NASCAR Top 10 at a Glance; A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 8, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New...
NASCAR Top 10 at a Glance; A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 8, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Race 27 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: 3864. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished seventh at Saturday evening's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway and continued to solidify his No. 1 ranking for the 23rd consecutive week. He gained 29 points on No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 26 on No. 3 Kevin Harvick and leads them by 418 and 441 points, respectively. It is the largest lead he has constructed thus far this season. The effort at Richmond was his fifth top-10 finish in his last six races and his series-leading 20th overall. He also has finished outside the top 15 just twice this season -- 20th at the Daytona 500 and 22nd at Martinsville -- and has yet to post a DNF (Did Not Finish). After finishing no better than 16th in his first three appearances at New Hampshire, Kenseth has reeled off three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. He finished 10th in last year's Sylvania 300 and followed up with a third-place finish in this season's July event, a personal best at the 1.058-mile oval. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 3446. Previous ranking: 2. Earnhardt Jr. finished 17th at Richmond, marking the third time in the last four races that he has been unable to muster a top-15 finish. He remained at No. 2 for a seventh consecutive race week, but has fallen 418 points behind No. 1 Matt Kenseth. He also has No. 3 Kevin Harvick just 23 points behind him and No. 4 Jimmie Johnson at 83 back. Earnhardt Jr. had posted just one top-10 finish in his first seven starts at New Hampshire, but was strong earlier this season. In the spring event, he finished sixth, three positions better than his previous personal-best effort of ninth that came in July of 2001. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).
No. 3 -- Kevin Harvick
(No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3423. Previous ranking: 3. Harvick finished 16th at Richmond, ending a stellar run of consecutive top-five finishes at five. Despite his worst finish in his last eight races, he remained at No. 3 for the third consecutive race week and is just 23 points behind No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Harvick managed to extend another streak at Richmond by virtue of his 23 laps led. It marked his fourth consecutive race of leading at least one lap. There has been no in-between for Harvick at New Hampshire, as he has either been a top-10 performer or struggling outside the top 25. In five career starts, he has recorded three top-10 finishes and has finished 26th or worse in the other two outings. Two of those top-10 efforts, however, have come in his last three starts, including a runner-up performance to Jimmie Johnson earlier this season. He led 53 laps in that event after managing four laps led in his first four appearances. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 4 -- Jimmie Johnson
(No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3363. Previous ranking: 4. Johnson finished 11th at Richmond to remain fourth in the NASCAR Top 10 for the third consecutive race week. He has been ranked among the top five in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship for seven of the last eight race weeks and is one position shy of matching his season-best ranking of No. 3 he held the first three race weeks of the season. Johnson is 60 points behind No. 3 Kevin Harvick and 83 behind No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. heading into New Hampshire. He has finished among the top 15 in all three starts at New Hampshire, including a victory in July when he led 58 laps. Last season, he finished 15th in the July race and followed with a ninth-place finish in this event last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 5 -- Jeff Gordon
(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3271. Previous ranking: 5. Gordon, who had struggled in his previous four races with finishes of 28th or worse, snapped out of the drought with a 10th-place finish at Richmond. It was his 12th top-10 effort of the season, but just his second in the last eight races (the other being a fourth at Indianapolis). He remained No. 5 for the third consecutive race week and has been among the top five in the NASCAR Winston Cup title chase for the last 19 race weeks. He trails No. 4 Jimmie Johnson by 92 points. Gordon has struggled at New Hampshire after flourishing at the 1.058-mile oval since the outset. He had recorded eight top-five finishes, including three wins, in his first 13 starts, but has managed a finish no better than 14th in his last four appearances. Gordon, who finished 14th in last season's Sylvania 300, was 24th in this season's July event, but he did lead a race-high 133 laps. He also leads all drivers in Bud Poles (3) and top-five finishes (8) at New Hampshire. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).
