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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: Petty Enterprises Coming Dangerously Close To Top-35 Cliff

The two-car battle for the 35th and final position in owner points is close to becoming a three-team race – and that new third team is a team that’s slumping rather than one stepping up as the season nears its stretch run. While its sister car streaked to a second straight top-10 finish at Bristol, the No. 45 from Petty Enterprises seems to have been left behind. The Dodge continues to struggle each and every week, whether it’s Kyle Petty, Chad McCumbee¬†or Kenny Wallace behind the wheel – a 32nd-place run for Wallace at Bristol is the team’s best finish in five weeks, with results of 41st, 42nd, 33rd and 41st coming in the previous four races. That has left the team dangerously on the edge of falling into the grasp of teams below them.

So, just how close is the No. 45 to falling outside of the Top 35 for the first time this year? Check out this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown below to find out:

Biggest Mover(s)

In a week where there was little to no movement among anyone remotely close to the 35th position, my vote for the “Biggest Mover” this week goes to Bill Elliott, who moved the No. 21 Ford to just 37 behind the No. 22 and Dave Blaney for 35th place. Elliott finished a respectable 25th this week at Bristol while Blaney ran 31st, closing the gap by 18 points.

Further ahead, the only driver to gain a position within seven spots of the bubble was Paul Menard in the No. 15. Menard finished 24th and jumped into the 29th spot in owner points, replacing David Gilliland, who now falls to 30th.

Elliott (No. 21) – Finished 25th; inched closer to Blaney and the bubble position.

Menard (No. 15) – Finished 24th; moved from 30th to 29th in car owner points.

Biggest Loser

While the struggles of the No. 45 have been noted already, the No. 70 is experiencing much of the same problems. Johnny Sauter has not broke the top 20 in six races, and now sits just 27 points ahead of Blaney and just six ahead of Petty in 33rd. It didn’t help that Sauter was the cause of the first yellow flag Saturday night; a visit into the turn 2 wall nearly sent the Haas Chevrolet into leader Kasey Kahne, bunching up the field on the back straightaway. Too damaged to continue, the car went behind the wall for lengthy repairs before finishing a whopping 220 laps off the pace.

Sauter (No. 70) – Finished 42nd, falling closer to the 35th place bubble position.

Tracking Toyota

Here’s something we haven’t heard much of this season: Michael Waltrip was the highest-finishing Toyota this weekend. In fact, Waltrip was the lone Toyota to crack the top 30 in an event where five Camrys were able to qualify; however, the veteran was soundly criticized during the race for holding up the leaders after fighting hard to keep from going a third lap off the pace. Looks like it’s a year where Waltrip just can’t win.

Top-Three Finishing Toyotas

Waltrip (No. 55) – Finished 23rd
Blaney (No. 22) – Finished 31st
Dale Jarrett (No. 44) – Finished 34th

Breaking Down the Bubble

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
31 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeff Green 2,011 +196
32 Robert Yates Racing 88 Ricky Rudd 1,974 +159
33 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 1,842 +27
34 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty/Kenny Wallace 1,836 +21
35 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 1,815 *0*
36 Wood Brothers Racing 21 Bill Elliott 1,778 -37
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 1,669 -146
38 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 1,473 -342
39 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 1,368 -447
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 1,197 -618
41 Morgan McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 1,186 -629
42 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 1,086 -729
43 Furniture Row Racing 78 Various Drivers 1,015 -800
44 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 1,007 -808
45 BAM Racing 49 John Andretti 939 -876
46 Team Red Bull 84 AJ Allmendinger 837 -978
47 Front Row Motorsports 37 Kevin Lepage 591 -1,224

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