Imagine how big a blow missing a race would be for one of the Nextel Cup Chase drivers.

Imagine how big a blow missing a race would be for one of the Nextel Cup Chase drivers.

It couldn't happen to them, though, because they're all in the top 35 in points.

The NHRA has no such provision, which is why Funny Car points leader Robert Hight and Top Fuel Cinderella story Doug Herbert will be watching eliminations today instead of racing.

Both of those drivers missed the show at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas on Saturday.

Hight didn't make it down the track on any of his four runs and Herbert's elapsed time of 4.659 was .011 short of making the 16-car field.

This isn't the first week finalists have missed the show. John Force DNQ'd the first week at Indianapolis.

The person with the most to gain from Hight's absence is Jack Beckman, just 30 points out of first place.

"We actually have a chance to leave in first and that's pretty exciting," Beckman said. "We're not going to get ahead of ourselves, but I would have never bet that Robert Hight was not going to qualify again
this year."

Hight also missed the race at Joliet.

DIFFERENT WORLD: One cannot begin to imagine the lifestyle adjustment from Formula One to the ARCA RE/MAX Series, but that's what Scott Speed will be doing next month.

Speed, the only American driver in the sport the past two years, was released from his ride with Scuderia Toro Rosso late this summer and will now try to break into the stock-car ranks.

It'll be a trial by fire for the 24-year-old, though. He'll be running the first oval race of his life in the ARCA event at Talladega in Oct. 5.

Talk about strapping in and hanging on.

"I come from a completely different world of racing, so there's no doubt it's going to be a challenge learning how these cars handle, but I'm ready to get out there and see what I've got," Speed said on his Web site this week.

Former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve also is entered in that race.

THE NEW GUY: Speaking of Villeneuve, the Canadian raced with Juan Pablo Montoya in Formula One and has watched him as he has made the sometimes rocky transition to Nextel Cup.

"Apparently no matter what you're driving, nobody likes the new guy," said Villeneuve, who raced in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Las Vegas on Saturday night. "Anytime anybody got into F1, we didn't like it and we made their life hard. So that's a little bit natural.

"But (Montoya) was like that in Formula One, extremely aggressive and got on people's nerves. I guess he kept the same personality going into NASCAR, which once he settles in, it will be all right. ... I've never
been as aggressive as him, I would say. But at the same time, NASCAR is a different ballgame, so if and when I get there, I'll figure it out."

NEW BOOK: Rob Geiger's book on Darrell Russell, "Broad Smiles, Quarter Miles" is available to order on Jegs.com.

Geiger, the senior writer for NHRA.com, was one of the late NHRA Top Fuel driver's closest friends and the two roomed together on the road.

Russell was killed during competition at Gateway International Raceway in the summer of 2004.

"He was just an awesome individual; probably the kindest person I've ever met," said Geiger in a press release. "The guy simply didn't have a mean bone in his body ... After he died, I realized that he touched so many people in his life and they all felt the same way I did. Everyone truly loved the guy.

"I wanted to capture all of that so that we never let our memories of Darrell fade away. We should all strive to be like Darrell."

All proceeds from Geiger's book will benefit the Drag Racing Association for Women, which Geiger said was extremely helpful to Russell's family after his death.

NOT MUCH CHANGE: The 2008 IndyCar schedule was released this week. It's nearly identical to this year except that Michigan is no longer on the schedule. Pertinent dates for the Midwest are the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, Milwaukee on June 1, Iowa on June 22 and Chicagoland, the season finale,
on Sept. 7.

Jane Miller is the Journal Star motorsports columnist. Write her at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3207 or e-mail jmiller@pjstar.com.