Perhaps Michael Waltrip bit off a little more than he could chew. Debuting a three-car operation with a brand new manufacturer, Waltrip has just one car in the Top 35 in owner points after California. Dale Jarrett is leading the charge but sits a dismal 28th. A devastating late-race crash dropped rookie David Reutimann to 42nd in the standings, while Waltrip is drowning in a sea of misery after failing to make the event. It is unlikely he will find his head above water and in the Top 35 at any point in the 2007 season – even after just two races. While Michael Waltrip Racing is having its share of problems, a number of championship teams are still continue to struggle – including the sport’s prodigal son, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Matt Kenseth continued Roush Fenway Racing’s dominance at the flat 2-mile oval, completing the Busch/Nextel Cup sweep for the weekend and picking up his second consecutive spring California victory.
Despite the absence of longtime crew chief Robbie Reiser, Kenseth picked up a series-high 28 positions with his win. The cheesehead jumps to 12th in points after a costly 50-point infraction dropped him to 40th after Daytona.
Aside from Boris Said and Mike Wallace who didn’t take part in the Auto Club 500, the driver who lost the most spots in the standings were Reed Sorenson, who got caught in an early incident involving Scott Riggs. Two drivers who were expecting much better fortune, however, were Martin Truex Jr. and Earnhardt Jr. Engine problems forced both entries out of the race and out of the Top 35. They must now go to Las Vegas, where Junior lost two motors in testing.
What a rough two weeks it has been for Toyota. As if the cloud hanging over the Waltrip fiasco at Daytona wasn’t enough, the manufacturer has just two cars currently in the Top 35. Jarrett continues to hover around the back of the field while Brian Vickers posted a top-10 finish in Red Bull Racing’s debut, propelling him into 34th in points.
Who’s Hot, Who’s Not (Teams on the bubble)
Vickers – No. 83 (Finish 10th) – In his debut for Red Bull, Vickers was near the top of the charts in each practice session. He backed up those times on race day with a 10th-place finish and moved into the Top 35. The problem for Vickers, however, is that he must qualify his way into each of the next three races.
Earnhardt Jr. – No. 8 (Finish 40th) – Engine problems dropped him out of the Top 35. Second straight week with trouble.
Riggs – No. 10 (Finish 41st) – Two straight DNFs equals a 44th spot in points.
Truex – No. 1 (Finish 42nd) – See Junior.
Waltrip – No. 55 (DNS) – At least he didn’t lose points. Still 27 points in the hole.
Viva Las Vegas
The only thing more unpredictable than the Top-35 picture is what will happen at an ultra-smooth, super-fast Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week. The newly renovated racetrack sure has claimed its share of victims in preseason testing. For the drivers who are still on the outside looking in, including Junior, a bad day at Las Vegas could spell disaster with just two races remaining. Time is running out.
Viva Las Vegas!!!