Top-10 Rundown A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 14, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the...
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 14, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the fourth of 36 races on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule (1:15 p.m. ET on FOX). The first 26 races of the season will determine who will be part of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the NASCAR Top 10 or within 400 points of the leader after those 26 races will vie for the series title in the "Chase."
No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 525. Previous: 2. Logging his fifth victory in the last nine races, Johnson used his first triumph at Las Vegas to jump from second to first in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. The victory was the 15th of his career, and also marked his third top-10 finish in as many races this season. Johnson has four top-five finishes at Atlanta, including three in a row, with an average finish of 13.4. Johnson, who ranked 19th after three races last season, scored his first Atlanta victory last October.
No. 2 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 510 (-15). Previous ranking: 1. The reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion played second fiddle to Johnson and his younger brother, Kyle, who finished second at Las Vegas, but his third-place finish kept him within 15 points of the lead. Like Johnson, Busch begins the season with consecutive top-five finishes; he also has 12 top-10 finishes in the past 13 races. Busch has just three top-10 finishes at Atlanta and was unable to crack the top-10 there in 2004, finishing 12th a year ago and 42nd in October, the only time he placed outside the top 10 during the Chase.
No. 3 -- Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 428 (-97). Previous ranking: 5. Biffle climbed the charts with a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas to earn his highest-ever career points ranking in 81 races. He has two top-10 finishes in three races, including a victory at California. Biffle finished in the top 10 in both Atlanta races of 2004, including eighth a year ago and 10th in October. He was 27th in the standings after three races in 2004.
No. 4 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 418 (-107). Previous ranking: 10. Following a DNF with engine failure at California, Gordon recouped for a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas to jump from 10th to fourth in the standings. The 2005 Daytona 500 winner is just one of three drivers to log two or more top-five finishes this season. In 25 races at Atlanta, site of his inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race, Gordon has four victories, including in October 2003. He placed 10th in this race last year and 34th in October.
No. 5 -- Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 408 (-117). Previous ranking: 4. The latest addition to the Roush Racing stable continues to impress, finishing 14th at Las Vegas -- his third top-15 showing in 2005. Edwards, who ran 13 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races last year, logged his best career start (fourth) at Atlanta and his best finish (third) there in October.
No. 6 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 402 (-123). Previous ranking: 7. Stewart advanced a step up the points ladder with a 10th-place finish at Las Vegas, his second top 10 of 2005. Stewart has seven top-10 finishes in 12 races at Atlanta, including a victory there in his championship 2002 season. Stewart finished seventh in this race last year and ninth in October; he ranked second in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 7 -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge). Team: Penske Racing. Points: 395 (-130). Previous ranking: 8. Wallace finished 12th at Las Vegas, his final race at the track, to jump one place in the standings. Wallace has two victories in 45 races at Atlanta, in 1988 and 1993, and 16 top-10 finishes there. He finished 35th in this race last year and 11th in October; he was 12th in the standings after three races of 2004.
No. 8 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 394 (-131). Previous ranking: 13. Fighting back from a speeding penalty, Harvick rallied for a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas, but enters Atlanta with some extra baggage after showing up with an altered fuel cell, which also drew a NASCAR fine. Two top-10 finishes bumped him from 26th to eighth in the standings since the Daytona 500 season-opener. Harvick went to victory lane at Atlanta in 2001 in only his third career start; since then he has placed 19th or worse in six of eight races. He finished 32nd at Atlanta last year and 35th in October.
No. 9 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). Team: Penske Racing. Points: 389 (-136). Previous ranking: 12. Newman has two top-10 finishes in the last two races; both ninth-place efforts. He has four poles in his last four Atlanta races, and has scored four top-10 finishes in six career Atlanta starts. He placed fifth at Atlanta a year ago and 17th in October. Newman was 21st in the standings three races into 2004.
No. 10 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 374 (-151). Previous ranking: 3. Martin lost 24 laps with engine trouble at Las Vegas, but came back on track for a 30th-place finish, which dropped him from third to 10th in the standings. Martin has two victories in 38 races at Atlanta, including triumphs in 1991 and 1994, and 18 top-10 finishes. Martin placed 14th at Atlanta a year ago and second in October. He was 20th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings after three races last year.
Top 10 following Las Vegas (Race 3 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 525 pts.
2. Kurt Busch 510 (-15)
3. Greg Biffle 428 (-97)
4. Jeff Gordon 418 (-107)
5. Carl Edwards 408 (-117)
6. Tony Stewart 402 (-123)
7. Rusty Wallace 395 (-130)
8. Kevin Harvick 394 (-131)
9. Ryan Newman 389 (-136)
10. Mark Martin 374 (-151)
Weeks at No. 1: Johnson, Busch, Gordon tied at 1.
New arrivals in the Top 10: Harvick, Newman.
Dropped out of the Top 10: Elliott Sadler, Sterling Marlin.
Closing in on the Top 10: No. 11 Dale Jarrett (357, -168 out of 1st); No. 12 Mike Bliss (351, -174); No. 13 Elliott Sadler (348, -177); No. 14 Jamie McMurray (345, -180); No. 15 Casey Mears (328, -197).