The Frontstretch: Confused by Top 35 Fallout From Ginn, DEI Merger? One Toyota Team Knows The Answer by Mike Lovecchio -- Sunday July 29, 2007

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The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series may be midway through its season, but the battle for the Top 35 is now the most competitive it's been since the first five races of the year. Following the merger between Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the No. 13 team, currently 35th in owner points, was eliminated; that took them out of a “locked in” qualifying spot and gave several teams that were struggling new opportunities to be successful. When you take the No. 13 out of the equation – the team is no longer attempting every race, which no longer makes them eligible to be “locked in” – the gap between the new 35th and 36th shrunk considerably. What was a seemingly insurmountable 225 points just two weeks ago at Chicagoland changed in an instant to just seven points heading into Indianapolis, with one team getting the sought-after exemption they desperately needed.

Who benefited the most from Ginn Racing’s demise? The legendary Wood Brothers No. 21 team, which inherited the spot the No. 13 car left behind, as well as Bill Davis Racing's No. 22 entry, which entered Sunday with a chance to be the first Toyota team locked in by owner points since Bristol.

For an explanation of what happened in regards to owner points from the Ginn / DEI merger, as well as who benefited most following Sunday’s Brickyard 400, check out this week's Bubble Breakdown below:

The New DEI

To help understand what happened this week in owner points following the Ginn / DEI merger, let's take a look at what has happened to each team involved:

Martin Truex, Jr. (No. 1): SAME OWNER POINTS
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (No. 8): SAME
Mark Martin / Aric Almirola (No. 01): SAME
Paul Menard (No. 15): The No. 15 team, which was outside of the Top 35 in owner points, essentially took the owner points of the No. 14 car since it was inside the Top 35 (30th). Sterling Marlin formerly drove the No. 14 for Ginn Racing, but due to NASCAR's four-car per team limit, neither he nor the car will no longer compete.

The No. 13 Ginn entry formerly driven by Joe Nemechek suspended operations

Now that we have that squared away, let's see how the rest of the field fared this week:

Biggest Mover

After Dale Jarrett used his final past champion’s provisional several months back, no Toyota team has been guaranteed a spot in the Top 35. But nobody benefited more from the merger this past week than Dave Blaney and the No. 22 team. 232 points behind Johnny Sauter and the bubble position two weeks ago, Blaney now sits 36th in owner points following a stellar ninth place finish Sunday. If the No. 13 team was still around, Bill Davis Racing would still be out of luck…but for once, a break went a Toyota team’s way:

According to NASCAR rules, the Top 35 only locks in teams who have attempted to qualify in every race throughout the season. Although the No. 13 team (which suspended operations) technically sits 35th in owner points, it did not attempt to qualify the Brickyard 400, making them ineligible and thus propelling the No. 22 car into the final locked in spot.

Blaney (No. 22) - Moved from 37th to 36th in car owner points; guaranteed a spot next week.

Biggest Loser

The Wood Brothers put Bill Elliott in the No. 21 car weeks ago in an effort to propel the team into the Top 35. Following the Ginn / DEI merger, they finally accomplished that goal, moving into the final “locked in” spot created by the No. 13’s demise. But the jubilation for the Wood Brothers was short-lived; Elliott was surpassed by Blaney following a 23rd place finish this week. With several past champion’s provisionals to fall back on, the team should be OK, but they must continue to run strong if in order to put themselves back in position to enjoy the same relief they felt when qualifying at Indy.

Elliott (No. 21) - Fell from 36th to 37th in car owner points.

Tracking Toyota

What a week it has been for Toyota. After picking up their first Busch Series victory Saturday night at ORP, Blaney becomes the first Toyota to be locked into the Top 35 this season. Unfortunately, that was where the success ran out. Terry Labonte replaced Michael Waltrip in the No. 55 this week, ensuring the team a spot in the prestigious race with Labonte's past champion’s provisional, but the team finished 30th after blowing an engine. David Reutimann suffered a similar fate on Sunday, finishing 38th after mechanical failure sent him to the sidelines.

Top 3 Finishing Toyotas:

Dave Blaney (No. 22) - Finished 9th
Brian Vickers (No. 83) - Finished 21st
Terry Labonte (No. 55) - Finished 30th

Breaking Down the Bubble

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place (No. 13 is ineligible)
31 Robert Yates Racing 88 Ricky Rudd 1,688 +234
32 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty 1,634 +200
33 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeff Green 1,618 +184
34 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 1,580 +146
xx Ginn Racing 13 None 1,547 ineligible
35 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 1,434 0
36 Wood Brothers 21 Bill Elliott 1,397 -37
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 1,312 -122
xx Teresa Earnhardt 15 None (Menard now using No. 14 points) 1,209 -225
38 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 1,185 -249
39 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 1,115 -319
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 995 -439
41 James Finch / Morgan-McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 958 -476
42 Furniture Row Racing 78 Kenny Wallace 870 -564
43 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 870 -564
44 BAM Racing 49 Ken Schrader 782 -652
45 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 748 -686
46 Team Red Bull 84 A.J. Allmendinger 704 -730
47 Front Row Motorsports 37 Kevin LePage 497 -937

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Greg
07/30/2007 08:11 AM
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Its time to end this stupidity of the Top 35. NASCAR fans need to speak out and demand that NASCAR stop fixing races and go back to the old way of qualifying – Top 41 fastest cars and 2 provisionals. The Top 35 Rule was good when it was needed, but with 49 active & competitive teams, its time to has past.

Mike
07/30/2007 12:13 PM
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Get rid of the Top 35 and the provisionals and let the fastest 43 race on race day.

Ron
07/30/2007 04:48 PM
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You do have to give nascar credit for limiting championship provisionals to 6 or the #44 car would really be embarrassing them now. Bill Elliot using the 1986 champions provisionals is also embarrassing. What’s next, seeing Darrell Waltrip in the #55? That would be the modern day “Dream Machine”!!!

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