Top 10 at a Glance - A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Sirius At The Glen at Watkins Glen...
Top 10 at a Glance - A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Sirius At The Glen at Watkins Glen International, Race 22 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: 3152. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished runner-up to Kevin Harvick in Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his best effort since finishing second at Charlotte in mid-May. The performance was his ninth top-five finish of the season -- which ranks second only to No. 6 Bobby Labonte's 10 -- and series-leading 16th top-10 effort. The runner-up finish allowed Kenseth to pad his NASCAR Winston Cup championship lead to the largest advantage he has enjoyed this season. He owns a 286-point lead over No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a 318-point spread over No. 3 Jeff Gordon. His previous largest lead during his 21-race week reign at No. 1 was 234 points following New Hampshire. Kenseth earned a top-10 finish in his first career appearance at Watkins Glen (10th, 2000), but has not found much success in his two starts since. He finished 23rd in 2001 and 33rd last season. Although the finish last season was his worst in three starts, he did establish a personal best when he qualified eighth for his first career top-10 start at The Glen. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Points: 2866. Previous ranking: 2. Earnhardt Jr., who had a run of three top-10 finishes in his previous four starts, finished 14th at the Brickyard 400 and lost more ground on his former NASCAR Busch Series foe, No. 1 Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt Jr. lost 54 points to Kenseth to fall 286 points behind. This is his second race week in a row at No. 2 and 15th consecutive race week ranked among the top three in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship race. Earnhardt Jr. has had his struggles at Watkins Glen, with two finishes of 35th or worse in three career starts. He finished 40th in 2000 and 35th last season, sandwiching a 12th-place effort in 2001. His best qualifying performance was 14th in 2000. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 3 -- Jeff Gordon
(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports.
Points: 2834. Previous ranking: 3. Gordon finished fourth at the Brickyard 400 to close to 32 points of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 2 ranking. He trailed Earnhardt Jr. by 76 points coming into Indianapolis, but cut the deficit by more than half with his eighth top-five finish of the season. This is his second consecutive race week in a row at No. 3 and 10th in a row among the top three in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Gordon, however, lost eight points to No. 1 Matt Kenseth, who finished second at Indy, and now trails by 318. This weekend in the Sirius at The Glen could be critical in his pursuit of Kenseth, given Gordon's success on road courses and the struggles of Kenseth and Earnhardt Jr. at The Glen. Gordon owns an all-time record seven career wins in 21 career road-course starts, which has included a strong run at Watkins Glen. Gordon has won four of the last six races at Watkins Glen and his victory total leads all drivers in the history of the event. His two misses during this stretch came in 2000 (23rd) and last season (22nd). Overall, he has recorded seven top-10 efforts in 10 career starts at Watkins Glen. He also has been strong on the qualifying side with six top-10 starts, including a Bud Pole in 1998. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 4 -- Jimmie Johnson
(No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports.
Points: 2656. Previous ranking: 4. Johnson finished 18th in the Brickyard 400 and remains at No. 4 for the second consecutive race week. He and No. 5 Michael Waltrip are the only drivers who have been ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for all 21 race weeks. Johnson trails No. 3 Jeff Gordon by 178 points and has three drivers -- Waltrip, No. 6 Bobby Labonte and No. 7 Kevin Harvick -- lurking within 33 points of his ranking. He will look to stave them off with a strong performance at Watkins Glen, where he has made just one career appearance. During his rookie campaign last season, he started 12th and finished 16th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral)
No. 5 -- Michael Waltrip
(No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Points: 2653. Previous ranking: 6. Waltrip finished 16th at the Brickyard 400, but the effort was enough to improve him one position to No. 5, supplanting Bobby Labonte. He also closed to three points of No. 4 Jimmie Johnson. He has spent all 21 race weeks in the NASCAR Top 10, including two at No. 1, and he and Johnson are the only drivers to do so at this stage of the season. Waltrip has just four top-10 finishes in 17 career starts at Watkins Glen, but enjoyed a breakthrough last season. He started on the outside pole -- a personal best at the 2.45-mile road course -- and finished ninth, his first top 10 at The Glen since 1996. He is one of four drivers to compete in all 17 modern-era races at The Glen. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral)
No. 6 -- Bobby Labonte
(No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing.
