Race Weekend Central

Bubble Breakdown: Rough Day for NASCAR’s Road-Course Ringers

This week at Watkins Glen, those that raced for a coveted Top-35 slot in the Sprint Cup standings suffered through wrecks, ringers and early retirement, to name a few sticky situations. Let’s check in with our bubble racers and see how they fared this week:

AHEAD OF THE BUBBLE

No. 34 — David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 30th
Monday’s Finish: 33rd
Current Owner Points Ranking: 31st (+103 ahead of 35th)

It’s safe to say that Monday’s race (Aug. 15) at Watkins Glen was a disappointment for Gilliland and the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team. After having to deal with brake issues en route to a 33rd-place finish, coupled with the 22nd-place effort by Boris Said and the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team, the FRM team now finds themselves outside the top 30 with their lone team locked into the Top 35. Granted, they’re not in immediate danger of falling out of the Top 35, but still, it has to be slightly disconcerting for FRM to be out of the top 30 in owner points.

No. 36 — Ron Fellows (Tommy Baldwin Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 32nd
Monday’s Finish: 30th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 32nd (+30 ahead of 35th)

Tommy Baldwin Racing replaced regular driver Dave Blaney this weekend with road-course ringer Fellows. The weekend started off on a sour note for TBR when Blaney failed to qualify the No. 35 for the race. Perhaps they could have used the info from a second car this weekend, as Fellows struggled the entire race and got collected in the last-lap melee between David Reutimann and David Ragan to wind up with a less-than-ideal 30th place finish. Worse yet, the No. 13 Germain Racing team gained 10 points on TBR due to Casey Mears‘s solid 20th-place finish.

No. 13 — Casey Mears (Germain Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 34th
Monday’s Finish: 20th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 33rd (+28 ahead of 35th)

While normally a 20th-place finish is like kissing a sister, for Germain Racing it may as well have been like kissing Miss Sprint Cup. The team gained ground on the No. 36 TBR team and surpassed the No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Inc. operation in points with the commendable effort. After having to start-and-park last week, this 20th-place effort could not have come at a better time for the Germain Racing team.

No. 32 — Andrew Ranger (FAS Lane Racing Inc.)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 33rd
Monday’s Finish: 35th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 34th (+18 points ahead of 35th)

ARanger’s initial foray into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was probably one he’d like to forget. In practice, he had to deal with a car that had almost no brakes and his first Sprint Cup race was cut short due to transmission issues. This poor finish could not have come at a worse time as TRG Motorsports gained serious ground on FAS Lane Racing Inc. with the poor finish by the No. 32 team Monday. Next up is Michigan and it looks like Mike Bliss will be back in the car.

ON THE BUBBLE

No. 71 — Andy Lally (TRG Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 35th
Monday’s Finish: 21st
Current Owner Points Ranking: 35th (+19 points ahead of 36th)

Slowly but surely, Lally has been improving in the Sprint Cup ranks in his rookie season. His 21st-place finish is his best finish since his 14th-place finish at Talladega back in April and he amazingly gained three points on the No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports team. If TRG can keep this momentum going into Michigan, expect them to be in the Top 35 for a very long time.

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN AT WATKINS GLEN

No. 7 — Robby Gordon (Robby Gordon Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-16 points behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 24th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 36th (-19 points behind 35th, lost 3 points)

Watkins Glen was supposed to be Gordon’s only legitimate chance to go out and really make a show of it this season. Unfortunately, he never got in the hunt on Monday. The No. 77 of PJ Jones failing to qualify really put a damper on the weekend and forced Gordon to be conservative on his lap to assure himself a place on the grid.

In the race itself, Gordon stayed on the lead lap most of the day but was never really in the mix. He was right in the middle of the big wreck on the final lap involving Reutimann, Ragan, Mark Martin and Fellows, but was able to avoid the incident.

No. 38 — Terry Labonte (Front Row Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-25 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: 34th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 37th (-38 points behind 35th, lost 13 points)

Front Row Motorsports made the move this past week to hire Labonte to drive the No. 38, not because of Terry’s considerable skills behind the wheel at the twisties, but because of his past champions’ provisional. They really needed it this weekend since Labonte turned in the slowest time of those who recorded one in qualifying.

In the race, Labonte had a quiet day, moving up the order early on as others around him pitted. However, after falling two laps off the pace, the No. 38 developed transmission issues. These problems eventually forced Labonte to call it a day with a few laps to go. The finish puts the team nearly a full race behind TRG Motorsports in their quest to get back into the Top 35.

No. 21 — Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers Racing)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 38th (-46 behind 35th)
Sunday’s Finish: DID NOT ENTER
Current Owner Points Ranking: 38th (-69 points behind 35th, lost 23 points)

No. 37 — Scott Speed (Max Q Motorsports)
Incoming Owner Points Ranking: 39th (-109 out of 35th)
Sunday’s Result: 39th
Current Owner Points Ranking: 39th (-127 out of 35th, lost 10 points)

This week, Speed had some sponsorship on the side of the No. 37 Ford from Green Stuff Absorbent. However, despite some quick laps in Happy Hour Friday, it did not help the team get any closer to the Top 35. Speed was running towards the back of the pack when he suffered a parts failure in the suspension around halfway. This forced Speed to retire for the day.

2011 Bubble Chart After Watkins Glen

PosOwnerCar #DriverPointsPoints +/- of 35th Place
31Front Row Motorsports34David Gilliland390+122
32Tommy Baldwin Racing36Ron Fellows317+49
33Germain Racing13Casey Mears315+47
34FAS Lane Racing32Andrew Ranger305+37
35TRG Motorsports71Andy Lally2870
36Robby Gordon Motorsports7Robby Gordon268-19
37Front Row Motorsports38Terry Labonte249-38
38Wood Brothers21Trevor Bayne218-69
39Max Q Motorsports37Scott Speed160-127

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