Originally created 09/17/06

Early mistakes can be costly



LOUDON, N.H. - Drivers in today's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway are more concerned about getting eliminated from contention to win the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series championship than winning the race.

A bad finish in the first of 10 races that make up stock car's playoffs has spelled doom in the past for several drivers. That's why all of them have one goal during today's (12:30 p.m., TNT) main event - survival.

Two years ago Jeremy Mayfield and Tony Stewart both crashed early in the race and dropped to the bottom of the Chase rankings. They never recovered.

Last year Kurt Busch crashed early and Elliott Sadler struggled with an ill-handling car. They also never recovered.

"Every race is an opportunity to separate yourself from the field," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "You've got to take every opportunity you can."

Jeff Burton has four victories at the one-mile oval, so his approach is a little more optimistic. Although he hasn't won a race since 2001, he said his goal is to start the Chase with a victory.

"We came here to try to win," he said. "The thing about how I race and about how my team prepares everything, we don't have to change anything. We go in to every race trying to do the very best we can."

NO MORE GRUBB: As far as NASCAR is concerned, it's done with driver Kevin Grubb.

The driver said he was suffering through the lasting affects of a concussion sustained during a crash at Richmond International Raceway last week when he refused to take a drug test. Since he already had been suspended once in his career for violating the organization's drug policies, his refusal was treated like another positive result.

"We're done with Kevin," NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said Saturday.

HONORING THE CROCODILE HUNTER: Marcos Ambrose, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver, had two stickers on his Ford during Saturday's New Hampshire 200 to honor a pair of Australian legends.

The driver from Tasmania who raced in Australia before moving to NASCAR this year had one sticker for Steve Erwin, known as the Crocodile Hunter, and one for rally driver Peter Brock. Erwin died two weeks ago after he was speared in the heart by a stingray while filming a documentary; Brock died last week in a race crash near Perth.