On The Edge : The Battle For The Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Sunday August 27, 2006
The Bristol Motor Speedway is usually the stage for some of the most exciting racing on the Cup circuit. There may not be much passing, but rest assured, there is a ton of bumping and banging throughout most of each race’s 500 laps here. You can only play bumper tag so often without spinning out, though, and positions in the standings often take huge swings, with people being caught up in other people's accidents seeing their stock plummet in the blink of an eye.
So, with all that in mind…after Saturday night's race, we had bupkis. All of the hype and pomp and circumstance leading up to the race produced a grand total of just one change in position amongst the teams battling for the Top 35.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. Here's a look at the short list of winners and losers from a tamer than normal Bristol:
Ken Schrader was part of the only “bubble” team to move up a position in points in Saturday night's Sharpie 500. His 13th place finish and the 124 points that went with it moved the No. 21 Wood Brother's Racing team up one position in the standings to 31st. The marriage of Schrader and Michael McSwain continues to pay dividends for the No. 21 squad, as Schrader has been 18th or better in four of the last five races.
While not gaining any positions in the standings, Dave Blaney and Bill Davis Racing had a great run at Bristol. Blaney started 22nd and slid back into the 30s through the first 100 laps. After that, the team used a little pit strategy to move up to the mid-teens and stayed there the rest of the evening, bringing the No. 22 Bill Davis Racing entry home in 14th and maintaining the team’s 30th place standing in owner points.
Dale Jarrett had a similar race to Dave Blaney. He started 32nd, and remained mired near the back of the field until lap 200. He was able to get up to 20th at that point in time due to pit stops, and maintained his place in the latter teens the rest of the race. He ultimately finished 15th in the No. 88 Robert Yates Ford Fusion, his best finish since Talladega in April and enough to keep the team 26th in owner points.
Finally, Michael Waltrip took a little longer to get up to the teens in the standings, but was able to keep the No. 55 NAPA car there once he was able to establish that position. Waltrip ultimately finished 16th on Saturday night, his best run of the season; unfortunately, he remains over 200 points outside the Top 35.
Joe Nemechek was the only driver in our watch group for the Top 35 to lose a position on Saturday night. Nemechek started the race in 41st, and steadily moved forward early in the race. Unfortunately, the handle on the car went away around lap 200, and never really came back, par for the course this season for an MB2 Motorsports car. The problems were then compounded when Nemechek was involved in an accident on lap 381 with Elliott Sadler and J.J. Yeley. Nemechek eventually ended the night in 26th position, and the 85 points awarded for that finish dropped him one spot to 32nd in the owner standings. Likewise, teammate Sterling Marlin qualified well but was involved in an early accident after a tire failure and finished 32nd, keeping him 36th in owner points and forcing him to again qualify on speed at California.
Scott Wimmer had a disappointing Saturday night with the No. 4 Morgan McClure Chevy, finishing in 42nd position. While the team was never running in the Top 10, they were definitely competitive, going a lap down early but trying feverishly to get it back when an engine problem caused the car to be rear-ended by the No. 6 of Mark Martin. The damage to the car – and the engine – sent the team to the garage early on lap 209, and left them a distant 39th in owner points, their chances of entering the Top 35 by the end of the season in serious jeopardy.
Elliott Sadler was rather fast while he was in the race on Saturday night in his new Evernham Motorsports ride. However, the No. 19 entry was caught up in two separate incidents on laps 381 and 446. The second accident caused some severe damage to the No. 19 car, parking them for the night. Sadler ended up in 39th position, and the car now is 34th in owner points, just 22 ahead of 36th.
Lastly, David Stremme started 36th and worked his way up into the mid-20s, falling a lap behind but remaining aggressive and running near the front of the pack, showcasing the car’s strength by scuffling with Top 5 contender Scott Riggs. Things went south for the No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team before the race was over, though; after getting back on the lead lap, Stremme cut a tire and hit the wall on lap 325. The team was still running at the end of the race, but they were 32 laps down and ended up in 35th place, putting them just 77 points from losing the “locked in” status they had worked so hard to achieve just a few weeks ago.
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||1181||-723||-403|
The series heads to California next week for a Labor Day race on the wide open two mile circuit in Fontana. The teams who ran well at Michigan the week before last will be feeling quite confident heading to its sister track out West, as the facility offers multiple groove, wide open racing that will allow drivers the opportunity to race different lines to compensate for an ill-handling race car. Whether it’s the Michigan success stories running up front or a new set of cars crashing the party, one thing is for sure; whichever teams move up in the standings from the back half of this group next weekend will do it the old-fashioned wayâ€¦they'll earn it.
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