NASCAR Top 10 at a Glance... A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 4, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Atlanta 500 at Atlanta Motor ...
NASCAR Top 10 at a Glance...
A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 4, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Atlanta 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Race 4 of 36 on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule:
No. 1 -- Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Last week's ranking: 5. Waltrip's third-place finish in Sunday's UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway allowed him to regain the No. 1 ranking from Kurt Busch. Waltrip, who was situated at No. 1 following his season-opening victory in the Daytona 500, moved from No. 5 to No. 1 with the performance. He is one of six drivers who have been in the NASCAR Top 10 for all three weeks, and one of three to score top-five finishes in two of the three races this season. He has not fared well at Atlanta Motor Speedway in recent visits, failing to record a top-10 finish in his last seven starts. In last season's Atlanta 500, he finished 40th due to engine problems. He did rebound in the fall at Atlanta, finishing 11th. His best finish at Atlanta came in this event in 1991 when he finished fifth.
No. 2 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford), Roush Racing. Last week's ranking: 6. Kenseth, who was not ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 in the opening week, continues to climb in the NASCAR Top 10 for the second consecutive week. Kenseth won at Las Vegas to vault from No. 6 to No. 2 and is looking to become the third driver this season to reach No. 1. He trails No.1 Michael Waltrip by just three points heading into Atlanta. Kenseth enjoyed success at Atlanta last season as he posted top-10 finishes in both events. He was fourth in the Atlanta 500 and ninth in the fall race. Kenseth was ranked 10th in the NASCAR Top 10 after three races a year ago.
No. 3 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Last week's ranking: 3. Johnson has firmly entrenched himself at No. 3 as his 11th-place finish at Las Vegas allowed him to remain in that position for the third consecutive week. He is one of six drivers to remain in the NASCAR Top 10 for all three weeks, but remains a challenger for the top two positions heading into Atlanta. He trails No. 2 Matt Kenseth by 11 points and No. 1 Michael Waltrip by 14. Johnson posted the first top-five finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup career last season in the Atlanta 500, finishing third. He finished 22nd in the fall race. Dating to last season, Johnson has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 36 consecutive weeks and among the top five in the championship since Charlotte last May.
No. 4 -- Jeff Burton (No. 99 CITGO Ford), Roush Racing. Last week's ranking: 7. Burton, like his Roush teammate Matt Kenseth, was not ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 in the opening week, but continued a steady rise for the second consecutive week. His sixth-place finish at Las Vegas allowed him to crack the top five, moving from No. 7 to No. 4. Burton struggled in the Atlanta 500 last season, finishing 21st, but bounced back in the fall race and finished 12th. Overall, he has recorded eight top-10 finishes in 17 starts at Atlanta, but only one has come in his last six visits.
No. 5 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Last week's ranking: 9. Stewart, the reigning NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, is part of the six-driver contingent that has been positioned in the NASCAR Top 10 all season. Stewart, on the strength of his fifth-place finish at Las Vegas, moves to No. 5 this week, his highest ranking of the season. Stewart may be primed to improve on the current ranking considering his performance last season at Atlanta. He is the defending champion of the Atlanta 500 and also posted a fourth-place finish in the fall race. He is the only driver in the NASCAR Top 10 to have posted top-five efforts in both Atlanta races last season. Stewart is six positions higher in the championship race then he was at this stage of the season last year when he was ranked 11th.
No. 6 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Last week's ranking: 1. Busch came into his hometown of Las Vegas ranked No. 1, but departed at No. 6 due to an accident that resulted in a 38th-place finish. He has been in the NASCAR Top 10 all three weeks and is the only other driver besides Michael Waltrip to sit at No. 1. Busch comes to Atlanta having won last season's fall event as well as finishing 11th in the spring race. At this stage of the season last year, Busch was ranked No. 8.
No. 7 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Last week's ranking: 10. Harvick finished 13th at Las Vegas to keep him in the NASCAR Top 10 for the third consecutive week. Harvick, ranked fourth in the opening week, improved three positions this week to secure No. 7. He struggled at Atlanta last season, finishing 39th in this race and 40th in the fall. However, he prospered in 2001 as he claimed his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory in this race as well as a third-place effort in the fall. Harvick is dramatically ahead of his pace in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship last year when he was ranked 28th after three races.
No. 8 -- Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford), Wood Brothers. Last week's ranking: 12. Rudd is one of two drivers this week to make his first appearance of the season in the NASCAR Top 10. Rudd finished 19th at Las Vegas to move from No. 12 a week ago to No. 8. Rudd will look to rebound from a disappointing 2001 at Atlanta, where he finished 20th in the Atlanta 500 and 32nd in the fall race. Rudd ranked 23rd after three races one year ago.
No. 9 -- Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac), MB2 Motorsports. Last week's ranking 16. Benson made the biggest jump of the week -- seven positions -- to earn his first ranking of the season in the NASCAR Top 10. He checks in this week at No. 9 after being No. 16 last week, the result of a 12th-place finish at Las Vegas. It marks his first time in the NASCAR Top 10 since being ranked No. 10 in the opening week of the 2002 season. He was ranked 19th at this stage last season. Benson did not have much success at Atlanta last season, as he was unable to crack the top 20 in either event. He finished 27th in the spring and 23rd in the fall.
No. 10 -- Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), Robert Yates Racing. Last week's ranking: 2. Despite finishing 41st at Las Vegas due to an accident, Jarrett was able to remain among the drivers who have been in the NASCAR Top 10 for three weeks in a row. Jarrett, however, had the biggest fall among the drivers remaining in the NASCAR Top 10 this week, sliding eight positions. It is the second time in three weeks he has held the No. 10 and final slot. Jarrett is one of four former race winners at Atlanta situated in the NASCAR Top 10. Jarrett, who won this event in 1997, joins No. 5 Tony Stewart, No. 6 Kurt Busch and No. 7 Kevin Harvick. He finished 13th in the Atlanta 500 last season and followed up with a third-place effort in the fall. Overall, he has registered 10 top-10 finishes in his last 13 starts at Atlanta.
NASCAR Top 10 this week: 1. Michael Waltrip, 461 points; 2. Matt Kenseth, 458 (-3 behind); 3. Jimmie Johnson, 447 (-14); 4. Jeff Burton, 412 (-49); 5. Tony Stewart, 409 (-52); 6. Kurt Busch, 399 (-62); 7. Kevin Harvick, 372 (-89); 8. Ricky Rudd, 359 (-102); 9. Johnny Benson, 357 (-104); 10. Dale Jarrett, 354 (-107).
Weeks at No. 1: Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 8 Rudd, No. 9 Benson.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: 3, Waltrip, Johnson, Stewart, Busch, Harvick, Jarrett.
Largest gain among the Top 10: No. 9 Benson, 7 positions.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 4 Mark Martin, No. 8 Ricky Craven.
Charting the NASCAR Top 10 Preseason No. 1, Jeff Gordon: 20th this week, 52 points out of the NASCAR Top 10.