CONCORD, N.C. Christi Passmore's magic number is 17.
If she manages to finish 17th or better in each of the final two races on the ARCA Re/Max Series schedule, she will become the first woman to finish among the Top 10 in a national oval-track touring series as a rookie.
The driver from Pryor, Okla., drove her G.A.P. Roofing/Royal Trading Ford to a career-best fifth-place finish at Talladega, Ala., two weeks ago, and all that's left is tonight's race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway (9:30 p.m., Speed) and the season-finale Oct. 18 at the South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
''We came into this season with our goals specifically set,'' Passmore said. ''We wanted to run a lot of laps, get me as much experience as possible, and to be competitive on a regular basis.
''Finishing in the top 10 wasn't necessarily a goal, but it is something we want to do. Now that we've reached this point, a final top-10 finish in the national standings is pretty important to us. If nothing else, it shows we reached our other goals.''
Passmore is ninth in the ARCA standings with six top-10 finishes in 20 starts. She's 30 points behind eighth-place Todd Bowsher.
MAGIC NUMBER: Despite coming off his two worst finishes of the season 33rd at Talladega and 36th at Kansas City Matt Kenseth still had a commanding lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings.
His 259-point lead means he can skip Saturday night's race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway and still be guaranteed at least a 74-point lead after the race.
With six races remaining, Kenseth can clinch the championship without leading a single lap and by finishing no worse than eighth in every race.
PIT STOPS: The reports that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has signed a five-year contract to remain with the team his father founded, Dale Earnhardt Inc. aren't true, according to Turner Sports Interactive. Although Earnhardt Jr. and team owner Teresa Earnhardt have talked twice, the third-generation driver still has problems with the deal and refuses to sign it until they're worked out. ... Car owner Bill Davis might drop back to one full-time team in 2004 with Scott Wimmer driving on the Nextel Cup Series and Kenny Wallace dropping back to the Busch Series.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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