Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: Surprising NASCAR Names in Top-35 Danger for 2011

With the failure to qualify by the No. 32 FAS Lane Racing team, the NASCAR Cup Series owner points got shuffled a bit Sunday (March 20) at Bristol when everything was said and done. Some teams gave themselves some much-needed breathing room while others are living on the edge of being on the outside looking in.

28th: No. 78 Furniture Row Racing (Barney Visser)
Standings Coming In: 30th
Standings Leaving Bristol: 28th (+24)

One would normally not consider 22nd to be a strong showing, but for Furniture Row Racing, this was a much-needed morale boost for a team that had been in something of a free fall since Daytona. The team simply needed to finish a race without any problems and they did just that. It may not have been a stylish way to stave off being on the bubble, but Furniture Row has finally given themselves a little breathing room to where they will be safe for at least another week.

29th: No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing (Rob Kaufmann)
Standings Coming In: 27th
Standings Leaving Bristol: 29th (+24)

David Reutimann simply cannot catch a break at this point. After being collected in the early-race seven-car pileup, Reutimann limped home to a 30th-place finish. While the team, truthfully, is in no immediate danger of being on the outside looking in, this certainly is not the start the team had in mind for their 2011 campaign. Surely this run of bad luck won’t last forever and Reutimann will bounce back from his disastrous start.

30th: No. 31 Richard Childress Racing (Richard Childress)
Standings Coming In: 34th
Standings Leaving Bristol: 30th (+23)

Even though Jeff Burton’s race didn’t begin ideally, he managed a respectable 20th-place finish at the end of the day to guarantee that he won’t be on the bubble at Martinsville in two weeks. Burton is another driver who is sure to recover from a sluggish start and will likely be safely inside the Top 35 the rest of the season, so while the threat of danger may be a bit far-fetched, that threat is still very real and still existing. Another few weeks of solid runs and Burton and company will no longer be in danger.

See also
2 Roads Diverge: Hendrick, Childress Seeing Offseason Moves Go Opposite Directions

31st: No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing (Joe Gibbs)
Standings Coming In: 32nd
Standings Leaving Bristol: 31st (+23)

With the type of day Joey Logano had with engine problems and a late-race broken wheel, it was amazing that Logano managed to finish 23rd and actually pick up a spot for Joe Gibbs in the ownership standings. While this is not an ideal situation and really, the threat of falling out of the Top 35 is slim, this certainly is not the start to the season that Logano truly needed. In his third full year at Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup side, Logano has clearly fallen far short of his lofty expectations that were laid upon him. Now the question is will he ever live up to his hype?

32nd: No. 83 Red Bull Racing (Dietrich Mateschitz)
Standings Coming In: 26th
Standings Leaving Bristol: 32nd (+18)

Despite one lone top 10, Brian Vickers has wrecked in three out of four races since his return from blood clots. If this was a Holywood movie, Vickers would probably have won every race at this point. Unfortunately for Vickers and Team Red Bull, reality was a lot less kind. Vickers got caught up in another incident not of his own doing and the end result? He finishes 36th and plummets down to 32nd in owner points. This team needs another baad finish about as much as a drowning man needs another bucket of water.

33rd: No. 32 FAS Lane Racing (Frankie Stoddard)
Standings Coming In: 24th
Standings Leaving Bristol: 33rd (+15)

What a difference a week makes. But in the case of FAS Lane Racing, that difference after Bristol was one they’d like to forget. Out of the 44 cars that attempted to qualify for the race, the team was not fast enough to make the show and as a result, they go from safely in the field to now being on the verge of being on the bubble. Next week, the team goes back to Mike Skinner behind the wheel after a one-week stint with Ken Schrader behind the wheel. Now Skiner is under pressure to perform to keep his team safely locked into the field next week at California.

34th: No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports (Robby Gordon)
Standings Coming In: 29th
Standings Leaving Bristol: 34th (+8)

This was just the type of week that Robby Gordon and his team did not need. They used early pit strategy to stay out for track position, but after the car blew a right-front tire, Gordon had to settle for a disappointing 39th-place effort after his lap 127 accident. Now, coming off of three straight races with poor finishes, Gordon again finds himself in that all-too-familiar role of being precariously close to the bubble. While Robby is one who likes to live life on the edge, somehow one must think this type of living on the edge was not what he had in mind.

35th: No. 13 Germain Racing (Bob Germain)
Standings Coming In: 35th
Standings After Bristol: 35th (+1)

Despite missing the Daytona 500, Germain Racing somehow finds themselves currently locked in. But the issue is they are a scant one point ahead of the closest competitor in the No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing car and one more point ahead of the No. 37 Front Row Motorsports car. Plus having electrical issues on their car at Bristol on their way to a 37th-place finish did not help their dire situation. The race at California for that coveted 35th-place owner points position is going to be a very spirited battle at Fontana, indeed.

36th: No. 36 Heinke-Baldwin Racing (Tommy Baldwin Jr.)
Standings Coming In: 38th
Standings After Bristol: 36th (-1)

Perhaps the team that put themselves in the best situation possible after Bristol in the bubble race was the Heinke-Baldwin Racing outfit, following Dave Blaney’s 25th-place finish at Bristol. The team managed to gain 12 points on Germain Racing for that highly-desired 35th-place position in owner points. The question is with HBR being scheduled to only run 22 full races, will California be one of the races that they’re going to be forced to park in, or will Tommy Baldwin Jr. make the decision to try and get his team locked inside the Top 35 and race?

37th: No. 37 Front Row Motorsports (Brad Jenkins)
Standings Coming In: 37th
Standings After Bristol: 37th (-2)

Another team with a highly-realistic shot at getting locked in is the No. 37 Front Row Motorsports operation. While the team could only muster forth a 28th-place finish at Bristol with Tony Raines behind the wheel, the fact remains they are a mere two points away from being locked in the field. While it is not clear what the long-term future of this team will be, to get locked in, and to be running ahead of the sponsored No. 38 car of Travis Kvapil is most certainly not an accomplishment to thumb one’s nose at.

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