Top-10 rundown 2006-05-15

A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 May 15, 2006 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 15, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into the May 28th Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the 12th...

A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10
May 15, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 15, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into the May 28th Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the 12th of 36 races on the series schedule (5 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: 1,686. Johnson retained his spot atop the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings with his fourth-place finish at Darlington. He is the only driver with eight top-10 finishes this season. The series' only three-race winner in 2006, he has ranked among the top 10 for 80 consecutive races, since March 2004. Johnson has five victories at Lowe's Motor Speedway (all in the last six races there) in nine races overall. He has logged top-10 finishes in his last eight races at Lowe's, the series' longest current streak. Johnson's worst Lowe's showing was his first -- he placed 39th for his only DNF there. He has a 6.67 average finish at Lowe's, second only to Carl Edwards (6.5 in two starts). The defending Coca-Cola 600 champion has four consecutive victories at Lowe's; no driver has won five in a row at the 1.5-mile superspeedway. Johnson is the only driver to win three consecutive Coca-Cola 600s. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson ranks second in Quality Passes with 773.

No. 2 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1,593. Stewart finished 12th at Darlington to keep his second spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup top 10. This is the highest he has ranked after 11 races during his eight-year career. He has seven top-10 finishes this year. Stewart has led at least one lap in nine races this season, tying him with Darlington winner Greg Biffle as the only drivers to do so. He has led a series-best 801 laps, and has finished sixth or better in five of his last six races. Stewart has one victory (October 2003) and nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Lowe's. However, he placed 24th in this race last year and was 25th last fall; he has no DNFs at the North Carolina track. Stewart has an 11.714 average finish at Lowe's. He has led eight of his 14 starts there. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Stewart leads Driver Rating (110.1).

No. 3 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,592. The 2003 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion finished third at Darlington, his seventh top-10 finish this season. Six of those seven top 10s are also top-five finishes. Kenseth has ranked among the top five in the standings since his victory in the second race of the season at California. He has one victory (May 2000) and six top-10 finishes in 13 races at Lowe's, but has not scored among the top 10 in his last three outings there. He placed 37th in this race a year ago (one of three career DNFs at the track) and was 26th last October. Kenseth has a 15.615 average finish at Lowe's, where he has led in eight of his 13 starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth ranks third in Average Running Position at 10.850.

No. 4 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,487. Martin finished eighth at Darlington to remain fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. He has only one DNF (Talladega in October 2005; accident) in 35 races dating to June of last season. Martin has four victories in 42 races at Lowe's (2002, '98, '95 and '92). He has 20 top-10 finishes overall at Lowe's, the most among fulltime drivers. Martin finished 28th in this race last year, his sixth consecutive showing there outside the top 10. That streak ended with a fifth-place finish last October. He has a 16.16 average finish at Lowe's, where he has led 1,148 laps, the most among active drivers. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Mark Martin ranks fifth in Driver Rating at 95.9.

No. 5 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 1,460. Earnhardt finished fifth at Darlington to climb one spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. He has six top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Lowe's; his best career finish was third in October 2004. He placed 33rd in this race last year and posted his worst finish (42nd) last October; he has three DNFs there overall. Earnhardt, who has led in six of his 13 starts, has an average finish of 18.923 at Lowe's. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt ranks second in Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap (3,538 of 3,650 or 96.93%).

No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,391. Gordon finished second at Darlington to climb from ninth to sixth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. He has four victories and 15 top-10 finishes in 26 starts at Lowe's; his wins came in 1999, '98, '97 and '94. Gordon's four victories there are second among active drivers (Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip had six each) and just one behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson at Lowe's. He finished 30th in this race last year and 38th last October, the worst season there of his career. Gordon has a 15.461 average finish at Lowe's, where he has scored a top-10 finish in six of his last 12 races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon ranks sixth in Driver Rating at 93.7.

No. 7 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,388. A seventh-place finish at Darlington boosted Busch one spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. He has six top-10 finishes this season. Busch has finished 25th or worse in his four starts at Lowe's. He placed 25th at this race in 2006 and had a career-worst 39th-place showing last October. Busch has two DNFs at Lowe's. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch ranks 10th in Average Running Position (14.363).

No. 8 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 1,379. The pole winner finished 21st at Darlington, his fourth finish of 21st or worse in the last six races. He has dropped from second to eighth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings during those six starts. On the flip side, he has six top-10 finishes in 2006. A two-time winner (Atlanta and Texas, both from the pole), Kahne is far ahead of his 2005 showing, when he ranked 15th after 11 races. He has run four races at Lowe's, finishing 12th or below in all four. He was 26th in this race last year and 23rd last October. Kahne has led in all four of his four starts at Lowe's, where he has one DNF. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kahne ranks eighth in Driver Rating with a ranking of 93.2.

No. 9 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 1,365. Harvick finished 37th at Darlington, dropping from fifth to ninth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. He has five top-10 finishes in 2006. Harvick has three top-10 finishes in 10 races at Lowe's; his best showing of second place came in his first start there in May 2001. He placed 14th in this race last year and was 28th last October, his fourth consecutive finish outside the top 10. He has been running at the end of all but one race at Lowe's, where he has a 19.0 average finish. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick ranks ninth in Driver Rating with a ranking of 88.9.

No. 10 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 1,295. Burton finished ninth at Darlington to join his Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick in the top 10 in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings; he also ranked ninth following the 2006 race at Las Vegas. He has six top-10 finishes this season. Burton has two victories (2001 and 1999) in 24 races at Lowe's, where he has 10 top-10 finishes overall. He placed 22nd in this race a year ago and was 14th last October. Although he has led six races at Lowe's, he has logged only one top-10 finish in his last six races there. Burton has a 16.28 average finish at Lowe's. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton leads all drivers in Quality Passes with 817.

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Darlington (race 11 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 1,686 pts
2. Tony Stewart 1,593 (-93)
3. Matt Kenseth 1,592 (-94)
4. Mark Martin 1,487 (-199)
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,460 (-226)
6. Jeff Gordon 1,391 (-295)
7. Kyle Busch 1,388 (-298)
8. Kasey Kahne 1,379 (-307)
9. Kevin Harvick 1,365 (-321)
10. Jeff Burton 1,295 (-391)

Weeks at No. 1: Johnson (3).

New arrivals this week in the Top 10: Jeff Burton

Dropped out of the Top 10: Casey Mears

Closing in on the Top 10:
11. Casey Mears 1,280 pts.
12. Dale Jarrett 1,237
13. Denny Hamlin Jr. (r) 1,219
14. Greg Biffle 1,189
15. Elliott Sadler 1,181

(r)Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing