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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: Little Change in Top-35 Picture as Gap Widens to 225 Points

With the Daytona debacle now in the rearview mirror, the battle for the Top 35 in car owner points continued this week in Chicagoland; but after an uneventful day for the majority of the cars on the bubble, little changed as far as positions go. In fact, the gap between 35th and 36th place is now the widest the margin has been all season long.

For more on what happened with those teams on the bubble this weekend at Chicagoland, as well as an update on the potential changes to the Top-35 rule next season, check out this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown:

Biggest Mover(s)

The Wood Brothers decision to put Bill Elliott in the No. 21 car in an effort to propel the team into the Top 35 in owner points has paid dividends so far. This week, a 28th-place run hit the spot, enough to move Elliott and the No. 21 team up and into the 36th spot in owner points. His problem? The same team he’s driving for is now a season-high 225 points behind Johnny Sauter and the No. 70 for a “locked-in” spot in the field each week.

Elliott (No. 21) – Moved from 36th to 35th in car owner points.

Honorable Mention

John Andretti (No. 45) – With a new driver in the No. 45 this week, Petty Enterprises got a strong showing from Andretti. Andretti’s top-20 finish (18th) moved the team one spot further from 35th; the team now ranks 33rd.

Biggest Loser

When Dave Blaney cut a tire on lap 202 and received major damage, any hope he had of becoming the first Toyota to crack the Top 35 vanished, at least for this race. A DNF resulted in a dismal 40th-place finish for the Caterpillar Camry, and now, Blaney finds himself yet another spot away from the bubble.

Blaney (No. 22) – Fell from 36th to 37th in car owner points.

Tracking Toyota

With Blaney’s hopes of a decent finish literally shredded away, Toyota had little representation in the top half of the leaderboard. Jeremy Mayfield wound up the top Toyota, but still finished a mediocre 26th-place, while Michael Waltrip made the race this weekend and finished 30th. David Reutimann was the fourth and final Camry in the race, but mechanical problems forced him to retire on lap 43, eventually leaving him helpless and finishing 43rd.

Top-Three Finishing Toyotas

Jeremy Mayfield (No. 36) – Finished 26th
Michael Waltrip (No. 55) – Finished 30th
Dave Blaney (No. 22) – Finished 40th

Breaking Down the Bubble

Possible Rule Changes Update: Nextel Cup director John Darby said this week that he would not change the current Top-35 rule that guarantees those teams in car owner points a spot in the field each week. He admitted that he was speaking for himself and not NASCAR, but he also said there has been talks of grouping each of the cars that would need to qualify their way into the field on time together on qualifying day. This would allow each of the “go-or-go-homers” to qualify under the same conditions, preventing certain drivers from having an advantage based on their draw on temperature sensitive tracks.

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
31 Robert Yates Racing 88 Ricky Rudd 1,597 +69
32 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeff Green 1,584 +56
33 Petty Enterprises 45 John Andretti/Kyle Petty 1,567 +39
34 Ginn Racing 13 Joe Nemechek 1,547 +19
35 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 1,528 0
36 Glen Wood 21 Bill Elliott/Ken Schrader 1,303 -225
37 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 1,296 -232
38 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 1,236 -292
39 Teresa Earnhardt 15 Paul Menard 1,209 -319
40 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 1,085 -443
41 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 1,066 -462
42 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 973 -555
43 Furniture Row Racing 78 Kenny Wallace 854 -674
44 James Finch/Morgan-McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 837 -691
45 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 827 -720
46 BAM Racing 49 Chad Chaffin 694 -834
47 Team Red Bull 84 AJ Allmendinger 676 -852
48 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 675 -853
49 Front Row Motorsports 37 Kevin Lepage 472 -1,056

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