On the Bubble : Tracking The Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Lovecchio · Sunday April 1, 2007
While the Hendrick Motorsports brigade continues to dominate NASCAR's elite division, the team's fourth driver continues to struggle, teetering on the brink of having to qualify on speed. With a 42nd place finish on Sunday, Casey Mears dropped seven spots to 33rd in the standings, a very precarious position to be in while each of his teammates sit comfortably in the Top 5. It's been a disappointing start to say the least for the 29-year old California native, who jumped ship from Chip Ganassi Racing to Hendrick in the offseason.
Adding insult to injury, Juan Pablo Montoya - who took over the seat vacated by Mears at Ganassi - is having a better start to the season (17th) in his rookie campaign. Still, while things may seem bleak for Mears, he’ll at least still be guaranteed a spot in the race when NASCAR heads to Texas. Drivers like Scott Riggs, Ken Schrader, and Brian Vickers can’t say the same after Martinsville; all will be among the laundry list of quality drivers needing to make the field on speed in two weeks.
Ricky Rudd had his best performance of his season on Sunday, hanging around the Top 10 before bringing his No. 88 car home in the 13th position. Rudd had yet to post a Top 25 this year, but his outing at Martinsville was enough to propel him four spots from 33rd to 29th in the standings.
Casey Mears continues to struggle, and now drops another seven spots with a 42nd place showing in Virginia. Mears came into the race 26th in points with just one Top 10 finish, but now must have a solid showing at Texas to stay in the Top 35 (he’s 33rd). Only 40 points ahead of 36th place Ken Schrader and the Wood Brothers No. 21, the pressure is on for the No. 25 bunch.
Like a broken record, Toyota’s bad weeks seem to keep on repeating. Brian Vickers failed to make the show yet again, while Red Bull teammate A.J. Allmendinger finished 38th. Dale Jarrett, the highest finishing Toyota driver on Sunday (28th), is also the highest running Toyota in the standings, but still remains on the outside looking in, currently sitting 38th in points - 36 points behind bubble driver Johnny Sauter’s No. 70.
The other Toyotas are even further behind. Dave Blaney sits 39th, 58 points back, while Vickers fell to 42nd, 94 out of the bubble spot. Clearly, the Camrys have their work cut out for them in the coming weeks.
Who's Hot, Who's Not (Teams on the Bubble)
Scott Riggs has run strong this season, but hasn’t had the finishes to show for it. Well, Riggs finally sealed the deal at Martinsville with an eighth place finish, moving him to within striking distance of getting back within the Top 35. You'd have to think the Evernham Motorsports car will be strong again at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway; just 28 points out of 35th, all it will take is one more solid finish for Riggs to secure the No. 10 team a spot.
What a difference a year makes.
Kasey Kahne finished the 2006 season with the most wins in Nextel Cup, and entered 2007 as a favorite to win the title. Now, Kahne sits an abysmal 34th in points, just 27 points ahead of the bubble after a mid-race crash this week. Like Riggs, though, Texas will be a welcome sight for Kahne, as Evernham always runs strong on the intermediate tracks.
Breaking Down the Bubble
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place|
|30||Robert Yates Racing||38||David Gilliland||494||+68|
|31||Haas CNC Racing||66||Jeff Green||479||+53|
|32||Petty Enterprises||45||Kyle Petty||479||+53|
|33||Hendrick Motorsports||25||Casey Mears||466||+40|
|34||Evernham Motorsports||9||Kasey Kahne||453||+27||35||Haas CNC Racing||70||Johnny Sauter||435||0|
|36||Wood Brothers||21||Ken Schrader||426||-9|
|37||Evernham Motorsports||10||Scott Riggs||407||-28|
|38||Michael Waltrip Racing||44||Dale Jarrett||399||-36|
|39||Bill Davis Racing||22||Dave Blaney||377||-58|
|40||BAM Racing||49||Mike Bliss||360||-75|
|41||Morgan-McClure Motorsports||4||Ward Burton||347||-88|
|42||Team Red Bull||83||Brian Vickers||341||-94|
|43||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||15||Paul Menard||309||-126|
|44||Barney Visser||78||Kenny Wallace||270||-165|
|45||Michael Waltrip Racing||00||David Reutimann||261||-174|
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