Race to the Chase: California

Race to the Chase Rundown: California DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's SONY HD 500 at California Speedway, the ninth event in the "Race to the Chase,"...

Race to the Chase Rundown: California

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's SONY HD 500 at California Speedway, the ninth event in the "Race to the Chase," the 10 events prefacing the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The SONY HD 500 (7 p.m. EDT on NBC) is the 25th of 36 races on the series' schedule. The first 26 races of the season will determine the drivers involved in the third annual Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup contested over the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the top 10 or within 400 points of the standings' 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: 3,499. Johnson finished 10th at Bristol to lead the standings for the 16th consecutive race, although his margin over Matt Kenseth closed to seven points. He has a series-leading 18 top-10 finishes, four more than any other driver. Johnson has ranked among the top 10 for 93 consecutive races, since March 2004. He has been running at the finish in his last 24 races. Johnson has one victory (2002) and four top-10 finishes in seven starts at California for a 7.571 average finish, third among active drivers. He finished 16th in this race one year ago, tying his worst effort there in 2003. Johnson placed second at California in February, his third runner-up finish there. Johnson has led in four of his seven California races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked first in Average Running Position (11.037).

No. 2 -- Matt Kenseth
(No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 3,492. Kenseth finished first at Bristol, his fourth victory this season, joining Johnson as the only drivers to clinch a spot in the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. He remained second in the standings for the 13th consecutive race. Kenseth has been running at the finish in the last 18 races, since Texas in April. Kenseth has one victory (February 2006) and five top-10 efforts in nine races at California for a 12.1 average finish. He finished seventh in this race a year ago. Kenseth has led in seven of his nine starts at California, where he has been running at the finish in all his starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked first in Driver Rating (104.6).

No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick
(No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3,178. Harvick finished 11th at Bristol to remain third in the standings. He has ranked among the top 10 in the last 18 races, since Texas in April. He ranked 16th in the standings at this point in 2005. Harvick has 13 top-10 finishes in 2006. He has been running at the finish in the last 36 races. He has two top-10 finishes in eight races at California, where he has a 21.875 average finish. He placed 14th in this race a year ago and 29th in February. He has led in three of his eight California races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is the second-ranked Closer (1.542).

No. 4 -- Kyle Busch
(No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3,097. Busch finished second at Bristol to climb from seventh to fourth in the standings, the biggest gain among top-10 drivers. He ranked 22nd at this point in 2005. Busch has 13 top-10 finishes this season. He has one victory (Sept. 2005) in four starts at California; he finished 10th there in February. Busch has led in two of his four races at California, where he has a 14.5 average finish. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked second in Fastest Speed in Traffic (7.450).

No. 5 -- Jeff Gordon
(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3,091. Gordon finished fifth at Bristol to climb one spot in the standings. He has 11 top-10 finishes in 2006. Gordon's four DNFs are the most among drivers in the top 10. He has three victories (2004, 1999 and 1997) and five top-10 finishes in 12 races at California. Gordon is the only driver with multiple victories at the 1.5-mile speedway. He finished 21st in this race one year ago and 13th in February. Gordon has led 413 laps in 12 races at California, the most of all drivers. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked fourth in Driver Rating (98.6).

No. 6 -- Denny Hamlin
(No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3,070. Hamlin finished sixth at Bristol, his 12th top-10 showing in 2006. He has 12 top-10 finishes in 2006, including his last six races. Hamlin has been the highest-finishing rookie in 13 of 24 races this season; he has finished on the led lap in the last 15 races and has been running at the finish in the last 18 events. Hamlin has run one race at California; he placed 12th there in February. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Hamlin is ranked third in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (8.045).

No. 7 -- Jeff Burton
(No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3,064. Burton finished ninth at Bristol to climb from ninth to seventh in the standings. He has 14 top-10 finishes this season. Burton ranked 19th in the standings at this point in 2005. He has four top-10 finishes in 12 races at California. Burton placed 35th in this race one year ago, his worst effort and his only DNF at California. He finished fifth there in February. Burton, who has led in two of his 12 starts, has an average California finish of 18th. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked fourth in Fastest Drivers in Turns (9.089).

No. 8 -- Tony Stewart
(No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3,056. Stewart finished 22nd at Bristol, ending a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes and dropping him from fifth to eighth in the standings. He ranked first in the standings at this point last season. Stewart has four top-10 finishes in 10 races at California, where he has an 18.7 average finish. He placed fifth in this race one year ago and 43rd there in February, his worst effort and second DNF at California. Stewart has led in four of his 10 California starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Stewart is ranked second in Fastest Drivers Early In a Run (7.750).

No. 9 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 3,051. Earnhardt finished third at Bristol to climb one spot in the standings. He has two top-10 finishes in nine races at California. Earnhardt placed 38th in this event last year, his worst showing and third California DNF. He finished 11th there in February, his fifth consecutive effort outside the top 10. Earnhardt has a 21.222 average finish at California, where he has led in three of his nine starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked fifth in Green Flag Passes (1,898).

No. 10 -- Mark Martin
(No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 3,049. Martin finished 28th at Bristol to fall from fourth to 10th in the standings, the biggest drop among the top 10. He ranked fifth in the standings at this point in 2005. Martin has had only one DNF (at Talladega in October 2005, due to an accident) in the 49 events since Dover in June 2005. He has one victory (2005) and six top-10 finishes in 12 races at California, where he has a 13.833 average finish. Martin placed 11th in this race last year and ninth in February. He has led in nine of his 12 California starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked sixth in Average Running Position (13.329).

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing