Break Out the Calculators: Mayfield Grabs 10th Place as Others Compete for a Spot in the Chase DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 16, 2004) -- Opportunities are dwindling, points are piling up and the race to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR ...
Break Out the Calculators: Mayfield Grabs 10th Place as Others Compete for a Spot in the Chase
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 16, 2004) -- Opportunities are dwindling, points are piling up and the race to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup has taken an interesting turn.
Sunday's SIRIUS at the Glen on Watkins Glen International's road course provided the latest twist: Like a motorized version of musical chairs, drivers racing for a spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 found themselves more comfortable, or less so, at day's end. Yet all remain perched on the edge of their seats.
That 10th slot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship points -- or the "bubble" position -- represents the last guaranteed position available for an automatic berth into the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. The Top 10 drivers in the points will be part of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup that begins Sept. 19 at New Hampshire as well as any other drivers within 400 points of the leader. With the 11th position currently 511 points behind the leader, Chase participants likely will consist of only the Top 10, making that final position pivotal in the coming weeks.
Four races remain until the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, beginning with Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET, TNT). And in the latest plotline, Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), will attempt to cement his newfound spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10.
Indeed, Mayfield's seventh-place finish at Watkins Glen combined with Ryan Newman's (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) 26th-place finish produced the most newsworthy movement among those pursuing 10th place and those attempting to remain safely at or above it. As the 10th-place driver the previous week, Newman now ranks 12th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings; Mayfield is 10th heading to Michigan. The latter's Evernham Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), remains 11th, only 24 points behind Mayfield. His 14th-place effort at Watkins Glen earned him seven points in his hunt for 10th place.
In 12th place, Newman isn't far from the Evernham duo. He trails Mayfield by 29 points and Kahne by five points. But he also lost the most points in the battle to remain 10th -- 60 -- and right on Newman's bumper is the 13th-place Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford), whose third-place finish at Watkins Glen vaulted him two spots in the standings to 13th. Martin trails Mayfield by 72 points, Kahne by 48 and Newman by 43. He also gained the most points -- 51 -- of those drivers battling for a spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10.
Considerably more disappointed is the 14th-place Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), whose early on-track tangle with rookie Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Financing Chevrolet) limited him to a 27th-place finish at Watkins Glen; it also dropped him from 13th to 14th in the point standings and cost him 32 points in his pursuit of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10. Still, Jarrett's within striking distance of Martin -- just 13 points separate the two. He trails Mayfield by 87 points.
Following the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan, the following races remain for qualifying for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: Bristol Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval), Aug. 28; California Speedway (2-mile oval), Sept. 5; Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile oval), Sept. 11.
At A Glance
Top 10 following Watkins Glen (Race 22 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 3143 points
2. Jeff Gordon 3103 (-40)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3015 (-128)
4. Tony Stewart 2951 (-192)
5. Matt Kenseth 2876 (-267)
6. Elliott Sadler 2792 (-351)
7. Kurt Busch 2754 (-389)
8. Kevin Harvick 2717 (-426)
9. Bobby Labonte 2714 (-429)
10. Jeremy Mayfield 2656 (-487)
Additional championship qualifiers (within 400 points of the leader) at this stage: None.
Chasing the "Chase" (drivers nearest the No. 10 ranking): No. 11 Kasey Kahne, 2632 (-24); No. 12 Ryan Newman, 2627 (-29); No. 13 Mark Martin, 2584 (-72); No. 14 Dale Jarrett, 2569 (-87); No. 15 Jamie McMurray, 2557 (-99).