Top 10 at a Glance... A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 2, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway, Race 14 of...
Top 10 at a Glance... A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 2, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway, Race 14 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.
Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished seventh in the MBNA Armed Forces Family 400 at Dover International Speedway and padded his lead over No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 160 points to 171. The 171-point spread is the largest he has owned since he became No. 1 following Atlanta, a 10-race reign. He has been bolstered by his consistency, having posted a top-10 finish in 11 of 13 starts and has yet to record a DNF. He heads to Pocono where he has three finishes among the top eight in his last five starts. He was fifth in the July race of 2000, followed with a sixth in this event in 2001 and added an eighth in the July race last season. He started fourth last season in this race as qualifying was washed out and based off owner points. In his five other appearances, however, he has not started better than 22nd. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral)
No. 2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Previous ranking: 2. Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th at Dover, allowing No. 1 Kenseth to open a 171-point lead over him and No. 3 Jeff Gordon to close to 16 points of the No. 2 ranking he has held for six consecutive weeks (dating to Talladega). Overall, he has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 10 straight races (dating to Atlanta). Earnhardt Jr. has registered just one top-10 finish in six career starts at Pocono, which was a second in July of 2001. Last season, he finished 12th in the Pocono 500 -- a personal best in this event -- and followed with a 37th-place finish in the July race. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 3 -- Jeff Gordon
(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports.
Previous ranking: 3. Gordon finished runner-up to Ryan Newman at Dover to maintain his No. 3 ranking for a second consecutive week and his sixth in a row ranked among the top five in the points standings (dating to Talladega). He made some ground on No. 2 Earnhardt Jr., trimming his deficit from 56 points heading into Dover to 16. Gordon is 187 points behind No. 1 Kenseth. He has been strong at Pocono Raceway with 15 top-10 efforts, including three wins, in 20 career starts. Two of the wins came in the Pocono 500 (1996, '97) and his most recent came in the July event of '98. That win also marked the last time a Chevrolet won at this track. He is enjoying a run of six top-five performances in his last seven starts in the Pocono 500, including fifth last season. He also has led at Pocono in 14 of his last 16 starts and has led a high of 811 laps. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 4 -- Bobby Labonte
(No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing.
Previous ranking: 6. Labonte finished third at Dover to move up two positions in the NASCAR Top 10 and continued to assert himself as arguably the hottest driver in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The performance at Dover was his fifth consecutive top-three finish, a run that has vaulted him from 11th in the points standings to his current No. 4 ranking, which is a season high. Labonte, who leads the series with eight top-five finishes, is 42 points behind No. 3 Gordon and 229 behind No. 1 Kenseth. Labonte did not record a top-10 finish in his first 11 career starts at Pocono, but he has reversed the trend ever since. In his last nine starts -- beginning with a fourth-place finish in July of 1998 -- he has six top-10 efforts and half of those are victories. He swept the Pocono events in 1999 and added his third win in July of 2001. Last season, he finished 25th in the Pocono 500 -- his worst finish at this track since a 31st in this event in 1997 -- and 11th in the July race. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 5 -- Kurt Busch
(No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing.
Previous ranking: 4. Busch finished 15th at Dover and dropped from No. 3 to No. 4 this week. Despite the fall, he has remained among the top five in the points standings for eight consecutive races, dating to Bristol. It is his 12th week in the NASCAR Top 10 and he has been ranked lower than No. 6 just once this season (No. 14 following Atlanta). Busch did not record a top-10 finish in his first three career starts at Pocono, which included a 40th-place finish in this event last season. He did bounce back in the July event with a second-place performance. He is 18 points behind No. 4 Labonte and 247 behind No. 1 Kenseth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 6 -- Michael Waltrip
(No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Previous ranking: 7. Waltrip finished 16th at Dover and improved one position to No. 6 in the NASCAR Top 10. It marks his 13th week in the NASCAR Top 10, which included two weeks at No. 1, and he and Jimmie Johnson currently are the only drivers to be ranked all season long. He trails No. 5 Busch by 67 points and No. 1 Kenseth by 314. Waltrip has just four top-10 finishes in 34 career starts at Pocono Raceway, but one of those came in last season's Pocono 500 (8th). The performance was his first top 10 at Pocono since July of 1998 and his best effort since finishing second in this race in 1988. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 7 -- Jimmie Johnson
(No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports.
Previous ranking: 5. Johnson finished 38th at Dover and his season-worst finish was costly as he tumbled two positions to No. 7. He has been ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 all season long and has not fallen below No. 8 in those 13 weeks. Johnson finds himself 25 points behind No. 6 Waltrip and 339 behind No. 1 Kenseth. He was strong in his first career appearance at Pocono, finishing third in this event last season. He also finished 15th in the July race. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 8 -- Rusty Wallace
(No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Penske Racing South.
Previous ranking: 10. Wallace finished sixth at Dover to improve two positions to a season-high ranking of No. 8. The performance was his fourth top-10 effort in the last five races and the run has allowed him to move from No. 16 following Martinsville to his current ranking. Wallace has four career victories at Pocono, which is tied for second on the all-time list and trails only Bill Elliott's five, but only one has come in the Pocono 500 (1994). Overall, he has made 38 career starts and has recorded 16 top-10 finishes, including four in his last six starts. Last season, he finished ninth in the Pocono 500. He is 50 points behind No. 7 Johnson and 389 behind No. 1 Kenseth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 9 -- Kevin Harvick
(No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing.
Previous ranking: 8. Harvick finished 27th at Dover to slip from No. 8 to No. 9 as he remains in the NASCAR Top 10 for the seventh consecutive week. He also has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 11 of the 13 weeks, including a high of No. 4 following the season-opening Daytona 500. Harvick is 17 points behind No. 8 Wallace and 406 behind No. 1 Kenseth. He did not record a top-10 finish in his first three career starts at Pocono -- his best effort was 15th in this race in 2001 -- but broke through last season in the July race with a sixth-place effort. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 10 -- Robby Gordon
(No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet),
Richard Childress Racing.
Previous ranking: 9. Gordon finished ninth at Dover to move into the NASCAR Top 10 for the second time this season. Gordon, who was ranked No. 7 following the season-opening Daytona 500, returns at No. 10 as a result of his fourth top-10 effort of the season improving him two positions. He is 66 points behind No. 9 Harvick and 472 behind No. 1 Kenseth. Gordon heads to Pocono where he has not finished better than 19th in four career starts, but will need a solid effort to remain in the NASCAR Top 10. He has five drivers within 50 points of him, including No. 11 Sterling Marlin who is just 10 behind.
NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 1945 pts.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1774 (-171)
3. Jeff Gordon 1758 (-187)
4. Bobby Labonte 1716 (-229)
5. Kurt Busch 1698 (-247)
6. Michael Waltrip 1631 (-314)
7. Jimmie Johnson 1606 (-339)
8. Rusty Wallace 1556 (-389)
9. Kevin Harvick 1539 (-406)
10. Robby Gordon 1473 (-472)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 10; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 10 R. Gordon.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: 13, Waltrip, Johnson.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 4 B. Labonte, No. 8 R. Wallace, No. 10 R. Gordon, 2 positions each.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 9 Sterling Marlin.