Top-10 Rundown 2006-03-21

TOP-10 RUNDOWN A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the...

TOP-10 RUNDOWN
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the fifth of 36 races on the series' schedule (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

The first 26 races of the season will determine who will be part of the third annual "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" in the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the top 10 or within 400 points of the points leader after those 26 races will vie for the 2006 series title in the "Chase."

No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 690. Johnson finished sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway to maintain his lead in the point standings. He is the only driver to start the season with four top-10 finishes. Johnson has been in the Top 10 for 73 straight races, since Atlanta in March 2004. In eight career races at Bristol, Johnson has finished in the top 10 five times. Johnson also leads the field in two categories of NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics with a Driver Rating of 114.1 and Average Running Position of 5.719.

No. 2 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 640. Kahne captured the checkered flag at Atlanta and moved up one spot to second in the standings, the highest ranking of his career. He is one of four drivers to finish in the top 15 in every race this season. Kahne has not fared well at Bristol. In four races, his highest finish is 14th. Kahne led all drivers with a Driver Rating of 126.6 at Atlanta. He was also the Fastest Driver Late in the Run.

No. 3 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 612. Kenseth finished 13th at Atlanta and slipped to third in the standings. Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last eight races at Bristol, including a win last August. He is second in Miles Led running out front for 369 miles. He is also second with a Driver Rating of 111.6.

No. 4 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 600. Martin was the runner-up at Atlanta and moved up one spot to fourth in the standings. Martin has 38 career starts at Bristol and has 20 top-10 finishes -- the most among active full-time drivers. This season, he is the only driver to run all 1,049 Laps on the Lead Lap. He is also second with an Average Running Position of 7.680.

No. 5 -- Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 554. Mears finished 21st at Atlanta to drop to fifth in the standings. That was his first finish outside the top 10 this season. Mears has never finished higher than 21st in six races at Bristol. He is the third-ranked Closer, moving up a total of 22 positions in the final 10 percent of this season's races. He was the third best Closer at Atlanta, moving up six positions over the last 33 laps.

No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 539. Gordon climbed three spots to sixth after finishing fourth at Atlanta. He has 26 starts at Bristol and has finished in the top 10 16 times. His five wins at the track are the most among active drivers. Gordon is tied for third in Laps Run on the Lead Lap. He has been on the lead lap for all but two laps this season.

No. 7 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 534. Earnhardt Jr. finished third at Atlanta to climb back into the top 10. The finish was his second top 10 of the season. He has competed in 12 races at Bristol, scoring one victory and six top-10 finishes. Earnhardt Jr. is sixth in Quality Passes with 315. At Atlanta he passed 34 cars that were running in the Top 15.

No. 8 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 530. Busch fell two spots to eighth in the standings after finishing 12th at Atlanta. In two career starts at Bristol, Busch has finished 28th and 33rd. He tops all drivers in Quality Passes in NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics. Season-to-date, Busch has passed 371 cars running in the Top 15 while under the green flag.

No. 9 -- Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 490. Jarrett jumped four positions to ninth in the standings after a ninth-place finish at Atlanta. He has finished in the top 20 in all four races this season. In 39 career races at Bristol, Jarrett has 19 top-10 finishes. Jarrett is the fifth best Closer in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. He has improved 19 positions over the last 10 percent of this season's races.

No. 10 -- Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 471. Bowyer finished 27th at Atlanta and dropped to 10th in the standings. He will be making his first career start at Bristol this weekend. Bowyer has made 138 green flag Passes on the Backstretch this season, more than any other driver on that segment of race tracks.

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Atlanta (Race 4 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 690 pts
2. Kasey Kahne 640 (-50)
3. Matt Kenseth 612 (-78)
4. Mark Martin 600 (-90)
5. Casey Mears 554 (-136)
6. Jeff Gordon 539 (-151)
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 534 (-156)
8. Kyle Busch 530 (-160)
9. Dale Jarrett 490 (-200)
10. Clint Bowyer (r) 471 (-219)

(r) Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

Weeks at No. 1: Johnson (4).

New arrivals this week in the Top 10: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett

Dropped out of the Top 10: Jeff Burton, Elliott Sadler

Closing in on the Top 10:
11. Jeff Burton 466 pts.
12. Tony Stewart 464
13. Elliott Sadler 461
14. Brian Vickers 456
15. Martin Truex Jr. 442

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Chip Ganassi , Clint Bowyer , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler , Felix Sabates , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Yates Racing