The Frontstretch: Marlin's Engine Seals His Fate, While Petty Locks In Spot For Daytona 500...And Beyond by Mike Neff -- Sunday November 19, 2006

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Marlin's Engine Seals His Fate, While Petty Locks In Spot For Daytona 500...And Beyond

On The Edge : The Battle For The Top 35 In Nextel Cup Owner Points · Mike Neff · Sunday November 19, 2006


Homestead didn't only mark the final race for the Chase to the Cup, it also was the final race for teams to work their way into the coveted the Top 35. With four drivers mathematically eligible to end up a dreaded 36th place in owner points, there was almost as much trepidation at the end of the Cup garage as there was at the front. Sterling Marlin's engine failure kept the suspense from carrying all of the way to the finish of the race, but until then…it was anybody's race.

David Stremme only had to finish better than 43rd to be assured of a top 35 spot no matter what his competitors for the coveted 35th spot were able to do. Not only was Stremme assured of the spot when Kurt Busch dropped out on lap nine, but he ensured the security of his owner's points position by coming home 11th. The No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team was consistent all night and was running in the Top 10 before the last flurry of cautions. While the team lost three spots over the last 20 laps, they still had a strong run and are heading into the off season on a positive note.

Elliott Sadler came into Homestead 121 points ahead of 36th. The No. 19 Evernham Motorsports team had a strong run going early, with Sadler leading 17 laps. However, a blown engine dropped them from the race on lap 230 and ended their day in 36th position. Fortunately for Sadler, Marlin's engine woes meant that the team is still locked in the Top 35 and sure to start next year's first five races. Their final points ranking is 34th.

Kyle Petty had the weight of the entire Petty Enterprises organization on his shoulders heading into Homestead. Only 47 points ahead of Marlin in the standings, Petty could assure himself of finishing in the top 35 in points by finishing seventh or better. While Petty wasn't able to accomplish that feat, he was able to finish the race two laps down in 28th place. Since Marlin finished in 35th, after an engine gone arye, Petty was still able to finish 35th in owner's points. On the strength of that finish, Petty will be guaranteed a starting position in the first five races of what promises to be a very competitive 2007 season.

Locked In For The First Five Races Of 2007:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 36th Points behind next position
26 Bill Saunders 96 3259 405 -67
27 Bill Davis 22 3259 405  
28 Robert Ginn ‘01 3255 401 -4
29 Gene Haas 66 3253 399 -2
30 Joe Gibbs 18 3220 366 -33
31 Robby Gordon 7 3113 259 -107
32 Felix Sabates 40 3088 234 -25
33 Glen Wood 21 3049 195 -39
34 Ray Evernham 19 2983 129 -66
35 Kyle Petty 45 2928 74 -55

On The Outside Looking In:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 35th Points behind next position
36 Robert Ginn 14 2854 -74 -74
37 Cal Wells 32 2648 -280 -206
38 Doug Bawel 55 2393 -535 -255
39 Larry McClure 4 2340 -588 -53
40 Beth Ann Morgenthau 49 1865 -1063 -475
41 Barney Vasser 178 1495 -1433 -370
42 Bob Jenkins 61 1484 -1444 -11
43 Brad Jenkins 34 1001 -1927 -483
44 Teresa Earnhardt 15 732 -2196 -269
45 Raynard McGlynn 174 679 -2249 -53

It’s been a long season. While the top teams battled for the million dollar purse that comes with the Cup Championship, the teams near 35th in owner points waged their own war to be guaranteed a starting spot on a weekly basis. The importance of finishing the year in the Top 35 was even more critical heading into next year with Toyota and all of their factory backing coming into the sport. For the teams who didn't make it, their Winter is going to be very long trying to figure out how to gain that extra speed to make it into the first five races of 2007. One thing is for sure, the teams that do it successfully will do it the old fashioned way….they'll earn it.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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11/20/2006 01:19 PM

Mike, not sure if you caught Dave Despains show “The State Of NASCAR” on Speed, (Pretty sure that was the name of it). While the intent of the show was good the executing was off a bit. I’ve come to the conclusion that NASCAR is like say..Amway..everyone is a cheerleader for the company and no one dare speak against the organization..unless they want to be on the outside looking in that is. Case in point, Dave had Burton, Martin, and I’m not sure who the 3rd deiver was..a younger driver. The question came up as to the “Top-35” rule whereby the drivers in the top-35 are guaranteed a spot in a race. All three drivers stated that the top-35 was needed as sponsors pay for exposure and a team not making a race would hurt the sponsor. I expected this response from drivers but what bothered me was Dave not asking a follow-up question asking the drivers “What about the sponsors supporting the teams outside of the top-35? Shouldn’t they too have a reasonable shot at getting in the race instead of fighting for a few spots?” This occured a few times in his show where instead of asking the tough questions he instead went on with the NASCAR bandwagon. If NASCAR is doing something that is working then by all means give them credit but can’t we question things a bit on these types of shows when things don’t seem to be working?. With Toyota coming on plus a few other teams the top-35 rule will seem more absurd next season. Go back to the two rounds of qualifying and let whoever is the fastest into the show. You have crew chiefs now slapping qualifying trim on the cars at the last minute as they know they are in the show anyway so the pressure is off for the teams to work on qualifying. Only the guys in the 30th on back need to really worry about it at this point.

11/20/2006 05:02 PM

I guess the reason that he didn’t ask that “hard” question is that he didn’t want to look like an idiot when they say to him “Hey, there’s only 43 starting spots. Since it’s professional sports, it’s not easy to succeed at this level.”

This isn’t kiddie football where everyone gets to play five downs. It’s the very best of the best. There’s no need to give everyone a chance to play. If the team is in the top 35 then by golly, they’ve shown that they deserve to be there, all the others can fight for the remaining seven or eight spots and the ones that STILL don’t measure up, they can go home and try harder next time or go to ARCA and hone their skills.

Hard questions… pfft.

11/20/2006 09:05 PM

Raul, If they are that good then they shouldn’t worry about whether or not they will make the next race..creating an safety net for these teams is purely for the sponsors and the bottom line..nothing to do with racing. What you are creating is kiddie football to use your are giving a 5th down to the top-35 teams. Yes, your right, there are 43 starting spots..and they should be given to the guys that run the fastest..not the welfare system its become.

11/21/2006 08:13 PM

It’s not welfare, It’s qualifying! Some teams qualify by racing their way in against the BEST teams on race day, while the underfunded teams get to compete against each other in two laps of qualifying. It’s much better than the welfare system they had before where everyone got to race four races as long as they went out to qualify every week.

I don’t see how Morgan Shepard running two laps and collecting a paycheck because Dale Jr wrecked in qualifying makes for better racing than having the teams that actually race on the track on Sunday.

11/22/2006 12:57 PM

Everybody picks on Morgan Shepherd. Forget about Morgan Shepherd. I say let the big dog eat, go out and qualify, and if you don’t qualify in the top 43, go home, champion, past champion, or points leader.

11/22/2006 01:28 PM

I don’t have a problem with taking the fastest 43, if they have two days of qualifying. Anything can happen in a single session and you cannot be sending home the big names of the sport because of a blown tire or oil leak. If they can’t get it right in two tries, then they should go home. However, if NASCAR wants to continue with only one day of qualifying, there has to be a safety net for the stars of the sport.

11/25/2006 08:59 AM

No problem with a second day. In fact, I hated when they did away with it. But I hardly call anybody past 25th in point standings a Star of Nascar. The answer is in a boycott of all venues until ol’ moneybags is forced to deal with the problems.


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