Race to the Chase: Richmond

Race to the Chase Rundown: Richmond DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the tenth and final ...

Race to the Chase Rundown: Richmond

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the tenth and final event in the "Race to the Chase," the 10 events prefacing the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The Chevy Rock & Roll 400 (7 p.m. EDT on TNT) is the 26th of 36 races on the series' schedule. The first 26 races of the season will determine the drivers involved in the third annual Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup contested over the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the top 10 or within 400 points of the standings' leader after those 26 races will vie for the 2006 series title in the "Chase."

No. 1 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 3,638. Kenseth finished seventh at California, his 15th top-10 finish in 2006, to take the points lead from Jimmie Johnson, who held it for 16 consecutive weeks. The four-race winner has clinched his third consecutive spot in the Chase. Kenseth ranked second in the standings for 13 consecutive races before moving back to the top spot. He ranked ninth at this point last season. Kenseth has one victory (Sept. 2002) and seven top-10 finishes in 13 races at Richmond. Kenseth finished second in this race last year and 38th at Richmond in May. He has been running at the finish in 12 of his 13 races at Richmond, where he has a 15.076 average finish. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.939).

No. 2 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3,629. Johnson finished 11th at California to drop from first to second in the standings, ending a streak in the top spot that began at the season's ninth race, at Talladega. He had been the points leader after all but three of the 25 races in 2006. Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the standings in each of his four years as a full-time driver. He has 18 top-10 finishes in 2006, three more than any other driver. Johnson has one top-10 finish (a second in May 2004) in nine races at Richmond, where he has a 21.0 average finish. He placed 25th in this race last year and 12th at Richmond in May. Johnson has been running at the finish in eight of his nine races at Richmond. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked second in Driver Rating (100.3).

No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3,296. Harvick finished 15th at California to retain his spot in the standings for the fourth consecutive race. He will clinch a spot in the Chase with a finish of 39th or better at Richmond. The berth would be Harvick's first in the Chase, and the first for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick has ranked in the top 10 in the standings for the last 19 races, since Texas in April. He has 13 top-10 finishes this season. Harvick ranked 15th in the standings at this point in 2005. He has five top-10 finishes in 11 races at Richmond. Harvick finished 10th in this race a year ago and third in May, for a 14.0 average Richmond finish. He has been running at the finish in the last 37 races, the series' longest current streak. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is the third-ranked Closer (35).

No. 4 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3,251. Gordon finished fifth at California to climb one spot in the rankings. He has advanced from ninth to fourth in the standings in the last three races. Gordon will clinch a spot in the Chase with a finish of 24th or better at Richmond; should he do so it will mark his second year in the Chase since its inception in 2004. He finished 11th in the standings in 2005. Gordon's four DNFs this year are tops among drivers. He has two victories (2000 and 1996) and 16 top-10 finishes in 27 races at Richmond. Gordon placed 30th in this race last year and 40th in May, extending a streak of three consecutive finishes of 30th or worse at Richmond that included two DNFs. He has led 754 laps at Richmond, fifth among drivers. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked second in Average Running Position (10.946).

No. 5 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3,244. Busch finished eighth at California to drop one spot in the standings He ranked 22nd in the standings at this point in 2005. Busch has 14 top-10 finishes this season. He has run three races at Richmond, finishing in the top five in all three. Busch placed fourth in this race last year and fifth in May. He has a 4.3 average finish at Richmond, best among drivers in the top 10. He will clinch his first spot in the Chase at Richmond with a finish of 22nd or better. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked fifth in Laps in Top 15 (5,044).

No. 6 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 3,226. Earnhardt finished second at California to climb three spots in the rankings, the biggest gain by a driver in the top 10. He has jumped from 10th to sixth in the standings in the last three races. Earnhardt has three victories (in May 2006, in 2004 and 2000) and nine top-10 finishes in 14 races at Richmond, where he has a 9.428 average finish. He has been running at the finish in all 14 of his races at the .75-mile track. Earnhardt will clinch a spot in the Chase with a finish of 16th or better. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked fifth in Fastest Laps Run (328).

No. 7 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3,225. Hamlin finished sixth at California to drop one spot in the standings. He has 13 top-10 finishes in 2006, including in the last seven races. Hamlin has been the highest-finishing rookie in 13 of 25 races this season. He has finished on the lead lap in the last 16 events and has been running at the finish in the last 19. Hamlin has run one race at Richmond, finishing second there in May. He will clinch his first spot in the Chase with a finish of 16th or better at Richmond. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Hamlin is ranked third in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (7.826).

No. 8 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3,194. Stewart finished ninth at California to remain eighth in the standings. He has ranked in the top 10 in 20 of the last 21 races, since the season's fifth race, at Bristol. He was first in the standings at this point in 2005. He has three victories (2002, 2001 and 1999) and 10 top-10 finishes in 15 races at Richmond, where he has an 11.66 average finish. Stewart placed seventh in this race last year and sixth at Richmond in May. He will secure a spot in the Chase with a finish of seventh or better at Richmond. Season to date Loop Data highlight: Stewart is ranked second in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (7.429).

No. 9 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 3,181. Martin finished 12th at California to climb one spot in the standings. He has had only one DNF (at Talladega in October 2005, due to an accident) in the 50 events since Dover in June 2005. He has been running at the finish of the last 32 races. Martin is the only driver in contention for a spot in the Chase who has run all 36 races at Richmond. He placed 13th in this race a year ago and 11th at Richmond in May. Martin has an 11.027 finish at Richmond. He has led in 16 of his 36 races at Richmond. Martin will clinch a spot in the Chase with a finish at Richmond of fourth or better. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked sixth in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (9.917).

No. 10 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3,179. Burton finished 16h at California to drop three spots in the standings, the biggest points loss among drivers in the top 10. He has 14 top-10 finishes in 2006. Burton ranked 21st in the standings at this point last year. He has one victory (Sept. 1998) and 11 top-10 finishes in 24 races at Richmond. Burton placed 18th in this race last year and 15th in May, extending a streak of five consecutive finishes outside the top 10 at Richmond that began in May 2004. He will clinch a spot in the Chase with a finish at Richmond of third or better. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked fourth in Average Running Position (12.001).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following California (race 25 of 36):
1. Matt Kenseth 3,638 (pts)
2. Jimmie Johnson 3,629 (-9)
3. Kevin Harvick 3,296 (-342)
4. Jeff Gordon 3,251 (-387)
5. Kyle Busch 3,244 (-394)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3,226 (-412)
7. Denny Hamlin* 3,225 (-413)
8. Tony Stewart 3,194 (-444)
9. Mark Martin 3,181 (-457)
10. Jeff Burton 3,179 (-459)

Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth (1).

New arrivals this week in the Top 10: None

Dropped out of the Top 10: None

Closing in on the Top 10:
11. Kasey Kahne 3,149
12. Carl Edwards 2,953
13. Greg Biffle 2,889
14. Kurt Busch 2,746
15. Casey Mears 2,685

* 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 , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing