A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 9, 2005) – The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Saturday night’s Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the 11th of 36 races on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule (7:35 p.m. ET on FX). The first 26 races of the season will determine who will be part of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in the final 10 races. Drivers who are in the top 10 or within 400 points of the leader after those 26 races will vie for the series title in the “Chase.”
No. 1 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,519. Previous ranking: 1. Johnson finished seventh at Darlington to remain the only driver with eight top-10 finishes in 2005. He has led the rankings for seven consecutive races, dating to March at Atlanta. Johnson has run six races at Richmond with one top-10 finish. He led three of those six races, including both last season, and has never had a DNF there. Johnson had his best (second place) and worst (36th) finishes at Richmond last year.
No. 2 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,392 (-127). Previous ranking: 3. Gordon was runner-up to winner Greg Biffle at Darlington to add to his climb from 12th to second in the standings in the last five races. He and Biffle are the only drivers with three victories in 2005. Gordon has competed in 24 races at Richmond, with triumphs in 1996 and 2000, and has led 17 of those events. He has 16 top-10 finishes there overall. Gordon was sixth in this race a year ago and third last fall. He has posted top-10 finishes in his last three Richmond races, the series’ longest current streak.
No. 3 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,371 (-148). Previous ranking: 4. Biffle got his third 2005 victory Saturday night at Darlington; he also won at California and Texas. He has six top-10 finishes in 10 races this season. Biffle has run five races at Richmond with one top-10 finish, an eighth-place showing last fall. He was 21st in this race a year ago. Biffle has led two of his five races at Richmond and hasn’t posted a DNF. Enjoying the best season of his career, Biffle ranked 23rd in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 4 – Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,290 (-229). Previous ranking: 2. The reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion finished 37th at Darlington, his worst performance in 2005. He has six top-10 finishes this year, and has ranked in the top-10 in the standings for a series-leading 45 consecutive races since February 2004. Busch has run eight races at Richmond with one top-10 finish, an eighth-place showing in 2003. He finished 31st there a year ago and 15th last fall. Busch has led three of his eight Richmond starts, and hasn’t posted a DNF.
No. 5 – Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M’s Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 1,267 (-252). Previous ranking: 5. Sadler finished 20th at Darlington to retain his spot in the standings for the third consecutive week. He has five top-10 finishes in 2005. Sadler has run 12 races at Richmond without a top-10 finish; his best Richmond showing was 12th a year ago. He placed 17th last fall. Sadler has led one lap at the Virginia track (in September 2000) and has two DNFs there. He was 10th in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 6 – Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 1,226 (-293). Previous ranking: 11. Martin finished fourth at Richmond to bounce back into the top 10 in the standings. He has five top-10 finishes in 2005 and has been running at the finish of 32 consecutive races, the longest streak among active drivers. Martin has run 38 races at Richmond with a victory in February 1990; he has 22 top-10 finishes there overall. He finished seventh at Richmond a year ago and fifth last fall, and has three DNFs.
No. 7 – Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1,222 (-297). Previous ranking: 6. Stewart finished 10th at Darlington, his fifth top-10 showing in 2005. He has competed in 12 races at Richmond, with victories in 1999, 2001 and 2002 – the most among drivers in the top 10 in the standings. He also has seven top-10 finishes there. Stewart finished fourth in this race a year ago and 19th last fall. He also has posted two DNFs there.
No. 8 – Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge). Team: Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates. Points: 1,217 (-302). Previous ranking: 10. McMurray finished sixth at Darlington, his fourth top-10 effort this season. He was 32nd in the standings following Daytona, climbing to eighth nine races later. McMurray has run four races at Richmond with one top-10 finish. He placed a career-worst 38th a year ago and was ninth last fall, his best Richmond outing. McMurray ranked 12th in the standings at this point in 2004.
No. 9 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 1,212 (-307). Previous ranking: 9. Earnhardt finished eighth at Darlington, his fifth top-10 showing this season, to retain his position in the standings. He has finished among the top 10 in eight of his 11 races at Richmond, including a victory in this race last year and a runner-up outing last fall. Earnhardt has an 8.8 average finish at Richmond, tops among active drivers. He led the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings at this point last season.
No. 10 – Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). Team: Penske Racing South. Points: 1,205 (-314). Previous ranking: 15. Newman finished fifth at Darlington to climb five spots in the standings. He has four top-10 finishes in 2005. Newman has run six races at Richmond, with a victory in September 2003 and four overall top-10 finishes. He is the only active driver to lead at least one lap in all of his Richmond races. Newman finished ninth there a year ago and 20th last fall. He ranked seventh in the standings after 10 races in 2004.
Top 10 following Talladega (Race 10 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 1,519 pts.
2. Jeff Gordon 1,392 (-127)
3. Greg Biffle 1,371 (-148)
4. Kurt Busch 1,290 (-229)
5. Elliott Sadler 1,267 (-252)
6. Mark Martin 1,226 (-293)
7. Tony Stewart 1,222 (-297)
8. Jamie McMurray 1,217 (-302)
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,212 (-307)
10. Ryan Newman 1,205 (-314)
New arrivals in the Top 10: Mark Martin and Ryan Newman.
Dropped out of the Top 10: Kevin Harvick and Dale Jarrett.
Closing in on the Top 10: No. 11 Kevin Harvick (-1 out of 10th); No. 12 Dale Jarrett (-2); No. 13 Carl Edwards (-16); No. 14 Rusty Wallace (-21); No. 15 Jeremy Mayfield (-72).
Information provided by NASCAR