The Frontstretch: Bubble Breakdown: Sadler Smooth While Smith Struggles At The Monster Mile by Brock Beard -- Monday September 27, 2010

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Bubble Breakdown: Sadler Smooth While Smith Struggles At The Monster Mile

Tracking The Top 35 In Owner Points · Brock Beard · Monday September 27, 2010

 

Last week, Robby Gordon returned to his No. 7 to fire another salvo across the bow of Front Row Motorsports. By battling home to finish 26th, Gordon not only gained 30 points on the No. 34 and No. 37 teams, but made the No. 38 team’s bid to re-enter the top 35 another 23 points harder. The news was not all bad for FRM: 36th-ranked Latitude 43 Motorsports missed its first race in a month when Jeff Green anchored the field in qualifying. Their issue allowed the No. 38 to not only retake the 36th spot, but move 31 more points away from the No. 26, should they face off once again.

Would Latitude 43 Motorsports get another chance at The Monster Mile, or would the Battle for the Bubble become a six-car race? Read on to find out!

LOCKED-IN AT KANSAS

No. 77 – Sam Hornish, Jr. (Penske Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 28th (+524 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 36th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 28th (+527 points ahead of 35th)

Last week at New Hampshire, Hornish finished a surprising 10th, good enough to move the No. 77 44 points further from the Bubble and into the 28th spot in Owner Points. At Dover, scene of Hornish’s 100th Cup start, he inched another three points forward for a total 313-point gain since Sonoma. However, he also struggled to his worst finish since that Sonoma event. This time, the culprit was an electrical glitch that kept him off the pace. He tumbled out of the top 30 by lap 100 and was six laps down on the 256th circuit. Eventually, the Penske crew decided to pull the Mobil 1 Dodge behind the wall for good, resulting in the team’s first DNF since his late crash at Daytona in July. Hornish completed 349 of Dover’s 400 laps.

While The Monster took a bite out of Sadler this weekend, Elliott still managed a respectable 17th place finish on Sunday.

No. 19 – Elliott Sadler (Richard Petty Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 30th (+436)
Sunday’s Finish: 17th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 29th (+496)

While last Sunday belonged to Hornish, Dover was Elliott Sadler’s week to lead the Bubble drivers with a big, 60-point gain. Sadler finished 17th, his first top-20 result since he ran ninth at Michigan last month. Although Sadler’s 2010 season has been marred by bad luck and several harrowing accidents — including his tangle with Drew Herring in Saturday’s Nationwide event — this time, the Air Force Ford was consistently in the right place at the right time. He ran in the top 20 all afternoon long and received two timely Lucky Dogs during the final two yellows. In the end, Sadler lost a lap a third time, but was still in the Lucky Dog position when the checkered flag flew.

No. 82 – Scott Speed (Team Red Bull)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 29th (+463)
Sunday’s Finish: 32nd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 30th (+478)

Speed gained 15 points on Sunday, fifth-most among this week’s group, but was never a factor in the race. A promising 20th-place qualifying run went by the wayside in the opening stages as he was outside the top 30 by the 40-lap mark. Like many drivers further back in the pack, Speed pitted off sequence and finished several laps down, claiming for most of the event the rear of his car was like “ice” and continually unable to grip the racetrack in the turns. He made his final stop with 58 remaining, nearly twenty laps before the leaders came in, and finished seven laps off the pace.

No. 78 – Regan Smith (Furniture Row Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+362)
Sunday’s Finish: 26th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+395)

Three laps down at the finish came Regan Smith, who saw his chances at a top 15 finish disappear after a pair of untimely penalties. Smith qualified 18th on Friday — easily his best ever start at The Monster Mile, leading to hope for a promising run on Sunday. He slipped to 30th by the 120-lap mark, but fought his way back to 17th less than 80 circuits later. He was still running in that position around lap 268, when things fell apart during his next-to-last pit stop. The No. 78 was caught speeding on pit road, then sped again when Smith returned to serve the penalty. Although his 26th-place finish left much to be desired, he still gained a healthy 33 points on the Bubble, second-most to Sadler’s 60.

No. 37 – Tony Raines (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+68)
Sunday’s Finish: 31st
Current Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+86)

The fourth-biggest gain, 18 points, was earned by Tony Raines, the middle-finishing Front Row Motorsports car this week. Raines turned the slowest speed in qualifying among the 43 who started, was sent to the back for a transmission change, but inched up to 31st by the 220-lap mark, where he remained for the rest of the race. In a workmanlike effort, he finished six laps down to winner Jimmie Johnson.

No. 34 – Travis Kvapil (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+66)
Sunday’s Finish: 33rd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+78)

Kvapil gained 12 points at Dover as the lowest-finishing FRM Ford, twelve laps down. It was a disappointing end to a somewhat promising week for the No. 34 team: Kvapil secured associate sponsorship from LP Building Products and Advantage Homes on Thursday, qualified nearly ten positions in front of his teammates in the 30th spot on Friday, and scored the first Lucky Dog on Sunday.

No. 71 – Landon Cassill (TRG Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+39)
Sunday’s Finish: 38th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+36)

TRG Motorsports incurred the only point loss among the Bubble drivers that qualified after yet another start-and-park effort. Almost every week this season, the No. 71 has completed more laps than any other start-and-park team, but that has not been enough to keep them out of top 35 danger. In just the last two races, Kevin Buckler’s organization has lost a combined total of 41 points. With Bobby Labonte not performing much better during his few runs in Buckler’s Chevrolets, there is still a very real possibility the team may not be locked-in for the start of 2011.

No. 7 – Kevin Conway (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On The Bubble)
Sunday’s Finish: 37th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On The Bubble)

After a one-week absence at New Hampshire, Conway and sponsor ExtenZe returned to the No. 7 camp, producing familiar results. His Toyota qualified 40th, was the first to go a lap down, and fell multiple laps down by the 57th circuit following at least one trip to the garage area. He completed 129 laps before calling it a day with “fuel pump” issues. By finishing one position ahead of the No. 71, the team has actually closed in on 34th in owner points, but the No. 7’s team strategy has become unclear.

ExtenZe’s rumored insolvency, Conway’s poor performances, and Gordon’s financial woes seem an unhealthy match; the team ironically seems more prone to parking when ExtenZe sponsors the car.

NOT LOCKED-IN AT KANSAS

No. 38 – David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-110 points behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 30th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-84 points behind 35th)

David Gilliland returned to the No. 38 and just barely beat Tony Raines to be the top-finishing FRM car. Gilliland had the fastest “go-or-go-home” car in Friday’s opening practice, 22nd overall, but still qualified no better than 35th. Since Conway was already a lap down when the first caution fell on the 39th circuit, Gilliland stayed out two extra laps to lead lap 41. Though he finished five laps down, those five bonus points gave his team a combined 26-point gain, third-most among this week’s group.

No. 26 – Jeff Green (Latitude 43 Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-145)
Sunday’s Finish: DNQ
Current Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-166)

The effort to get the No. 38 back into the top 35 was also helped by their competitors at Latitude 43 Motorsports, who suffered a second consecutive DNQ when Jeff Green could not get the No. 26 into the show. The DNQ cost Latitude 43 another 21 points of cushion, almost as much as Gilliland gained on the Bubble. This will make the team’s next attempt at Kansas even more crucial to the team’s dwindling hopes of locking themselves in before the end of the year.

2010 Bubble Chart After Dover:

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
27 Red Bull Racing 83 Various 2,670 +677
28 Penske Racing 77 Sam Hornish, Jr. 2,520 +527
29 Richard Petty Motorsports 19 Elliott Sadler 2,489 +496
30 Red Bull Racing 82 Scott Speed 2,471 +478
31 Furniture Row Racing 78 Regan Smith 2,388 +395
32 Front Row Motorsports 37 David Gilliland 2,079 +86
33 Front Row Motorsports 34 Tony Raines 2,071 +78
34 TRG Motorsports 71 Landon Cassill 2,029 +36
35 Robby Gordon Motorsports 7 Robby Gordon 1,993 0
36 Front Row Motorsports 38 Travis Kvapil 1,909 -84
37 Latitude 43 Motorsports 26 Jeff Green 1,827 -166
38 Phoenix Racing 09 Bobby Labonte 1,432 -561
39 Tommy Baldwin Racing 36 Dave Blaney 1,412 -581
40 Germain Racing 13 Casey Mears 1,403 -590
41 NEMCO Motorsports 87 Joe Nemechek 1,167 -826
42 Whitney Motorsports 46 Michael McDowell 1,128 -865
43 PRISM Motorsports 55 Various 1,042 -951
44 PRISM Motorsports 66 Various 997 -996

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 Dover-2 Race Recap
The Cool-Down Lap: ‘Dinger Does Dover – What His Good Run Means
Fact Or Fiction: Chase Down To Two? Hendrick Hiring Help? And Bye, Bye McGrew?
Running Their Mouth: AAA 400
Tracking The Trucks: Smith’s Food & Drug Stores 350

Contact Brock Beard

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Max Q Motorsports fan
09/27/2010 08:43 PM
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Would you PLEASE include back to 46th in Owners Points as the #164 is quickly catching the #21 Wood Bros for a cool 4th spot, just beyond the #66 MSRP failures of Jason Leffler.