Roush tries to stay rough

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

The five teams under the Roush Racing banner went into the race at Kansas last week with no career wins and only one top five in the four previous races held at the track. However, Roush had four drivers finish in the top five, led by Mark Martin’s well-deserved win.

The top 10 again had a much different look after this race. Tony Stewart continues to lead the chase, with Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Rusty Wallace, and Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top five. Stewart’s lead stands at 75 points over Newman with six races remaining. The championship is Stewart’s to lose and, at this point, he would have to string together some bad finishes, to fall out of the top spot.

Isn’t it neat to see Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin in victory lane on consecutive weeks? All we need now is for Rusty Wallace to win this week in Charlotte.

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Drivers outside left out of the chase are all racing for the 11th position. This spot earns a cool million dollar bonus and a spot on the stage at the Waldorf Astoria in New York this December. Kevin Harvick currently sits in 11th, but only one point ahead of Jamie McMurray with Elliott Sadler only two points back.

The current NASCAR broadcast rights contract with FOX and NBC expires at the end of the 2006 season. It looks like some changes are in store for the new contract starting in 2007. Word is that ESPN and ABC are very active in the negotiations and would love to get back into the racing business. It looks like FOX will keep the first part of the season, including the Daytona 500 and then ABC and ESPN would pick up mid-season and continue until the chase begins. NBC would then broadcast the final ten chase races. Whatever comes out the negotiations, look for a substantial increase in the current fees being paid to NASCAR. Also look for more prime-time night races in the next few years.

Speaking of night races, the final night race of the season is Saturday night. The UAW-GM Quality 500 from Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte in next on the schedule. This is the fifth of the 10 races to determine the championship.

Qualifying was held Thursday night and Elliott Sadler sits on the pole at a super-fast 193 mph. The track surface at Lowe’s has had extensive work done since the spring race and the speeds have increased. Chase racers qualified in six of the top eight positions, but Jimmie Johnson, who qualified third, will have to go to the rear of the field because of a blown engine.

Johnson has made his sponsor proud at the track the also carries the Lowes name. His four career victories match Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon for most among active drivers. Coming from the rear, Johnson’s work will be cut out for him, but he will be a factor in who wins the race.

However, my pick to win the race is Rusty Wallace. Let’s make it three of the old guard in a row.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie and a NASCAR columnist. He can be reached at jeff.findley@rcnews.com