Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke out of a six-week slump last night with a convincing victory in the NASCAR Sharpie 500, giving him a weekend sweep at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and momentum for the upcoming championship chase.
Almost completely healed from burns he suffered last month in a non-NASCAR wreck, Earnhardt led 295 of the 500 laps for his first Nextel Cup win at Bristol. He'll stick the trophy right next to the one he earned Friday night for winning his first Busch series race on the 0.533-mile bullring.
He beat Ryan Newman to the finish line in a race that didn't shake up the championship standings as much as predicted.
Newman, fighting to become eligible for NASCAR's 10-race championship chase, moved into contention by jumping three spots to the cutoff position of 10th. It came at the expense of rookie Kasey Kahne, who finished 21st and fell to 11th in standings.
It was the only major change in the standings as drivers scramble to make it into the top 10 with just two races to go before the playoffs begin.
Kahne is 26 points out of the top 10 and Jeremy Mayfield, his teammate, is right behind in 12th place in the standings. But time is running out on the Evernham Motorsports pair, and everyone else behind them, too.
Jimmie Johnson ended his streak of three straight DNFs with a third-place finish. Jeff Burton finished fourth in his new Richard Childress-owned ride. Elliott Sadler was fifth, followed by Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray.
Kurt Busch, who won the past three Bristol races, finished eighth. Matt Kenseth was ninth and Dale Jarrett 10th.
* IRL: Helio Castroneves put himself in the best position to win the 100th series race by taking the pole for the final event at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway.
The defending race champion hopes to present car owner Roger Penske with a victory today in the Firestone Indy 225. Penske built the track in 1986, but later merged his racing facilities with those of International Speedway Corp. ISC said in May the mile oval would close after this season.
Castroneves posted a fast lap of 167.396 mph. He will be joined in the front row by teammate Sam Hornish Jr., who went 167.100. Qualifying third was points leader Tony Kanaan.
* CHAMP CAR: Series points leader Sebastien Bourdais captured the pole position for the Montreal Molson Indy, his sixth pole of the season and third in a row.
After rookie A.J. Allmendinger knocked Bourdais off the pole with about three minutes remaining in the 35-minute qualifying session, the Frenchman could have settled for the runner-up spot, which he guaranteed himself by taking the provisional pole Friday.
Instead, Bourdais made one last run on the 2.709-mile, 13-turn Circuit Gilles Villeneueve road course and drove his Newman/Haas Racing Lola to a lap of 1 minute 19.897 seconds -- 122.062 mph -- that kept Allmendinger from winning his first career pole with his lap of 1:20.272 (121.492 mph).
Mario Dominguez qualified third at 1:20.316 (121.425).
* FORMULA ONE: Jarno Trulli, the only driver to beat Michael Schumacher this season, nipped the German for the pole in today's Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.
Hoping to repeat his triumph of three months ago in Monaco, where he also claimed the pole en route to his first Formula One victory, Trulli qualified in rain. Trulli clocked 1:56.232 with Schumacher across in 1:56.304.