October has not been a good month for the Wood Brothers team. It all started back in Talladega, when Ken Schrader tagged the wall following a cut tire; it was a tragic set of circumstances that resulted in the No. 21 car falling out of the Top 35 in owner points.
Sadly, that was only the beginning.
Now – three weeks later – the deficit between the No. 21 team and the final bubble position has grown substantially. The latest episode came this weekend at Martinsville, when a mechanical failure erased a top-20 performance, handing the team a DNF just 16 laps from the finish.
To see how far back the No. 21 team is from the final bubble position, check out this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.
After the mishap at Talladega, the Wood Brothers decided to put Bill Elliott in the car at Lowe’s due to Elliott’s past champion’s provisional; however, a lap 189 incident with Casey Mears resulted in a 35th-place finish, Elliott’s fifth straight run of 25th or worse with the team. The treacherous stretch for the 1988 champ continued again this week; he had to take a champion’s provisional just to make the race this weekend, then brought the car up through the pack only to see the engine let go just laps from the checkered flag. The DNF dropped Elliott to 34th, and his team is now 142 points back of 35th in owner points with four races left to run.
What Elliott had to say
“That’s about as unfortunate as it gets right there. In the end, there’s nothing you can do about it, so we’ll just go on,” he said. “I’m not sure what happened there in the last 100 laps or so, the left rear was acting up pretty bad, but the guys worked with the tire pressures and at least got the car home and in one piece.”
Strong run for Petty
Kyle Petty has had a solid stretch of races over the past month, but still dropped to 35th in owner points, as the No. 22 team of Bill Davis Racing has been just that much hotter. This week, the tables turned; Petty not only outran the No. 22, but the No. 21 of Elliott as well with a solid 21st-place run. Petty’s performance moved him back into the 34th spot in owner points; he’s now 148 above the No. 21 with four races left, lessening the possibility he’ll need to put former Nextel Cup champion Bobby Labonte in this ride next season to ensure the car qualifies for the first five races.
Amidst rumors – Bill Davis struggles
One of the hottest stories this week in the NASCAR community is the looming sale of Bill Davis Racing. Davis’s admittance that he would listen to potential offers may have been a distraction for the No. 22 team, who broke their streak of three consecutive top 15s with a 36th-place finish this weekend. A broken transmission put the Caterpillar Camry behind the wall for repairs, and Dave Blaney wound up 67 laps down by the end of Sunday’s event. Blaney’s team dropped back down to 35th in owner points as a result; however, BDR still maintains a comfortable 142-point cushion over the No. 21 team.
Make it five weeks in a row for Michael Waltrip. What was an embarrassing first half of the season for the No. 55 team, missing mores races than it made, has become one of the most impressive second half turnarounds. In fact, the top-three finishing Toyotas this week were all Michael Waltrip Racing cars. Rookie David Reutimann wound up besting his boss by one spot this week, taking home top honors with a 17th-place finish.
AJ Allmendinger and Blaney were the other Toyotas to make the race, but both finished outside the Top 35.
Top-Three Finishing Toyotas
Reutimann (No. 00) – Finished 17th
Waltrip (No. 55) – Finished 18th
Dale Jarrett (No. 44) – Finished 30th
Breaking Down the Bubble
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place|
|31||Robert Yates Racing||38||David Gilliland||2,662||+157|
|32||Robert Yates Racing||88||Ricky Rudd||2,612||+107|
|33||Haas CNC Racing||70||Johnny Sauter||2,587||+82|
|34||Petty Enterprises||45||Kyle Petty||2,511||+6|
|35||Bill Davis Racing||22||Dave Blaney||2,505||0|
|36||Wood Brothers||21||Ken Schrader/Bill Elliott||2,363||-142|
|37||Evernham Motorsports||10||Scott Riggs||2,190|
|38||Michael Waltrip Racing||00||David Reutimann||2,118||-387|
|39||Team Red Bull||83||Brian Vickers||1,986||-519|
|40||Michael Waltrip Racing||55||Michael Waltrip||1,629||-876|
|41||Michael Waltrip Racing||44||Dale Jarrett||1,592||-913|
|42||Furniture Row Motorsports||78||Joe Nemechek||1,467||-1,038|
|43||Morgan McClure Motorsports||4||Ward Burton||1,434||-1,071|
|44||Team Red Bull||84||AJ Allmendinger||1,376||-1,129|
|45||Bill Davis Racing||36||Jeremy Mayfield||1,369||-1,136|
|46||BAM Racing||49||John Andretti||1,345||-1,160|
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