Top 10 at a Glance - A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 28, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis...
Top 10 at a Glance - A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 28, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Race 21 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.
Points: 2977. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished 13th in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, but his closest pursuers were unable to make up much ground. He entered Pocono with a 234-point lead over then-No. 2 Jeff Gordon and departed with an equally comfortable 232-point advantage over the new No. 2, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kenseth has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 19 race weeks and situated at No. 1 for 17 of those weeks, beginning with Atlanta. Kenseth enjoyed a breakthrough at the Brickyard 400 last season after poor performances in his first two starts at the 2.5-mile track. He was third last year after finishing 26th in 2000 and 42nd in 2001. He also qualified 18th last season, which was a personal best at Indy. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral)
No. 2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Points: 2745. Previous ranking: 3. Earnhardt Jr. finished third at Pocono to move up one position to No. 2 in this week's NASCAR Top 10. It was Earnhardt Jr.'s third top-10 finish in the last four races and fifth in the last seven. The third-place performance also was his eighth top-five effort of the season and best finish since taking third at California in late April. Earnhardt Jr. was able to make up 41 points in his quest for the No. 1 ranking, pulling to 232 of Matt Kenseth after trailing by 272 the previous week. Earnhardt Jr. has a pair of top-15 finishes in three starts in the Brickyard 400, including a best of 10th in 2001. His other top-15 effort came in his first appearance when he finished 13th in 2000. Last season, he finished 22nd after qualifying a personal best of third. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral)
No. 3 -- Jeff Gordon
(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports.
Points: 2669. Previous ranking: 2. Gordon finished 36th at Pocono due to an accident and the result caused him to slip one position to No. 3. He trails No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 76 points and No. 1 Matt Kenseth by 308. The Pocono finish, coupled with a 24th-place finish the previous week at New Hampshire, has been costly in his pursuit of Kenseth as he lost 143 points to him over the two-race span. However, he remains among the top three in the title chase for the ninth consecutive race week and heads to a track where he has enjoyed immense success. Gordon leads all drivers with three Brickyard 400 wins (1994, '98, 2001) and has finished among the top six in seven of his nine career starts, including sixth last season. He also has won three Bud Poles and had led laps in seven of those nine starts. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 4 -- Jimmie Johnson
(No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports.
Points: 2547. Previous ranking: 5. Johnson moved up in the NASCAR Top 10 for the second consecutive race week, following a 15th-place finish at Pocono. Johnson, who improved one position to No. 5 following his win at New Hampshire the previous week, slipped past Bobby Labonte by two points for the No. 4 ranking. It is his highest ranking since holding No. 4 following Martinsville in mid-April. He trails No. 3 Jeff Gordon by 122 points and No. 1 Kenseth by 430. Johnson has been ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for all 20 race weeks and has enjoyed 53 consecutive races in the top 10 in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship dating to last season. Johnson has made just one start at Indianapolis, qualifying 37th and finishing ninth last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 5 -- Bobby Labonte
(No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing.
Points: 2545. Previous ranking: 4. Labonte's seven-week reign at No. 4 in the NASCAR Top 10 came to an end after a 30th-place finish (engine failure) at Pocono dropped him to No. 5. It was Labonte's second finish of 30th or worse in the last three races -- he was 36th at Chicago -- but he is just two points behind No. 4 Jimmie Johnson. Overall, he is 432 points behind No. 1 Matt Kenseth. He will look to make up some ground at Indianapolis, where he has four top-three finishes in nine career starts, including a win in 2000. He also finished runner-up in 1999 and third in '98. He has five top-10 finishes overall at Indy, but has been unable to register one in his last two outings. Last season, he fell just shy as he finished 11th after qualifying 40th. Labonte has completed all but one lap of the 1,440 laps run in the history of the Brickyard 400. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 6 -- Michael Waltrip
(No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Points: 2538. Previous ranking: 6. Waltrip finished fourth at Pocono for his best performance since finishing third at Las Vegas in early March. It was his sixth top-five finish of the season and third in the last six races. The effort allowed him to close to seven points of No. 5 Bobby Labonte and nine of No. 4 Jimmie Johnson. He trails No. 1 Matt Kenseth by 439 points. Waltrip has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for all 20 weeks of the season, tying him for the series lead with Johnson. Waltrip recorded a top-10 finish in the Brickyard 400 in 1994 -- finishing eighth -- but he has been unable to register another in his eight starts since the inaugural event. He has finished 20th or worse in six of those starts, but did manage a 16th-place effort last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 7 -- Kevin Harvick
(No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing.
