Bubble Breakdown : Tracking The Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Lovecchio · Sunday June 10, 2007
The Nextel Cup Series can't seem to run away from the rain this year. For the fourth time in six weeks, showers put a damper on things, shortening Sunday’s Pocono 500 to just over 250 miles. Anticipating the rain, several teams took gambles on pit road, shuffling up the leaderboard over a hectic last segment of the race. Jeff Gordon eventually took the win as the skies opened, widening his points lead with each raindrop. But while the rest of the championship contenders saw their road to the top get harder, the battle at the bottom tightened up significantly, as Scott Riggs took advantage of a poor day by Johnny Sauter to close his team’s gap in the Top 35 race.
See just how tight that difference is between 35th and 36th, why Toyota had reason to frown, as well as how Ginn Racing had both a good and bad day in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown:
A 15th place finish for Joe Nemechek was enough to shoot the veteran driver up an astonishing six spots in the standings. Nemechek's solid run, coupled with poor days by teammate Sterling Marlin and virtually every other driver anywhere near the bubble, allows the No. 13 Ginn Racing team to breathe easier heading to Michigan. Now 165 points ahead of 35th place, Nemechek was the lone driver whose team was between 30th and 40th to move his car up more than one spot in the standings.
Joe Nemechek (No. 13 Team) – Moved from 32nd to 26th in car owner points.
Scott Riggs – Riggs didn't move up in the standings, but his 18th place finish moved him from 86 points to just 20 behind 35th place Johnny Sauter, who finished 40th.
While the No. 13 Ginn Racing team separated itself from the other teams, the No. 14 Ginn car came back to the pack. Marlin’s car struggled for the majority of the race, and while he eventually finished on the lead lap, that didn’t much matter; a rain-shortened event and a crumpled fender from on-track contact left him a distant 31st. Despite the No. 14 dropping four spots in the standings, however, Marlin is still just one point behind his teammate, as well as comfortably ahead of Sauter…for now.
Marlin (No. 14) – Moved from 24th to 28th in car owner points.
Jeff Green (No. 66) – Finished 32nd; team lost 3 spots (now 31st).
Robby Gordon (No. 7) – Finished 41st; team lost 2 spots (now 32nd).
Pocono was one of the poorest performances of the season for a Toyota program that seemed to have turned the corner in recent weeks. The top running Camry was once again Brian Vickers, but all he could manage this time was a dismal 35th at a track where he usually excels. Vickers' teammate A.J. Allmendinger did no better, finishing 39th, while the lone Michael Waltrip Racing entry, David Reutimann came to the line in 38th. Rounding out the Toyota entries this week, Dave Blaney crashed on Lap 56 and finished dead last, a momentum killer for a team badly in need of a boost. Blaney's poor finish dropped his No. 22 team a season high 142 points behind 35th in the standings.
Breaking Down the Bubble
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place|
|31||Haas CNC Racing||66||Jeff Green||1,208||+137|
|32||Robby Gordon Motorsports||7||Robby Gordon||1,166||+95|
|33||Robert Yates Racing||88||Ricky Rudd||1,127||+56|
|34||Robert Yates Racing||38||David Gilliland||1,123||+52|
|35||Haas CNC Racing||70||Johnny Sauter||1,071||0|
|36||Evernham Motorsports||10||Scott Riggs||1,051||-20|
|37||Bill Davis Racing||22||Dave Blaney||929||-142|
|38||Team Red Bull||83||Brian Vickers||906||-165|
|39||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||15||Paul Menard||872||-199|
|40||Wood Brothers||21||Bill Elliott
|41||Michael Waltrip Racing||44||Dale Jarrett||728||-343|
|42||Furniture Row Racing||78||Kenny Wallace||694||-377|
|43||James Finch / Morgan-McClure Motorsports||4||Ward Burton||688||-383|
|44||Michael Waltrip Racing||00||David Reutimann||653||-418|
|45||Bill Davis Racing||36||Jeremy Mayfield||567||-504|
|46||Team Red Bull||84||A.J. Allmendinger||521||-550|
|47||BAM Racing||49||Mike Bliss||518||-553|
|48||Michael Waltrip Racing||55||Michael Waltrip||349||-722|
|49||Front Row Motorsports||37||Kevin LePage / John Andretti||347||-724|
My thoughts on the Top 35 heading to Michigan
Look for there to be a new driver in the Top 35 after next week. Scott Riggs has been running strong as of late and if he can make the show in the Irish Hills, I expect him to make up the 20 points he is currently behind Sauter. The Evernham cars traditionally run strong at two-mile tracks, meaning Riggs should be given a Top 20 car to work with.
In the meantime, Toyota teams need a strong performance to make up for a poor weekend at Pocono. Vickers has been the strongest Toyota for three straight weeks now and should expect to make the show next week. Still, everyone else is in question, as no Toyotas are locked into the field. Dave Blaney is the closest to the bubble, 142 points behind; other teams such as Jeremy Mayfield’s, Michael Waltrip’s, and Dale Jarrett’s are so far behind they have hardly any chance to catch back up. As a shining example of the Camry’s problems, all three mentioned above failed to qualify at Pocono last Friday.
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