Chase for the Cup: Homestead

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 13, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final event of the 10 that make up the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 13, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final event of the 10 that make up the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The Ford 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC) is the 36th of 36 races on the series' schedule. The first 26 races of the season determined the drivers involved in the third annual Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup contested over the final 10 races. The "Chase" includes drivers in the top 10 or who were within 400 points of the standings' leader.

No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 6,332. Johnson finished second at Phoenix, his fifth top-five finish in Chase events, to inch closer to clinching his first series championship. He wins the trophy at Homestead-Miami with a finish of 12th or better, or leads a lap and finishes 13th or better, or leads the most laps and finishes at least 15th. Johnson has ranked among the top 10 for 104 consecutive races, since Atlanta in March of 2004. He has a series-leading 23 top-10 finishes this season, including five victories, at Daytona, Las Vegas, Talladega, Indianapolis and Martinsville. Johnson has three top-10 finishes in five races at Homestead, where he has a 15.6 average finish, fifth among Chase drivers. He finished 40th in this race last year, his only DNF at the 1.5-mile track, dropping him from second to fifth in the final standings. Johnson has led in two of his five Homestead events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked first in Driver Rating (102.0).

No. 2 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 6,269. Kenseth finished 13th at Phoenix to retain his spot in the standings. He has top-10 finishes in four of the nine Chase events. If he wins the Ford 400 and ties Johnson in the points, they go a tiebreaker; with five victories this season apiece, they then move to second-place finishes, with Johnson getting the nod with six runner-up efforts to Kenseth's three. Kenseth has ranked among the top five in the standings since his victory in the year's second race, at California, 34 consecutive races ago. He has one top-10 effort in six events at Homestead, where he has a 25.5 average finish, seventh among Chase drivers. He placed third in this race a year ago at Homestead, where he has yet to lead. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked third in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (12.343).

No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 6,242. Harvick finished first at Phoenix, his fifth victory this year, to jump two spots in the standings. With drivers within 156 points of Johnson still alive in the Chase for the title, Harvick, Hamlin and Earnhardt Jr. remain in the running. Harvick has ranked among the top 10 through the last 29 races, since Phoenix in April. He is tied with No. 4 Denny Hamlin for third in the Chase, but his victories top Hamlin's stats, which include a sweep at Pocono. Harvick has 19 top-10 finishes this season. He has four top-10 finishes in five races at Homestead, where he has a 9.4 average finish, first among Chase drivers. He placed 8th in this race last year, his third consecutive top-10 effort at Homestead, where he has led in three of his five events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (10.629).

No. 4 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 6,242. Hamlin finished third at Phoenix to remain fourth in the standings. He has six top-10 finishes in nine Chase events, tying him with No. 6 Jeff Gordon for most among Chase drivers. Hamlin is the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Chase. He has 19 top-10 finishes in 2006, the most among rookies. Hamlin has been the highest-finishing rookie in 17 of 35 races this year, and has been running at the finish in the last 29 races. He has one start at Homestead, a 33rd-place effort last season. Hamlin led one lap in his first start at Homestead, where his 33.0 average finish is ninth among Chase contenders. Season-to-date Loop Data: Hamlin is ranked sixth in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (8.938).

No. 5 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 6,217. Earnhardt finished ninth at Phoenix to drop two positions in the standings. He has one victory this season, at Richmond. Earnhardt has run six races at Homestead, where he has finished 13th or worse in all six, for a 19.166 average finish, sixth among Chase drivers. He finished 19th in this race last year, his first top-20 effort in his last four starts at Homestead, where he has led in one of his six starts, but none in the last three. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked second in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (12.143).

No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 6,165. Gordon finished fourth at Phoenix to retain his spot in the standings. He has four top-five finishes in nine Chase races. Gordon and No. 9 Kasey Kahne are the only Chase contestants with three DNFs in the last nine events. He will be mathematically eliminated from the title race when teammate Johnson starts his engine at Homestead. Gordon has two victories this season, at Infineon and Chicago. He has six top-10 finishes in seven races at Homestead, where he has a 9.571 average finish, second among Chase drivers. Gordon finished ninth in this race last year, extending a streak of top-10 efforts to four at Homestead. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.542).

No. 7 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 6,107. Burton finished 10th at Phoenix to remain seventh in the standings. He has five top top-10 efforts in nine Chase races. Burton and the drivers ranked eighth through 10th have been eliminated from the title chase. He led in the first four Chase events but not in the last five. Burton has 20 top-10 finishes in 2006. He has three top-10 finishes (all top fives) in seven races at Homestead, but has placed 14th or worse in his last three events there. He finished 25th in this race a year ago at Homestead, where he has a 13.714 average finish, fourth among Chase drivers. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked third in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (8.133).

No. 8 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 6,059. Martin finished sixth at Phoenix to climb one spot in the standings. He has not won a race this season; his best Chase effort is third at Kansas. Martin has four top-10 finishes in nine races at Homestead, where he has an 11.571 average finish, third among Chase drivers. He finished second in the race last year, his best Homestead finish. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked eighth in Average Running Position (13.680).

No. 9 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 6,013. Kahne finished seventh at Phoenix to climb one spot in the standings. He has a series-leading six victories this season; 18 top-10 finishes overall. Kahne has two finishes outside the top-15 in his two races at Homestead, where he has a 27.0 finish, eighth among Chase drivers. He finished 16th in this race last year at Homestead, where he has yet to lead a lap. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kahne is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Straightaways (7.351).

No. 10 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,973. Busch finished 38th at Phoenix to drop two positions in the standings. He has 18 top-10 finishes this season. Busch has run just one race at Homestead, placing 41st (a DNF) a year ago. Busch's 41.0 average finish is last among Chase drivers at Homestead, where he has not led a lap. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked sixth in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (10.000).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Phoenix (race 35 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 6,332 (pts)
2. Matt Kenseth 6,269 (-63)
3. Kevin Harvick 6,242 (-90)
4. Denny Hamlin* 6,242 (-90)
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6,217 (-115)
6. Jeff Gordon 6,165 (-167)
7. Jeff Burton 6,107 (-225)
8. Mark Martin 6,059 (-273)
9. Kasey Kahne 6,013 (-319)
10. Kyle Busch 5,973 (-359)

Weeks at No. 1: Johnson (2 Chase; 24 overall)

Contending for 11th:
11. Tony Stewart 4,609
12. Carl Edwards 4,286
13. Greg Biffle 3,890
14. Kurt Busch 3,866
15. Casey Mears 3,847

* Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing