On the Edge : The Fight for the Top 35 in Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Monday May 1, 2006
It took an extra day, but it was worth the wait at Talladega. The second restrictor-plate race of the year offered more than its fair share of excitement. There were 56 lead changes among 22 different drivers, and, as always, two big crashes. For those teams struggling to stay “locked in” to the Top 35, whether or not you were able to avoid those wrecks made the difference in whether you were helped or hurt in the standings. The end result meant several winners and losers Monday, especially just above the Top 35 cutoff in owner points.
Winners "" *J.J. Yeley, Scott Riggs, and Tony Raines all stayed out of trouble, posted solid Top 20 finishes, and were able to move up out of our Top 35 watch as a result.
Robby Gordon kept his nose clean all day and finally got the luck he’s been looking for. Gordon was able to bring his #7 Chevrolet home in 10th place, his first Top 10 of the season that moved him up to 29th in the owner standings.
Jeremy Mayfield and Kyle Petty both soldiered home to uneventful finishes of 13th and 18th, respectively. Dave Blaney was involved in the second big wreck, but his team was able to keep him running so that he was able to bring home a 24th place finish. All three drivers moved up two positions in owner points, and were able to put at least a small cushion between themselves and 36th place.
Travis Kvapil didn’t move up any positions in the standings, but had to feel like a winner after his harrowing near misses during the race. Kvapil somehow missed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as he spun around between turns three and four. Then, during the second big wreck, Kvapil made a daring move down onto the flat apron and only slightly contacted one of the cars caught up in the wreck. He was able to continue on and complete all 188 laps of the race, bringing home a 19th place finish.
The wrecks at Talladega severely damaged the point standings of several teams on the Top 35 “bubble.” The biggest losers were Ryan Newman and Ken Schrader. Both drivers were caught up in the 13 car pileup on Lap 9. Although Newman was able to get back on the track and complete another 97 laps, both drivers slipped five positions in the points. Schrader especially was hurt, falling to 34th, just 61 points out of 36th place.
Sterling Marlin was another driver who was sucked up in the Lap 9 melee. His team was able to get his car back on the track and Sterling ultimately completed 91 laps, but that only elevated the No. 14 squad to a 37th place finish. The result caused Marlin to also fall four spots in owner points to 35th, staying just 46 points ahead of 36th.
Michael Waltrip didn’t lose any ground in the standings as far as his classification goes, but the #55 team has to be disappointed with their 25th place finish. After qualifying for the race, which was no small feat after their dismal speed during Speedweeks, the NAPA car was running solidly all day. During the second big wreck, it appeared Waltrip had it missed when Joe Nemechek came down across the track and drilled the Bill Davis Racing entry in the side. A golden opportunity to move up in the standings was lost, and Waltrip remained outside the Top 35 as a result, 46 behind Sterling Marlin’s team in 36th.
On the Bubble:
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Points||Points from 36th||Points behind next position|
On the Outside Looking In:
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Points||Points from 35th||Points behind next position|
|41||Beth Ann Morgenthau||49||444||-290||-98|
Talladega justified the fears that many competitors had coming into the race. Someone else’s mistakes twice ruined not only a race, but many other race cars and a position in the point standings. Whether it was people driving over their heads or just a racin’ deal, it didn’t matter to the teams who fell a long way and much too close to the 36th place in the owner point standings.
Next on the docket is Richmond. A full dose of nighttime short track racing could certainly continue some teams already difficult seasons. Here’s hoping that whatever the Virginia night holds for the teams that are on the outside looking in, they’ll know at the end of the weekend that they scored whatever points they did the old fashioned way"¦by earning them.
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