The Frontstretch: Bubble Breakdown: Gilliland Shines In Hometown Gig Out West by Frontstretch Staff -- Monday June 27, 2011

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Bubble Breakdown: Gilliland Shines In Hometown Gig Out West

Tracking The Top 35 In Owner Points · Frontstretch Staff · Monday June 27, 2011

 

The winding esses of Infineon Raceway meant turning right as well as left; as simple as that sounds, the added twist led to a long list of substitutions for Bubble teams looking to gain some ground on the competition. From Boris Said in Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 to Andy Pilgrim in Whitney Motorsports’ No. 46, these “road course ringers” took a stab in the dark to try and produce an unlikely victory for the underdogs… and a little extra breathing room when it came to qualifying at one of the sport’s crown jewels, Daytona, next week.

Which drivers were able to make the most of their moonlighting? Find out in the latest edition of our Bubble Breakdown, tracking the teams towards the back end of the top 35 in owner points.

LOCKED INTO THE FIELD FOR DAYTONA

No. 34 – David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+53 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 12th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 30th (+83 points ahead of 35th, gained 30 points)

David Gilliland has always loved Infineon; the California native scored his best ever finish there, placing second for Robert Yates Racing back in 2008. This time around, the ending wasn’t so sweet – he brought the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports home in 12th – but considering the vast difference in funding, it’s perhaps even more impressive. Racing within his means, the veteran navigated through some nasty wrecks and gave his organization a major confidence boost on a weekend their second team failed to even qualify. It’s the right performance at the right time, their best result since Talladega as the series heads to yet another track where they can contend next week; Daytona, where Gilliland was third in the sport’s premier 500-miler back in February.

No. 51 – Boris Said (Phoenix Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 30th (+55 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 28th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+68 points ahead of 35th, gained 13 points)

Phoenix Racing headed out West with momentum, armed with a top-15 finish from developing youngster Landon Cassill and content his one-race substitute – road course ace Boris Said – wouldn’t miss a beat. That didn’t happen; a frustrating run to 28th, the victim of late-race contact left the Californian with his worst Infineon finish in three years, poor timing considering it was his first 2011 start and ripped away the rhythm this team had developed with his younger counterpart. But for Cassill, Daytona could offer redemption; the team’s had plenty of success there, placing as high as third with Geoffrey Bodine in 2002 and the two-car tandems give everyone an equal playing field.

No. 36 – Dave Blaney (Tommy Baldwin Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+30 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 31st
Current Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+40 points ahead of 35th, gained 10 points)

Dave Blaney isn’t exactly known as a road racer – zero career top-10 finishes in 20 starts at Infineon and Watkins Glen heading into Sunday – so you knew this race would be a struggle for both driver and team helping run the No. 36. In the end, they wound up on the lead lap, but a ho-hum, 31st-place finish did little but simply hold serve for their owner points position heading to Daytona. It’s now been six straight races without a top-25 finish for this program, who’ll roll out a second team down in Florida this week driven by Geoffrey Bodine.

No. 32 – Terry Labonte (FAS Lane Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+22 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 32nd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+31 points ahead of 35th, gained 9 points)

Texas Terry signed a four-race deal this week to wheel the FAS Lane Ford, a deal that included this event. But Labonte, now in his mid-50s couldn’t find the magic of old that led to his last top-5 finish in NASCAR – third for now-defunct Hall of Fame Racing back in 2006 – as he wound up hanging on in the back of the lead lap for most of the day. While the final result gained them precious points on 36th – there’s little to no danger of the program falling out at this point – everyone involved certainly expected better on a rare weekend they could easily achieve a top-20 finish.

No. 13 – Casey Mears (Germain Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+18 points ahead of 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 34th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+25 points ahead of 35th, gained 7 points)

While other teams in their position dumped the “regular” driver in favor of a road course expert, the GEICO crew stuck with Mears, and with good reason – he has two career top-10 finishes at Infineon. But Sunday was simply not to be for this team; bringing out the first caution for stalling on the pit entrance on Lap 34, Mears fell off the lead lap and was never really able to gain track position back. A 34th-place result, two laps back kept them unable to gain major ground on the competition, meaning a Daytona wreck or subsequent mechanical problem leaves them in serious jeopardy to fall outside the top 35.

No. 7 – Robby Gordon (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-23 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 18th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 35th (On The Bubble, now locked in at Daytona… gained 26 points with the No. 21 not entered)

For Gordon, who has been start-and-parking with other drivers for most of May and June Infineon Raceway amounts to his Daytona 500. The road course expert, short on funding planned to run the distance here, knowing it’s a race where he can not only contend but win – crucial points to keep his team alive for a “locked in” position in the top 35. And while the No. 7 car was never really a top-5 contender on this day, by placing 18th the points he earned were enough to vault them past the Wood Brothers, at least for now. Gordon does plan to run Daytona the distance, one more chance to pad his position in these points before turning back towards the S&P model later on next month.

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN AT DAYTONA

No. 21 – Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 35th (on the bubble)
Sunday’s Finish: Did Not Start
Current Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-3 behind 35th, lost 26 points)

Not starting cost the Wood Brothers dearly at Infineon, taking away a top-35 position just before returning to the scene of their miracle upset at Daytona. Could the 500 champion from February, Trevor Bayne, wind up missing the race? Highly unlikely… but the fact the option’s on the table could cause the Woods to lose a little sleep this week.

OTHERS CLOSE TO THE BUBBLE (RESULTS ONLY)

No. 71 – Andy Lally (TRG Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-25 behind 35th in Owner Points)
Sunday’s Finish: 35th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-19 behind 35th, gained 6 points)

No. 38 – Tony Ave (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 38th (-28 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: DNQ
Current Owner Points Ranking: 38th (-31 behind 35th, lost 3 points)

No. 37 – Chris Cook (Front Row / Rick Ware Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 39th (-78 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 27th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 39th (-64 behind 35th, gained 14 points)

2011 Bubble Chart After Infineon:

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
30 Front Row Motorsports 34 David Gilliland 287 +83
31 Phoenix Racing 51 Boris Said 272 +68
32 Tommy Baldwin Racing 36 Dave Blaney 244 +40
33 FAS Lane Racing 32 Mike Bliss 235 +31
34 Germain Racing 13 Casey Mears 229 +25
35 Robby Gordon Motorsports 7 Robby Gordon 204 0
36 Wood Brothers 21 Trevor Bayne 201 -3
37 TRG Motorsports 71 Andy Lally 185 -19
38 Front Row Motorsports 38 Tony Ave 173 -31
39 Max Q Motorsports 37 Chris Cook 140 -64

Contact Tom Bowles

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