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Mike Neff · Monday February 27, 2006
Week two of the season is now in the books. Once again, we have winners and losers in the back of the Nextel Cup pack. Some were “lost” by the end of the race, while others were “lost” before the race even started. However, with only three races remaining to sneak into the Top 35, there are now a couple of underdog teams who stand out from the pack, well on their way to taking the pressure off once this season’s point standings come into play after Bristol.
Winners: Brent Sherman: 28th in points after two races. No one thought the No. 49 would be anywhere near in the top 35 this season, even with a guaranteed starting spot in the first five events. Sherman is doing an outstanding job through his first two starts. He has stayed out of trouble and driven his own race. If he can keep that up, he’ll be able to keep racing without worrying about qualifying for a long time.
Kevin Lepage and Terry Labonte: 30th and 31st in points, respectively. Labonte is in the shows because of his past champion’s provisional, but he is still completing races. He was 17th at Daytona and 34th at California. The 25 point penalty from Daytona qualifying isn’t helping things any, though.
Lepage has done an outstanding job racing into the show the last two weeks and running the whole race both times. He was 25th at Daytona and 35th at California.
On the other hand, there are other Nextel Cup teams who find themselves in serious trouble at the bottom of the points ladder…
Losers: Travis Kvapil: After a strong qualifying run at Daytona, the Cal Wells/PPI driver had to make it into this week’s race on speed, too, and did not get the job done. That is a major blow to their efforts at making it into the Top 35, as the 32 team is now 43rd in points.
Hermie Sadler: Another driver who made the Daytona 500, but failed to make it into the race this week. That failure puts Hermie outside the Top 40, forcing him to look up a long way to see the Top 35 in owners’ points.
Kenny Wallace: Unlike the other two “losers” above, Wallace made the race this week, but did not capitalize on his opportunity. Herman finished 41st, and is now last among the teams that have scored any driver points this year.
Sterling Marlin and Bobby Labonte: They are the lowest ranked teams that have raced both races besides Greg Biffle. There is no doubt Biffle doesn’t have anything to worry about despite falling to 39th in owner points, as Sunday was about bad luck and not a bad car. However, Bobby is 37th in owner points and Sterling is 38th. They both need to step it up in the next couple of races or things could get really stressful for them after Bristol.
On the Bubble (remember, these are OWNER points):
Pos. No. – Driver Pts.
31 #96 – Terry Labonte 148
32 #01 – Joe Nemechek 146
33 #40 – David Stremme 143
34 #10 – Scott Riggs 137
35 #45 – Kyle Petty 134
On the Outside Looking In:
Pos. Driver Pts.
36 #66 – Jeff Green 128
36 #18 – Bobby Labonte 128
36 #14 – Sterling Marlin 128
39 #16 – Greg Biffle 122
40 #36 – Bill Elliott 111
After two weeks, the future isn’t looking so bright for these 10 drivers. Through bad luck or team mistakes, they have dug themselves a hole that they need to get out of quickly. For better or worse, they have two weeks to think about what they need to do to make things better. The bottom line is, they’ll only make it solidly into the Top 35 one way"¦.they’ll have to earn it.
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I think the driver in the most trouble is Kvapil. I have got to think if the #32 misses another race Tide is gone. Lew
Uhmmm….you can cross Bobby Labonte off of that list. He has nothing to worry about no matter how crappy he runs. He is the most recent Past Champion who will need that provisional. What will be interesting is when Kyle is out of the top 35 and Bobby is not. Do they switch rides so they are both guaranteed spots that week? Or how about after 5 races when the 96 is out of the top 35 and Tony Raines is supposed to take over? Could have one of the Labonte Brothers trumping the other for the PCP. Things are going to get interesting!
Wasn’t Bobby LaBonte supposed to be the Salvation of Petty Enterprises? The only think he is actually bringing to the dance is his champions provisional. Which, IMO, should be done away with.
Don’t forget about Robby Gordon as a big winner at 17th in points. While his DEI horsepower wasn’t evident at Fontana, he can now rely on his engines staying in one piece for an entire race. Looks like a lock for a top 35.
Another loser looks to be Scott Wimmer. Don’t forget about him
Don’t worry too much about Bobby as he was around the Top 10 all race at Daytona and got knocked out on the last crash. California was a disappointment, but he should be competitve this year once they get a few races under their belts.
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