Chase for the Cup: Phoenix

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 6, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil at Phoenix International Raceway, the ninth event of the 10 that make up the...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 6, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil at Phoenix International Raceway, the ninth event of the 10 that make up the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The Checker Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil (3 p.m. ET on NBC) is the 35th of 36 races on the series' schedule. The first 26 races of the season determined the drivers involved in the third annual Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup contested over the final 10 races. The "Chase" includes drivers in the top 10 or who were within 400 points of the standings' leader.

No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 6,157. Johnson finished second at Texas to put an exclamation point on his charge from eighth to first in the standings in the last four races. The finish was his fourth top five in the eight Chase races to date. He has ranked among the top 10 for 103 consecutive races, since Atlanta in March of 2004. Johnson has a series-leading 22 top-10 finishes this season, including five victories, at Daytona, Las Vegas, Talladega, Indianapolis and Martinsville. He has four top-10 finishes in six races at Phoenix, where he has an 8.66 average finish, tops among Chase drivers. He finished seventh in this race last year and also in April. Johnson has led in two of his six Phoenix events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked first in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (7.719).

No. 2 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 6,140. Kenseth finished 12th at Texas to slip to second in the standings. Kenseth has ranked among the top five since the season's second race, a victory at California, 33 consecutive events ago. He has also won at Dover, Michigan and Bristol. Kenseth has one victory (2002) and four top-10 finishes in eight events at Phoenix, where he has a 20.750 average finish, ninth among Chase drivers. He placed 32nd in this race a year ago and third in April. He has one top-10 finish in his last four races at Phoenix, where he has led in three of his eight starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked first in Driver Rating (102.2).

No. 3 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 6,079. Earnhardt finished sixth at Texas to climb one spot in the standings. He was ranked 18th at this point last season. Earnhardt has one victory this season, at Richmond. He has two victories (2004 and 2003) and four top-10 finishes (all top fives) in eight races at Phoenix, where he has a 17.25 average finish, eighth among Chase drivers. Earnhardt placed a career-worst 40th in this race a year ago and 23rd in April. He has led in three of his eight Phoenix events, but not the last three. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked fourth in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (9.645).

No. 4 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 6,077. Hamlin finished 10th at Texas to drop one position in the standings. He has five top-10 finishes in eight Chase events. Hamlin is the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Chase. He has 18 top-10 finishes in 2006, the most among rookies. Hamlin has been the highest-finishing rookie in 16 of 34 races this year, and has been running at the finish in the last 28 races. His two Phoenix starts include a 13th-place finish in this race last year and a 34th-place effort in April for a 23.5 average finish, last among Chase contestants. Season-to-date Loop Data: Hamlin is ranked fifth in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (9.000).

No. 5 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 6,052. Harvick finished third at Texas to jump one spot in the standings. He has ranked among the top 10 through the last 28 races, since Phoenix in April. Harvick was 14th in the standings at this point in 2005. He has 18 top-10 finishes this season. Harvick has one victory (April 2006) and two top-10 finishes (both top fives) in seven races at Phoenix, where he has a 16.428 average finish, seventh among Chase drivers. He finished 23rd in this race last year and first in April. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (10.912).

No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 6,000. Gordon finished ninth at Texas to climb one spot in the standings. He has three top-five finishes in eight Chase races. Gordon and No. 10 Kasey Kahne are the only drivers with three DNFs in eight Chase races. Gordon has two victories this season, at Infineon and Chicago. Gordon has 12 top-10 finishes in 15 races at Phoenix, where he has an 8.933 average finish, second among Chase drivers. He finished third in this race last year and 10th in April, extending his streak of top-15 finishes to 10. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.741).

No. 7 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,973. Burton finished 38th at Texas to drop two spots in the standings. He was ranked 19th at this point last season. Burton has two victories (2000 and 2001) and seven top-10 finishes in 14 races at Phoenix, where he has an 11.571 average finish, fourth among Chase contestants. Burton finished 15th in this race last year and ninth in April. He has led in four races at Phoenix, but not in the last six. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked third in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (8.103).

No. 8 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,924. Busch finished fourth at Texas to climb two positions in the standings. He has 18 top-10 finishes in 2006. Busch ranked 20th in the standings at this point last season. He has one victory (a year ago) and two top-10 finishes in three starts at Phoenix, where he has a 15.0 average finish, sixth among Chase drivers. Busch placed 36th at Phoenix in April, his worst showing, after finishing eighth in his first outing there. He has led in all three Phoenix starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked sixth in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (10.000).

No. 9 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,904. Martin finished 22nd at Texas to drop one spot in the standings. He has yet to win a race in 2006; his best Chase showing is third at Kansas. Martin's most recent triumph came at Kansas in 2005, 40 races ago. He has one victory (1993) and 13 top-10 finishes in 20 races at Phoenix, where he has a 9.4 average finish, third among Chase contestants. He placed 14th in this race last year and 11th in April, extending his streak of top-20 finishes to 19. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked eighth in Average Running Position (13.736).

No. 10 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 5,867. Kahne finished 33rd at Texas to drop one spot in the standings. He has won a series-leading six races in 2006. Kahne has 17 top-10 finishes this year. He was ranked 22nd in the standings at this point last season. Kahne has two top-10 top finishes in four races at Phoenix, where he has a 13.75 average finish, fifth among Chase contestants. Kahne placed 27th in this race last year and sixth in April. He has yet to lead at the one-mile track. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kahne is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Straightaways (7.560).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Texas (race 34 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 6,157 (pts)
2. Matt Kenseth 6,140 (-17)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6,079 (-78)
4. Denny Hamlin* 6,077 (-80)
5. Kevin Harvick 6,052 (105)
6. Jeff Gordon 6,000 (-157)
7. Jeff Burton 5,973 (-184)
8. Kyle Busch 5,924 (-233)
9. Mark Martin 5,904 (-253)
10. Kasey Kahne 5,867 (-290)

Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth (1).

Contending for 11th:
11. Tony Stewart 4,488
12. Carl Edwards 4,131
13. Greg Biffle 3,829
14. Casey Mears 3,762
15. Kurt Busch 3,724

* Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-credit: nascar

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