NASCAR Top 10 at a Glance; A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 15, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's MBNA America 400 at Dover...
NASCAR Top 10 at a Glance; A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 15, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway, Race 28 of 36 on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule. Each driver also has an outlook for projected movement in the NASCAR Top 10 based on past performance at this weekend's track.
No. 1 -- Matt Kenseth
(No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 4015. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished seventh in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway for his sixth top-10 finish in the last seven races and for his series-leading 21st of the season. Despite the top-10 performance, he had 14 points trimmed off his advantage and now leads No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 404. Kenseth has been ranked No. 1 for 24 consecutive race weeks, dating to the Atlanta race in early March. Kenseth has recorded five top-10 finishes in nine career starts at Dover, including his last two appearances. He finished fourth in this event last season and finished seventh in June of this season. His best performance was a runner-up finish in June of 2000. He did not have a top-10 start in his first six visits, but has two in his last three starts, including a Bud Pole in June of last season. Kenseth enjoyed two career milestones at Dover as he made his first NASCAR Winston Cup career start at the 1-mile oval (Sept. 20, 1998) and also captured his first career pole position (May 31, 2002). He is still chasing his first win at the track and a victory would provide him with a record $280,000 from the NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus program. The last time the points leader won a race and claimed the bonus was 59 races ago when Sterling Marlin won at Darlington in March of last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 3611. Previous ranking: 2. Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth at New Hampshire for his 10th top-five effort of the season, moving him into a tie for the series lead in that category. The finish, a personal best for him at New Hampshire, was his first top five in the last five races, dating to a third at Watkins Glen. He remains at No. 2 for the eighth consecutive race week and cut 14 points off the deficit to No. 1 Matt Kenseth and trails by 404. Earnhardt Jr. has three top-10 finishes -- including a victory in this race in 2001 -- in seven career starts at Dover, but had not registered one in his last three appearances. In his most recent appearance in June, he finished 11th. He has led at Dover in four of his last five starts, including a best of 193 en route to his 2001 win. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).
No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick
(No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3552. Previous ranking: 3. Harvick finished 13th at New Hampshire to remain at No. 3 for the fourth consecutive race week. He heads to Dover trailing No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 59 points. Harvick enjoyed immediate success at Dover with top-10 finishes in his first two career starts, but has struggled at the 1-mile oval ever since. In his last three appearances, he has not started better than 23rd and has not finished better than 27th. In his most recent appearance in June, he started 23rd and finished 27th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 4 -- Jimmie Johnson
(No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3543. Previous ranking: 4. Johnson won Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway for his third win of the season and sixth of his career. It also gave him a season sweep at New Hampshire -- a first in the history of the track -- and allowed him to join No. 7 Kurt Busch (Bristol) as the only drivers this season to sweep at a NASCAR Winston Cup track. Johnson's other win this season came at Charlotte. The victory at New Hampshire was his fourth top-five effort in the last five races and he remains at No. 4 for the fourth race week in a row. He has closed to nine points of No. 3 Kevin Harvick as he prepares for another track he completed a season sweep at a year ago. Johnson was simply stunning at Dover, winning both events during his 2002 rookie campaign. En route to the Dover sweep, he led a combined 358 laps to further exhibit his dominance at the 1-mile oval. Earlier this season, he started a personal-best of fifth, led 36 laps but finished 38th due to an accident. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 5 -- Ryan Newman
(No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Penske Racing South. Points: 3398. Previous ranking: 6. Newman finished ninth at New Hampshire for his eighth top-10 finish in the last 10 races. The effort moved him up one position to No. 5, his highest ranking of the season. Since his win at Chicago 10 races ago, he has improved 11 positions to his current ranking. He finds himself 145 points behind No. 4 Jimmie Johnson. Newman has been outstanding in three career appearances at Dover. He finished fourth in his debut at the 1-mile oval in June of last season and followed with an eighth-place effort in the fall event. He topped both performances earlier this season, winning the Bud Pole and leading a race-high 162 laps en route to a victory. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon
(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3382. Previous ranking: 5. Gordon finished 19th at New Hampshire for just his second finish among the top 25 in his last six races. The finish cost him a position as he slipped to No. 6, ending a 19-race streak among the top five in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. The last time Gordon was outside the top five was when he was ranked No. 6 following Texas in March. However, he is just 16 points behind No. 5 Ryan Newman and heading to a venue he has had a history of success. Gordon is tied for first among active drivers at Dover with four career wins -- which includes three in a row from Sept. 1995 to Sept. 1996 -- among his 21 career starts. Overall, he has 14 top-10 finishes, including 10 among the top five, and has been outside the top 10 just once in his last six starts. The miss came in last season's MBNA America 400 where he finished 37th, but he rebounded with a runner-up finish earlier his season. He has led at Dover on 14 occasions, including more than 100 laps seven of those times. He has 14 top-10 starts at Dover, including four of his last six starts. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 7 -- Kurt Busch
(No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 3323. Previous ranking: 8. Busch finished 15th at New Hampshire for his fifth effort outside of the top 10 in his last six races. Busch, whose win at Bristol is the exception during that six-race span, did manage to improve a position to No. 7 with the performance at New Hampshire. His point total is the same as No. 8 Bobby Labonte, but earns the No. 7 slot off the tiebreaker (season victories). He is just 59 points behind No. 6 Jeff Gordon. Busch has just one top-10 finish in six career starts at Dover, but it did come in last year's MBNA America 400 when he finished seventh. In the first Dover event of this season, he finished 15th and led the first lap of his career at the 1-mile oval. He has been strong, however, on the qualifying side with three consecutive starts among the top seven -- including a best of fifth in June of 2002 -- heading into this weekend. Busch made his first career NASCAR Winston Cup start at Dover on Sept. 24, 2000, finishing 18th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 8 -- Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3323. Previous ranking: 7. Labonte finished 16th at New Hampshire, ending a modest two-race streak of top-10 finishes. He is tied in championship points with No. 7 Kurt Busch, but officially drops to No. 8 by virtue of the tiebreaker (season victories). Labonte ended a four-race drought without a top-10 finish at Dover with a third-place finish earlier this season. The drought, which began in June of 2001, came on the heels of an impressive run of seven consecutive top-five finishes (Sept. 1997 through Sept. 2000), which included his only win at the 1-mile oval in June of 1999. Overall, he has 13 top-10 finishes in 22 career starts. He has earned three Bud Poles, his most recent coming in June of 1999 that led to his lone victory at Dover. He has 10 top-10 starts at Dover, including three Bud Poles with his most recent coming in June of 1999. Labonte's first career NASCAR Winston Cup start came at Dover on June 2, 1991, finishing 34th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
@!No. 9 -- Terry Labonte
(No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3191. Previous ranking: 9. Labonte finished 18th at New Hampshire, ending a four-race streak of top-15 finishes at four. It is Labonte's second consecutive race week at No. 9 and in the NASCAR Top 10, and he trails his brother, No. 9 Bobby, by 132 points. Labonte is coming off his best overall performance at Dover in five seasons after starting eighth and finishing 10th earlier this season. It was his first top-10 start at the 1-mile oval since starting fourth in Sept. of 1996 and first top-10 effort since taking 10th in May of 1998. Overall, he has 15 top-10 finishes in 49 career starts with a best of second twice (June of 1996, Sept. of '84). NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).
No. 10 -- Michael Waltrip
(No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 3169. Previous ranking: 10. Waltrip finished 26th at New Hampshire, marking his fourth consecutive race outside of the top 25. He was able to hold onto the No. 10 ranking for the second consecutive race week and remains one of only two drivers -- No. 4 Jimmie Johnson is the other -- to be ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 all season long. He is 22 points behind No. 9 Terry Labonte. Waltrip is searching for his first top-10 finish at Dover since finishing seventh in June of 1997, a span of 12 races. Overall, he has seven top-10 finishes in 35 career starts. Dover did provide a milestone moment for Waltrip as he earned his first career NASCAR Winston Cup pole at the 1-mile oval in June of 1991. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 4015 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3611 (-404)
3. Kevin Harvick 3552 (-463)
4. Jimmie Johnson 3543 (-472)
5. Ryan Newman 3398 (-617)
6. Jeff Gordon 3382 (-633)
7. Kurt Busch 3323 (-692)
8. Bobby Labonte 3323 (-692)
9. Terry Labonte 3191 (-824)
10. Michael Waltrip 3169 (-846)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 24; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Waltrip, Johnson, 27; Kenseth, Busch, 26; Earnhardt Jr., Harvick, 24; J. Gordon 23.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 5 Newman, No. 7 Busch, one position each.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.