A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into the April 3 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the fifth of 36...
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into the April 3 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the fifth of 36 races on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule (1:15 p.m. ET on FOX). The first 26 races of the season will determine who will be part of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the top 10 or within 400 points of the leader after those 26 races will vie for the series title in the "Chase."
No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 680. Previous: 2. Oh-so-close at Atlanta to logging his second consecutive victory, Johnson came up a hair short to Carl Edwards but regained the points lead entering Bristol. Johnson, the only driver in 2005 with four top-five finishes, has 10 consecutive finishes of sixth or better since Charlotte last October. Johnson has four top-10 finishes (a 12.2 average) in six races at Bristol. He placed 16th in this race a year ago before earning his best Bristol finish (third) in August.
No. 2 -- Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 598 (-82). Previous ranking: 3. The winner at California stayed on his hot streak, finishing third at Atlanta to advance one spot in the standings. Ranked 23rd in the standings four races into 2004, Biffle has been in the top 10 for three weeks in a row, his highest career standing. Biffle has one top-10 finish in four races at Bristol, a fifth in his first Bristol outing. He finished 12th in this race in 2004 and 11th in August.
No. 3 -- Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 593 (-87). Previous ranking: 5. His smile as wide as the Atlanta race track, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rookie unloaded a back flip following his first career victory. Edwards also won the NASCAR Busch Series race there to become the 11th driver to win in NASCAR's top-three divisions. He has logged top-15 finishes in the four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races to date. Edwards, who ran 13 races in 2004, started 25th and finished 33rd in his one race at Bristol a year ago. He has been among the top 10 for three consecutive races, his highest career ranking.
No. 4 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 577 (-103). Previous ranking: 1. The reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion got caught up in a first-lap accident at Atlanta then had several flat tires before limping to a 32nd-place finish. He has three top-five finishes in 2005 to trail series leader Jimmie Johnson by 103 points. Busch has run eight races at Bristol, with six top-10 finishes in his last six races there. Four of those were victories, including this race a year ago; all have come since 2002. Busch, who finished eighth at Bristol in August, has only one DNF at the track, a 42nd-place finish in 2001.
No. 5 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 539 (-141). Previous ranking: 10. Following engine trouble and a 30th-place finish at Las Vegas, Martin rallied to finish fourth at Atlanta and jump from 10th to fifth in the standings. He has posted three top-10 finishes in his final season of competition. Martin has two victories in 36 races at Bristol, in 1993 and 1998, and 20 top-10 finishes. He has placed outside the top 10 in his last eight Bristol races; he was 23rd a year ago and 13th in August. Martin ranked 17th in the standings after four races in 2004.
No. 6 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). Team: Penske Racing. Points: 515
(-165). Previous ranking: 9. Starting from the pole, Newman finished 14th at Atlanta to climb from ninth in the standings. He has two top-10 finishes in 2005, both ninths, and has placed in the top-20 in all four races. Newman has run six races at Bristol, with three top-10 finishes in his last three races. He has started from the pole in two of his last four Bristol races. Newman was seventh at Bristol a year ago and second in August, his best career finish. He ranked 11th in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 7 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 514 (-166). Previous ranking: 6. Stewart dropped one spot in the standings with a 17th-place finish at Atlanta. He has two top-10 finishes this year; all have been in the top 20. He has ranked in the top 10 for 49 consecutive weeks, the longest current streak. Stewart has 12 starts at Bristol, with a victory in August of 2001 and three top-10 finishes. He has finished 15th or worse in his last six Bristol races, including a 24th a year ago and a 19th last August.
No. 8 -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 482 (-198). Previous ranking: 13. Sadler has two top-10 finishes this season, including a 10th at Atlanta. He has run 13 races at Bristol, with three top-10 finishes; his best a victory in March 2001. Sadler finished 14th in this race a year ago and 26th last August. He was ranked eighth after four races in 2004.
No. 9 -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge). Team: Penske Racing. Points: 477 (-203). Previous ranking: 7. Wallace dropped two spots in the standings with his 27th-place finish at Atlanta. He has three top-15 finishes in four races. Wallace has nine victories in 42 Bristol starts, the most among active drivers, and 28 top-10 finishes. He placed second in this race a year ago, one of seven runner-up finishes, and was 26th last August. Four races into 2004 Wallace ranked 22nd.
No. 10 -- Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 475 (-205). Previous ranking: 14. McMurray finished 11th at Atlanta to crack the top-10 for the first time this season; he has climbed from 32nd overall to 10th in the last three races. McMurray has three top-15 finishes in 2005. He has run four races at Bristol, with three top-10 finishes, including eighth in this race a year ago and seventh last August. He has yet to lead a lap at the Tennessee short track.
Top 10 following Atlanta (Race 4 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 680 pts.
2. Greg Biffle 598 (-82)
3. Carl Edwards 593 (-87)
4. Kurt Busch 577 (-103)
5. Mark Martin 539 (-141)
6. Ryan Newman 515 (-165)
7. Tony Stewart 514 (-166)
8. Elliott Sadler 482 (-198)
9. Rusty Wallace 477 (-203)
10. Jamie McMurray 475 (-205)
New arrivals in the Top 10: Sadler, McMurray.
Dropped out of the Top 10: Kevin Harvick; Jeff Gordon.
Closing in on the Top 10: No. 11 Harvick (469, -6 out of 10th); No. 12 Gordon (464, -11); No. 13. Mike Bliss (460, -15); No. 14. Dave Blaney (458, -17); No. 15. Dale Jarrett (456, -19).