With Indianapolis creating a whole new ballgame for the Top 35 in points, the cars battling for the final spot in the bubble came to Pocono bound and determined to bang and beat their way into a “locked in” spot. But in the end, all the jockeying for position on the track didn’t lead to a change in the standings… while the gap between 35th and 36th narrowed considerably, the same 35 teams remain eligible to receive an automatic qualifying exemption heading to Watkins Glen.
Of the teams on the bubble, who put themselves in good position moving forward, and which teams got knocked back in the Pocono triangle? Read this week’s Bubble Breakdown below to find out.
Through a strong 13th-place finish in the special Combos-themed Ford, Ricky Rudd helped Robert Yates’s No. 88 climb four spots in owner points, giving him more cushion on the highly-sought after 35th position.
Rudd (No. 88) – Moved from 31st to 27th in car owner points.
Bill Elliott (No. 21) – The Wood Brothers Ford got knocked out of the Top 35 at Indianapolis, but Elliott did a fine job of keeping the team close to the bubble spot with an 18th-place finish at Pocono, closing the gap slightly from 37 to 26 points on the No. 22 team. Heading to the road course of Watkins Glen, the team is in strong position to turn up the heat next weekend – Elliott had a 19th-place finish in Sonoma earlier this year with the No. 21.
Jeff Green (No. 66) – Finished 19th and gained one spot, moving from 33rd to 32nd in owner points.
David Gilliland found himself caught up in the Big One on lap 181 and ended up finishing 39th. Though Gilliland is still safely in a guaranteed starting spot, he negated the two positions he gained last week and lost an extra two spots. With the No. 38 still nearly 300 points ahead of the No. 22 in 35th, Gilliland still has some breathing room… but he could have a big problem if he continues to have runs like today.
Gilliland (No. 38) – Fell from 26th to 30th in car owner points.
Paul Menard (No. 15) – Ran an uneventful race and finished 26th, dropping him one spot to 31st in owner points. Still, it’s a sigh of relief for Menard to be locked in after spending the first 19 races of the season forced to qualify on speed.
Dave Blaney, the last driver on the bubble, followed a ninth-place finish at Indianapolis last week with a 20th-place finish this week. Since the No. 13 is ineligible to be locked in, Blaney is guaranteed a starting spot again next week at Watkins Glen. Meanwhile, multiple problems handed Michael Waltrip a 38th-place finish, but at least he finished the race; David Reutimann and Dale Jarrett wound up in the garage with fuel pump problems by the end of the 500-miler. At least the three teams could take solace in this small step – Pocono marked the first race all three MWR cars qualified for this season without using a single provisional.
Top-Three Finishing Toyotas
Breaking Down the Bubble
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place (No. 13 is ineligible)|
|31||Ginn Racing/DEI||15||Paul Menard (using No. 14 points)||1,788||+251|
|32||Haas CNC Racing||66||Jeff Green||1,729||+192|
|33||Petty Enterprises||45||Kyle Petty||1,695||+158|
|34||Haas CNC Racing||70||Johnny Sauter||1,635||+98|
|35||Bill Davis Racing||22||Dave Blaney||1,537||0|
|36||Wood Brothers||21||Bill Elliott||1,511||-26|
|37||Evernham Motorsports||10||Scott Riggs||1,403||-134|
|38||Team Red Bull||83||Brian Vickers||1,261||-276|
|xx||Teresa Earnhardt||15||None (Menard now using No. 14 points)||1,209||*ineligible*|
|39||Michael Waltrip Racing||00||David Reutimann||1,155||-382|
|40||Michael Waltrip Racing||44||Dale Jarrett||1,032||-505|
|41||James Finch/Morgan-McClure Motorsports||4||Ward Burton||992||-545|
|42||Bill Davis Racing||36||Jeremy Mayfield||916||-621|
|43||Furniture Row Racing||78||Kenny Wallace||892||-645|
|44||BAM Racing||49||Mike Bliss||813||-724|
|45||Michael Waltrip Racing||55||Michael Waltrip||797||-740|
|46||Team Red Bull||84||AJ Allmendinger||732||-805|
|47||Front Row Motorsports||37||Kevin Lepage||522||-1,015|