On the Edge: The Battle For the Top 35 in Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Sunday June 11, 2006
The big triangle of Pocono was once again a very tricky track to figure out. Tire issues bit some teams while Denny Hamlin was able to overcome a blown tire and the subsequent damage to garner his first Cup victory. Brakes were an issue for some, especially Jeff Gordon who put the SAFER barrier to a stringent test and walked away. The battle for the Top 35 wasn’t immune to Pocono’s tricky setup dilemma, either, as some teams moved up while others moved down.
Jeremy Mayfield was one of the four drivers who improved his position in the point standings by two spots this week, but Mayfield was the big winner of all of those because the 19 team was sitting in the unenviable 35th position in owner points coming into Sunday. Mayfield ran a clean race to finish as the last car on the lead lap in 23rd place, enough to move him ahead of Kyle Petty and Sterling Marlin’s teams in the owner standings.
Tony Raines put together another workmanlike outing for Hall of Fame Racing to come home in 16th place. Avoiding the pitfalls that befell some of the other competitors, Raines continuously improved his position throughout the race, and the resulting finish moved him up to 28th in the owner standings, putting his team solidly back in “locked in” territory.
Travis Kvapil was able to overcome some early damage suffered when he ran through the grass to avoid Casey Mears accident at the beginning of the race, staying on the lead lap and coming home in 19th. While still on the outside of the Top 35, the Cal Wells team is up to 36th position in owner points, having moved up two spots with their Top 20 finish. Kvapil is now only 121 points out of the coveted 35th spot, despite missing two races.
Lastly, Bobby Labonte put in another solid run at Pocono. A track that has always treated him well was kind once again today. A late flat tire actually proved beneficial for Labonte, because he ended up with slightly fresher tires than several of the cars in front of him at the end of the race. Labonte moved from 17th to 12th in the last 10 laps to garner another Top 15 finish for the #43 team. Labonte’s 127 points moved him out of our watch for 35th into the 23rd points position.
Scott Wimmer was the big loser this week, as the driver of the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Chevrolet failed to qualify for the race. The resulting loss in points dropped the No. 4 team three places to 39th in the point standings, and they are now 186 points out of 35th.
As for those competitors who made the field, Sterling Marlin was the biggest loser. The MB2 Motorsports driver had a strong car on the weekend, but could not capitalize on it as engine failure ended his day before Lap 20. The resulting 42nd place finish put Marlin in the unenviable position of 35th in owner points.
Robby Gordon had his bad luck strike early in the race, too, in the form of a broken radiator. The team replaced the radiator, but Gordon was 15 laps down by the time he returned to the race. Gordon ended up 35th and dropped to 30th in the owner standings.
Finally, Kyle Petty lost a tire and crashed hard on lap 70. He was unable to return to the race and finished 40th, causing the #45 team to lose two spots in the standings; they are now 34th.
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||704||-433||-20|
The tricky triangle in the Pocono mountains played havoc on several teams, who now have to figure out how to make their cars work on the wide open oval of Michigan International Speedway. A track that is known for long green flag runs and plenty of room to race, the teams that are battling for 35th will need to hit the setup early on in the event or they will be in trouble. Whichever teams in the battle hit the right combination will move up in the standings the old fashioned way"¦.they’ll earn it.
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