Chase for the Cup: Talladega

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: Talladega DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the fourth event of the 10 that...

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: Talladega

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the fourth event of the 10 that make up the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The UAW-Ford 500 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBC) is the 30th 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 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,511. Burton finished fifth at Kansas to keep his lead in the standings for the second consecutive week. The finish was his fourth consecutive top-10 effort, dating to Richmond. He has 18 top-10 finishes in 2006, tied for the series lead with Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Burton is the lone driver to lead all three Chase events. He was ranked 20th at this point last season. Burton has 10 top-10 finishes in 25 races at Talladega; his best was third in this race in 2001. He finished 35th in this race last year and fourth in April at Talladega, where he has a 17.56 average finish, sixth among Chase contestants. Burton, whose single restrictor-plate victory came at Daytona in July 2000, has led in eight races at Talladega. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked second in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (7.692).

No. 2 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 5,442. Hamlin finished 18th at Kansas to climb from fourth to second in the standings. He has two top-10 Chase finishes. Hamlin is the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Chase. He has 15 top-10 finishes in 2006, the most among rookies. Hamlin has been the highest-finishing rookie in 14 of 29 races this year, and has been running at the finish in the last 23 races. He finished 22nd in his only start at Talladega, where his 22.0 average finish is eighth among top-10 drivers. In three starts, he has yet to log a top-10 restrictor-plate finish. Season-to-date Loop Data: Hamlin is ranked sixth in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (13.241).

No. 3 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,441. Martin finished third at Kansas to climb from sixth to third in the standings. He has advanced from 10th to third in the rankings since Bristol in August. Martin, in his third Chase, has been running at the finish in the last 36 races, tops among drivers. He has two victories (1997 and 1996) and 21 top-10 finishes in 41 races at Talladega, where he has a 15.658 average finish, fourth among Chase drivers. Martin finished 41st in this race last year and 35th in May. He has led in 21 of his 41 races at Talladega. Martin, whose last victory came at Kansas in October 2005, is the lone Chase driver without a victory in 2006. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked sixth in Average Running Position (13.054).

No. 4 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,427. Kenseth finished 23rd at Kansas, ending his streak of six consecutive top-10 efforts and dropping from third to fourth in the standings. Competing in his third Chase, Kenseth has been ranked among the top five since the season's second race, a victory at California. He has five top-10 finishes in 13 races at Talladega, where he has a 16.384 average finish, fifth among Chase drivers. Kenseth's best Talladega finish was third in this race last year; he placed sixth there in May. He has led in 10 of his 13 Talladega races. Kenseth has yet to log a victory in 27 restrictor-plate events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.938).

No. 5 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,415. Harvick finished 15th at Kansas to retain his spot in the standings. He has ranked in the top 10 in the last 23 races, since Texas in April. Harvick has 15 top-10 finishes in 2006. He has five top-10 finishes in 11 races at Talladega, where he has a 14.363 average finish, second among Chase contestants. Harvick, a runner-up at Talladega in Oct. 2004 and April 2003, finished 10th in this race a year ago and 23rd in May. He has led in seven of his 11 races at Talladega. He has never won a restrictor-plate event. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is ranked fourth in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (9.400).

No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,391. Gordon finished 39th at Kansas to fall from second to sixth in the standings, the biggest drop among Chase drivers. The finish was his fifth DNF of 2006, most among drivers in the top 10. He has four victories (2005, 2004, 2000 and 1996) and 14 top-10 finishes in 27 races at Talladega, where he has a 15.148 average finish, third among Chase drivers. Gordon finished 37th in this race last year and 15th in May at Talladega, where he has placed 15th or worse in three of his last four races. He has led 702 laps at Talladega, fourth all-time. Gordon has 10 restrictor-plate victories in 55 starts, second to the 11 of Dale Earnhardt (in 53 events). Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked second in Average Running Position (11.027).

No. 7 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 5,388. Earnhardt finished 10th at Kansas to retain his spot in the standings. In his second Chase, Earnhardt was ranked 18th at this point last year. Earnhardt has five victories (2004, 2003, twice in 2002, and 2001) and eight top-10 finishes in 13 races at Talladega, where he has a 12.230 average finish, first among Chase drivers. He finished 40th in this race last year and 31st in May, both DNFs. Earnhardt's only other Talladega DNF came in his first race, in April 2000 (42nd). He has led in 11 of his 13 races at Talladega. Earnhardt leads all active drivers with an 11.814 average finish in 27 restrictor-plate events; he has seven victories and 17 top-10 finishes in those 27 races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked seventh in Fastest Laps Run (380).

No. 8 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,346. Johnson finished 14th at Kansas to remain eighth in the standings. He has not posted a top-10 effort in the last five races. In his third Chase, Johnson has ranked among the top 10 for 98 races, since Atlanta in March 2004. He has been running at the finish of all 29 races in 2006. Johnson has one victory (in May 2006) and three top-10 finishes in nine races at Talladega, where he has a 20.666 average finish, seventh among Chase drivers. He placed 31st in this race last year. He has four DNFs in nine races at Talladega, where he has led in eight races. Johnson has two victories and 10 top-10 finishes in 19 career restrictor-plate races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked fourth in Driver Rating (98.4).

No. 9 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,278. Busch finished seventh at Kansas to climb one position in the standings. He has 16 top-10 finishes in 2006. Busch was ranked 19th at this point last season. He has competed in three races at Talladega without a top-10 finish; his first two efforts were DNFs. Busch placed 33rd in this race a year ago and 32nd in May at Talladega, where he has a 33.333 average finish, last among Chase drivers. He has yet to lead at Talladega. He has one top-10 finish in seven career restrictor-plate races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked fifth in Fastest Laps Run (420).

No. 10 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 5,238. Kahne finished 33rd at Kansas to drop one spot in the standings. The finish was his eighth of 31st or worse in 2006. In his first Chase, he has five victories this season, one more than any other driver. Kahne has 14 top-10 finishes. He has yet to finish in the top 10 at Talladega; he placed 13th in this race last year and 39th in May for a 26.6 average finish, ninth among Chase drivers. Kahne has yet to lead at Talladega. He has finished outside the top 10 in 11 career restrictor-plate races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kahne is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Straightaways (7.747).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Dover (race 29 of 36):
1. Jeff Burton 5,511 (pts)
2. Denny Hamlin* 5,442 (-69)
3. Mark Martin 5,441 (-70)
4. Matt Kenseth 5,427 (-84)
5. Kevin Harvick 5,415 (-96)
6. Jeff Gordon 5,391 (-120)
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,388 (-123)
8. Jimmie Johnson 5,346 (-165)
9. Kyle Busch 5,278 (-233)
10. Kasey Kahne 5,238 (-273)

Weeks at No. 1: Burton (2).

Contending for 11th:
11. Tony Stewart 3,722
12. Greg Biffle 3,452
13. Carl Edwards 3,450
14. Kurt Busch 3,182
15. Casey Mears 3,182

* Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-credit: nascar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , 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