Top 10 at a glance -- A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 16, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway,...
Top 10 at a glance -- A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 16, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, Race 16 of 36 on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule. Each driver also has an outlook for projected movement in the NASCAR Top 10 based on past performance at this weekend's track.
No. 1 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 2275. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished fourth in Sunday's Sirius 400 at Michigan International Speedway to extend his lead over No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship for the fourth race in a row. Kenseth held a 20-point lead over Earnhardt Jr. following Richmond, but has opened the gap to 185 points in that ensuing four-race span. He has been buoyed by four top-10 finishes in that stretch, including three among the top five. Overall, he has registered a series-high 13 top-10 finishes in 15 starts to build his current advantage, which is his largest of the season. Kenseth, ranked No. 1 for the 12th consecutive week, has struggled on road courses in his career, with an average finish of 26.3 in six starts. He has made three appearances at Infineon Raceway and has been unable to post a finish better than 21st. Last season he finished 39th, but did qualify a personal-best of sixth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: down
No. 2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 2090. Previous ranking: 2. Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh at Michigan for his seventh top-10 performance in his last nine starts. Despite his recent run of success, No. 1 Kenseth has been able to offset Earnhardt's performance and widen the gap to a season-high 185 points. Earnhardt Jr. is ranked No. 2 for the eighth consecutive week and in the NASCAR Top 10 for the 12th week in a row. Considering Kenseth's struggles on road courses, it would be an ideal time for Earnhardt Jr. to make up some ground. However, he also has had his problems at road courses with an average finish of 26.7 in six career starts. He has made three of those starts at Infineon, where he has not qualified better than 23rd or finished better than 19th. In last season's Dodge/Save Mart 350, he qualified 23rd and finished 30th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: down
No. 3 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 2052. Previous ranking: 3. Gordon finished third at Michigan for his third top-10 finish in his last four starts. Gordon, ranked No. 3 for the fourth consecutive week and six of the last seven, is 38 points behind No. 2 Earnhardt Jr. and 223 behind No. 1 Kenseth, but could make a major move this weekend considering his prowess as a road-course racer and their struggles on those type layouts. He is the all-time NASCAR Winston Cup leader for career road-course wins (7), which includes three in a row (1998-2000) at Infineon Raceway. He has finished among the top six in seven of his last eight starts, the only miss coming last season when he finished 37th in the Dodge/Save Mart 350. Gordon also has been outstanding on the qualifying side, starting sixth or better in his last nine starts. That streak includes three Bud Poles (1998, '99, 2001), which ranks him second to Ricky Rudd for career poles at Sonoma. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 4 -- Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1998. Previous ranking: 4. Labonte won the Bud Pole and finished runner-up to Kurt Busch at Michigan for his sixth top-three finish in his last seven starts. Labonte's podium run was only interrupted by a 17th-place finish at Pocono the previous week. The recent tear, which began with a runner-up effort at Martinsville, has allowed him to climb from 15th in the championship to No. 4, a season-high ranking he has held for the last three weeks. He has closed to 54 points of No. 3 Gordon and 277 of No. 1 Kenseth. He leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in top-five finishes with nine. He has found success at Infineon Raceway, recording four top-10 finishes in his last seven starts. His top finish on the 2-mile road course is fourth, which he accomplished in 1998 and matched in 2000. He also has qualified 14th or better in his last five starts, including a best of third in 2000. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 5 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 1933. Previous ranking: 5. Busch won Sunday's Sirius 400 at Michigan International Speedway for his series-leading third victory of the season and seventh of his career. He and Ryan Newman are the only multiple winners this season. Busch maintains the No. 5 ranking for the third consecutive week and has been entrenched among the top five in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship for 10 weeks in a row. Overall, he has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 14 of 15 weeks, his only miss coming after Atlanta when he was ranked 14th. He is 65 points behind No. 4 Labonte and 342 behind No. 1 Kenseth. Busch made dramatic gains in 2002 at Infineon Raceway after qualifying 41st and finishing 23rd in his debut at the road course in 2001. Last season Busch qualified on the outside pole, led 30 laps and finished fourth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 6 -- Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 1900. Previous ranking: 6. Waltrip turned in his best performance since Darlington in Week 5 (5th) when he finished fifth at Michigan. The finish allowed him to hold the No. 6 ranking for the third consecutive week and remain one of two drivers -- Jimmie Johnson is the other -- to be in the NASCAR Top 10 for the entire season. He is 33 points behind No. 5 Busch and 98 behind No. 4 Labonte. Waltrip enjoyed immediate success at Infineon Raceway with top-10 finishes in his first three starts, but he has been able to secure just three more in the next 11 starts, including his most recent (10th) that came in 1999. Last season, he finished 22nd in the Dodge/Save Mart 350. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: down
No. 7 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1853. Previous ranking: 7. Johnson was 16th at Michigan, his fifth finish outside the top 10 in his last six starts, but retained the No. 7 ranking for the third consecutive week. Overall, he and No. 6 Waltrip are the only drivers to be ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 all season and he currently is enjoying a 48-race streak among the top 10 that dates to Atlanta in March of last season. He is 47 points behind No. 6 Waltrip and 80 behind No. 5 Busch. Johnson did not have much success in his debut at Infineon last season as he posted a DNF (Did Not Finish) and wound up 35th. On the plus side, he did manage to qualify 15th in his first visit to the road course. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: down
No. 8 -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Penske Racing South. Points: 1798. Previous ranking: 8. Wallace finished 12th at Michigan for his sixth top-15 performance in his last seven starts, which includes a season-best run of third at California. It is Wallace's fifth consecutive week in the NASCAR Top 10 and third in a row at No. 8. He trails No. 7 Johnson by 55 points and No. 6 Waltrip by 102. Wallace could close on them this weekend given his road-course success throughout his career. He is tied for second for career road-course wins (6) in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history, including two at Infineon (1990, '96). In his last seven starts at Infineon, he has four top-five performances. However, those three other finishes during that seven-stretch were 26th or worse, including 27th last season. He has been a strong qualifier at this layout with 11 top-10 starts in 14 career visits, including the last four in a row. He also won two Bud Poles (1989, 2000). NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 9 -- Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 1783. Previous ranking: 10. Marlin finished sixth at Michigan for his sixth top-10 finish in his last eight starts. The recent run has allowed him to vault from 23rd in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship following Talladega to his current No. 9 ranking. Marlin moved up one position this week to match his season-best ranking he established following Charlotte. He is 15 points behind No. 8 Wallace and 70 behind No. 7 Johnson. At Infineon, Marlin has finished 25th or worse in three of his last four starts, including 43rd last season, but he has enjoyed some success. He has four top-10 finishes in 14 career starts, including a personal-best performance of second in 2000. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: down
No. 10 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 1740. Previous ranking: 11. Martin finished ninth at Michigan to make his first appearance in the NASCAR Top 10 since the outset of the season. Martin, who was ranked fifth following Daytona and fourth after Rockingham, returns to the NASCAR Top 10 thanks to his second consecutive top-10 finish. He was 15th after Dover, but a runner-up finish at Pocono and his effort at Michigan moved him to No. 10 this week. Martin, who trails No. 9 Marlin by 43 points and No. 8 Wallace by 58, will be looking to make some gains in the NASCAR Top 10 this weekend considering his road-racing success. In his career, he has four wins, an average finishing position of 7.6, four Bud Poles and an average starting position of 9.5. At Infineon, he has 12 top-10 finishes in 14 career starts, including the last nine years in a row. That streak includes his lone win, which came from the pole in 1997. Last season, he finished seventh. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 2275 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2090 (-185)
3. Jeff Gordon 2052 (-223)
4. Bobby Labonte 1998 (-277)
5. Kurt Busch 1933 (-342)
6. Michael Waltrip 1900 (-375)
7. Jimmie Johnson 1853 (-422)
8. Rusty Wallace 1798 (-477)
9. Sterling Marlin 1783 (-492)
10. Mark Martin 1740 (-535)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 12; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 10 Martin.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Waltrip, Johnson, 15; Kenseth, Busch, 14.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 9 Marlin, No. 10 Martin, one position.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 9 Kevin Harvick.