Top ten at a glance after Talladega II

Top 10 at a Glance: A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Banquet 400 Presented by ConAgra...

Top 10 at a Glance: A weekly look at NASCAR Winston Cup's Top 10 drivers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2003) -- The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday's Banquet 400 Presented by ConAgra Foods at Kansas Speedway (1 p.m. ET, NBC), Race 30 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: 4227. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth endured his worst finish of the season when he was 33rd due to engine problems in Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Kenseth, whose worst previous finish was 22nd at Martinsville, had a three-race streak of top-10 finishes snapped at Talladega and Sunday's effort marked just his second time out of the top 10 in the last nine races. Six of his pursuers in the NASCAR Top 10 took advantage of his misfortune by finishing among the top 10 in the EA Sports 500. He now holds a 354-point lead over No. 2 Kevin Harvick and 384 on No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. It is the closest any pursuer has been to Kenseth since he led Earnhardt Jr. by 351 following Bristol on Aug. 23. Kenseth remains at No. 1 for the 26th consecutive race week, dating to Atlanta in early March. Kenseth has one top-10 finish in two career starts at Kansas Speedway, finishing seventh last season. In 2001, he led his only laps at the track (14) but suffered a DNF (Did Not Finish) and was 32nd. If Kenseth is able to win at Kansas, he will earn a record $300,000 Winston Leader Bonus. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).

No. 2 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Points: 3873. Previous ranking: 2. Harvick finished seventh at Talladega for his seventh top-10 finish in the last nine races, which is half his season total. He also led four laps at Talladega to extend his streak to seven consecutive races of leading laps and collecting bonus points. He remains at a career-best No. 2 ranking for the second race week in a row and gained 82 points on No. 1 Matt Kenseth. He now trails Kenseth by 354 points, the closest anyone has been to the points leader since Dale Earnhardt Jr. trailed by 351 points following Bristol on Aug. 23. Harvick has not recorded a top-10 finish in two career starts at Kansas, but had a solid outing in his last appearance. He led his first laps at the speedway (48) and finished 11th. In his first start in 2001, he was 16th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:

No. 3 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 3843. Previous ranking: 4. Earnhardt Jr. finished runner-up to DEI teammate Michael Waltrip at Talladega for his best performance since winning at Talladega in early April. It was his 11th top-five finish of the season, which ranks second in the series to Ryan Newman (12). He also led three laps at Talladega to mark the fourth race in a row he has led and garnered bonus points. Earnhardt Jr., who spent last week ranked No. 4 to snap a streak of 21 consecutive race weeks among the top three in the championship, returned this week at No. 3 and closed to 30 points of No. 2 Kevin Harvick. He also made some major gains (106 points) on No. 1 Matt Kenseth, trimming his deficit from 490 to 384 in one race. Earnhardt Jr., who finished 33rd in 2001 at Kansas, rebounded last season with a solid all-around effort. He captured the Bud Pole and led 10 laps en route to a sixth-place finish. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).

No. 4 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3751. Previous ranking: 3. Johnson finished 34th at Talladega due to a spin and engine woes, and his worst finish in his last 16 races cost him his season-best No. 3 ranking. After holding the No. 3 ranking for one race week, he slipped to No. 4 as Dale Earnhardt Jr. overtook him for the position. He trails Earnhardt Jr. by 92 points. Johnson has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for a series-leading 29 race weeks and the only driver to be among the top 10 for the entire season. Dating to last season, he has been ranked among the top 10 in the championship for 62 consecutive race weeks. Johnson was strong in his Kansas Speedway debut last season, starting on the outside pole and finishing 10th. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:

No. 5 -- Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Penske Racing South. Points: 3738. Previous ranking: 5. Newman finished fourth at Talladega for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish and seventh in his last eight races. It also was his series-leading 12th top-five finish. Newman did not lead any laps at Talladega and that marked only the second time in the last 12 races he did not lead at least one lap and earn bonus points. He remains at a season-high No. 5 ranking for the third race week in a row, but closed to 13 points of No. 4 Jimmie Johnson. Newman has been outstanding in his two appearances at Kansas Speedway, recording runner-up finishes in both starts. He started 17th and finished second in 2001 and was even stronger last season. He started third and led 81 laps en route to the runner-up finish. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:

