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The Callahan Report: Points Race "Heats Up" In Phoenix

30 October 1997

PHOENIX, AZ: The desert Southwest is the next stop on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. The Dura Lube 500 will be run this Sunday at the Phoenix International Raceway. There are only two races remaining in the 1997 NASCAR season.

[ Mark Martin ]Mark Martin

Mark Martin continues to chase Jeff Gordon for the Winston Cup championship. Martin finished second here last year. Martin needs a victory and for Gordon to have some hard luck. Martin trails Gordon by 125 points. Gordon finished fifth at Phoenix last year. Martin won this race in 1993. Phoenix is one of the few tracks where Gordon has not visited victory lane.

Bobby Labonte started from the pole here last year. He also won the pole for the most recent race in Rockingham. Labonte's Pontiac figures to be a top contender again this weekend in Phoenix. Labonte finished 10th in last year's running of the Dura Lube 500. Pontiac won its first race of the season last weekend at "The Rock." Labonte could make it two in a row for Pontiac.

Bobby Hamilton, driving for Petty Enterprises, is coming off his first Victory of the season. He is hoping to duplicate his performance from last year at Phoenix. Hamilton won his first NASCAR Winston Cup event in Phoenix a year ago.

[ Jeff Gordon ]Jeff Gordon

By the numbers...If Gordon finishes thirteenth or better in each of the last two races, he will lock up the Winston Cup title, regardless of where Martin finishes. Gordon has finished in the "top five" at the last three Phoenix races. He has won a total of 10 races this year in his Monte Carlo. Only one other Chevrolet has visited victory lane.

Another Ford Thunderbird to watch for this weekend will be Ted Musgrave. The driver of the Family Channel Ford finished fourth here last October. He is in identical equipment as his strong racing teammates, Mark Martin and Jeff Burton.

Robert Yates teammates, Dale Jarrett and Ernie Irvan, both had top ten finishes at Phoenix last year. The team is strong at every track. Jarrett will be shooting for his seventh victory of the season. Irvan is looking for a high finish in his last two races with Robert Yates Racing.

The Dura Lube 500 will air on TNN Cable Network at 2:00 PM (Eastern Time) on Sunday, November 2nd.

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel

Editor's Note: The photos displayed in this article can be viewed in the NASCAR Image Gallery.