Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: Ricky Rudd Pulls Away, Bill Elliott Pulls Closer in Top-35 Race

With Indianapolis creating a whole new ballgame for the Top 35 in points, the cars battling for the final spot in the bubble came to Pocono bound and determined to bang and beat their way into a locked-in spot. But in the end, all the jockeying for position on the track didn’t lead to a change in the standings. While the gap between 35th and 36th narrowed considerably, the same 35 teams remain eligible to receive an automatic qualifying exemption heading to Watkins Glen.

Of the teams on the bubble, who put themselves in good position moving forward, and which teams got knocked back in the Pocono triangle? Read this week’s Bubble Breakdown below to find out.

Biggest Mover

Through a strong 13th-place finish in the special Combos-themed Ford, Ricky Rudd helped Robert Yates’s No. 88 climb four spots in owner points, giving him more cushion on the highly-sought after 35th position.

Rudd (No. 88) – Moved from 31st to 27th in car owner points.

Honorable Mention

Bill Elliott (No. 21) – The Wood Brothers Ford got knocked out of the Top 35 at Indianapolis, but Elliott did a fine job of keeping the team close to the bubble spot with an 18th-place finish at Pocono, closing the gap slightly from 37 to 26 points on the No. 22 team. Heading to the road course of Watkins Glen, the team is in strong position to turn up the heat next weekend – Elliott had a 19th-place finish in Sonoma earlier this year with the No. 21.

Jeff Green (No. 66) – Finished 19th and gained one spot, moving from 33rd to 32nd in owner points.

Biggest Loser(s)

David Gilliland found himself caught up in the Big One on lap 181 and ended up finishing 39th. Though Gilliland is still safely in a guaranteed starting spot, he negated the two positions he gained last week and lost an extra two spots. With the No. 38 still nearly 300 points ahead of the No. 22 in 35th, Gilliland still has some breathing room, but he could have a big problem if he continues to have runs like today.

Gilliland (No. 38) – Fell from 26th to 30th in car owner points.

Honorable Mention

Paul Menard (No. 15) – Ran an uneventful race and finished 26th, dropping him one spot to 31st in owner points. Still, it’s a sigh of relief for Menard to be locked in after spending the first 19 races of the season forced to qualify on speed.

Kyle Petty/John Andretti/Chad McCumbee (No.45) – We heard very little of Petty today, who finished 34th, three laps down, and dropped one spot to 33rd in owner points.

Tracking Toyota

Dave Blaney, the last driver on the bubble, followed a ninth-place finish at Indianapolis last week with a 20th-place finish this week. Since the No. 13 is ineligible to be locked in, Blaney is guaranteed a starting spot again next week at Watkins Glen. Meanwhile, multiple problems handed Michael Waltrip a 38th-place finish, but at least he finished the race; David Reutimann and Dale Jarrett wound up in the garage with fuel pump problems by the end of the 500-miler. At least the three teams could take solace in this small step – Pocono marked the first race all three MWR cars qualified for this season without using a single provisional.

Top-Three Finishing Toyotas

Blaney (No. 22) – Finished 20th
Brian Vickers (No. 83) – Finished 29th
Jeremy Mayfield (No. 36) – Finished 31st

Breaking Down the Bubble

Pos Owner Car # Driver Points Points +/- of 35th Place (No. 13 is ineligible)
31 Ginn Racing/DEI 15 Paul Menard (using No. 14 points) 1,788 +251
32 Haas CNC Racing 66 Jeff Green 1,729 +192
33 Petty Enterprises 45 Kyle Petty 1,695 +158
34 Haas CNC Racing 70 Johnny Sauter 1,635 +98
xx Ginn Racing 13 None 1,547 ineligible
35 Bill Davis Racing 22 Dave Blaney 1,537 0
36 Wood Brothers 21 Bill Elliott 1,511 -26
37 Evernham Motorsports 10 Scott Riggs 1,403 -134
38 Team Red Bull 83 Brian Vickers 1,261 -276
xx Teresa Earnhardt 15 None (Menard now using No. 14 points) 1,209 *ineligible*
39 Michael Waltrip Racing 00 David Reutimann 1,155 -382
40 Michael Waltrip Racing 44 Dale Jarrett 1,032 -505
41 James Finch/Morgan-McClure Motorsports 4 Ward Burton 992 -545
42 Bill Davis Racing 36 Jeremy Mayfield 916 -621
43 Furniture Row Racing 78 Kenny Wallace 892 -645
44 BAM Racing 49 Mike Bliss 813 -724
45 Michael Waltrip Racing 55 Michael Waltrip 797 -740
46 Team Red Bull 84 AJ Allmendinger 732 -805
47 Front Row Motorsports 37 Kevin Lepage 522 -1,015

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