The Starr Report · Cami Starr · Monday May 8, 2006
I have to admit, Richmond is one of my favorite tracks and Saturday night’s race didn’t disappoint. Well, that is, unless you are a fan of Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne or Matt Kenseth, three drivers in the Top 10 in the standings that finished 34th or worse. On the flip side, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Sterling Marlin all got the Top 10 runs they were in desperate need of. What other drivers found a reversal of fortune, suffered setbacks, or stayed the course after Week 10? Read this week’s Starr Report to find out…
Jimmie Johnson: Whether you consider it ugly, strong teamwork, or just plain ol’ good luck, Johnson found a way to extend his point lead following Saturday’s race. His 12th place finish could have been a lot worse. How the team fought the whole night through an ill-handling car and bad luck to finish on the lead lap shows why they have led the point standings eight out of ten weeks.
Tony Stewart: If you believe his TV commercials, Stewart must have found one humdinger of a home improvement project to work on lately. With five straight Top 10 finishes, Smoke has chiseled a way to the second place spot in the standings. Even though he failed to lead a lap for the first time this year at Richmond, he’s still showing strong consistency that makes him a threat to win each week.
Kevin Harvick: Up until a late race decision not to pit under caution, Harvick fans had their brooms out, getting ready to celebrate another weekend sweep. After dominating the race, Harvick wasn’t too happy with his third place finish, but it was good enough to move him up to fifth in the standings. With five Top 10 finishes in the last six races, I don’t think we’re done seeing Harvick contending for wins anytime soon.
Carl Edwards: Just before the Phoenix race, Jack Roush pulled a crew change between the 26 and 99 teams. While Cousin Carl said the reason was to spark Jamie McMurray’s season, Edwards has been the benefactor. In the three races since the swap, he has three Top 10s, and has gained five positions in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Normally, I don’t move a driver around based on just one performance. But by overcoming a slow start to the evening to earn his first win in 27 races, Dale, Jr. moved his way to the warm side. His fourth Top 10 of 2006 moved him to sixth in the standings, and his win should give him the momentum to keep this warm feeling going.
Jeff Green: His results may not be bold and showy, but Green has been consistent so far in 2006. In a time where multi-car teams are a necessity, not a rarity, Green is getting it done going solo. Currently 21st in the rankings, he has 5 Top 20 finishes in the last six races, and has moved up 21 places in the standings since Daytona.
Kasey Kahne: With two wins, things should be all rosy for Kasey Kahne. But since his second win, his results have wilted. In the last two weeks, he’s finished 39th and 34th, for a total of three finishes of 34th or worse in the last five races. Now down to seventh in the standings, Kahne is riding a rollercoaster, which can be fun depending on if you’re riding high or coasting downward at crunch time.
Kurt Busch: The pressure was high for Busch coming into 2006 after taking over one of the most popular rides in the series. After ten races, it’s safe to say that he and his team are still feeling that weight. His lone Top 5 was his win at Bristol, and five finishes of 20th or worse have him back to 18th in the standings. If Busch can’t turn things around soon, the Miller team won’t be around for last call at the end of 26 races.
Bobby Labonte: Saturday night’s race was a perfect example of Labonte’s entire season. He started 35th, but had climbed up to fifth over the first 280 laps. Just 60 laps later, though, it all fell apart; rear end problems set in, forcing him to nurse the 43 home to a 24th place finish. It’s been that type of feast or famine season for the Betty Crocker team in 2006. They either finish their solid runs inside the Top 10, or have late race problems drop them outside the Top 20.
Joe Nemechek: While his teammate Sterling Marlin is raking in some good finishes, Nemechek is digging at the bottom of the barrel. He’s failed to score a top 10 this year and is riding the unenviable tide of six straight finishes of 23rd or worse. Perhaps this Army of One needs to go back to basic training.
Jeremy Mayfield: Perhaps a piÃ±ata isn’t the only Mayfield toy Tony Stewart made. Taking a look at his finishes this year, there might be a Mayfield voodoo doll out there too. No Top 10s and eight finishes out of the Top 20 have Mayfield 34th in the points. As far as his Chase chances…well, the Fat Lady is almost to the second verse.
Robby Gordon: Unlike the other icemen on the list, Gordon has earned one Top 10 finish this year. That came last week at Talladega…but Gordon slid right back down at Richmond with a 39th place run. His sixth finish of 25th or worse has him at a season low 32nd in points and counting the days until the race at Sonoma.
Next Saturday night, 43 drivers have a date with the most famous lady on the circuit. Who will woo her and get in her good graces, and who will feel the wrath of the Lady in Black? We’ll just have to wait until next weekend’s race at Darlington to find out.
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