NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: Dave Blaney Continues Hot Streak, Carries Toyota Banner Back into Top 35

It’s been a difficult second half of the season for Dave Blaney and the No. 22 team; they’re busy jockeying for the 35th and final “locked-in” spot in car owner points with the No. 21 team and their driver combo of Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader. But last week, Blaney had his best finish of the year, surviving a hairy Talladega race to finish third and build momentum he carried over to the following week at Lowe’s. Finishing sixth, his second consecutive top 10 and his third consecutive top 15 gave the No. 22 some distance from a handful of cars chasing him. Now, for the first time in this stretch of the season, Blaney finally has breathing room, moving into 34th in the standings, 39 points ahead of 35th and a crucial 148 ahead of 36th.

To see who Blaney leapfrogged to get into the 34th spot, check out this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown:

Storylines from Lowe’s

Blaney stays hot

There is no doubt now that Blaney is officially carrying the Toyota banner. His sixth-place finish this week carries on his impressive average finish of 8.6 over his last three starts. If the No. 22 keeps on running like that…

Here’s an interesting stat regarding Blaney:

First 27 weeks: Three top 15s
Last three weeks: Three top 15s

Petty drops to 35th

Over the past few weeks, I’ve followed what has been a dismal stretch for Kyle Petty. His 18th-place finish at Lowe’s was his best in the No. 45 since the Coca-Cola 600 – coincidentally held at the same track – back on May 27th. His average finish of 26.7 over the past four weeks isn’t necessarily bad by any means, either; but with the way Blaney has run lately, Petty has dropped back to the bubble position for the first time this season. Luckily for the No. 45 team, Elliott struggled even more this week, finishing a disappointing 35th. As a result, Petty still has breathing room, holding a 109-point cushion over the No. 21 team with five races left.

Elliott takes the seat, crashes

As a result of his past champion’s provisional, Elliott was called upon to take the seat of the No. 21 car to ensure a spot in the field after the team fell out of the Top 35 last week. However, the move backfired this time; Elliott was caught up in a tangle with Casey Mears on lap 189 and received major damage:

“It’s kind of been par for the course,” he said of the car’s misfortune. “We just couldn’t run right off the bat for whatever reason. I was so edgy getting down in the corner, but after we ran a little bit it went away and I was fine.”

“I could hold my own pretty good, but the problem is you get a handful of guys that have checked out and you’re done.”

Elliott wound up 35th in the final running order.

Tracking Toyota

Blaney’s run has already been noted, but a performance that has really flown under the radar is the top 10 by Michael Waltrip – just his second such performance of the season. Waltrip has simply struggled all year to make races, but he’s now made the race each of the past four weeks, accumulating two top 15s over that stretch. AJ Allmendinger also had a strong run, finishing in the top 15, but each of the other two Toyotas – David Reutimann and Jeremy Mayfield – failed to finish on the lead lap.

Top-Three Finishing Toyotas

Blaney (No. 22) – Finished sixth
Waltrip (No. 55) – Finished 10th
Allmendinger (No. 84) – Finished 15th

Breaking Down The Bubble

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place
31 Robert Yates Racing 38 David Gilliland 2,574 +163
32 Robert Yates Racing 88 Ricky Rudd 2,530 +119
33 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 2,511 +100
34 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 2,450 +39
35 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty 2,411 0
36 Wood Brothers 21 Ken Schrader/Bill Elliott 2,302 -109
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 2,075
38 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 2,006 -405
39 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 1,961 -450
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 1,520 -891
41 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 1,519 -892
42 Furniture Row Motorsports 78 Joe Nemechek 1,439 -972
43 Morgan-McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 1,385 -1,026
44 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 1,347 -1,064
45 Team Red Bull 84 AJ Allmendinger 1,318 -1,093
46 BAM Racing 49 John Andretti 1,281 -1,130

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