Top 10 at a Glance: A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship following Sunday's season-closing Ford 400 at ...
Top 10 at a Glance: A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship following Sunday's season-closing Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The following drivers earned a position in the NASCAR Top 10 after competing in 36 races encompassing 23 tracks in 19 states where a total of 10,668 laps/13,932.532 miles were run. The NASCAR Top 10 will be honored at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Awards Ceremony on Friday, Dec. 5 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City and earn the lion's share of the $17 million NASCAR Winston Cup Series bonus point fund.
No. 1 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 5022. Previous ranking: 1. Point fund bonus: $4.25 million. Kenseth recorded just his second DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the 43rd-place finish due to engine woes was inconsequential. He clinched the NASCAR Winston Cup championship following a fourth-place finish the previous week at Rockingham, earning him along with owner Jack Roush their first NASCAR Winston Cup series crowns. It comes in Kenseth's fourth full season and 16th for Roush. Kenseth is the fifth different series champion in the last five years and also the third consecutive former Raybestos Rookie of the Year to win the championship. Kenseth, the 2000 rookie of the year, follows last season's champ Tony Stewart (1999 rookie of the year) and 2001 champ Jeff Gordon ('93 rookie of the year). It marks his second year in a row among the NASCAR Top 10, easily topping last season's finish of eighth in the championship, which included a series-high five victories. Kenseth spent 35 of 36 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, his only time outside of the top 10 coming in Week 1 following a 20th-place finish at the Daytona 500 that left him ranked 19th. He moved to No. 6 following a third-place finish at Rockingham and into second following his only win of the season at Las Vegas. A fourth-place performance at Atlanta allowed him to supplant Michael Waltrip at No. 1. He maintained the No. 1 ranking for the remainder of the season, a run of 33 consecutive race weeks which is a modern-era record. Kenseth's season totals were one win, 11 top fives and a series-leading 25 top-10 finishes.
No. 2 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 4932. Previous ranking: 2. Point fund bonus: $1.7 million. Johnson finished third at Homestead to secure a career-best No. 2 ranking in the NASCAR Top 10, finishing 90 points behind newly crowned NASCAR Winston Cup champion Matt Kenseth. Johnson has finished among the top 10 in the championship in both of his full seasons in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, the other being a fifth during his 2002 rookie campaign. He was the only driver to rank in the NASCAR Top 10 for all 36 race weeks and extended his overall streak to 69 consecutive weeks among the top 10 in the championship. The streak, which dates to last season's spring race in Atlanta, ranks first among active drivers and ninth all-time in the modern era. Johnson had a torrid run to close the season as he reeled off six consecutive top-three finishes to vault him from No. 5 in the championship battle to No. 2. He finished the season with three wins (Charlotte in May, sweep of New Hampshire), 14 top fives and 20 top 10s.
No. 3 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 4815. Previous ranking: 3. Point fund bonus: $1.275 million. Earnhardt Jr. finished 24th at Homestead, but was able to stave off No. 4 Jeff Gordon and No. 5 Kevin Harvick and cement a top-three finish in the championship. Gordon closed to 30 points and Harvick to 45, but they were unable to overtake Earnhardt Jr. for his career-best effort in the title race. The finish easily topped his previous best -- eighth in 2001 -- and marked his second finish among the top 10 in his four full seasons. He spent 33 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, including a career-best No. 2. He completed the season with two wins (Talladega-spring, Phoenix), 13 top fives and 21 top 10s.
No. 4 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 4785. Previous ranking: 5. Point fund bonus: $1.075 million. Gordon finished fifth at Homestead and his 15th top-five performance of the season pushed him to No. 4 in the final NASCAR Top 10. Gordon, who moved up one position from the previous week's rankings, matched last season's championship finish and the four-time series champion extended his string of consecutive seasons among the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship to 10, dating to his first appearance in 1994. It also marks his third season in a row finishing among the top five in the championship, including his most recent title in 2001. He spent 32 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10 with a high of No. 2. Gordon, who closed the season strong with eight top-10 finishes in his last nine starts, ended the season with three wins -- a sweep at Martinsville and a fall triumph at Atlanta -- and 20 top 10s.
No. 5 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Points: 4770. Previous ranking: 6. Point fund bonus: $925,000. Harvick finished runner-up to Bobby Labonte at Homestead to improve one position and lock in a finish among the top five in the championship. Harvick, who was as high as No. 2 during the season, spent 33 weeks among the NASCAR Top 10, including the last two at No. 6. Harvick's championship finish was the highest of his three-year career, topping his previous best of ninth in his 2001 rookie season. Harvick, who finished 21st in last season's championship, earned one win (Indianapolis) and 11 top-five finishes, which matched his previous two-year career total. He also was one of only two full-time drivers this season that did not record a DNF (Did Not Finish) in his 36 starts.
No. 6 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Penske Racing South. Points: 4711. Previous ranking: 4. Point fund bonus: $780,000. Newman finished 37th at Homestead due to an early-race accident and the result proved costly in the final NASCAR Top 10 standings. The finish cost him two positions, dropping him to No. 6 in the final standings. Despite the drop, it was an outstanding season for the 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. He led the NASCAR Winston Cup Series this season in victories (8), top fives (17) and Bud Poles (11). He also had 22 top-10 finishes, which ranked second to No. 1 Matt Kenseth (25). Newman, however, was hampered by seven DNFs, which was the most among the drivers in the NASCAR Top 10. He spent 18 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, which included a season high at No. 4. Newman has finished among the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship in both of his full seasons in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The ranking also was a career best, topping last season's position of sixth.
No. 7 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 4549. Previous ranking: 7. Point fund bonus: $675,000. Stewart, the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, finished seventh at Homestead to close out a strong season-ending run and secure the the No. 7 ranking in the final NASCAR Top 10. Stewart, who held the No. 7 position for the final six weeks of the season, posted top-10 finishes in eight of the final nine races. He finished the season with two wins (Pocono-spring, Charlotte-fall), 12 top fives and 18 top 10s. Overall, he spent 21 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, including a high of No. 2. He finished the season with two wins, 12 top fives and 18 top 10s. Stewart has now finished among the NASCAR Top 10 in all five seasons of his NASCAR Winston Cup career. Three of those championship finishes have been among the top five, including his first series title last season.
No. 8 -- Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 4377. Previous ranking: 8. Point fund bonus: $575,000. Labonte captured his second win of the season in Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and secured the No. 8 ranking in the season-ending NASCAR Top 10. Labonte, whose other win came in the spring in Atlanta, upped his career victory total to 21, which places him in a tie for 21st on the alltime list with Jack Smith and Benny Parsons. The win also marked the fourth time in his career he has won the series' season finale. In addition to his pair of wins, he also had 12 top fives and 17 top 10s. He spent 29 weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, including the last six at No. 8. His highest ranking of the season was No. 4. Labonte, who finished 16th in the championship last season, has placed among the NASCAR Top 10 in six of the last seven seasons, including his first series crown in 2000. Overall, it is his seventh career appearance in the top 10 in the championship.
No. 9 -- Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), Evernham Motorsports. Points: 4303. Previous ranking: 9. Point fund bonus: $525,000. Elliott finished eighth at Homestead to secure his first appearance in the top 10 in the championship since 1997, when he finished eighth. Overall, it is his 14th appearance in the final top 10 in the championship standings, which includes his lone crown in 1988. Elliott closed the season strongly as he recorded six top-10 finishes in his final seven races, including his lone victory of the season at Rockingham. He spent the final five weeks in the NASCAR Top 10 with a high of No. 9. For the season, he posted one win, nine top fives and 12 top 10s.
No. 10 -- Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 4162. Previous ranking: 11. Point fund bonus: $500,000. Labonte finished 15th at Homestead and garnered an additional five points for leading a lap and the effort allowed him to secure the final spot in the NASCAR Top 10. Labonte, who entered the season finale at Homestead ranked No. 11, overtook Kurt Busch for No. 10, edging him by 12 points. The finish marks his first time in the top 10 in the championship since 1998, when he was ninth in the title race. Overall, it is the 17th time he has finished among the top 10 in the championship, including NASCAR Winston Cup crowns in 1984 and '96. He spent nine weeks in the NASCAR Top 10 this season, including a high of No. 9. He finished the season with one win (Darlington-fall), four top fives and nine top 10s. He was one of only two full-time drivers this season -- Kevin Harvick was the other -- to go the entire season without suffering a DNF.
Final NASCAR Top 10:
1. Matt Kenseth 5022 points
2. Jimmie Johnson 4932 (-90)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 4815 (-207)
4. Jeff Gordon 4785 (-237)
5. Kevin Harvick 4770 (-252)
6. Ryan Newman 4711 (-311)
7. Tony Stewart 4549 (-473)
8. Bobby Labonte 4377 (-645)
9. Bill Elliott 4303 (-719)
10. Terry Labonte 4162 (-860)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 33; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals this week: No. 10 T. Labonte.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Johnson, 36; Kenseth, 35; Earnhardt Jr., Harvick, 33.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 4 Gordon, No. 5 Harvick, No. 10 T. Labonte.
Dropped out this week: No. 10 K. Busch.