The Frontstretch: Kyle Petty Charges Back In Top 35 While Marlin's Team Tumbles Out by Mike Neff -- Sunday November 5, 2006

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Kyle Petty Charges Back In Top 35 While Marlin's Team Tumbles Out

On The Edge : The Battle For the Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Sunday November 5, 2006


The fans, the TV coverage, the ten lucky drivers participating…everyone's focus over that last few races of the season is on the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Well…that’s not entirely true. There are a group of a dozen other teams and drivers, along with their loyal fans, who are focused on the battle to remain in the Top 35 in owner points. This week's results near the bottom of the standings did everything they could to deliver those fans as much excitement as possible, with a final results sheet that looked almost as jumbled as the Chase itself. A total of 14 teams changed positions between 26th and 46th in the owner standings, showcasing how it’s not always the guys up front that make their move in the season’s latter stages. Now, as the NASCAR circuit winds down to its crucial finale, there is almost as much tension in the Top 35 battle as there is for the Nextel Cup. Millions of dollars are at stake for the teams that are locked into the Daytona 500…and millions of stressful experiences await those teams who will be forced to qualify for that race on speed.

With the action heating up, let’s take a look at the Top 35 Winners and Losers from Texas…


The number one winner on the weekend has to be Kyle Petty. It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the No. 45 Petty Enterprises team on Sunday; Petty ran outside the Top 25 for the race’s first half, and it took several adjustments to get the car on the right track. Not only that, but the car blew its engine on the final turn of the last lap, causing the Wells Fargo Dodge to coast to the finish line. Turns out that didn’t matter; the team charged back enough to come home 11th at Texas, posting their third Top 17 finish in a row. Petty scored 130 points as a result; couple that with Sterling Marlin's misfortune, and Petty’s No. 45 operation was able to pass the No. 14 and move up to 35th in the owner rankings. That means for the first time in two months, Kyle can breathe a sigh of relief this Friday; he no longer finds himself in the difficult position of having to qualify on speed.

After a rough outing at Atlanta, rookie David Stremme once again made it to the finish of a race, rewarding his team with a move up in the standings as a result. The No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team kept their nose clean all day, even leading a lap during pit stops, and brought their car home in 24th position, one lap down. Stremme garnered 96 points for his finish and leading a lap, and moved up one spot to 33rd in the rankings. Stremme is now 107 points ahead of 36th with two races to go.

Finally, while he was already fairly safe from falling outside the Top 35, Jeff Green made it official in style by coming home with another impressive finish in his Haas Racing entry. The No. 66 team came home in 13th place at Texas, his second Top 15 finish in three starts with new crew chief Harold Holly. Scoring 124 points for that run, the finish moved Green up one spot to 26th; 362 ahead of 36th place, this team can now officially breathe easy for 2007, provided they attempt to qualify at Phoenix.


Sterling Marlin was the big loser at Texas. While he only dropped one spot in the rankings, it was the most important one. Marlin's No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet ran poorly from the start, then got caught up in a big accident on lap 175 and sustained significant damage. That damage caused an extended stay in the garage area, ultimately causing the car to be parked after Marlin completed 208 laps. The 48 points earned for that finish (Marlin did lead a lap), combined with Kyle Petty's good run, dropped Marlin one spot to 36th in the standings and on the outside of the coveted Top 35 in owner points.

Robby Gordon spun out on lap 182 and hit the wall in turn two. The spin appeared to cause Gordon's engine to spin backwards; that action appeared to damage the engine, which finally blew on lap 258. Gordon's bad luck resulted in a 39th place finish, and the 46 points awarded for that finish dropped Gordon three spots in the standings to 31st. Gordon is still 261 points ahead of 36th, but could technically fall out of the Top 35 over the last two races with more trouble like this.

Elliott Sadler's night began by starting 2nd; unfortunately, that would be the only highlight. Penalized for pitting outside of his pit stall early on, the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports entry developed an oil leak soon thereafter. The team took the car behind the wall to fix the leak, but lost some 29 laps before everything was said and done, resulting in a 37th-place finish for both Sadler and the team. The 52 points achieved for that finish dropped Evernham’s No. 19 car one spot in the standings to 34th, just 69 ahead of 36th.

On The Bubble:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 36th Points behind next position
26 Gene Haas 66 3104 362 -38
27 Bill Davis 22 3080 338 -24
28 Bill Saunders 96 3056 314 -24
29 Joe Gibbs 18 3039 297 -17
30 Robert Ginn ‘01 3025 283 -14
31 Robby Gordon 7 3003 261 -22
32 Glen Wood 21 2882 140 -121
33 Felix Sabates 40 2849 107 -33
34 Ray Evernham 19 2811 69 -38
35 Kyle Petty 45 2761 19 -50

On The Outside Looking In:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 35th Points behind next position
36 Robert Ginn 14 2742 -19 -19
37 Cal Wells 32 2493 -268 -249
38 Doug Bawel 55 2343 -418 -150
39 Larry McClure 4 2230 -531 -113
40 Beth Ann Morgenthau 49 1779 -982 -451
41 Barney Visser 178 1457 -1304 -322
42 Bob Jenkins 61 1422 -1339 -35
43 Brad Jenkins 34 981 -1780 -441
44 Raynard McGlynn 174 659 -2102 -322
45 Rick Hendrick 44 628 -2133 -31

As the season winds down, the pressure builds on the teams trying to lock themselves into the Top 35. This week, that pressure takes a whole different turn as the series moves on to the mile track in Phoenix. A tight, tricky one mile track that can test even the most seasoned driver, the track will certainly cause both crinkled sheet metal and ruffled feathers by the time the race ends next Sunday. One thing is for sure; the teams that move up and get closer to securing their top 35 points position will end up doing it the old fashioned way…they'll earn it.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Billy T.
11/06/2006 12:16 PM

It was great to see him finish 11th and get back in the top 35 in points.

11/07/2006 12:28 AM

Its not the silly top 35 that I like about Kyle Petty’s weekend. It is the fact that he has a little fire in his eye, and a desire to race, that we have not seen really since Adam passed away. Kyle is a class act, opening Victory Junction and doing the Charity Rides and other philathropic endeavors, and it is good to see him toward the front of the pack again. Keep up the good work, Kyle.

gee y
11/07/2006 04:34 PM

I HAVE BEEN A kyle petty fan for along time. it is good to see the fire from him agian. people often forget that he has five wins and with soom terrible luck he could have easily won the daytona 500. when i read that he said he could make the chase next year. that tells me that he is back. good now win one for adam.


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