Following an unusual race fitting for Friday the 13th weekend, a number of teams left Texas disappointed. The tough times began before cars could even finish a full practice; Friday afternoon thunderstorms washed out qualifying, benefiting several teams outside of the Top 35 who made the field based on attempts. One driver noticeably missing, though, was the No. 00 Toyota of David Reutimann, who was among the fastest cars in practice earlier in the week.
As the race got underway Sunday, a string of accidents then wiped out some of the series' fastest cars. Elite cars driven by Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart were all involved in accidents, opening the door for smaller teams to gain crucial points. But who benefitted the most from their misfortune?
Below we will take a look at just who did and creeped ever closer to a “locked in” qualifying spot, as well as those teams who struggled and took one step closer to the danger zone of dropping back outside the Top 35. Of course, no Top 35 article would ever be complete without the latest woes for Mr. Mikey Waltrip, too.
Brian Vickers was of those drivers who benefited from the severe weather on Friday. On Sunday, Vickers had a strong showing, leading the Toyota brigade with a 14th place finish. Vickers’ performance didn't propel his Red Bull entry into the Top 35, but moved him up one spot to 40th in owner points, 65 behind bubble-boy Johnny Sauter. When you consider Vickers has two less starts than Sauter, it makes his in-race performances all the more impressive; clearly, this is one of Toyota’s best teams so far.
Speaking of Toyota, three of them made the field on Sunday, but none currently sit in the Top 35. Vickers led the charge, running 14th, while Dave Blaney just missed a Top 20 with his 21st place showing. Dale Jarrett is the lone Toyota driver to make every race this season, but struggled to 30th Sunday and has just two past champion provisionals remaining (one was not used this weekend with qualifying rained out). Toyota is beginning to excel in the Busch Series, but success in Nextel Cup still seems to be a ways off.
Who's Hot, Who's Not (Teams on the Bubble)
Johnny Sauter continues to hold onto the bubble position; this is now Sauter's third consecutive week holding onto the 35th position in owner points. After a scary early race scare in which Sauter had to dive on the grass to avoid a wreck with David Ragan and Ricky Rudd, the No. 70 car charged up the field after starting shotgun, 43rd. With a 22nd place finish, Sauter extended the No. 70 team’s margin over the No. 21 Ford driven by Ken Schrader from nine points to 36. Schrader finished 31st, three laps down.
This was supposed to be the week Kasey Kahne turned his season around. After winning at Texas last year, Kahne could only muster a 20th place finish and showed no signs of improving on his disastrous opening to the season. Kahne is inside the Top 35 (33rd, 60 points in), but that's still a far cry from his championship expectations.
Speaking of disastrous, it seems like every time it appears Michael Waltrip's season can't get any worse, it does. His latest miscue: barrel-rolling his SUV and fleeing the scene of an accident. Mikey climbed through the driver-side rear window and walked home in his socks. After seeing the carnage, I wonder if he was wishing for a roof hatch…
Breaking Down the Bubble
30) No. 88 – Rudd/Yates 562, +66
31) No. 14 – Martin/Ginn Racing 561, +65
32) No. 25 – Mears/Hendrick 560, +64
33) No. 9 – Kahne/Evernham 556, +60
34) No. 45 – Petty/Petty Enterprises 537, +41
35) No. 70 – Sauter/Haas CNC Racing 532
36) No. 21 – Schrader-Wood/Wood Brothers 496
37) No. 10 – Riggs/Evernham 489, -43
38) No. 22 – Blaney/Bill Davis Racing 477, -55
39) No. 44 – Jarrett/Michael Waltrip Racing 472, -60
40) No. 83 – Vickers/Team Red Bull 467, -65
41) No. 15 – Menard/DEI 427, -105
42) No. 49 – Bliss/BAM Racing 400, -132
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