NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: JJ Yeley, Robby Gordon Move Up in Top-35 Battle; Bobby Labonte Takes Huge Hit

The first race of NASCAR’s Chase is in the books. It was also the first race in the homestretch for the battle for the Top 35. The final 10 races of the season are the time for the teams battling for those precious positions to entrench themselves in the Top 35 and secure a starting spot for the first five races of the 2007 season. Some teams were able to capitalize at New Hampshire while others saw their fortunes continue to slide backwards. Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s race.

WINNERS

JJ Yeley had a second straight weekend of good luck and vaulted his team out of the picture surrounding the Top-35 battle. Yeley started the day 36th and marched steadily through the field. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs team cracked the top 10 with 20 laps to go and never looked back. They ultimately came home in eighth and, thanks to the 147 points for that finish (including five points for leading a lap during green-flag pit stops), moved up two spots to 25th and out of our watch group.

Robby Gordon was another driver who turned a good day into a move out of our Top-35 watch group. The No. 7 team started ninth and slid back early in the event. However his team continuously adjusted on the car all day, and by the midpoint of the race worked their way back into the top 20. Keeping the car out of trouble and racing within his means, Gordon was able to finish in 15th. Gordon was another driver who led a lap during the exchange of green-flag pit stops and wrangled 123 total points on the day. His strong finish moved him up two spots in the standings to 24th.

See also
Frontstretch Breakdown: 2006 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire

Elliott Sadler turned in a workmanlike performance on Sunday. Starting 14th and backsliding early in the event, the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports entry turned their fortunes around by getting a handle on the racetrack around the 100-lap mark. They spent most of the rest of the race in the low teens before making a two-tire stop during the next to last caution of the race. That move vaulted them into the top 10 and they were able to stay there, eventually crossing the finish line in sixth place. The accompanying 150 points moved the team up one spot in the standings to 32nd position.

Tony Raines had a rather uneventful day until the final stretch coming to the checkered flag. The No. 96 Hall of Fame racing team ran in the 20s all day and took the checkered flag in 26th place. Unfortunately they went home with a torn-up racecar because they were caught up in the crash that occurred crossing the start/finish line at the end of the race. Even though they only finished 26th, the team did move up one spot in the standings to 30th thanks to the misfortune of the No. 66 team.

LOSERS

Bobby Labonte was the big loser on the day. Labonte was running solidly in the mid-teens when he was tagged by Kurt Busch on lap 209. Labonte’s car smacked the wall in turn 2 and was eliminated from competition. The accident knocked the No. 43 Petty Enterprises team out of the race and relegated them to a 40th-place finish. The 43 points earned for finishing 40th dropped the team three spots in the standings squarely into our Top 35 watch group in 27th.

Jeff Green was caught up in a mishap with Kyle Busch on lap 2 of the race. The No. 66 Haas CNC Racing car was sent hard into the inside wall on the frontstretch and taken out of competition for the day. Completing only two laps, the No. 66 team dropped one spot in the standings to 31st, earning only 34 points for their efforts. This was the second week in a row that the No. 66 was taken out in a crash.

David Gilliland fulfilled our prediction of last week that he was on his way into our Top-35 watch group. Gilliland was running in the top 20 through the first quarter of the race, but unfortunately hit the wall coming off turn 2. The team was forced to make repairs on the car which dropped them a couple laps off the pace. The No. 38 Robert Yates Racing car rejoined in 39th and languished in that general area the rest of the race. They finally finished the event in 36th. The 55 points garnered for that finish dropped the team one spot in the standings; they are now in 26th in the owner standings.

Joe Nemechek had a long day at Loudon. On lap 30 he was rear-ended by Scott Riggs and hit the wall in turn 4. The No. 01 Ginn Motorsports team repaired the car but dropped off the lead lap and never recovered the rest of the day. Restarting in 41st, they were only able to move up to 32nd, five laps down by the end of the race. The 67 points the team earned for that finish dropped them one spot in the standings to 33rd.

ON THE BUBBLE

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 36th Points behind next position
26 Robert Yates 38 2551 476 -82
27 Richard Petty 43 2481 406 -70
28 Bill Davis 22 2449 374 -32
29 Glenn Wood 21 2353 278 -96
30 Bill Saunders 96 2341 266 -12
31 Gene Haas 66 2307 232 -34
32 Ray Evernham 19 2303 228 -4
33 Robert Ginn 01 2251 176 -52
34 Felix Sabates 40 2208 133 -43
35 Robert Ginn 14 2130 55 -78

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Pos Owner Car # Points Points from 36th Points behind next position
36 Kyle Petty 45 2075 -55 -55
37 Cal Wells 32 2013 -117 -62
38 Doug Bawel 55 1872 -258 -141
39 Larry McLure 4 1803 -327 -69
40 Beth Ann Morgenthau 49 1367 -763 -436
41 Jeff Stec 61 1178 -952 -189
42 Barney Visser 178 1105 -1025 -73
43 Brad Jenkins 34 822 -1308 -283
44 Stanton Barrett 195 514 -1616 -308
45 Teresa Earnhardt 15 509 -1621 -5

Next week the circuit moves to the self-cleaning high banks of the Monster Mile in Dover, Del. The concrete track can cause fits for teams because the handling characteristics are much different from asphalt tracks. On the plus side, the track doesn’t change as dramatically as an asphalt track, so a team that hits the combination is likely to run well all day. The other obstacle is Dover’s short distance since it is very easy to get caught up in someone else’s mistake on a 1-mile track and ruin a perfectly good day. Whatever the case may be, the teams that are able to move up further away from 35th in the standings will do it the old-fashioned way… they’ll earn it.

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