As it often is in motorsports, one team’s loss is another team’s gain.
One day after rain washed out qualifying sending road-course ace Boris Said and the No. 60 SoBe No Fear Racing team home, Bill Elliott generously offered his Wood Brothers seat to Said in an effort to move the No. 21 car back into the Top 35. It was the second straight race in a span of two months that Said was not even given the opportunity to qualify for the event because of mother nature, NASCAR’s pitiful Top-35 rule and lack of effort to alter the schedule to fit in qualifying. Although he got a ride in the end, Said wasn’t afraid to voice his frustrations about what NASCAR’s ruling did to his good friend and car owner Mark Simo.
“For a part-time team, you don’t get to race that much, and two races in a row get taken away. I don’t understand why the schedule can’t be adjusted and just qualify tomorrow when it’s going to be sunny,” he said. “It’s just hard for a small team. It pretty much puts us out of business. It puts me out of business. It’s just a lot of income lost.”
I have been adamant for quite some time on my opinion of the Top-35 rule, as I stated in my column back in July when rain washed away Said’s pole position in Daytona. What happened this week to those teams on the outside of the bubble wasn’t just a result of the Top-35 rule, but further proof that NASCAR only cares about the major market teams inside and around the Top 35.
As Said mentioned, NASCAR had plenty of time to qualify Saturday morning before Busch qualifying and the Busch race, but they chose not to and it’s obvious why. What a perfect way to ensure that the NASCAR regulars outside of the Top 35 aren’t replaced by relatively unknown road-course ringers, huh? Come on, it’s a no-brainer for NASCAR – Dale Jarrett and Terry Labonte or Brian Simo and Klaus Graf; UPS and NAPA or cars with the same sponsors you could probably find at any local short track. Notice that the few road-course aces in the field were driving full-time, fully-sponsored, recognizable cars.
While NASCAR’s decision certainly benefitted those teams inside of the Top 35, the team it benefitted most was the team knocking on the door of the Top 35 since Indianapolis. Said stepped into the No. 21 car and did just what was expected of him. Coming from the back, Said stayed out of trouble and kept the car on the track finishing 14th and jumping past Dave Blaney into the Top 35.
“Mission accomplished. At the end, I think we could’ve gotten a top 10, but where the No. 22 car was, I had to really think about it,” Said admitted. “They’re in the Top 35 now, so they’re in the show next week and that was the mission. It was a win-win for all of us.”
Said/Elliott (No. 21) – Moved from 36th to 35th in car owner points.
On the other side of the coin sits a disappointed Toyota that was on top of the world two weeks ago. Blaney needed a strong run with Said jumping in the No. 21, but couldn’t pull it off, finishing 35th, two laps down. In one week the No. 22 team has gone from the lone Toyota team in the Top 35 to just another car outside the bubble. Blaney can easily jump back into the Top 35 with a decent finish at Michigan being just 37 points behind the No. 21, but must now make the race on time.
Blaney (No. 22) – Moved from 35th to 36th in car owner points.
The Toyota brigade was led by a road-course ace this week with PJ Jones replacing David Reutimann in the No. 00 for one race. Although six Toyotas started the race, Jones was the only one that finished in the top 25, finishing 25th. Jeremy Mayfield was able to spend some time in the lead because of pit strategy, but wound up finishing 27th while Labonte came out of retirement to pilot Michael Waltrip’s No. 55 car and finished 30th.
Top-Three Finishing Toyotas
Jones (No. 00) – Finished 25th
Mayfield (No. 36) – Finished 27th
Jarrett (No. 44) – Finished 29th
Breaking Down the Bubble
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place (No. 13 is ineligible)|
|31||Robert Yates Racing||88||Ricky Rudd||1,861||+229|
|32||Haas CNC Racing||66||Jeff Green||1,832||+200|
|33||Petty Enterprises||45||Kyle Petty||1,729||+97|
|34||Haas CNC Racing||70||Johnny Sauter||1,729||+97|
|35||Wood Brothers||21||Boris Said/Bill Elliott||1,632||0|
|36||Bill Davis Racing||22||Dave Blaney||1,595||-37|
|37||Evernham Motorsports||10||Patrick Carpentier/Scott Riggs||1,505||-127|
|38||Team Red Bull||83||Brian Vickers||1,301||-331|
|39||Michael Waltrip Racing||00||PJ Jones/David Reutimann||1,243||-389|
|xx||Teresa Earnhardt||15||None (Menard now using No. 14 points)||1,209||*ineligible*|
|40||Michael Waltrip Racing||44||Dale Jarrett||1,108||-524|
|41||Bill Davis Racing||36||Jeremy Mayfield||1,003||-629|
|42||James Finch/Morgan-McClure Motorsports||4||Ward Burton||992||-640|
|43||Furniture Row Racing||78||Kenny Wallace||962||-670|
|44||Michael Waltrip Racing||55||Terry Labonte/Michael Waltrip||870||-762|
|45||BAM Racing||49||John Andretti||813||-819|
|46||Team Red Bull||84||AJ Allmendinger||732||-900|
|47||Front Row Motorsports||37||Kevin Lepage||522||-1,110|