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Notes: Gordon's consecutive starts streak intact

November 16, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Stenhouse happy with surprise Cup crew chief; milestones in the making

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- On Sunday at Homestead, Jeff Gordon will make his 689th consecutive start in the Cup Series, the longest active streak among active drivers and the third-longest all time behind Ricky Rudd (788) and Rusty Wallace (697).

There were some tense moments, however, as Gordon awaited a penalty ruling from NASCAR after Gordon retaliated against Clint Bowyer in last Sunday's Cup race at Phoenix, wrecking himself and Bowyer, as well as Joey Logano and Aric Almirola in the process.

There was sentiment in some quarters for parking Gordon for the season finale at Homestead, but NASCAR chose to levy a $100,000 fine and placed Gordon on probation for the balance of the season.

A suspension would have undone plans by Gordon's sponsor, DuPont, to celebrate 20 years on the No. 24 Chevrolet with a special paint scheme.

"I tried not to think about that," Gordon said Friday at Homestead. "I know the folks at DuPont were worried about it. They put a lot into this paint scheme and planning. This has been out -- really we've been talking about this for about 10 weeks, commemorating this moment with this car.

"Until I heard that they were worried about it, I wasn't too concerned about it. I knew there would be fines and penalties, but I felt like I'd be in the seat of that DuPont Chevrolet this weekend."

As it turned out, Gordon was right, and his 689th start will keep him one ahead of Bobby Labonte, who will take the green flag in his 688th consecutive Cup race on Sunday.

Clean slate for Stenhouse

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will win his second consecutive Nationwide Series championship on Sunday if his 20-point lead over Elliott Sadler stands up, but Stenhouse's future lies in the Cup Series, where he'll race full time for the first time next year.

On Wednesday, Roush Fenway Racing announced its driver/crew chief lineup for 2013. For those who expected either Jimmy Fennig (current Cup crew chief of departing Matt Kenseth) or Mike Kelley (Stenhouse's Nationwide crew chief) to lead the 25-year-old driver's foray into NASCAR's top division, the appointment of engineer Scott Graves came as a surprise.

"It's cool to have a crew chief that doesn't have any habits," Stenhouse told the NASCAR Wire Service after the formal news conferences at Homestead. "It's not like I'm coming in and I'm having to adjust to him. He's going to come in and kind of learn what I like, and that's what he's going to roll with.

"I think that's a cool situation to be in."

Stenhouse participated in the decision to install Graves as his crew chief, in a series of moves that sent Fennig to the No. 99 Ford of Carl Edwards, who has been mired in a year-long slump after losing the 2011 championship to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker.

"Before the announcement came out, before any decisions were made, [general manager] Robbie Reiser and [team owner] Jack [Roush] came to me, and we sat down and talked about all the different scenarios and all the different situations, what we thought was best -- not only for me, but for our company in general," Stenhouse said.

"I think we did the best with what we had within our company to make our company strong all the way across the board. We need Carl back in championship form. We need Greg [Biffle] to be in championship form. We need guys that want to work hard and build a relationship and work up with me. I think all the pieces are in the right place."

Possible milestones

If he should win the Sprint Cup title, Brad Keselowski would be the first Michigan native to do so. Keselowski, 28, also would be the first Cup champion born after Richard Petty won his seventh and final championship (1979) and after Dale Earnhardt won his first (1980).

Should Ricky Stenhouse Jr. win the Nationwide Series title, he would become the sixth driver to claim back-to-back championships. Sam Ard (1983-1984), Larry Pearson (1986-1987), Randy LaJoie (1996-1997), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-1999) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004-2005) are the five drivers who already have achieved that distinction.

North of the border

NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series will venture outside the United States for the first time next year, with the announcement Friday that the series will race Sept. 1, 2013, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

The race on the 2.459-mile, 10-turn venue is scheduled for the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the same day as the Sprint Cup night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport Park and Mosport International Raceway) will mark the first time in 13 years that a Truck event has been contested on a road course.