Race to the Chase Rundown: Michigan

Race to the Chase Rundown: Michigan DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the seventh event in the...

Race to the Chase Rundown: Michigan

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the seventh event in the "Race to the Chase," the 10 events prefacing the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The GFS Marketplace 400 (2 p.m. EDT on TNT) is the 23rd 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: 3,241. Johnson finished 17th at Watkins Glen to build his biggest lead of the season (124 points). He has a series-leading 17 top-10 finishes, four more than any rival. Johnson has ranked among the top 10 for 91 consecutive races, since March 2004. He has four top-10 finishes in nine races at Michigan International Speedway, where he has a 15.8 average finish. Johnson finished 10th in this race last year and sixth in June. He has led in four of his nine Michigan starts, but has not led there in the last two races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.760).

No. 2 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 3,117. Kenseth finished 21st at Watkins Glen, just his fourth showing outside the top 20 in 2006. He has been ranked second in the standings for 11 consecutive races, and has been in the top five since his victory in the season's second race, at California in February. Kenseth has one victory (June 2002) and nine top-10 finishes in 14 races at Michigan. He has an 8.428 average finish at the two-mile superspeedway, second-best among active drivers behind Carl Edwards (5.25). Kenseth finished third in this race one year ago and 13th in June. He has led in five of his 14 Michigan races. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked second in Driver Rating (101.8).

No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 2,918. Harvick triumphed at Watkins Glen to climb one position in the standings. He has ranked among the top 10 in the last 16 races, since Texas in April. Harvick was ranked 14th in the standings at this point last season. He has 13 top-10 finishes in 2006. Harvick has four top-10 finishes in 11 races at Michigan, where he has a 17.363 average finish. He placed 22nd in this race last year and 10th in June, his first top-10 finish in his last five races there. Harvick has been running at the finish in all but one of his 11 Michigan starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is ranked fourth in Laps Led (384).

No. 4 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 2,879. Burton finished 11th at Watkins Glen, dropping one spot in the standings. He has 13 top-10 finishes this season. Burton was ranked 22nd in the standings at this point last year. He has eight top-10 finishes in 25 races at Michigan, where he has a 14.720 average finish. Burton placed 26th in this race last year and 11th in June. He has led in seven of his 25 Michigan starts, but has only led more than five laps in a race there twice. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked fourth in Fastest Drivers in Turns (9.008).

No. 5 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 2,871. After experiencing early trouble, Busch bounced back to finish ninth at Watkins Glen. He ranked 20th in the standings at this point in 2005. Busch has 12 top-10 finishes this season and has just one DNF, due to an accident at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has run three races at Michigan, finishing 43rd in this race last year, 14th in June and a career-best ninth in his first race there, in June 2005. Busch has led in two of his three Michigan starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked sixth in Laps in Top 15 (4,350).

No. 6 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 2,815. Martin finished 20th at Watkins Glen to retain his spot in the standings. He has had only one DNF (at Talladega in October 2005, due to an accident) in the 47 events since Dover in June 2005. Martin has four victories (his most recent in June 1998) and 26 top-10 finishes in 41 races at Michigan. He placed 17th in this race last year and 27th in June; his average Michigan finish is 12.121. Martin has led in 24 of his 41 MIS starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked fifth in Average Running Position (11.674).

No. 7 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 2,794. Stewart finished second at Watkins Glen to climb two spots in the standings, the biggest gain among drivers in the top 10. He led the rankings at this point last season. Stewart has one victory (June 2000) and nine top-10 finishes in 15 races at Michigan, where he has a 14.4 average finish. He placed fifth in this race last year and 41st in June, tying his worst career finish there, in August 2000. Stewart has led in four of his 15 Michigan starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Stewart is ranked first in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (6.889).

No. 8 -- Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 2,782. Hamlin finished 10th at Watkins Glen, dropping one spot in the standings. He has 10 top-10 finishes in 2006. Hamlin has two victories (at Pocono) this season and has been the top-finishing newcomer in 12 of 22 races, making him the lead contender in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year campaign. He finished 12th in his lone start at Michigan. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Hamlin is ranked third in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (7.950).

No. 9 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 2,756. Gordon finished 13th at Watkins Glen, dropping one spot in the rankings. He has nine top-10 finishes in 2006, but his four DNFs are tops among drivers in the top 10. Gordon has two victories (June 2001 and August 1998) and 18 top-10 finishes in 27 races at MIS. He placed 15th in this race last year and eighth in June. Gordon has led 844 laps at Michigan, sixth best all-time. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked third in Average Running Position (11.608).

No. 10 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 2,726. Earnhardt finished 18th at Watkins Glen to remain 10th in the standings. He has three top-10 finishes in 14 races at Michigan, where he has a 19.285 average finish. Earnhardt placed 18th in this race last year and third in June. He has been running at the finish in all but two of his 14 starts there. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked seventh in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (10.294).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Watkins Glen (race 22 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 3,241 (pts)
2. Matt Kenseth 3,117 (-124)
3. Kevin Harvick 2,918 (-323)
4. Jeff Burton 2,879 (-362)
5. Kyle Busch 2,871 (-370)
6. Mark Martin 2,815 (-426)
7. Tony Stewart 2,794 (-447)
8. Denny Hamlin* 2,782 (-459)
9. Jeff Gordon 2,756 (-485)
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,726 (-515)

Weeks at No. 1: Johnson (14).

New arrivals this week in the Top 10: None

Dropped out of the Top 10: None

Closing in on the Top 10:
11. Kasey Kahne 2,672
12. Kurt Busch 2,554
13. Greg Biffle 2,546
14. Carl Edwards 2,535
15. Brian Vickers 2,366

* 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 , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing