Ray Evernham could have more at stake this weekend than just the racing fortunes of his three Dodges in Sunday's UAW DaimlerChrysler 400. Evernham will also be entertaining a potential partner investor in his race team, George Gillett, the majority owner of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and a co-owner of a soccer team based in Liverpool, England. -- Charlotte Observer

The bigger surprise in Mexico would have been if Juan Pablo Montoya hadn't won. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has been gearing for this race since it was announced Montoya was jumping ship at McLaren Mercedes last June. Montoya's temper tantrum after qualifying -- where he threw crew chief Brad Parrot under the bus for making a chassis adjustment that cost him the pole -- showed he, too, knew that the race was his to lose. The No. 42 Dodge was the class of the field the whole race. -- Toronto Sun

Bruton Smith said Friday he believes 99.4 percent of the people in NASCAR would like to see the annual Nextel Cup awards banquet held in Las Vegas. But, at least for 2007, the remaining .6 percent -- presuming that NASCAR's top brass constitutes that fraction -- will carry the day. Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications, said the decision has been made to return to New York City this year. -- ThatsRacin.com

Even if Mark Martin should win the UAW DaimlerChrysler 400 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and next week's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Martin said he doesn't think it would change anything. Martin said he has no plans to run any of the races he originally planned to skip as part of a limited schedule with Ginn Racing. -- Charlotte Observer

Mark Martin admitted Friday that he conducted a private test session last weekend for the Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25. "We had a big cookout with friends at my house and watched the Busch race from Mexico City on television," Martin said. -- Charlotte Observer

Jeff Burton said there are more bumps at certain places on the new Las Vegas Motor Speedway surface than you might expect for a new paving job. But, he certainly doesn't want anything done about those bumps. -- ThatsRacin.com

Aric Almirola's steep ascent to NASCAR's highest level shows no sign of cresting. The 22-year-old member of Joe Gibbs Racing's driver development program qualified for his first Nextel Cup race on his very first attempt on Friday, putting the No. 80 Chevrolet in the show on time with a best lap of 180.174 at the 1.5-mile oval. -- St. Petersburg Times

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