NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top-10 Rundown A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 2, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top-10 Rundown
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 2, 2005) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500 at Darlington Raceway, the 10th of 36 races on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule (7:10 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 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: 1368. Previous: 1. Despite his first DNF of the season, Johnson retained his top ranking with a 20th-place finish at Talladega. Boosted by five top-five and seven top-10 finishes this year, Johnson has topped the rankings for six consecutive races. He has run six events at Darlington, sweeping both races in 2004. Johnson's 7.8 average finish there is the best among drivers with more than two starts; he has never had a DNF at the South Carolina track. His worst finish there was 27th in this race in 2003.
No. 2 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1238 (-130). Previous ranking: 2. The reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion finished seventh at Talladega to join Johnson as the only two drivers to rank in the top 10 after all nine races this year. He has sat in the top 10 for a series-leading 44 consecutive events, dating to February 2004. He has six top-10 finishes this season. Busch has four top-10 finishes in eight races at Darlington, all seventh or better. He finished sixth in both races there last year and has never had a DNF.
No. 3 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1217 (-151). Previous ranking: 4. The series' only three-time winner in 2005 comes off a victory at Talladega; he also won at Daytona and Martinsville. He has climbed from 12th to third in the standings in the last four races. Gordon has run 24 races at Darlington, logging six victories (best among active drivers) and 15 top-10 finishes. He has led 19 of 24 Darlington events. On the flip side, Gordon finished 41st there a year ago, his worst performance at the track and his sixth DNF overall. He finished third at Darlington last fall.
No. 4 -- Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Travelodge Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1181 (-187). Previous ranking: 3. The only driver to lead at least one lap in seven races this season, Biffle finished 13th at Talladega. He has five top-10 finishes in 2005. Biffle has run four races at Darlington, with one top-10 finish. He was 12th there a year ago and 24th last fall, his worst Darlington result. Biffle has led three of his four races there and hasn't posted a DNF. He ranked 20th in the standings after nine races last year.
No. 5 -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 1164 (-204). Previous ranking: 5. Sadler finished sixth at Talladega to retain his spot in the standings. He has five top-10 finishes this year. Sadler has six top-10 finishes in 12 races at Darlington; he was fifth a year ago and 23rd last fall. He has been running at the finish in all 12 races there, the longest streak among active drivers. He has led one Darlington race, pacing the field for 12 laps in this race in 2003.
No. 6 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1088 (-280). Previous ranking: 14. Stewart's runner-up finish at Talladega bumped him from 14th in the standings, the biggest gain among drivers in the top 10. He has four top-10 finishes in 2005. Stewart has competed in 12 Darlington races, scoring six top-10 finishes. He placed 17th in both races there last year and has one career DNF at the track.
No. 7 -- Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 1085 (-283). Previous ranking: 13. Jarrett finished ninth at Talladega, his second top-10 finish this season. He has led one lap in 2005. Jarrett has run 34 races at Darlington with three victories, the most recent in this race in 2001. He has 13 top-10 finishes there. Jarrett was 32nd in this race a year ago and 37th last fall; his eighth DNF at the track. He ranked 17th in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 8 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 1083 (-285). Previous ranking: 11. Starting from the pole at Talladega, Harvick dropped to the rear of the field with overheating problems then rallied to finish 12th and climb into the top 10 in the standings. He has competed in eight races at Darlington with four top-10 finishes. His best finish there was a second in the fall race in 2003. Harvick finished eighth in this race a year ago and 32nd last fall.
No. 9 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 1070 (-298). Previous ranking: 12. Earnhardt cracked the top 10 in the standings for the first time since Daytona on the strength of a 15th-place finish at Talladega. He has led five laps in 2005, and has four top-10 finishes. Earnhardt has run 10 races at Darlington, finishing in the top 10 three times. His best Darlington finish is a fourth in this race in 2002. He was 10th in this race a year ago and 11th last fall. He led the standings after nine events in 2004.
No. 10 -- Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Points: 1067 (-301). Previous ranking: 15. McMurray finished fifth at Talladega to climb five spots in the standings. He trails series leader Johnson by 301 points, and is just one point ahead of 11th-place Martin. McMurray has run four races at Darlington with two top-10 finishes, fourth-place efforts in the last two fall races there. He finished 21st in this race in 2004.
Top 10 following Talladega (Race 9 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 1,368 pts.
2. Kurt Busch 1,238 (-130)
3. Jeff Gordon 1,217 (-151)
4. Greg Biffle 1,181 (-187)
5. Elliott Sadler 1,164 (-204)
6. Tony Stewart 1,088 (-280)
7. Dale Jarrett 1,085 (-283)
8. Kevin Harvick 1,083 (-285)
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,070 (-298)
10. Jamie McMurray 1,067 (-301)
New arrivals in the Top 10: Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray.
Dropped out of the Top 10: Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and Sterling Marlin.
Closing in on the Top 10: No. 11 Mark Martin (-1 out of 10th); Jeremy Mayfield, (-3); Rusty Wallace (-10); Carl Edwards (-21); Ryan Newman (-22).