TOP-10 RUNDOWN A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 25, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 heading into Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, the ...
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 25, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 heading into Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, the ninth of 36 races on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule (1:20 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: 1,260. Previous: 1. Johnson retained his top ranking with a 15th-place finish at Phoenix, his eighth consecutive top-15 finish of 2005, but ended a 13-race top-10 streak dating to Charlotte last October. The only driver with seven top-10 finishes in eight races, Johnson has led the rankings for five consecutive races. He has ranked among the top 10 since Las Vegas in March 2004, or 41 consecutive races. Johnson has two top-10 finishes in six races at Talladega; he was fourth in this race a year ago, his best finish there to date. He finished 37th last fall, one of three DNFs at Talladega. He has seven top-10 finishes in 13 career restrictor-plate races.
No. 2 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,087 (-173). Previous ranking: 4. The reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion gained two positions in the standings with his victory at Phoenix. He has five top-10 finishes in eight races in 2005, as well as four in the top five. Busch has five top-10 finishes in eight races at Talladega; his best runs were third in April 2001 and 2002. He placed 36th a year ago, his worst Talladega finish and his lone DNF there. Busch has nine top-10 finishes (with zero victories) in 17 career restrictor-plate races.
No. 3 -- Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,052 (-208). Previous ranking: 2. After running up front at Phoenix, Biffle dropped to 41st with a burned-up engine due to a broken radiator for his first DNF in 2005. Biffle has five top-10 finishes this season, including victories at California and Texas. He has finished 15th or worse in four Talladega outings, including 15th a year ago; his worst run there was 28th last fall. Biffle has one top-10 finish in nine career restrictor-plate races, a victory in the 2003 Pepsi 400 at Daytona.
No. 4 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,027 (-233). Previous ranking: 5. Gordon finished 12th at Phoenix, building on a streak which has seen him climb from 12th to fourth in the standings in the last three races. He has six top-15 finishes in 2005, including victories at Daytona and Martinsville. Gordon has three victories and 13 top-10 finishes in 24 races at Talladega, including a triumph one year ago. He has nine victories and 27 top-10 finishes in 49 career restrictor-plate races, with an average finish of 13.9.
No. 5 -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 1,009 (-251). Previous ranking: 8. Sadler finished 11th at Phoenix, his sixth top-15 finish this season. He has four top-10 finishes in 2005. Sadler has run 11 races at Talladega with one top-10 finish, a third in April 2003; his remaining 10 were 17th or worse. Sadler was 28th at Talladega a year ago. He has competed in 24 restrictor-plate races with four top-10 finishes; his best was a second in the 2002 Daytona 500.
No. 6 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 997 (-263). Previous ranking: 7. Martin finished 16th at Phoenix to climb one spot in the standings; his sixth-place ranking is far ahead of his 18th-place slot eight races into 2004. He has four top-10 finishes in this, his final season of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition. He has run 38 races at Talladega, with victories in 1995 and 1997 and 21 (overall) top-10 finishes. He placed sixth there a year ago, his lone top-10 performance in his last six Talladega races. His '97 Talladega victory remains the fastest 500-mile race (188.354 mph) in NASCAR history.
No. 7 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). Team: Penske Racing. Points: 994 (-266). Previous ranking: 9. Newman placed 14th at Phoenix, his fifth top-15 finish this season. He has three top-10 finishes in 2005. Newman has two top-10 finishes in six races at Talladega; he was 11th there one year ago. His best Talladega finish is fourth in September 2003. He has three top-10 finishes in 13 career restrictor-plate races. Newman ranked 11th in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 8 -- Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 979 (-281). Previous ranking: 13. After dropping out of the top 10 in the standings, Edwards rebounded with a seventh-place finish at Phoenix to gain five positions. At age 25 the youngest of (five) Roush drivers, Edwards has five top-15 finishes this season. He has just one start at Talladega, a 42nd-place effort in October 2004. This will be the second restrictor-plate race of his career.
No. 9 -- Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge). Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 968 (-292). Previous ranking: 6. After a sterling effort at Texas, Marlin finished 26th at Phoenix to drop three positions in the standings. He has five top-15 finishes in 2005, including three in the top 10. Marlin has run 43 races at Talladega, with victories in 1995 and '96 among 16 top-10 finishes. He has placed 31st or worse in his last three races there, all DNFs. Marlin has five victories and 33 top-10 finishes in 68 career restrictor-plate races.
No. 10 -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge). Team: Penske Racing. Points: 960 (-300). Previous ranking: 3. Wallace took some hard knocks at Phoenix, finishing 36th in his final spring outing there. He has six top-15 finishes in 2005, which have kept him in the top 10 in the standings through eight races. Wallace has run 43 races at Talladega, with 12 top-10 finishes. He placed 33rd last year. Wallace has competed in 69 career restrictor-plate races without a victory; his top outing was a second at Daytona in July 2002. Wallace is nine points ahead of No. 11 Kevin Harvick in the 2005 standings.
Top 10 following Phoenix (Race 8 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 1,260 pts.
2. Kurt Busch 1,087 (-173)
3. Greg Biffle 1,052 (-208)
4. Jeff Gordon 1,027 (-233)
5. Elliott Sadler 1,009 (-251)
6. Mark Martin 997 (-263)
7. Ryan Newman 994 (-266)
8. Carl Edwards 979 (-281)
9. Sterling Marlin 968 (-292)
10. Rusty Wallace 960 (-300)
New arrival in the Top 10: Carl Edwards.
Dropped out of the Top 10: Dale Jarrett.
Closing in on the Top 10: No. 11 Kevin Harvick 951 (-9 pts. out of 10th); Dale Earnhardt Jr. 947 (-13); Dale Jarrett 947 (-13); Tony Stewart 913 (-47); Jamie McMurray 912 (-48).