The Frontstretch: Petty Enterprises Coming Dangerously Close To Top 35 Cliff by Mike Lovecchio -- Sunday August 26, 2007

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Petty Enterprises Coming Dangerously Close To Top 35 Cliff

Bubble Breakdown : Tracking The Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Lovecchio · Sunday August 26, 2007


The two-car battle for the 35th and final position in owner points is close to becoming a three-team race – and that new third team is a team that’s slumping rather than one stepping up as the season nears its stretch run. While its sister car streaked to a second straight Top 10 finish at Bristol, the No. 45 from Petty Enterprises seems to have been left behind. The Dodge continues to struggle each and every week, whether it’s Kyle Petty, Chad McCumbee, or Kenny Wallace behind the wheel – a 32nd place run for Wallace at Bristol is the team’s best finish in five weeks, with results of 41st, 42nd, 33rd and 41st coming in the previous four races. That has left the team dangerously on the edge of falling into the grasp of teams below them.

So, just how close is the No. 45 to falling outside of the Top 35 for the first time this year? Check out this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown below to find out:

Bill Elliott is slowly turning things around after three months behind the wheel of the No. 21 Ford.

Biggest Mover(s)

In a week where there was little to no movement among anyone remotely close to the 35th position, my vote for the “Biggest Mover” this week goes to Bill Elliott, who moved the No. 21 Ford to just 37 behind the No. 22 and Dave Blaney for 35th place. Elliott finished a respectable 25th this week at Bristol while Blaney ran 31st, closing the gap by 18 points.

Further ahead, the only driver to gain a position within seven spots of the bubble was Paul Menard in the No. 15. Menard finished 24th and jumped into the 29th spot in owner points, replacing David Gilliland, who now falls to 30th.

Elliott (No. 21) – Finished 25th; inched closer to Blaney and the bubble position.

Menard (No. 15) – Finished 24th; moved from 30th to 29th in car owner points.

Biggest Loser

While the struggles of the No. 45 have been noted already, the No. 70 is experiencing much of the same problems. Sauter has not broke the Top 20 in six races, and now sits just 27 points ahead of Blaney and just six ahead of Petty in 33rd. It didn’t help that Sauter was the cause of the first yellow flag Saturday night; a visit to the turn two wall nearly sent the Haas Chevrolet into leader Kasey Kahne, bunching up the field on the back straightaway. Too damaged to continue, the car went behind the wall for lengthy repairs before finishing a whopping 220 laps off the pace.

Sauter (No. 70) – Finished 42nd, falling closer to the 35th place bubble position.

Tracking Toyota

Here’s something we haven’t heard much of this season: Michael Waltrip was the highest finishing Toyota this weekend. In fact, Waltrip was the lone Toyota to crack the Top 30 in an event where five Camrys were able to qualify; however, the veteran was soudnly criticized during the race for holding up the leaders after fighting hard to keep from going a third lap off the pace. Looks like it’s a year where Waltrip just can’t win.

Top 3 Finishing Toyotas:

Michael Waltrip (No. 55) – Finished 23rd
Dave Blaney (No. 22) – Finished 31st
Dale Jarrett (No. 44) – Finished 34th

Before you check out today’s Top 35 chart, don’t forget to vote in today’s Frontstretch poll by letting us know who you think will be the highest finishing rookie at California! Get busy outsmarting our very own Tony Lumbis in the process by letting him know who YOU think will rule the roost out West.

Breaking Down the Bubble

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
31 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeff Green 2,011 +196
32 Robert Yates Racing 88 Ricky Rudd 1,974 +159
33 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 1,842 +27
34 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty / Kenny Wallace 1,836 +21
35 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 1,815 0
36 Wood Brothers Racing 21 Bill Elliott 1,778 -37
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 1,669 -146
38 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 1,473 -342
39 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 1,368 -447
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 1,197 -618
41 Morgan McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 1,186 -629
42 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 1,086 -729
43 Furniture Row Racing 78 Various Drivers 1,015 -800
44 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 1,007 -808
45 BAM Racing 49 John Andretti 939 -876
46 Team Red Bull 84 A.J. Allmendinger 837 -978
47 Front Row Motorsports 37 Kevin LePage 591 -1,224

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Mike Lovecchio and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

08/27/2007 11:53 AM

Scott Riggs is still a good chunk of points back…but that #10 car was pretty lively last night, and that 18th place finish made up some points on the rest of the “bubble boys”

08/27/2007 12:47 PM

I’m a 30+ year fan of PE. And I’m sick in my gut at the way that the 45 team has thrown away a 200+ point cushion on 36th. When KP fell outside of top 35 near end of last year, it lit a fire under him and he Q’d on time the rest of the way to narrowly eke out 35th over Sterling in last race of the year. I don’t think he can do the same this year because the 21 and 22 are running better than the 14 did last year. The 45 bunch will only have themselves to blame for this ridiculous level of mediocrity.

08/27/2007 12:48 PM

I just wanted to comment to the statement that Michael Waltrip was holding up the leaders. It looked to me like Michael was just running where his car would run. He left the bottom and middle groove wide open. The leaders, having the better cars were free to go under him at any time. The fact that Kasey was also running the high groove was no reason for Michael to risk wrecking to get out of his line. Give the man a break.

08/27/2007 04:49 PM

Kyle Petty and PE have pretty much stunk up the place for the last few years in the #45. His work for charity has been quite amazing while his performance on the track has been very poor at best. The only time you ever see his car is when its lined up on the inside lane on restarts a lap or more down. The top 35 rule has kept cars that are not competitive like theirs and basically field fillers in races for a couple of years now. Instead cars that could possibly even have a chance to win the race are shut out by this rule. Several times this year cars that qualified in the 20-29 starting spots were sent home and cars with no chance to win were on the track. Nascar needs to wake up and change this rule fast. Don’t expect that with Brian France at the helm though. He is the source of a lot of the stupidity in the series of late. The COT was his disaster as well. You can also point directly at him for the sports declining ratings and path back towards a second tier sport like hockey. Grow up, be a man and give the fans what they truly deserve other than a slap in the face on Saturday nights and Sundays. The fans deserve at least the fastest 35-38 cars in the field every race and a couple of provisionals for the top drivers in the series when they need them. Everyone entering in a race should have to use a qualifying setup not just the teams outside the top 35! I’m also sick and tired of field filler’s turning laps for entry fee prize money also. Award less money for finishing 35th through 43rd and those cars will disappear as well. While this is good for the Busch and Truck series its not good in the top Cup series. I hope some other people have something to say about this as well! People need to back off of Michael Waltrip as well. He’s shown remarkable progress as of late and oh? by the way he has to get in the race using a qualifying setup!

08/27/2007 08:02 PM

If it had been anyone else except Waltrip holding up the leaders, being three laps down, everyone would’ve crucified them.

But then again the Speed peeps are only on tv to boost their own status, and beg for rides, gifts, etc.

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