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If you thought the competition at Talladega was tight, then wait until you see just how close the battle is for the 35th and final spot in 2007 owner points. Casey Mears' lap 124 rendevous with teammate Jimmie Johnson should've been enough to drop Mears out of the Top 35, but those on the outside of the bubble failed to capitalize on the Hendrick driver's misfortune. The lone driver within striking distance of Mears who had a decent day was Evernham Motorsports driver Scott Riggs, who jumped up two spots (36th) and made up a crucial 79 points with an 11th place finish.
Robert Yates' super-speedway package has always been strong and David Gilliland did enough to dispel any possibilities of falling closer to the bubble. Gilliland ran strong much of the day, staying out of trouble until his green-white-checkard run-in with Tony Stewart, to finish seventh. The run was Gilliland's best of the season and his second Top 10 (Daytona).
Gilliland: (+5 spots) 30th to 25th.
Kasey Kahne had his best finish of the year since Daytona. Despite his recent struggles, a 12th place finish at Talladega was enough to jump Kahne two spots in the standings safely into 31st.
Dale Jarrett was forced to use his sixth and final past champions provisional. Jarrett would have been in prime position to jump into that 35th spot with a good run but ignition problems prematurely ended his day.
Jarrett: (-1 spot) 37th to 38th.
Ken Schrader, Brian Vickers, Dave Blaney – All three failed to make the field dropping them considerably behind Mears.
David Reutimann was on pace for the best finish of his young career, but with less than five laps remaining, the top Toyota driver on the day lost an engine while running comfortably in the Top 10.
Reutimann's late-race woes was the punctuation mark on an otherwise poor day for the Toyota brigade. Jarrett retired early in the race with ignition problems and Jeremy Mayfield was hardly competitive, finishing 23rd. Jarrett has been the lone Toyota driver to start every race, but used his final provisional this week.
Mayfield – 23rd
Reutimann – 32nd
Jarrett – 40th
Breaking Down the Bubble
31) No. 9 – Kahne/Evernham 758, +102
32) No. 70 – Sauter/Haas CNC Racing 743, +87
33) No. 45 – Petty/Petty Enterprises 724, +68
34) No. 88 – Rudd/Yates 711, +55
35) No. 25-Mears/Hendrick 663
36) No. 10 – Riggs/Evernham 656, -7 pts behind 35th
37) No. 21 – Schrader-Wood/Wood Brothers 597, -66
38) No. 44 – Jarrett/Michael Waltrip Racing 591, -72
39) No. 15 – Menard/DEI 549, -114
40) No. 22 – Blaney/Bill Davis Racing 548, -115
5 stories to watch next week
1) Can Casey Mears hold off Scott Riggs for the 35th and final spot in the standings? If Riggs runs strong and Mears slips, don't be surprised if the hot stove heats up on the No. 25 team.
2) Will Dale Jarrett miss his first race of 2007?
3) Will Michael Waltrip make his first race since Daytona?
4) Will David Reutimann's momentum carry over to Richmond?
5) Can Kasey Kahne earn two consecutive Top-15’s for the first time this season?
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The 25 team should be thanking NASCAR for the bogus penalty levied against the 10 team earlier this year. Had the 10 team not been docked those 25 owner points, Riggs would be in and Mears would be timing his way in on Friday night. It’s a tough blow to have an accident like that with your teammate. I’m sure Jimmie Johson is expecting Mears to be way more understanding than Johson was with Vickers after the fall Dega race ;)