A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 27, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's DIRECTV 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the sixth of 36 races on...
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 27, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's DIRECTV 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the sixth 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 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 782. Kenseth's third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway helped put him atop the point standings for the first time this season. It was his third top five in five races. This is the first time Kenseth has led the standings since the week following the spring 2004 event at Bristol. At Martinsville Speedway, Kenseth has three top-10 finishes in 12 starts there. At Bristol, he led the field in five categories of NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics including a Driver Rating of 130.2 and Average Running Position of 2.508.
No. 2 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 774. Kahne finished 10th at Bristol -- his best result there -- and remained second in the standings, the highest ranking of his career. He is one of three drivers with four top-10 finishes this season. Kahne has one top-10 finish in four races at Martinsville, finishing second there last March. He and Ryan Newman led all drivers at Bristol in the Closers category by gaining five spots each in the last 50 laps of the race.
No. 3 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 763. Johnson finished 30th at Bristol and slipped to third in the standings. He is one of three drivers with four top-10 finishes this season. Johnson has one win and seven top-10 finishes in eight races at Martinsville. He has an 8.5 average finish there, second only to Jeff Gordon (7.85) among active drivers with more than one start at Martinsville.
No. 4 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 750. Martin finished sixth at Bristol and remained fourth in the standings. He is one of three drivers with four top-10 finishes this season. Martin has 40 career starts at Martinsville and has 21 top-10 finishes -- the most among active fulltime drivers. Martin has only one top-10 finish in his last six races there, but he has two Martinsville wins (April 1992 and 2000).
No. 5 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 677. Busch finished eighth at Bristol, jumping three spots to fifth in the standings. He now has three top-10 finishes through five races this season. Busch has only two Martinsville starts, finishing 39th last spring and ninth last October. He ranked second in two Loop Data categories following Bristol, with 31 Quality Passes and a speed of 117.172 mph in Speed in Traffic.
No. 6 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 664. Earnhardt climbed one spot to sixth after finishing 11th at Bristol. He has five top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Martinsville -- all top fives. Earnhardt has a 15.25 average finish there. He has led only four Martinsville events. At Bristol, Earnhardt led the field with 36 Quality Passes. He also was third-fastest in Speed in Traffic at 117.139 mph.
No. 7 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 644. Gordon finished 21st at Bristol to drop one spot in the standings. He has seven wins and 20 top-10 finishes in 26 career starts at Martinsville. Gordon won both events there last season and has won four of his last six Martinsville starts. At Bristol, he led all drivers in Speed in Traffic, posting a fast lap of 117.774 mph.
No. 8 -- Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 642. Mears fell three spots to eighth in the standings after finishing 25th at Bristol, his worst finish of the season. In six career starts at Martinsville, Mears' best finish is 17th -- his result there last spring and in October 2003. He has a 26.3 average finish at Martinsville.
No. 9 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 601. Stewart's 12th-place finish at Bristol boosted him three spots -- from 12th to ninth -- in the standings. He has 14 career starts at Martinsville, including one win (October 2000) and seven top-10 finishes. Stewart finished 26th there last spring and second last October. He led nearly half the laps last spring -- 247 of 500 -- and 283 of 500 last fall. At Bristol, Stewart ranked second with a 126.2 Driver Rating. He was the Fastest Driver Early in a Run with a top speed of 119.624 mph. He also was Fastest in Turns 1 and 2 with a top speed of 115.462 mph and Fastest in Turns 3 and 4 with a top speed of 117.842 mph.
No. 10 -- Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 593. Jarrett finished 20th at Bristol, dropping one spot to 10th in the standings. He has one win (April 2001) and 18 top-10 finishes in 39 career starts at Martinsville. He finished 14th there last spring and 31st last fall. Jarrett has a 14.73 average finish at Martinsville.
Top 10 following Bristol (Race 5 of 36):
1. Matt Kenseth 782 pts
2. Kasey Kahne 774 (-8)
3. Jimmie Johnson 763 (-19)
4. Mark Martin 750 (-32)
5. Kyle Busch 677 (-105)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 664 (-118)
7. Jeff Gordon 644 (-138)
8. Casey Mears 642 (-140)
9. Tony Stewart 601 (-181)
10. Dale Jarrett 593 (-189)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth (1).
New arrivals this week in the Top 10: Tony Stewart
Dropped out of the Top 10: Clint Bowyer (r)
Closing in on the Top 10:
11. Elliott Sadler 585 pts.
12. Ryan Newman 559
13. Kevin Harvick 553
14. Clint Bowyer (r) 547
15. Greg Biffle 545
(r) Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.