It’s been a difficult second half of the season for Dave Blaney and the No. 22 team; they’re busy jockeying for the 35th and final “locked-in” spot in car owner points with the No. 21 team and their driver combo of Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader. But last week, Blaney had his best finish of the year, surviving a hairy Talladega race to finish third and build momentum he carried over to the following week at Lowe’s.
Finishing sixth, his second consecutive top 10 and his third consecutive top 15 gave the No. 22 some distance from a handful of cars chasing him. Now, for the first time in this stretch of the season, Blaney finally has breathing room, moving into 34th in the standings, 39 points ahead of 35th and a crucial 148 ahead of 36th.
To see who Blaney leapfrogged to get into the 34th spot, check out this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown:
Storylines from Lowe’s
Blaney stays hot
There is no doubt now that Blaney is officially carrying the Toyota banner. His sixth-place finish this week carries on his impressive average finish of 8.6 over his last three starts. If the No. 22 keeps on running like that…
Here’s an interesting stat regarding Blaney:
First 27 weeks: Three top 15s
Last three weeks: Three top 15s
Petty drops to 35th
Over the past few weeks, I’ve followed what has been a dismal stretch for Kyle Petty. His 18th-place finish at Lowe’s was his best in the No. 45 since the Coca-Cola 600 – coincidentally held at the same track – back on May 27. His average finish of 26.7 over the past four weeks isn’t necessarily bad by any means, either; but with the way Blaney has run lately, Petty has dropped back to the bubble position for the first time this season. Luckily for the No. 45 team, Elliott struggled even more this week, finishing a disappointing 35th. As a result, Petty still has breathing room, holding a 109-point cushion over the No. 21 team with five races left.
Elliott takes the seat, crashes
As a result of his past champion’s provisional, Elliott was called upon to take the seat of the No. 21 car to ensure a spot in the field after the team fell out of the Top 35 last week. However, the move backfired this time; Elliott was caught up in a tangle with Casey Mears on lap 189 and received major damage:
“It’s kind of been par for the course,” he said of the car’s misfortune. “We just couldn’t run right off the bat for whatever reason. I was so edgy getting down in the corner, but after we ran a little bit it went away and I was fine.”
“I could hold my own pretty good, but the problem is you get a handful of guys that have checked out and you’re done.”
Elliott wound up 35th in the final running order.
Blaney’s run has already been noted, but a performance that has really flown under the radar is the top 10 by Michael Waltrip – just his second such performance of the season. Waltrip has simply struggled all year to make races, but he’s now made the race each of the past four weeks, accumulating two top 15s over that stretch. AJ Allmendinger also had a strong run, finishing in the top 15, but each of the other two Toyotas – David Reutimann and Jeremy Mayfield – failed to finish on the lead lap.
Top-Three Finishing Toyotas
Blaney (No. 22) – Finished sixth
Waltrip (No. 55) – Finished 10th
Allmendinger (No. 84) – Finished 15th
Breaking Down the Bubble
|Pos||Owner||Car #||Driver||Points||Points +/- of 35th Place|
|31||Robert Yates Racing||38||David Gilliland||2,574||+163|
|32||Robert Yates Racing||88||Ricky Rudd||2,530||+119|
|33||Haas CNC Racing||70||Johnny Sauter||2,511||+100|
|34||Bill Davis Racing||22||Dave Blaney||2,450||+39|
|35||Petty Enterprises||45||Kyle Petty||2,411||0|
|36||Wood Brothers||21||Ken Schrader/Bill Elliott||2,302||-109|
|37||Evernham Motorsports||10||Scott Riggs||2,075|
|38||Michael Waltrip Racing||00||David Reutimann||2,006||-405|
|39||Team Red Bull||83||Brian Vickers||1,961||-450|
|40||Michael Waltrip Racing||55||Michael Waltrip||1,520||-891|
|41||Michael Waltrip Racing||44||Dale Jarrett||1,519||-892|
|42||Furniture Row Motorsports||78||Joe Nemechek||1,439||-972|
|43||Morgan-McClure Motorsports||4||Ward Burton||1,385||-1,026|
|44||Bill Davis Racing||36||Jeremy Mayfield||1,347||-1,064|
|45||Team Red Bull||84||AJ Allmendinger||1,318||-1,093|
|46||BAM Racing||49||John Andretti||1,281||-1,130|
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