No. 6 -- Ryan Newman
(No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Penske Racing South. Points: 3255. Previous ranking: 7. Newman won the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond for his series-leading sixth victory of the season. The win moved him up a position in the NASCAR Top 10 to No. 6, his highest ranking of the season. In a nine-race stretch dating to the Chicago race in mid-July, Newman has registered seven top-10 finishes, including four victories, to improve from No. 16 to his current position of No. 6 in the NASCAR Top 10. He is just 16 points behind No. 5 Jeff Gordon as he prepares for a track where he has been outstanding in every appearance. In three career starts at New Hampshire, he has recorded top-five finishes in each, including a win from the pole in last season's Sylvania 300. He followed that performance with a fourth-place finish earlier this season. He has led at least one lap in all three starts, including a high of 143 en route to his 2002 win. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 7 -- Bobby Labonte
(No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3208. Previous ranking: 8. Labonte continued to put his recent slump behind him with a sixth-place finish at Richmond. It was his second top-10 finish in a row and the efforts come on the heels of a seven-race stretch in which he was 22nd or worse in five of those events. The finish allowed him to improve a position in the NASCAR Top 10 for the second consecutive week as he checks in at No. 7. He is 47 points behind No. 6 Ryan Newman and 63 behind No. 5 Jeff Gordon. Labonte has seven top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts at New Hampshire, including a fifth in last season's Sylvania 300. Of his last four top 10s at New Hampshire, three have been among the top five. His personal-best performance at New Hampshire is second, which he earned in this event during his championship-winning season of 2000. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 8 -- Kurt Busch
(No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 3205. Previous ranking: 6. Busch finished 24th at Richmond and it proved costly as he fell two positions to No. 8. The finish marked just the second time in his last eight starts that he has finished outside the top 15. He has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 25 of the 26 race weeks, including the last 22 in a row. He finished 11th at New Hampshire in July, falling one position shy of his third consecutive top-10 finish at New Hampshire. Included in his previous two top-10 finishes was a runner-up effort in last year's Sylvania 300. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
@!No. 9 -- Terry Labonte
(No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3082. Previous ranking: 11. Labonte finished eighth at Richmond -- his fourth consecutive top-15 finish -- to vault into the NASCAR Top 10 for the first time in more than three seasons. He moved from No. 11 to No. 9 to mark his first time in the NASCAR Top 10 since being ranked No. 10 following Richmond in May of 2000, 121 races ago. He trails No. 8 Kurt Busch by 123 points. Labonte's effort at Richmond was his eighth top-10 finish of the season, which is one more than he had in the previous two seasons combined. Labonte, who was 23rd in the NASCAR Winston Cup points at this stage of the season a year ago, continues to enjoy a turnaround year and hopes that it extends to New Hampshire. He posted three top-10 finishes in his first five career starts at New Hampshire, but has not posted one in his last 11 appearances. He also has not finished better than 20th in the last eight. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 10 -- Michael Waltrip
(No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 3079. Previous ranking: 9. Waltrip finished 32nd at Richmond to slip one position to No. 10. He has finished 32nd or worse in his last three starts, costing him five positions during that stretch as he has fallen from No. 5 to his current position. However, he remains one of only two drivers -- No. 4 Jimmie Johnson is the other -- to be ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for the entire season. He also is just three points behind No. 9 Terry Labonte. Waltrip has just two top-10 finishes in 17 career starts at New Hampshire, but one of those came in last season's Sylvania 300 when he finished eighth. It was his first top-10 effort at New Hampshire since finishing 10th in July of 1996. Earlier this season, he finished 28th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 3864 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3446 (-418)
3. Kevin Harvick 3423 (-441)
4. Jimmie Johnson 3363 (-501)
5. Jeff Gordon 3271 (-593)
6. Ryan Newman 3255 (-609)
7. Bobby Labonte 3208 (-656)
8. Kurt Busch 3205 (-659)
9. Terry Labonte 3082 (-782)
10. Michael Waltrip 3079 (-785)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 23; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 9 Terry Labonte.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Waltrip, Johnson, 26; Kenseth, Busch, 25; Earnhardt Jr., Harvick, 23; J. Gordon 22.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 9 Terry Labonte, 2 positions.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 10 Tony Stewart.