In 2006, the International Speedway Corporation announced that the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be built in Charlotte, North Carolina. They also began introducing their "Car of Tomorrow" project to the public, which was designed to gradually move NASCAR races toward better safety and cost reduction. The new cars will be fully phased in to all NASCAR events in 2009.
On the track for 2006, Jimmie Johnson, who had driven well since his first season in 2002, finally put it all together and came away the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion. See how he did it and get details about the other drivers in the running with our 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup chronology.
January 12, 2006
After three years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Toyota announces it will field Camrys in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition in 2007. Bill Davis Racing, Team Red Bull, and Michael Waltrip Racing are the first to sign with Toyota.
January 23, 2006
NASCAR announces that the "Car of Tomorrow" will be run at 16 races in 2007, 26 races in 2008, and the full schedule in 2009. The schedule could move forward if the teams agree that they want to switch to the new car exclusively.
In what could be construed as payback for an incident
at Bristol in March, #24 Jeff Gordon bumped
Matt Kenseth with seven laps to go in the July 9 USG
Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. The bump
sent Kenseth into a spin. Gordon passed him and
went on to win the race while Kenseth was relegated
to a 22nd-place finish. The win was Gordon's 75th,
placing him seventh all time and just one
win behind Dale Earnhardt. See more pictures of NASCAR.
February 19, 2006: Daytona 500
Jimmie Johnson wins the Daytona 500 six days after his crew chief Chad Knaus is suspended by NASCAR for a rear-window violation detected after qualifying.
March 6, 2006
NASCAR Chairman Brian France announces that Charlotte, N.C., has won the bidding to be the host city for a new NASCAR Hall of Fame. Construction is due to be completed no later than spring 2010. A voting process to induct Hall of Fame members is still under consideration.
March 17, 2006
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Bobby Hamilton announces he has been diagnosed with cancer, causing him to bow out of the 2006 season. The 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion would lose his battle with the disease on January 7, 2007, at age 49.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., paid tribute to his late father with
a familiar silver and black paint scheme on his #8
Chevrolet in the Aaron's 499. The day would prove
to be a bad one for Earnhardt, who spun on lap 88,
lost his engine on lap 151, and finished 31st. The
poor showing dropped Earnhardt one
spot to eighth in the season's points standings.
March 20, 2006: Golden Corral 500
Bill Lester becomes the first African American to start a race at NASCAR's top level since Willy T. Ribbs in 1986. Lester qualifies for the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finishes 38th.
June 4, 2006: Neighborhood Excellence 400
Despite retiring after the 2005 season, Ricky Rudd fills in for the injured Tony Stewart in the Neighborhood Excellence 400 at Dover International Raceway. Stewart broke his shoulder the previous week at Charlotte.
June 11, 2006: Pocono 500
Rookie Denny Hamlin wins the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. It is the rookie's first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory, and it comes in his 21st start.
Number 20 Tony Stewart said before the Daytona 500
that bump drafting could cause someone to get hurt,
then pushed #17 Kenseth off the backstretch on lap
107. Stewart was sent to the back of the longest line
on the restart from the yellow flag. When Kenseth
pulled beside Stewart to comment, NASCAR made
him pass through pit road under green and added a
lap penalty when he was slow in responding.
Kenseth finished 15th, and Stewart placed fifth.
July 9, 2006: USG Sheetrock 500
Jeff Gordon drives to his 75th career win in the USG Sheetrock 500 at Chicagoland Speedway. Gordon is now one win behind Dale Earnhardt for sixth on the all-time list. On the same day, Chip Ganassi Racing announces that it has signed Formula One driver and former CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya for the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season.
July 26, 2006
Popular broadcaster and former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons begins treatments for lung cancer. Parsons would succumb to the disease less than six months later on January 16, 2007. He was 65.
September 9, 2006: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Kasey Kahne finishes third in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway to claim the last spot in the annual Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Defending champ Tony Stewart is out of the top 10 after finishing 18th.
Matt Kenseth congratulates #31 Jeff Burton after the
Sept. 24 Dover 400 at Dover International Speedway.
The pair raced side-by-side for 25 of the last 31 laps,
but Burton passed Kenseth with six laps to go and
held on for the win. The performance snapped a
175-race winless streak for Burton and moved him
from fifth into first place in the Chase for the NASCAR
NEXTEL Cup. Kenseth ran out of gas heading
to the white flag and finished tenth.
September 24, 2006: Dover 400
Jeff Burton posts his first victory in five years in the Dover 400 to take the points lead in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
October 8, 2006: UAW-GM 500
Brian Vickers taps teammate Jimmie Johnson on the last lap of the UAW-GM 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, sending Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., spinning. Vickers goes on to win, while Johnson finishes 24th, leaving him mired in eighth in points with six races remaining.
October 21, 2006
NASCAR announces that NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars will switch from leaded to unleaded fuel for all 2007 races except the Daytona 500.
NASCAR's Brett Bodine tests a Dodge version of
NASCAR's "Car of Tomorrow" before the Daytona
500. The Car of Tomorrow is designed to improve
safety and performance and reduce costs. Four
inches wider and two inches taller than the outgoing
cars, it also has an open front bumper to catch more
air. One consistent body, frame, and roll cage will let
the car be used on all types of track, reducing
costs. The Car of Tomorrow will run 16 events in
'07, 26 in '08, and all in 2009.
November 5, 2006: Dickies 500
Tony Stewart wins the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. It is Stewart's third win in the last six races, all during the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Jimmie Johnson places second and takes the points lead.
November 19, 2006: Ford 400
Mark Martin's start in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks his final race with Jack Roush. Martin ran 19 years with Roush Racing, posting 35 NASCAR Nextel Cup wins. The 47-year-old Martin plans to run a limited schedule for owner Bobby Ginn in 2007. Jimmie Johnson wraps up his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title with an 11th-place finish.
Get the 2006 season's full results and a look at the stats for the top 50 drivers with our NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings on the next page.
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2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings
Jimmie Johnson overcame bad luck in the first four races of the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup to claim his first championship. It marked the sixth title for co-owner Rick Hendrick and the first for Jeff Gordon as a co-owner. Gordon also qualified for The Chase and finished sixth in the overall standings.
2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson
Five drivers had a shot to win the title entering the season finale. In the end, however, Johnson claimed the top honors by 56 points over runner-up Matt Kenseth. Rookie Denny Hamlin was third, Kevin Harvick fourth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., fifth.
Johnson got off to a quick start with a win in the season-opening Daytona 500. In addition to Daytona, Johnson won the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, making him the only driver to ever win the big races at Daytona and Indianapolis as well as the championship in the same season. Johnson posted five wins in points races, plus a victory at the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
All told, the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points lead changed hands nine times among Johnson, Kenseth, and Jeff Burton. See how the final standings stacked up with the chart below.
2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings
|5||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
|19||Martin Truex, Jr.
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