Chase for the Cup: New Hampshire

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: New Hampshire DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, the first event...

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: New Hampshire

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, the first event of the ten that make up the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The Sylvania 300 (12:30 p.m. EDT on TNT) is the 27th 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 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,050. Kenseth finished eighth at Richmond, his 16th top-10 effort of 2006, to retain the points lead and clinch his third consecutive spot in the Chase. He has ranked among the top five in the standings since his victory in the season's second race, at California. Kenseth has eight top-10 finishes in 13 races at New Hampshire. He has been running at the finish in the last 20 races overall and running at the finish in his 13 starts at New Hampshire. Kenseth finished third in this race one year ago and 14th in July. He has led in three races at New Hampshire, where he has a 10.923 average finish. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.792).

No. 2 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,045. Johnson finished 23rd at Richmond to remain second in the standings. He led the points after all but four of the 26 races to date. Johnson made the Chase for the third year, one of only three drivers to do so (Kenseth and Mark Martin are the others). He joins teammates Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch in the Chase, giving team owner Rick Hendrick the most eligible drivers among owners. Johnson has a series-best 18 top-10 finishes this season. He has ranked among the top 10 for 95 consecutive races, since Atlanta in March 2004. Johnson has been running at last 26 races. He has two victories (both events in 2003) and five top 10s in nine races at New Hampshire, where he has an 8.66 average finish, tops among drivers with more than one start there. Johnson finished eighth in this race a year ago and ninth in July. He has been running at the finish in all nine of his races at the New England track, and has led in three starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked second in Driver Rating (99.2).

No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Reese's/GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,040. Harvick finished first at Richmond, with teammate Jeff Burton giving team owner Richard Childress his first slots in the Chase since its inception in 2004. He is one of five drivers making their Chase debuts. Harvick has ranked among the top 10 in the last 20 races, since Texas in April. He was ranked 14th in the points at this point last season. Harvick has 14 top-10 finishes in 2006. He has been running at the finish in the last 38 races, the longest current streak. Harvick has six top-10 finishes in 11 races at New Hampshire. He finished 10th in this race a year ago and fifth in July at New Hampshire, where he has a 13.727 average finish. Harvick has led in six of his 11 New Hampshire starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is the third-ranked Closer (1.385).

No. 4 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,035. Busch finished second at Richmond to climb from fifth to fourth in the standings. He was ranked 19th at this point last season. Busch is making his first Chase appearance. He has 15 top-10 finishes in 2006. Busch has just one DNF this season, due to an accident at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has been running at the finish in the last 14 races. Busch has two top-five finishes in three races at New Hampshire, where he has a 10.66 average finish. He placed 27th in this race last year and first at New Hampshire in July. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked fifth in Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap (89.7).

No. 5 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 5,030. Hamlin finished 15th at Richmond to climb from seventh to fifth in the standings. He is the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Chase. Hamlin has ranked among the top 10 in the last 20 races, since Texas in April. He has two victories in 2006, having swept both races at Pocono Raceway. Hamlin has 13 top-10 finishes this season, the most among rookies. He has been the highest-finishing rookie in 13 of 26 races in 2006. Hamlin ended a streak of finishing on the lead lap in the last 16 races by finishing a lap down at Richmond. He has been running at the finish of his last 20 races. Hamlin has competed in one race at New Hampshire, finishing sixth there in July. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Hamlin is ranked fifth in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (12.538).

No. 6 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 5,025. Earnhardt finished 17th at Richmond to remain sixth in the standings and earn his second Chase berth. He was ranked 17th at this point last season, which kept him out of the Chase. Earnhardt has six top-10 finishes in 14 races at New Hampshire. He finished fifth in this race last year and 43rd in July at New Hampshire, where he has an 18.857 average finish, the worst among Chase drivers. Earnhardt has been running at the finish in 11 of his 14 starts at New Hampshire, where he has led in five races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked second in Quality Passes (1,295).

No. 7 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,020. Martin finished fifth at Richmond to clinch his third Chase berth. He began the 2005 Chase ranked sixth in the standings; he has finished the last two seasons ranked fourth. Martin has one DNF (at Talladega in October 2005, due to an accident) in the 51 events since Dover in June 2005. He has been running at the finish in the last 33 races. Martin has 13 top-10 finishes in 23 races at New Hampshire, where he has a 10.956 average finish. He placed seventh in this race a year ago and fourth in July. Martin has led in seven of his 23 New Hampshire starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked fifth in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (10.00).

No. 8 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,015. Burton finished ninth at Richmond to climb two spots in the standings. He is making his first Chase start. Burton has 15 top-10 finishes in 2006. He was ranked 21st in the standings at this point last season. Burton has a series-leading four victories in 23 races at New Hampshire (2000, 1999, 1998 and 1997). He finished ninth in this race last year and seventh in July at New Hampshire, where he has a 13.478 average finish. Burton has led in nine of his 23 New Hampshire starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked fourth in Average Running Position (11.750).

No. 9 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,010. Gordon finished 31st at Richmond to sink from fifth to ninth in the rankings, the biggest drop among the top 10. He makes his second Chase start; he finished 11th in the 2005 standings. Gordon's four DNFs this year are tops among drivers. He has three victories (both races in 1998, and in 1997) and 12 top-10 finishes in 23 races at the 1.058-mile speedway. Gordon finished 14th in this race a year ago and 15th in July. He has led a series-best 1,070 laps at New Hampshire. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked second in Average Running Position (11.223).

No. 10 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 5,005. Kahne finished third at Richmond, exactly where he needed to clinch his first Chase start. He bested defending series champion Tony Stewart by 16 points to earn his berth. Kahne has five victories this season, tops among drivers. He has 14 top-10 finishes in 2006. Kahne was ranked 20th in the standings at this point last season. He has four top-10 efforts in five races at New Hampshire, where he has a 12.6 average finish. Kahne finished 38th in this race a year ago (his lone New Hampshire DNF) and eighth in July. He has led in two of his five New Hampshire starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kahne is ranked second in Fastest Laps Run (476).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following New Hampshire (race 26 of 36):
1. Matt Kenseth 5,050 (pts)
2. Jimmie Johnson 5,045 (-5)
3. Kevin Harvick 5,040 (-10)
4. Kyle Busch 5,035 (-15)
5. Denny Hamlin* 5,030 (-20)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,025 (-25)
7. Mark Martin 5,020 (-30)
8. Jeff Burton 5,015 (-35)
9. Jeff Gordon 5,010 (-40)
10. Kasey Kahne 5,005 (-45)

Weeks at No. 1: Matt Kenseth (2).

New arrivals this week in the Top 10: Kasey Kahne

Dropped out of the Top 10: Tony Stewart

* Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-credit: nascar

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