Top 10 Rundown 2006-03-13

TOP-TEN RUNDOWN A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 13, 2006) -- 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...

TOP-TEN RUNDOWN
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 13, 2006) -- 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 series' schedule (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

The first 26 races of the season will determine who will be part of the third annual "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" in the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the top 10 or within 400 points of the points leader after those 26 races will vie for the 2006 series title in the "Chase."

No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 540. Johnson's last lap pass of Matt Kenseth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gave him his second win in three races and extended his point standings lead to 52. Johnson, who finished second at California Speedway, is the only driver to start the season with three top-five finishes. Johnson also leads the field in two categories of NASCAR's new Loop Data Statistics with a Driver Rating of 117.8 and Average Running Position of 5.116.

No. 2 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 488. Kenseth's runner-up finish at Las Vegas bumped him up one spot in the standings to second. He has scored five top-five finishes in his last seven races, dating back to last October's event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in six of his 12 career starts at Atlanta. In three races this season, Kenseth is the top Mile Leader, running in front for 369 miles. He is also second with a Driver Rating of 115.6.

No. 3 -- Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 455. Kahne scored his second consecutive fourth-place finish last week at Las Vegas moving him to third in the standings, his career-best points ranking. Kahne has competed in four races at Atlanta and has secured three top-five finishes. He is tied for second in Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap, running on the lead lap for 723 of the 724 laps run this season.

No. 4 -- Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 454. Mears finished ninth at Las Vegas but still slipped to fourth in the point standings. Mears has finished in the top 10 in all three races this season joining Jimmie Johnson as the only other driver with three top 10s. He has made 135 green flag Passes on the Frontstretch this season, more than any other driver on that segment of race tracks.

No. 5 -- Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 430. Martin finished sixth at Las Vegas to move up one spot to fifth in the standings. In 40 career starts at Atlanta, Martin has captured 20 top-10 finishes, the most among active full time drivers. Through three races, Martin's Average Running Position is 7.578, second behind Johnson. He is also the only driver to run all 724 Laps on the Lead Lap.

No. 6 -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 403. Busch climbed six spots in the standings after finishing third at Las Vegas. Busch tops the Quality Passes category in NASCAR's new Loop Data Statistics. Season-to-date, Busch has passed 355 cars running in the Top 15 while under the green flag. He is also third with an Average Running Position of 8.814.

No. 7 -- Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 389. Bowyer finished 15th at Las Vegas and moved up one spot to seventh in the standings. Bowyer is the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the Top 10. He has made 125 green flag Passes on the Backstretch, more than any other driver on that segment.

No. 8 -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 385. Sadler finished 14th at Las Vegas to move up to eighth in the standings. Sadler has ranked 14th or better in the standings since the 2004 Daytona 500, 75 straight races. He is the number three-ranked Closer, moving up a total of 21 positions in the final 10 percent of this season's races.

No. 9 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 374. Gordon jumped six positions to ninth in the standings after a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas. Gordon makes his first appearance in the Top 10 since last August's Bristol race. The 14-race stretch is the longest Gordon had gone in his career without appearing in the Top 10. Gordon is the third ranked driver in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run.

No. 10 -- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 373. Burton's seventh-place finish at Las Vegas put him in the Top 10 for the first time since July 2003. It had been 90 races since Burton's last appearance in the Top 10. He is currently tied for second in Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap, running on the lead lap on all but one of the 724 laps this season.

Fast Facts

Top 10 following California (Race 2 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 540 pts
2. Matt Kenseth 488 (-52)
3. Kasey Kahne 455 (-85)
4. Casey Mears 454 (-86)
5. Mark Martin 430 (-110)
6. Kyle Busch 403 (-137)
7. Clint Bowyer (r) 389 (-151)
8. Elliott Sadler 385 (-155)
9. Jeff Gordon 374 (-166)
10. Jeff Burton 373 (-167)

(r) Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

Weeks at No. 1: Johnson (3).

New arrivals this week in the Top 10: Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton

Dropped out of the Top 10: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman

Closing in on the Top 10:
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 369 pts.
12. Brian Vickers 362
13. Dale Jarrett 352
14. Robby Gordon 336
15. Martin Truex Jr. 336

-nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Chip Ganassi , Clint Bowyer , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler , Felix Sabates , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Yates Racing