With only nine races remaining until the new ?Chase for the Championship? kicks in ? after the Sept. 11 race at Richmond International Raceway ? Miller Lite Dodge driver Rusty Wallace sits 17th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, but he is confident that his team can still earn a spot to contend for the 2004 championship.

?We?re 260 points out of 10th with nine races to go, but I?m confident that we can still make the cut,? said Wallace, the 1989 series champ who has finished in the top 10 in the point standings in 16 of the last 18 seasons. ?We?re heading to some of our best tracks between now and then and we think that will play heavily in our favor. Even if we could personally choose all the tracks we wanted to race on between now and then, I don?t think it could be a better list.?

Under this year?s system, after the first 26 races, all drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 and any others within 400 points of the leader will earn a berth in the "Chase for the Championship." All drivers in the "chase" will have their point totals adjusted. The first-place driver in the standings will begin the chase with 5,050 points; the second-place driver will start with 5,045, etc. Incremental five-point drops will continue through the list of title contenders.

?I guess you could say that Richmond is ?D-Day? for all of us ? you either get it done or you don?t ? you?re either in it or you?re not ? and I think we can make up that difference between now and then,? said Wallace, whose Larry Carter-led team will be running a special *Miller Lite ?Puddle of Mudd? paint scheme this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. ?We?ve won a ton of races at the tracks we have coming up and look to add to our success on those tracks between now and then.?

Wallace is correct with his assessment that he has a proven record at the majority of the upcoming racetracks. He has recorded 51 percent (28 of 55) of his career wins on tracks included on that list. Among them (per the schedule) are: New Hampshire (1 win), Pocono (4 wins), Watkins Glen (2 wins), Michigan (5 wins), Bristol (9 wins), California (1 win) and Richmond (6 wins).

?The only places where we haven?t won on that list are Chicago and Indy,? said Wallace. ?We?ve finished second at Indy three times now and are due a win there and we?ve only raced at Chicago a few times (three races to date) and we just keep getting stronger and stronger there.

?We?re looking at getting back up there in the top 10 as the big goal right now, but we?re certainly not freaking out about it and calling 911. The 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) have been pretty bullet-proof and I don?t know about that 400-point end of the new deal, so we?re just focused on wins and getting back up there in the top 10.

?We just have to keep up the pace and not let any more of the stupid stuff happen. The performance is there, and I?ve got to run hard, aggressive and careful and finish every week now. If I can run the race and finish with no problem, we?re going to be in the top five and get more wins. We can?t waste time and can?t afford to make mistakes. But, I know we can get the job done.?

Wallace and crew will be racing their ?53 car? this weekend at Chicagoland. The car was last used in the ?All Star? race at Lowe?s Motor Speedway back in May. It was raced in only one points race so far this year, at Las Vegas where Wallace qualified 21st and finished 10th. The same car finished 10th at Indianapolis last August.

This weekend?s schedule for the fourth annual running of the Tropicana 400 gets under way with Friday?s 3:10 p.m. qualifying session which allocates all the starting spots for Sunday?s 400-mile, 267-lap race. Saturday?s final ?Happy Hour? practice session is scheduled from 11:10 a.m. until 11:55 a.m. Sunday?s Tropicana 400 has a scheduled 2:30 p.m. CDT starting time and features live coverage by NBC-TV and MRN Radio.

A href="">Click here for information about the July 9-11 NASCAR weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

NOTE: As part of Miller Lite?s Rock n? Racing program, Rusty Wallace's No. 2 Dodge will feature a special Miller Lite Rock n' Racing paint scheme featuring Puddle of Mudd to promote a concert by the popular California rock band at the speedway this Friday. The band will perform after the NASCAR Pole Day at Chicagoland Speedway in Expo Village. The concert is scheduled to begin approximately at 5:00 pm, but because of the large crowd expected for NASCAR Pole Day and the concert, guests are urged to arrive early.

Click here for information about the Friday, July 9 Miller Lite Rock n' Racing concert at Chicagoland Speedway with Puddle of Mudd.

Click here for information about Rusty Wallace's Puddle of Mudd paint scheme.

Puddle of Mudd: The band came out with their first album in 2001, "Come Clean". It sold over five million copies and produced no less than four radio hits ('Blurry', 'Control', 'Drift' And 'Die', 'She Hates Me'). 'Blurry' became the most played track on Modern Rock Radio for 2002 and earned the ASCAP award for most played song of the year. "Come Clean" sold 116,000 copies in its first week of release - a record for a new rock act. Puddle of Mudd's songs have become a benchmark in contemporary guitar rock. It's this kind of attention which inspired the title of Puddle Of Mudd's sophomore collection, "Life On Display" (released November 25). This long awaited follow-up retains the quartet's no-nonsense anti-formula, and brings a more defined and occasionally dark edge to the songs.

For more information about Puddle of Mudd, visit their official website at

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