NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Top 10 At A Glance A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 10, 2004) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 in the championship entering Saturday ...
NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Top 10 At A Glance
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 10, 2004) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 in the championship entering Saturday evening's Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway (7p.m. ET, FX), Race 11 of 36 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule. The first 26 races of the season will determine which drivers will be part of the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" in the final 10 races. The drivers who are in the NASCAR Top 10 or within 400 points of the leader after those 26 races will vie for the series title in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."
No. 1 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 1453. Previous ranking: 1. Earnhardt Jr. heads to Richmond for the Chevy American Revolution 400 ranked No. 1 for a series-leading fifth week. Overall, he is one of four drivers to be ranked among the Top 10 all season long and has been among the group for 43 weeks in a row dating to Atlanta during March of last season. The streak ranks second among active drivers only to Matt Kenseth (45 weeks). Earnhardt Jr. will look to extend his points lead over No. 2 Jimmie Johnson, 25 behind, and No. 3 Jeff Gordon, who trails by 27, at Richmond, where he has six top-10 finishes in nine starts. Of those six top 10s, four have been among the top five, including a win in this event in 2000 and third last season. He has led laps in five of his appearances, including both races last year.
No. 2 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1428 (-25). Previous ranking: 2. Johnson has closed to 25 points of No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a result of his recent tear in which he has recorded three consecutive top-five finishes, including the most recent being a runner-up performance at California Speedway. He owns six top-five finishes on the season, which is tied for the series high with Earnhardt Jr., and the current No. 2 ranking he has held the last two race weeks is a season high. Johnson enters Richmond seeking his first top-10 finish at the .75-mile oval. His best finish in four career starts is 11th, which came in September of last season. Although he has not cracked the top 10 at Richmond, he has finished outside the top 20 just once.
No. 3 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1426 (-27). Previous ranking: 3. Gordon has become the hottest driver in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, having won the last two races (Talladega, California) and earned top-10 finishes in his last five starts overall. He will attempt to make it three in a row this weekend, a feat he has not accomplished since winning four straight during the 1998 season. Those victories came at Pocono, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Michigan during his 13-win season. Gordon, who trails No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. by just 27 points, is a two-time winner at Richmond (March 1996, Sept. 2000) and has registered 14 top-10 finishes in 22 career starts. However, only two of those have come in his last five appearances, the most recent being a 10th in the September event last season when he led a race-high 126 laps. He was 16th in this race a year ago. He has led laps in 15 of his starts, including in both events last season.
No. 4 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1357 (-96). Previous ranking: 5. Kenseth, the defending series champion, has been ranked among the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 for the entire season and currently is the active leader for most consecutive weeks (45) in the top 10, dating to Rockingham during February of last season. He is one of three drivers to hold the No. 1 ranking this season, having owned the top spot for four consecutive race weeks (Las Vegas through Bristol). Kenseth, who trails No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 96 points, will look to gain some ground this weekend at Richmond, where he has posted four consecutive top-10 finishes and five in his last six visits. The run includes a victory in the September race of 2002 and he followed up with seventh-place finishes in both races last season. The only time he has led at Richmond came en route to his win when he led 134 laps.
No. 5 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1316 (-137). Previous ranking: 4. Busch remains among the top five in the championship for the fifth consecutive race week and has been among the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 for the past nine consecutive race weeks. He and No. 6 Kevin Harvick have the same point total, but Busch gains the position as a result of the tiebreaker (best season finish) and his win at Bristol. Busch has managed one top-10 finish in six career starts at Richmond, but it did come in this event last season. He finished eighth and also led 17 laps, his first at the .75-mile oval.
No. 6 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 1316 (-137). Previous ranking: 6. Harvick has maintained the No. 6 ranking for the past two race weeks, and nearly had himself in the top five for the first time since Rockingham when he was ranked No. 3. He is tied in points with No. 5 Kurt Busch, but Busch's win at Bristol gave him the higher ranking as a result of the tiebreaker procedure (best season finish). Harvick has been among the Top 10 for the last five race weeks and eight weeks overall. Harvick has a pair of top-10 finishes at Richmond in six career starts, including a best of second in September of 2001. His other -- a sixth -- came in this race a year ago. He has led on three occasions at Richmond, including both races last season.
No. 7 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). Team: Penske Racing South. Points: 1299 (-154). Previous ranking: 9. Newman enters Richmond having registered top-five finishes in two of his last three races and has moved to No. 7 in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10. Newman, just 17 points behind No. 5 Kurt Busch, could be primed to make another jump in the rankings this week considering his success at Richmond. He has a victory (Sept. 2003) and two runner-up finishes in four career starts at the .75-mile oval, and has led 24 or more laps in each of his appearances. His only top-10 misstep came in this race last season when he finished 39th. He also has qualified well, with top-five starts in his last three visits.
No. 8 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1284 (-169). Previous ranking: 7. Stewart has dropped a position in the NASCAR NEXTEL Top 10 in each of the last three race weeks, but remains one of only four drivers to be ranked in the Top 10 all season long. He arrives at Richmond looking to rekindle his early success at the .75-mile oval. He recorded six top-10 finishes in his first seven starts, including three of those being victories (Sept. 1999, May 2001, May 2002), and led laps in five of those. In his three starts since, however, he has not finished better than the 27th-place performance in September of last season and has two DNFs (Did Not Finish) in that span.
No. 9 -- Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1265 (-188). Previous ranking: 10. Labonte is beginning to heat up as he has posted top-10 finishes in his last three starts, including two of those among the top five. The run has allowed him to move to No. 9 in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10, one shy of his season-best No. 8 ranking following Darlington in late March. He arrives at Richmond having recorded top-10 finishes in eight of his 22 starts at the .75-mile oval, but the majority of those have come in recent seasons. Of those eight, four have come in his last six appearances, including in both events last season. He finished runner-up in this event last season and followed with a sixth-place effort in the fall.
No. 10 -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points 1250 (-203). Previous ranking: 8. Sadler is situated at No. 10 and looking to remain among the group of four drivers who have been ranked in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 for the entire season. No. 11 Kasey Kahne is within 41 points and No. 12 Jamie McMurray is within 50 as Sadler arrives at a track that has given him trouble throughout his career. In 10 career starts, he has finished inside the top 20 once (17th, Sept. 1999) and has finished 34th or worse in his last three appearances, including 37th in this event last season.
Top 10 following California (Race 10 of 36):
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1453 points
2. Jimmie Johnson 1428 (-25)
3. Jeff Gordon 1426 (-27)
4. Matt Kenseth 1357 (-96)
5. Kurt Busch 1316 (-137)
6. Kevin Harvick 1316 (-137)
7. Ryan Newman 1299 (-154)
8. Tony Stewart 1284 (-169)
9. Bobby Labonte 1265 (-188)
10. Elliott Sadler 1250 (-203)
Weeks at No. 1: Earnhardt Jr., 5; Kenseth, 4; Busch, 1.
Most weeks in the Top 10: 10 (tie), Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Stewart, Sadler.
New arrivals in the Top 10: None.
Biggest gain in the Top 10: No. 7 Newman, two positions.
Dropped out of the Top 10: None.
Closing in on the Top 10: No. 11 Kahne, 1209 (-41); No. 12 McMurray, 1200 (-50).