No. 6 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3707. Previous ranking: 6. Gordon finished fifth at Talladega for his second consecutive fifth-place finish and third top-10 effort in the last four weeks. He also led a race-high 47 laps and has now led in five of his last six starts, including three times with the most laps. Gordon remains at No. 6 for the third race week in a row and is just 31 points behind No. 5 Ryan Newman and 44 behind No. 4 Jimmie Johnson as he heads to a track he has dominated since it became part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2001. Gordon has been perfect at Kansas Speedway, winning both of the NASCAR Winston Cup events that have been held at the 1.5-mile oval. In 2001, he started on the outside pole and led 53 laps en route to the win. Last season, he started 10th and led 116 laps as he posted his second in a row. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:

No. 7 -- Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3528. Previous ranking: 7. Labonte finished 11th at Talladega despite being involved in a final-lap incident and remained at No. 7 for the second race week in a row. It also marks his 20th consecutive race week among the NASCAR Top 10, dating to California in late April. Labonte trails No. 6 Jeff Gordon by 179 points and has No. 8 Kurt Busch lurking one point behind. Labonte has not cracked the top 20 in his two career starts at Kansas Speedway. In 2001 he was 29th, but did improve to 22nd last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: --

No. 8 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 3527. Previous ranking: 8. Busch posted just his second top-10 finish in the last eight races with a sixth-place effort at Talladega. The top-10 performance, his 12th of the season and first since his win at Bristol in August, allowed him to close to one point of No. 7 Bobby Labonte. He remains at No. 8 for the second race week in a row and has been in the NASCAR Top 10 all but one week this season (No. 14 ranking following Atlanta). Busch posted a top-10 finish in his first career start at Kansas in 2001 (9th) after starting 40th. However, he finished 31st after starting 13th last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).

No. 9 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 3456. Previous ranking: 10. Stewart, the defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion, followed up last week's third-place finish at Dover with another at Talladega. It was his fifth top-three performance of the season and his third in the last seven races, and the effort allowed him to move past Terry Labonte to No. 9 this week. The No. 9 ranking is his highest since being ranked in the same position following New Hampshire in July. He closed to 71 points of No. 8 Kurt Busch and 72 of No. 7 Bobby Labonte. Stewart has qualified and finished among the top 10 in both of his career starts at Kansas Speedway. He qualified seventh and finished eighth in 2001 and followed that effort in 2002 by qualifying and finishing eighth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:

No. 10 -- Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3396. Previous ranking: 9. Labonte finished 22nd at Talladega for his worst finish since finishing 25th at Sonoma in late June. He remained in the NASCAR Top 10 for the fourth race week in a row, but slipped a position to No. 10. He allowed Tony Stewart to move past him to No. 9 and he now trails the defending series champion by 71 points. Labonte had a DNF (Did Not Finish) and a 27th-place finish in 2001 at Kansas, but bounced back with a 12th-place effort last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: " (neutral).

FAST FACTS

NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 4227 points
2. Kevin Harvick 3873 (-354)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3843 (-384)
4. Jimmie Johnson 3751 (-476)
5. Ryan Newman 3738 (-489)
6. Jeff Gordon 3707 (-520)
7. Bobby Labonte 3528 (-699)
8. Kurt Busch 3527 (-700)
9. Tony Stewart 3456 (-771)
10. Terry Labonte 3396 (-831)

Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 26; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.

New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.

Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Johnson, 29; Kenseth, Busch, 28; Waltrip, 27; Earnhardt Jr., Harvick, 26; J. Gordon 25.

Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 9 Tony Stewart, 1 position each.

Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.

Closing on the NASCAR Top 10: No. 11 Michael Waltrip-10 points out; No. 12 Robby Gordon-75 points out.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports