Tracking The Top 35 In Owner Points · Brock Beard · Monday October 4, 2010
Last week, Elliott Sadler enjoyed a refreshingly quiet afternoon at Dover with his first top-20 finish in more than a month, worth 60 points of cushion towards a bubble he was rapidly running away from. Regan Smith tried to follow suit in his No. 78, but two consecutive speeding penalties left him 26th with just a 33-point gain to his credit. All three of the Front Row Motorsports cars edged forward, too, running ahead of two rookies – Landon Cassill in the No. 71 and Kevin Conway in the No. 7 – who were both forced to endure a start-and-park-shortened afternoon at The Monster Mile.
That meant the No. 38 team, still 36th in the rankings, now sat just 84 points out of the Top 35 thanks to David Gilliland – leaving behind Jeff Green in Latitude 43 Motorsports’ No. 26 following a devastating, second straight DNQ. At Kansas, both cars would bring back the drivers they used the previous month in order to try and turn their seasons around. Did these changes help their top 35 push? Read on to find out!
LOCKED-IN AT FONTANA
No. 82 – Scott Speed (Team Red Bull)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 30th (+478 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 19th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 28th (+535 points ahead of 35th)
On Sunday, Speed picked up his first top-20 finish since he came home 10th at Daytona in July, resulting in a 57-point gain, the most among this week’s group. Speed qualified alongside teammate Reed Sorenson in the seventeenth row, but the No. 82 marched its way up into the top 20 as early as lap 83. Adjustments made during that early stretch allowed Speed to remain in the top half of the field for the rest of the race, even working his way up to 16th with just over 100 to go. He fell back to 19th in the final shuffle, but in doing so became the only Bubble driver to finish on the lead lap. As Red Bull Racing continues to evaluate its options for next year, this run by the Californian could not have come at a better time.
No. 77 – Sam Hornish, Jr. (Penske Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 28th (+527)
Sunday’s Finish: 36th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 29th (+533)
For the first part of Sunday’s race, it seemed like Sam Hornish, Jr. was going to be the top Bubble driver at Kansas. Despite being the first to take time in Friday’s qualifying session, the No. 77 started 18th, then moved to 14th on lap 51 and 12th just eleven circuits later. He settled back to 19th during the ensuing green-flag run just as Speed entered the top 20, remaining comfortably on the lead lap and in position to make a charge. But on the 99th circuit, mechanical gremlins gobbled up the No. 77 for the second straight race. This time, the culprit was a broken driveshaft, one that sent him to the garage for 19 laps. That left him slumping to 36th again – but just like last week, he finished ahead of the No. 7 team and gained six points of cushion.
No. 19 – Elliott Sadler (Richard Petty Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 29th (+496)
Sunday’s Finish: 28th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 30th (+526)
Sadler earned the fourth-biggest gain of this week’s group, picking up 30 points after a second straight uneventful run. His Ford was painted in Susan G. Komen Foundation pink, but on Sunday his team was beat red with frustration after failing to capitalize on much-needed September momentum. He qualified a solid 15th, a promising start, but on Sunday fell outside the top 20 by the 30-lap mark and never recovered. He came across the finish line as the eighth car one lap down.
No. 78 – Regan Smith (Furniture Row Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+395)
Sunday’s Finish: 26th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+431)
Two positions ahead of Sadler was Regan Smith, who nipped Sadler for the best qualifying run by a Bubble driver with his 13th-fastest time. But although the No. 78 backed up this run by being 15th-quickest in Happy Hour – leaving him a sleeper for Sunday – Smith dropped out of the top-20 positions even faster than Sadler. Stuck in the high lane, Smith fell to 23rd by lap 9, then to 29th on the 37th circuit. He held onto the lead lap for much of the race, but gave way to the leaders in the final run to fall a lap off the pace by the checkers. As disappointing as Sunday was for the New York driver, though, he still gained 36 points on the Bubble – third-most of this week’s group.
Next Sunday at Fontana could be a great opportunity for him to gain even more. Smith ran 19th there in the Spring, and nearly snagged top-20 finishes at both Michigan events, widely referred to as Fontana’s sister track.
No. 37 – David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+86)
Sunday’s Finish: 32nd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+104)
True to form, Front Row Motorsports finished 31st, 32nd, and 33rd on Sunday with all three cars six laps down to race winner Greg Biffle. To Gilliland’s credit, however, he did attempt to lead a lap by stretching his fuel during a round of green-flag stops on the 98th circuit. Unfortunately, this only moved him to second for a handful of laps behind the No. 26 of Patrick Carpentier, who was working the same strategy to perfection. Forced to run chrome Michael Waltrip Racing wheels in the middle stages of the event, Gilliland slowly eased back into the pack, pacing himself and gaining 18 points in the process.
No. 34 – Travis Kvapil (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+78)
Sunday’s Finish: 33rd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+93)
Travis Kvapil was the only one of this week’s Bubble drivers to be awarded a Lucky Dog (during the caution for Round 1 of Rowdy vs. Reutimann), allowing him to run inside the top 5 with Gilliland for a few laps as they tried to track down Carpentier. Kvapil blinked first by coming down pit road, then made at least one unscheduled stop with 15 to go. Despite the ugly ending, though, the No. 34 team still acquired 15 points of cushion at Kansas… but largely because of the continuing struggles of the two teams pursuing them.
No. 71 – Tony Raines (TRG Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+36)
Sunday’s Finish: 39th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+33)
FRM export Tony Raines drove for TRG Motorsports for the first time as the No. 71 was ironically without a driver when the initial entry list was posted last Monday. Watching the broadcasts and timing sheets, the team appeared more deflated than ever. Raines’ qualifying run of 169.438 mph was the slowest of Sunday’s 43 starters, and he trailed the field as early as lap 7. As in the past, the No. 71 outlasted the other start-and-park teams by calling it a day after 87 circuits, but lost another three points to the Bubble.
One wonders if TRG’s performance has anything to do with Phoenix Racing acquiring a Corpus Christi-based associate sponsorship for the No. 09 and the possibility Bobby Labonte will remain with the team for the rest of 2010 — despite that organization parking at Kansas and planning to do the same next week at Fontana.
No. 7 – Kevin Conway (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On The Bubble)
Sunday’s Finish: 38th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On The Bubble)
The Kevin Conway-Robby Gordon Motorsports pairing received the wrong kind of focus in Sunday’s race when, while running many laps down to the leader, the No. 7 lost the engine on the frontstretch with just 81 laps remaining. Although the problem arose after Raines parked the No. 71, allowing Gordon’s team to inch closer to TRG, Conway has still yet to complete any of his five races in the No. 7 under power. What’s more, the finish dropped them 21 points closer to a lingering threat from Front Row Motorsports. . .
NOT LOCKED-IN AT FONTANA
No. 38 – Dave Blaney (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-84 points behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 31st
Current Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-63 points behind 35th)
Dave Blaney made his second start of 2010 for FRM, albeit by the seat of his pants in Friday’s qualifying. In the “knock-out” session, Blaney’s speed of 171.265 mph was not enough to lock him into the show early on, forcing him to wait on pins and needles for the last two cars to qualify. When J.J. Yeley’s No. 36 bumped out Joe Nemechek’s No. 87, it was up to Mike Bliss to knock out Blaney in Phil Parsons’ No. 55. In the end, Bliss ran slower than Nemechek, allowing Blaney to just hang on to the 43rd and final starting spot.
Though Blaney had the top-finishing FRM car on Sunday, the No. 38 was also the first to go multiple laps down when he was two laps in arrears on the 89th circuit. He fell short of the much-needed 24th-place finish inside this car at Atlanta, but still wound up far enough ahead of Kevin Conway’s No. 7 to cut the team’s deficit by 21. Blaney may be a good choice for the team next week at Fontana, too, where the Ohio driver qualified 5th in the PRISM Motorsports No. 66 this February.
No. 26 – Patrick Carpentier (Latitude 43 Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-166)
Sunday’s Finish: 27th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-128)
Patrick Carpentier returned to Latitude 43 Motorsports and, as in his three prior starts with the team, not only got the No. 26 into the show (timing in 36th), but finished the race inside the top 30. This time, the run was worth 38 points of cushion, second-most among this week’s group thanks to the ten times Carpentier led the field to the line during green-flag stops from laps 98-107. Outstretching the fuel mileage of FRM while getting the team added exposure after two straight DNQs made the day highly profitable. If circumstances are right, it is possible Carpentier will return to the team again next week following a similar performance by the Canadian in Michigan in August.
2010 Bubble Chart After Kansas:
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place|
|28||Red Bull Racing||82||Scott Speed||2,577||+535|
|29||Penske Racing||77||Sam Hornish, Jr.||2,575||+533|
|30||Richard Petty Motorsports||19||Elliott Sadler||2,568||+526|
|31||Furniture Row Racing||78||Regan Smith||2,473||+431|
|32||Front Row Motorsports||37||David Gilliland||2,146||+104|
|33||Front Row Motorsports||34||Travis Kvapil||2,135||+93|
|34||TRG Motorsports||71||Tony Raines||2,075||+33|
|35||Robby Gordon Motorsports||7||Kevin Conway||2,042||0|
|36||Front Row Motorsports||38||Dave Blaney||1,979||-63|
|37||Latitude 43 Motorsports||26||Patrick Carpentier||1,914||-128|
|38||Germain Racing||13||Casey Mears||1,494||-548|
|39||Phoenix Racing||09||Bobby Labonte||1,472||-570|
|40||Tommy Baldwin Racing||36||J.J. Yeley||1,449||-593|
|41||NEMCO Motorsports||87||Joe Nemechek||1,198||-844|
|42||Whitney Motorsports||46||Michael McDowell||1,176||-866|
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