On the Edge: The Battle For the Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Sunday August 6, 2006
Indianapolis was once again a very difficult puzzle for the teams in the battle for the Top 35 to figure out. The flat, fast rectangle was not only difficult to get a handle on, but the tire that Goodyear brought to the track encountered wear issues that limited the configuration options that the teams had at their disposal. The end result was there were a lot of teams that struggled, including one NAPA sponsored team in particular. Michael Waltrip did not qualify for the race and did not purchase a ride from another team, making Sunday night the first time since 1975 there were no Waltrips in a Nextel Cup starting field.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sunday proved to be a critical race in the career of David Stremme, whose steady performance over the past month was rewarded with a spot for his team back inside the Top 35 in owner points. Further up the ladder in the “safe” zone, teams padded their advantage to make sure they didn’t fall back to 36th. Tony Raines showed once again that he can wheel a car in the No. 96 DLP Chevrolet, and Fatback McSwain continued to do good things for the Wood Brothers as Ken Schrader’s crew chief, giving the No. 21 team another Top 15 finish.
So…if Stremme snuck in the Top 35, what team dropped out? Find out below as we examine the Winners and Losers From Indy:
David Stremme was the model of consistency during the race at Indianapolis. He started 24th and slid back as low as 28th, but after adjustments to his car marched slowly and steadily forward to ultimately finish 18th. The 109 points paid for that finish moved the No. 40 Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge entry up one spot in the standings. That isn't all that impressive in and of itself…until you realize that spot is from 36th to 35th. Stremme and the No. 40 team are now locked into a Nextel Cup field for the first time in sixteen races.
Meanwhile, Tony Raines was another big winner Sunday. Raines ran a consistently good race all day in the Top 20, and then on the final yellow flag pit stop, the No. 96 team elected to put on two tires. The strategy pushed them up into the Top 15, and despite running over debris from Kasey Kahne’s wrecked race car, Raines was able to come home 11th for the best finish of his season. The 130 points garnered by the Hall of Fame Racing team moved them up two positions in the owner standings to 26th.
Ken Schrader's new partnership with Michael "Fatback" McSwain continues to pay dividends. For the second race in a row, the driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford was able to garner a Top 15 finish. Fast all weekend, Schrader qualified 11th and remained between 11th and 20th throughout the day, eventually coming home 14th. The 121 points awarded for their finish allowed them to move up another position in the standings to 32nd, now over 100 points from 36th place.
Joe Nemechek had a very eventful day. He received damage from Martin Truex, Jr. on the second lap of the race, and then just missed being collected in Elliott Sadler's crash on the third lap. The aerodynamics on the car were upset thanks to the second lap altercation; however, the No. 01 MB2 Army team was able to make gains all day and even led a lap. The 24th place finish wasn't outstanding but, thanks to Dave Blaney coming home 29th, they were able to move up one spot in the owner standings.
Jeremy Mayfield was the big loser this weekend. Coming into the race 35th in owner points, the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports team needed a good run to put some distance between themselves and 36th place. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. On lap 58, Mayfield hit the wall in turn two, causing extensive damage to his race car. The team repaired the damage, but Mayfield was ultimately forced to retire from the event after only completing 82 laps. The end result was a 41st place finish, and the measly 40 points that the team gained resulted in them falling to 36th in owner points, 31 points out of the Top 35. The team will now have to qualify on speed at Watkins Glen.
Robby Gordon had a difficult end to a decent day. He was running in the Top 15 on the last lap of the race when Scott Riggs slid up into him in turn two, causing Gordon to slide into Greg Biffle. Both cars spun out, and Gordon was unable to complete the final lap, finishing 33rd. The 58 points for the finish dropped the No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Chevrolet one spot in the owner points to 28th.
J.J. Yeley had an outstanding day go horribly wrong late in the race. Yeley ran in the Top 11 for the entire day until the first lap after the green flag on the final restart. Going into turn three, Kasey Kahne hit Yeley in the right front and knocked him into the fence. The resulting damage to the car crippled the aerodynamics and caused the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing effort to finish last on the lead lap in 34th place. The 61 points that the team earned for their finish dropped them one position to 27th in the points.
Finally, Dave Blaney and Sterling Marlin both had less than stellar days at Indy. They finished 29th and 31st, respectively, causing both their teams to drop a position in the standings to 31st and 33rd.
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||1010||-668||-404|
Next week provides another chance for the Cup folks to turn right as well as left. There is no doubt that some folks are better at that than others, causing the twists and turns of Watkins Glen to most certainly have an impact in the race for the Top 35. Some teams will resort to road course ringers again to try and make headway in the race, whle others will simply stick with their driver and hope for the best. Bottom line, whoever comes out with the biggest moves up in the owner standings will most certainly do it the old fashioned wayâ€¦..they'll have to earn it.
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