scheme to learning what kind of commitments the company will
have during a race weekend.
"This is a one-race sponsorship because we are big believers in
learning as much as we can for the future," spokesman Jon Van
Scoter said. "Tony wants to use this race as a tune up to the Cup
race and we as a company want to do the same for what we're going
to be doing next year."
Hall of Fame Racing has yet to name a driver for the 2006
season, but Texas Instruments said the team should have one in
place before the year is over. The team is running with support
from Joe Gibbs Racing and recently began assembling its management