Points: 2443. Previous ranking: 7. Harvick finished 12th at Pocono to remain at No. 7 for the third consecutive race week and among the NASCAR Top 10 for 17 race weeks overall. He did not lead a lap at Pocono, ending a modest three-race streak in which he had led 46 or more laps, dating to the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Harvick is 95 points behind No. 6 Michael Waltrip and 534 behind No. 1 Matt Kenseth. He has made two starts at Indianapolis and has finished among the top 11 in both. He led 18 laps en route to an 11th-place finish in 2001 and followed with a fifth-place effort last season after qualifying seventh. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 8 -- Kurt Busch
(No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing.
Points: 2418. Previous ranking: 8. Busch, who had finished 28th or worse in three of his last four starts, rebounded with a runner-up finish at Pocono to remain at No. 8 for the second consecutive race week. The finish was his eighth top five of the season, but first top-10 effort since his win at Michigan on June 15. He closed to 25 points of No. 7 Kevin Harvick, and trails No. 1 Kenseth by 559. Busch has not qualified well at Indy -- 34th in 2001 and 38th last season -- but has a top-five finish to his credit (5th in '01). Last season he finished 41st. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral)
No. 9 -- Ryan Newman
(No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Penske Racing South.
Points: 2363. Previous ranking: 13. Newman won the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, and his series-leading fourth victory of the season moved him into the NASCAR Top 1 0 for just the second time this season. Newman climbed four positions to No. 9 to become the only new addition to the NASCAR Top 10 this week. His only other visit to the NASCAR Top 10 came after his win at Texas in late March moved him to No. 8. His recent run of seven top-five performances, including three wins, in his last nine starts has allowed him to climb from No. 27 in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship to his current ranking. He is 55 points behind No. 8 Kurt Busch and 614 behind No. 1 Matt Kenseth. Newman, a South Bend, Indiana native, returns home riding a run of three consecutive top-five finishes, including two wins. He finished 31st in his debut at Indianapolis in 2001 but rebounded with a fourth-place effort last season. He has been a strong qualifier, starting fifth in both events. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 10 -- Jeff Burton
(No. 99 CITGO Ford), Roush Racing.
Points: 2355. Previous ranking: 10. Burton recorded his fourth consecutive top-10 finish with a sixth-place effort at Pocono and maintained the No. 10 ranking for the second consecutive race week. His recent run of top-10 finishes, which allowed him to climb from No. 16 to No. 10 in the rankings, is one more than he posted in the previous 16 races. He is just eight points behind No. 9 Ryan Newman, and 644 behind No. 1 Matt Kenseth. Burton has two top-10 finishes in nine career starts at Indianapolis, fifth in 1999 and sixth in 2000. Since then, he was 16th in 2001 and 29th last season. He has not been a strong qualifier at Indy, starting 22nd or worse in seven of his nine appearances and still looking to crack the top 15 on the grid. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 2977 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2745 (-232)
3. Jeff Gordon 2669 (-308)
4. Jimmie Johnson 2547 (-430)
5. Bobby Labonte 2545 (-432)
6. Michael Waltrip 2538 (-439)
7. Kevin Harvick 2443 (-534)
8. Kurt Busch 2418 (-559)
9. Ryan Newman 2363 (-614)
10. Jeff Burton 2355 (-622)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 17; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 9 Newman.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Waltrip, Johnson, 20; Kenseth, Busch, 19.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 9 Newman, 4 positions.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 9 Tony Stewart.