The Frontstretch: Bill Davis In, Wood Brothers Out; Top 35 Locked in for 2008 by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday November 19, 2007

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Bill Davis In, Wood Brothers Out; Top 35 Locked in for 2008

Mike Lovecchio · Monday November 19, 2007

 

We all but knew it coming into Miami. The Nextel Cup championship may have been up for grabs at the season's final stop, but the Top 35 teams in car owner points were all but locked in, with Dave Blaney and the No. 22 team holding a 136 point lead over the No. 21 Wood Brothers entry heading into the finale.

Blaney not only held onto the final bubble position, he made a statement, carrying the Toyota banner once again with a solid 13th place finish. It was the team's best run in over a month and moved them above the No. 45 - who clinched a spot in the Top 35 last week at Phoenix - into 34th in car owner points.

To see who locked up a spot for the first five races of 2008 - as well as a recap of what happened around the Top 35 in 2007 - check out this week's edition of the Bubble Breakdown:

The field is set

With the conclusion of the Ford 400, those teams on the outside of the Top 35 must now nervously work through the first five races of next season. As we saw earlier this year with the debut of Toyota, missing one of those five races puts a team in a tremendous hole. Because they were in their inaugural campaign, just two Toyotas were locked in for the first five races this season, and the result was just one Toyota locking up a spot for 2008 – Dave Blaney, driving a car who had the exemption in the first place. Sure, Toyota had its share of struggles, but it still goes to show you that with the competitiveness of the sport, no team can afford to give the competition a head start.

Looking back

It was a strange year for those following the Top 35. The emergence of Toyota brought a new element to the battle for the first five races, with a higher number of competitive cars battling for the same amount of spots. On July 15, the gap between 35th and 36th grew to an insurmountable 225 points, with Johnny Sauter and the No. 70 team putting distance on the No. 21 and No. 22 cars. Two weeks later, however, the DEI/Ginn merger brought the pack back together when the No. 13 car, formerly owned by Ginn, suspended operations, moving Blaney and the No. 22 into the final bubble spot.

For the next three and a half months, it was a two team battle between Blaney and the No. 21, which was split between Elliott and Ken Schrader. Both teams fell out and fought their way back into the top 35 at different points, with Blaney eventually winning the battle.

Thoughts from the No. 21

“I thanked the guys this afternoon before the race and explained that as soon as we get done with the race, the 2008 season is here. We intend to be a much better team. This off-season is only 91 days until Daytona. That seems like a lot now, but I’d rather have more. We’re going to work as hard as we can and reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves.”

- Gene Nead, crew chief

Breaking Down the Bubble (for the final time)

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
31 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeremy Mayfield 2,975 +161
32 Robert Yates Racing 38 David Gilliland 2,924 +110
33 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 2,894 +80
34 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 2,856 +42
35 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty 2,814 0
36 Wood Brothers 21 Ken Schrader / Bill Elliott 2,667 -147
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 2,497 -317
38 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 2,351 -463
39 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 2,287 -527
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 1,878 -936
41 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Michael Waltrip 1,837 -977
42 Furniture Row Motorsports 78 Joe Nemechek 1,654 -1,160
43 Team Red Bull 84 A.J. Allmendinger 1,601 -1,213
44 Bill Davis Racing 36 Johnny Benson 1,568 -1,246
45 Morgan McClure Motorsports 4 Todd Bodine 1,531 -1,283
46 BAM Racing 49 John Andretti 1,502 -1,312

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Ron
11/19/2007 07:07 PM
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Great Article! This is a big deal with the prize being automatic entry into the first 5 races next year! The top 35 bubble should get more coverage every year. The implications for sponsors and teams are huge!

J Furjanic
11/20/2007 07:27 AM
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This top 35 rule is only the first step. Look for a 44 car field with 11 four team franchise owners making it all up to be in the future unless prince brian finds a good drug rehab program soon!

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