On the Edge: The Fight For the Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Sunday July 2, 2006
The restrictor plates were in action Saturday, but the “Big One” stayed home. On a hot and steamy night in Daytona, drivers showed great patience. There were six caution flags during the event, but only three were for accidents, with only eight cars combined involved in the three. As a result, the high attrition that can occasionally benefit drivers outside the Top 35 in restrictor plate races failed to materialize.
Still, several drivers fighting for the final “locked in” spots found themselves able to benefit at Daytona. David Stremme and Ken Schrader were able to run all night, coming home in the Top 16. On the other hand, Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, and J.J. Yeley found themselves involved in crashes that did nothing to help their cause.
Here’s a more detailed look at the Winners and Losers in the back of the pack:
While not having a huge impact in the Top 35, the biggest winner of the night amongst the underdog was Boris Said. Although Said has only run in two races this year, he has come home in the Top 10 in both of them, winning the pole and finishing 4th at Daytona. The resulting 308 points they’ve accumulated in those two races already puts the #60 No Fear team in 45th in owner points. While that’s a far cry from the top 35, Said’s efforts the last two weeks, with a team that has just seven employees, is nothing short of amazing.
Ken Schrader proved once again that he is still one of the best plate racers on the planet. Schrader put the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in 12th position at the end of the evening, stopping the bleeding of the past few weeks and moving the team up two important positions in the standings. The No. 21 team now sits in 32nd place in owner points.
David Stremme returned to the seat of the No. 40 Chip Ganassi Dodge and put together a great performance. Stremme's 16th place finish was his best of the season. Coming off a race where he was replaced in the seat by road course ringer Scott Pruett, the finish certainly has to give the team a shot in the arm. While the No. 40 car is still outside the Top 35, the team has moved up to 36th place, and is now just 93 points behind the final “locked in” spot.
A common theme this season, Bobby Labonte was once again the victim of someone else's mistake. Jimmie Johnson slid up into him going into turn three, and pinned the No. 43 Petty Enterprises Dodge against the wall. The resulting damage put Labonte out of the race and relegated the team to a 42nd place finish. The 37 point finish dropped the No. 43 team two slots to 27th and back into our watch group for the Top 35.
J.J. Yeley was another driver caught up in someone else's mistake on Saturday night. Greg Biffle turned down into Yeley coming out of turn two, triggering the biggest accident of the night on lap 155. The wreck, which involved five cars, effectively ended Yeley's night. Ending up in 37th place, the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet dropped two more spots in the owner standings, now in 30th spot.
Dave Blaney and Jeremy Mayfield both had difficult nights. Blaney received some minor damage during the first wreck of the evening, and was a non-factor from that point on. Mayfield, meanwhile, battled a poor handling car all night, and ended up one lap down at the end of the race. Blaney's 27th and Mayfield's 36th dropped both of them one position in owner points.
Travis Kvapil was another car that was simply not competitive all night. The team ran near the back of the lead lap the entire evening, coming home 30th. While they were on the lead lap, the No. 32 car was last among the cars that had not received crash damage. Their finish dropped them one spot to 37th in owner points.
Michael Waltrip had a terrible evening. He pancaked the side of his No. 55 NAPA Dodge against the outside wall, and suffered from poor handling the rest of the night. With a cut tire costing him another lap later in the race, Waltrip struggled simply to come home three laps down in 38th place. Waltrip's team is now 38th in the owner's standings.
Finally, Morgan McClure’s No. 4 Chevrolet announced a new associate sponsor this week, but it did nothing to help their floundering program. Scott Wimmer returned to the seat of their Chevrolet but failed to qualify for the race, putting the team over 200 points behind the final “locked in” spot in 39th place.
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|
|40||Beth Ann Morgenthau||49||826||-530||-281|
The hot summer continues on for Nextel Cup with the circuit heading to Chicagoland next weekend. One of the newest “cookie cutter” 1.5 mile tracks, the race will certainly put a test to the teams that have been struggling this year. The track surface has aged for a few years, so the racing should provide a little more excitement than it has in the past. However, teams will have to make their car handle in the hot Chicagoland temperatures to be able to take advantage of the better track surface. One thing is for sure, the teams on the outside looking in that make gains in Chicagoland will do it the old fashioned wayâ€¦they'll earn it.
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