The Frontstretch: Petty Comes Through With Strong Run; Cal Well's Top 35 Hopes All But Done by Thomas Bowles -- Sunday October 22, 2006

Go to site navigation Go to article

.

Martinsville’s short track action did more than its fair share of shaking up the point standings Sunday afternoon. With 18 cautions, one short of the track record, there was no shortage of cars with body damage by the time the checkered flag fell. The drivers battling for position within the Top 35 weren’t immune to the wreckage; in fact, they played a major role in crashes throughout the day.

With several of those wrecks both starting by and claiming “bubble” teams, there are more than a few organizations that left the half-mile oval a little frustrated. Still, with four races remaining, there’s not much for many of these teams to hang their head over; the Top 35 picture is beginning to clear up. Several teams worked themselves into clinching a “locked in” spot for 2007 with strong runs on Sunday, and there now appears to be just one team on the outside looking in left capable of knocking out a current Top 35 team before the end of the season.

Which of those teams appears the most vulnerable? Read this week’s Winners and Losers among the Bubble Teams to find out…

Winners

While he didn’t move up any positions, Kyle Petty and his No. 45 team emerged in great shape after Sunday’s race. It wasn’t easy; in desperate need of a good run to have any shot of climbing back into a “locked in” spot by the end of the season, Petty and Co. fought hard. After qualifying 14th, Kyle was sitting backwards on the track before 5 laps were even complete, victim of an early spinout that put him at the rear of the field. Still, the car was good, the driver was motivated, and the team hit on all cylinders; fighting back throughout the race, Petty emerged as a Top 15 car, using a two tire stop in the last 100 laps to propel him into the Top 10. Coming home with a 10th place finish, the 134 points his No. 45 team scored brought them within 72 of 35th place in points with just four races remaining.

Accompanying Kyle in the Top 10 Sunday was Jeff Green, scoring his second such finish in three races with Haas CNC’s No. 66. After a crew chief swap earlier in the week, Green was reunited with former Busch Series champion crew chief Harold Holly, and the strong chemistry the two accumulated through the years has paid immediate dividends. Once putting themselves in danger for falling out of the Top 35, the month of October has now catapulted the No. 66 up to 28th in owner points, 367 ahead of 36th. That virtually assures the team of a spot in the 2007 Daytona 500, barring a major catastrophe.

Finally, David Stremme quietly put in one of his best performances of the season for the No. 40 team. The rookie spun himself out within the first 100 laps of the race, but kept his composure, eventually working his way back onto the lead lap through the Lucky Dog rule. Staying out of trouble the rest of the day, Stremme used late cautions to boost his position and come home 15th, keeping a cushion for his No. 40 bunch in front of 36th place heading to two tracks where he struggled in the Spring – Atlanta and Texas.

Losers

Martinsville has provided the spotlight for one of sponsor Tide’s best moments – Ricky Rudd won here in 1998 for his final victory behind the wheel of his No. 10 Ford despite nearly collapsing from exhaustion in Victory Lane. Unfortunately, Travis Kvapil hasn’t had the same kind of luck. Involved in two accidents Sunday, the car eventually broke a gear and ended the day in the garage area, finishing 40th on a day when his closest competition for the Top 35 all did well. Now 244 points behind 35th place, the No. 32 team owned by Cal Wells must earn its way into the Daytona 500 – and find a 2007 sponsor to boot, meaning their future is very much in question.

After a strong start to his tenure with the No. 19 team, Elliott Sadler hasn’t been doing himself any favors. With three straight finishes of 29th or worse entering Sunday, the Virginian looked to turn things around at his hometown track – instead, he had his car’s drivetrain turn useless while running in the Top 5. Forced into the garage, the 38th place finish cost the No. 19 team dearly – they’re now only 140 points ahead of 36th place in the standings. One or two more bad runs, and car owner Ray Evernham may be forced to deal with a second straight year of Daytona nightmares come 2007.

Finally, while Sterling Marlin didn’t have a bad day, his finish could have been much better. After being involved in the first wreck of the day with fellow Top 35 competitor Kyle Petty, Marlin was lapped early, but got it back and charged his way up into the Top 15. Running comfortably in 12th as the laps wound down, Marlin appeared ready to strengthen his team’s position in owner points…until some debris hanging off the rear bumper forced him to pit road under one of the race’s final cautions. Dropping to 21st in the final running order, he saw his comfort zone in the Top 35 shrink 34 points, from 106 to 72…clearly, this group is not out of the danger zone just yet.

On The Bubble:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points Ahead Of 36th Points Behind Next Position
26 Bill Davis 22 2904 385 -20
27 Bill Saunders 96 2889 370 -15
28 Gene Haas 66 2886 367 -3
29 Robby Gordon 7 2873 354 -13
30 Joe Gibbs 18 2816 297 -57
31 Robert Ginn ‘01 2773 254 -43
32 Glen Wood 21 2754 235 -19
33 Felix Sabates 40 2707 188 -47
34 Ray Evernham 19 2659 140 -48
35 Robert Ginn 14 2591 72 -68

On The Outside Looking In:

Pos Owner Car # Points Points Behind 35th Points Behind Next Position
36 Kyle Petty 45 2519 -72 -72
37 Cal Wells 32 2347 -244 -172
38 Doug Bawel 55 2245 -346 -102
39 Larry McClure 4 2105 -486 -140
40 Beth Ann Morgenthau 49 1600 -991 -505

Heading to the 1.5 mile oval of Atlanta next week, it’s pure horsepower, not short track prowess, that once again becomes important to these teams. Expect those outside the Top 35 to struggle to be competitive, their smaller degree of resources taking a toll at a track where handlng alone won’t get the job done.

Still, for those lucky enough to qualify for the race, they’ll feel the same sense of satisfaction they always feel at any other event…they earned their spot.

NASCAR NEWS, RIGHT TO YOUR INBOXAND IT’S FREE.
The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
Beyond the Cockpit: Brittany Force, the Fastest Force
Voices from the Cheap Seats: Advertising for Dummies
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Off Week-Richmond Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Picking The Best IndyCar On-Air Personalities
FREE NEWSLETTER! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

 

©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at SI.com.