Bowtie Celebration

RICHMOND, Va. – Last year’s "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" was awash with blue and white ovals as Ford held five of the 10 spots in the championship deciding stretch – an impressive showing by the manufacturer whose only fault was not winning the championship, losing to Tony Stewart and his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet in the final race of the season.

This year’s version of the "Chase," however, makes Ford’s achievement look puny by comparison as Chevrolets will be driven by seven of the 10 qualified competitors – Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.

Obviously, Chevy had little trouble celebrating at Richmond International Raceway, particularly since they were the title sponsors of the NEXTEL Cup event – and that both of this weekend’s races were won by Kevin Harvick and his Monte Carlos.

"We couldn’t be more pleased to have seven of our outstanding Team Chevy drivers make it into the “Chase” to contend for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet’s General Manager. "I couldn’t be prouder. It’s been an exciting season so far where we’ve faced worthy competitors on the track. We look forward to seeing Chevy in the winners circle and contending for our 30th manufacturer’s championship."

Matt Kenseth, the NEXTEL Cup Series points leader, was quick to point out that even though the manufacturer rundown looks lopsided (seven Chevys, two Fords and one Dodge) it doesn’t mean one particular brand is better than another.

"I think that all of the manufacturers are honestly, you know, pretty even. I think there's more Chevys in it because there's more Chevy s in the garage. There isn't a lot of Fords in the garage today," said Kenseth.

"I think with the common templates and all the stuff they have got going, really the only thing different is some character lines and the nose piece and tail piece, they aren't different enough to even talk about. So it's just some looks and obviously the engines."

While most in the garage would agree with Kenseth’s assessment, Chevrolet drivers point to the fact that their manufacturer gives their teams all the tools necessary to succeed – and this year they have done just that.

"I think Chevrolets have always built a great product. They have always supplied their race teams with the technology and support that they need," said Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johsnon. "They’ve done an amazing job once again."

"I think that the manufacturers have a huge influence on how well we perform, but it's more I think what matters here most is how the teams use what the manufacturers have available to us," said Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton. "I think that Chevrolet does a tremendous amount of good stuff to help us and a lot of tools but at the end of the day, it's up to us to use them. Hendrick stepped up their program this year, RCR stepped up their programs this year and the teams show it."

No matter what happens from here on in this season, expect a number of happy Chevrolet executives to celebrate this year’s achievement in the coming weeks – and with seven championship contenders – quite possibly cheer with a NEXTEL Cup at the end of 2006.

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