Mike Lovecchio · Sunday May 6, 2007
On one of the most interesting weeks thus far for those paying attention to the battle for the 35th and final spot in 2007 owner points, a number of teams on the outside of the Top 35 failed to execute on an 18th place finish by bubble driver Casey Mears. Despite a late-race spin, Dave Blaney jumped up to 37th in points with an 11th place finish, but the story of the weekend loomed around the anticipated struggles of Dale Jarrett. Jarrett, who missed his first race in his last 424 starts, possibly showed a preview of what’s yet to come now that he is without a past-champion provisional. Other stories we'll continue to look at include Evernham Motorsports continued struggles, a potential resurgence from the Toyota camp, and the latest on the 35th and final spot up for grabs at Darlington.
It appears that the Bill Davis organization is the leader of the Toyota brigade - which isn't saying much - but Dave Blaney's late-race pit strategy and 11th place finish propelled him up the standings with Jarrett and Ken Schrader failing to make the field. Blaney now sits 80 points behind new bubble driver Ricky Rudd.
Blaney: (+3 spots) 40th to 37th.
Typically a 25th place finish is nothing to write home about, but Kyle Petty watched several of his competitors fall by the wayside with mechanical and on-track problems. The result, Petty moved up two crucial spots to 31st in points - 83 points ahead of the bubble.
This week may very well signal the beginning of the end for Jarrett and the No. 44 team. After using his final provisional last week at Talladega, Jarrett failed to make the field for the first time since 1994 at North Wilkesboro. With the way Michael Waltrip Racing has been performing this season, it will be difficult for Jarrett to even flirt with squeezing in the Top 35.
Jarrett: (-2 spots) 38th to 40th.
Ricky Rudd – Rudd got caught up in an incident between Ward Burton and Dave Blaney resulting in a 37th place finish. Rudd falls one spot to 35th in points, but is now just 34 points from falling out of the Top 35.
When Jarrett used his final provisional last week and then failed to make the field this week, many believed Toyota's season went from bad to worse. Despite not having a car guaranteed in to make the field next week, Toyota may find success sooner than later. The manufacturer is now competitive in the Busch series and Bill Davis has found enough success with Blaney and Jeremy Mayfield recently to believe that consistency may not be as far off as several believe.
Breaking Down the Bubble
31) No. 45 – Petty/Petty Enterprises 812, +83
32) No. 9 – Kahne/Evernham 801, +72
33) No. 70 – Sauter/Haas CNC Racing 798, +69
34) No. 25 – Mears/Hendrick 772, +43
35) No. 88 – Rudd/Yates 763
36) No. 10 – Riggs/Evernham 729, -34
37) No. 22 – Blaney/Bill Davis Racing 683, -80
38) No. 15 – Menard/DEI 664, -99
39) No. 21 – Schrader-Wood/Wood Brothers 622, -150
40) No. 44 – Jarrett/Michael Waltrip Racing 610, -153
Stories to watch next week
1) Evernham cars run strong at Darlington, but have struggled this season. Will this be the week Scott Riggs moves into the Top 35?
2) Can Jarrett rebound and make the field?
3) How will the CoT react to its most difficult test to date?
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