Points: 2642. Previous ranking: 5. Labonte has cooled considerably since his tear earlier in the season that was highlighted by six top-three finishes in seven starts (Martinsville through Michigan). He finished 22nd in the Brickyard 400 for his third finish outside of the top 20 in his last four starts outside and fourth in a row outside the top 10. The recent slump has cost him a position in the NASCAR Top 10 in each of the last two weeks, dropping from No. 4 to No. 6 over that span. The slide to No. 6 marks the first time in eight race weeks that he has not been situated among the top five in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. He will look to get back on track at Watkins Glen, where he has six top-10 finishes in 10 career starts, including a run of four in his last six visits. One of those misses, however, came last season when he finished 23rd. A start at Watkins Glen would be the 350th of his career. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 7 -- Kevin Harvick
(No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing.
Points: 2623. Previous ranking: 7. Harvick captured the Brickyard 400 to become the 15th different winner in 21 NASCAR Winston Cup Series races this season, four shy of equaling the record of 19 established in 2001. The win was Harvick's first since he won at Chicago in July of last season, a stretch of 38 races between victories. He remains at No. 7 for the third consecutive race week, but made some gains on the drivers ahead of him in the NASCAR Top 10. He trails No. 6 Bobby Labonte by 19 points, No. 5 Michael Waltrip by 30 points and No. 4 Jimmie Johnson by 33. Harvick has been consistent in his two career starts at Watkins Glen, qualifying among the top 10 and finishing among the top 15 in both appearances. He qualified 10th and finished seventh in 2001 and was sixth and 14th, respectively last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 8 -- Kurt Busch
(No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing.
Points: 2569. Previous ranking: 8. Busch finished seventh in the Brickyard 400 for his second top-10 finish in a row and 10th on the season. He retained the No. 8 ranking for the third consecutive race week and has been ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for 20 of the 21 race weeks, including No. 1 following Rockingham. He trails No. 7 Kevin Harvick by 54 points. Busch has not fared well in two appearances at Watkins Glen, finishing 29th in his debut at the road course in 2001 and 41st last season (DNF). He did make some strides in qualifying, starting ninth last season after qualifying 28th the previous season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --
No. 9 -- Ryan Newman
(No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Penske Racing South.
Points: 2498. Previous ranking: 9. Newman's run of three consecutive top-five finishes -- which included wins at Chicago and Pocono -- came to an end with an 11th-place finish at the Brickyard 400. It marks his second week in a row at No. 9 and he trails No. 8 Kurt Busch by 71 points. One streak was extended Sunday as he led 11 laps, marking the fourth consecutive race he has led. Newman had quite an impressive showing in his debut at Watkins Glen last season, which was only his second career start on a road course. He qualified fifth and finished runner-up to Tony Stewart. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
No. 10 -- Rusty Wallace
(No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Penske Racing South.
Points: 2467. Previous ranking: 10. Wallace returned to the NASCAR Top 10 this week following a 10th-place finish in the Brickyard 400. He improved one position with the top-10 effort -- his seventh of the season -- and unseated Jeff Burton at No. 10. Wallace had spent the previous three race weeks situated at No. 11, with his last appearance in the NASCAR Top 10 coming after the Pepsi 400 at Daytona when he was ranked No. 9. He is just 31 points behind teammate Ryan Newman for the No. 9 ranking. Wallace, one of four drivers to compete in every modern-era race at The Glen, has nine top-10 finishes, including wins in 1987 and '89, in 17 career starts. However, he has not posted a finish better than 17th (2002) in his last three starts. He has been an outstanding qualifier on the 2.45-mile road course, starting among the top 10 in 14 of those 17 starts. He started among the top 10 for the last five races at Watkins Glen, including a Bud Pole in 1999. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:
NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 3152 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2866 (-286)
3. Jeff Gordon 2834 (-318)
4. Jimmie Johnson 2656 (-496)
5. Michael Waltrip 2653 (-499)
6. Bobby Labonte 2642 (-510)
7. Kevin Harvick 2623 (-529)
8. Kurt Busch 2569 (-583)
9. Ryan Newman 2498 (-654)
10. Rusty Wallace 2467 (-685)
Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 18; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 10 Wallace.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Waltrip, Johnson, 21; Kenseth, Busch, 20.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 5 Waltrip, 1 position.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: No. 10 Jeff Burton.