The Frontstretch: On the Edge â€" The Fight for the top 35 in Nextel Owner's Points by Mike Neff -- Sunday May 7, 2006

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Good ol’ Saturday night short track racing. It doesn’t get much better than the ¾ mile Richmond International Raceway. There are two grooves and tons of side by side racing. Some drivers had outstanding finishes while others found themselves deep in the pack early in the night and could never get back on the lead lap. There were definitely winners and losers and the battle for the top 35 in points was no exception.

Winners

Sterling Marlin was the big winner of the evening. The MB2 team has had several promising runs this year only to have something happen which ruined their race. Saturday night, Marlin stayed out of trouble and was strong all night. He brought the #14 car home in ninth place and was able to gain four spots in the point standings.

Dave Blaney and Ken Schrader both had good runs at Richmond and were able to improve their positions in owner’s points by two places. Blaney finished 20th and Schrader brought it home 16th.

Kenny Wallace had a very nice run to finish 25th at Richmond. He was able to move up two spots in the standings. On the down side, he is still over 400 points out of the top 35 in points.

Although no longer in our spotlight by virtue of moving out of the battle for the top 35, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman each had excellent runs. Biffle came home fourth and moved up five spots to get out of the top 35 tangle. Newman brought the #12 home in eighth place and advanced three positions to also put some distance between himself and the battle for 35th.

Losers

Martin Truex Jr. was the biggest loser among those who are now in the mix for the top 35 in points. Following a bad weekend at Talladega, Truex had another disappointing race. An early spin was followed by a blown engine. The resulting 41st place finish was Truex’s worst finish of the year and dropped him five places to 25th in the points.

Robby Gordon actually made it through a race without an engine problem. Unfortunately, he had a blown tire that put him in the wall and out of the race. Gordon’s 39th place finish dropped him four positions to 33rd in the standings and much closer to the dreaded “must qualify on speed” classification.

Tony Raines and the #96 team had an eventful evening. They spun on two different occasions. Fortunately for them they didn’t hit anything either time and were able to bring the car home. Unfortunately, they ended the race three laps down in 30th place. The less than stellar finish dropped the team three spots in the standings to 27th.

The final two losers for the week were Kyle Petty and Jeremy Mayfield. Petty came home 26th and Mayfield was 32nd. Mayfield had some front end damage in an early altercation with Scott Wimmer and struggled through the rest of the night. Petty just never really had a competitive car all night. Both drivers lost two positions in the point standings. Mayfield is now in the perilous 35th points position.

On the bubble:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 36th Points behind next position
25 Teresa Earnhardt 1 936 178 -27
26 Chip Ganassi 41 923 165 -13
27 Bill Saunders 96 916 158 -7
28 Richard Petty 43 910 152 -6
29 Bill Davis 22 875 117 -35
30 Nelson Bowers ‘01 873 115 -2
31 Nelson Bowers 14 872 114 -1
32 Glen Wood 21 864 106 -8
33 Robby Gordon 7 862 104 -2
34 Kyle Petty 45 849 91 -13
35 Ray Evernham 19 831 73 -18

On the outside looking in:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 36th Points behind next position
36 Doug Bawel 55 758   -73
37 Larry McClure 4 708 -50 -50
38 Felix Sabates 40 676 -82 -32
39 Cal Wells 32 654 -104 -22
40 Jeff Stec 61 579 -179 -75
41 Beth Ann Morgenthau 49 502 -256 -77
42 Barney Visser 178 357 -401 -145
43 Stanton Barrett 195 331 -427 -26
44 Brad Jenkins 34 328 -430 -3
45 Michael Anderson ‘00 242 -516 -86

Richmond proved once again to be the best racing offered on the entire schedule. Drivers have multiple grooves to choose from. Strategy plays an integral role in the outcome of the races, and, best of all, it is short track racing, so beating and banging doesn’t immediately knock cars out of contention. The series now heads to Darlington, the oldest speedway on the circuit where, once again, strategy can and usually does have an impact on the outcome of the race. For those on the outside looking in, qualifying is no Sunday drive. Once they make the race, getting to the finish is far from guaranteed. They’ll have to get their finish the old fashioned way"¦..they’ll earn it.

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