The Frontstretch: The Chase Is Here - But The Top 35 Battle Is Closer Than Ever For Wood Brothers, BDR by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday September 17, 2007

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The Chase Is Here - But The Top 35 Battle Is Closer Than Ever For Wood Brothers, BDR

Bubble Breakdown : Tracking The Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Lovecchio · Monday September 17, 2007

 

The Chase may have just begun this week in New Hampshire, but the race for the 35th position in owner points has been in full swing all season long…and the gap is getting narrower. The difference between 34th and 36th now stands at just 82 points – and while the Top 35 battle does not garner as much coverage as the Top 12, with a potential spot in the 2008 Daytona 500 at stake, it certainly deserves it. Once again, the No. 21 team emerged as the victor again this week, holding onto the final spot with its original driver; but one mistake next week could mean having to qualify for the next race on time, a difficult scenario no one wants to face.

Who are the other teams fighting to stay in contention for the 35th and final spot? Check out this week’s new look edition of the Bubble Breakdown:

Race Down to Three Cars

With Johnny Sauter’s No. 70 team now 132 points ahead of Kyle Petty’s No. 45, the race for the final locked in position is between Petty, Ken Schrader, and Dave Blaney in the No. 22 car. Schrader took over the No. 21 seat this week after Bill Elliott successfully put the team inside of the Top 35; the Wood Brothers’ main driver to start the season, New Hampshire marked the first time he’d driven the car since May. With the confidence of the race team behind him, he wound up finishing higher than both Blaney and Petty, pulling away from the 36th spot while narrowing the interval between he and Petty ahead of him to just 43 points. Meanwhile, Blaney had an eventful day, getting spun twice – by rookies, no less – and finishing 4 laps down. Still, he remains within striking distance of making the No. 22 car the lone Toyota in the Top 35.

Where They Finished (Points position / finishing position)

Kyle Petty – (34th / 37th)
Ken Schrader – (35th / 30th)
Dave Blaney – (36th / 35th)

Following the Bubble Driver

Schrader struggled from the start of the race to get the No. 21 car to rotate through the center of the corner. After NASCAR threw a mandatory caution on lap 35 as a result of the lack of practice time, Schrader and crew chief Michael McSwain decided to stay out and collect five valuable bonus points. By doing so, Schrader picked up an advantage on both Petty and Blaney…although it meant the team would pit out of sequence, restarting as the last car on the lead lap. From that point on, the No. 21 car struggled to crack the Top 30 for much of the race, eventually going a lap down around lap 100.

The day got more eventful for Schrader on lap 168 when Reed Sorenson spun – he had to make an evasive move into the grass to avoid the incident. Luckily for the No. 21 team, there was no damage done to the car, and Schrader was able to continue on for the remainder of the race. The main goal was obviously to keep the No. 22 team behind him, and Schrader was able to do so with help from a spin from Blaney, widening the gap from 35th to 36th from 19 points to 39 in the process:

What He’s Saying:

“The car was a handful at the beginning of the race, but we were able to adjust on it and got some things done to help it. It’s always a struggle to turn in the middle of the corner here at Loudon. I’m pretty satisfied that we were able to stay ahead of the No. 22 and the No. 45. That’s our focus for right now. We just have to keep building on it as we go on week to week.”

Ken Schrader

Tracking Toyota

After two consecutive strong runs for the Red Bull Racing team, things didn’t go as well this week, with both Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger running into problems and finishing 43rd and 33rd, respectively. With only four Toyotas in the field, it was once again David Reutimann who led the charge, finishing a solid 26th for Michael Waltrip Racing, one lap down.

Blaney rounded out the Toyota gang, finishing 35th but losing ground to the teams ahead of Bill Davis Racing in owner points, as mentioned above. Jeremy Mayfield, Michael Waltrip, and Dale Jarrett were among those who failed to qualify this weekend.

Top 3 Finishing Toyotas

Reutimann (No. 00) – Finished 26th
Allmendinger (No. 84) – Finished 33rd
Blaney (No. 22) – Finished 35th

Breaking Down the Bubble

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
31 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeff Green 2,251 +229
32 Robert Yates Racing 88 Ricky Rudd / Kenny Wallace 2,157 +135
33 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 2,154 +132
34 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty 2,065 +43
35 Wood Brothers 21 Ken Schrader / Bill Elliott 2,022 0
36 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 1,983 -39
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 1,810 -212
38 Red Bull Racing 83 Brian Vickers 1,745 -277
39 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 1,649 -373
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 1,323 -699
41 Morgan-McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 1,279 -743
42 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 1,169 -853
43 Furniture Row Racing 78 Joe Nemechek 1,159 -863
44 Red Bull Racing 84 A.J. Allmendinger 1,104 -918
45 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 1,097 -925
46 BAM Racing 49 John Andretti 1,064 -958

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