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Monday, November 06, 2006

The Other 33: Texas

Did you know that every Nextel Cup race has 43 drivers entered? It's true, which means 76% of the drivers aren't in the Chase. Sometimes they even have more compelling stories than the Chasers:

Tony Stewart (1st) - His driver rating was 149.7.The only time he was passed was during green flag stops, or someone taking 2 tires. Dominant.

Clint Bowyer (5th)-Bowyer is getting better and better. He is the most surprising rookie to me.

Casey Mears(7th)-Mears quietly continued his success at Texas with another top 10.

Kurt Busch(8th)-His season in a nutshell: Qualify well, lead early, pit road mistake, spend the rest of the race recovering. At least this time it finished with a top ten.

Kyle Petty (11th)-His last three races (10th, 17th and 11th). PE is really making gains on both of their cars. That is nothing but good for the sport.

Jeff Green (13th)-Another solid run with new crew chief Harold Holly.

Martin Truex Jr (14th)-The worst luck of any rookie this year. He was closing in on a top 5 and then gets clipped by the crashing Scott Riggs. The last two races should be strengths for the 1 car.

Carl Edwards (15th)-It can’t be too surprising that he missed the Chase, but that he hasn’t won a race is really stunning.

Bobby Labonte (16th)-Labonte is currently 19th in points. That is the best position for a PE car since John Andretti finished 17th in 1999.

Reed Sorenson (17th)-He had a flat tire and spin early, but recovered nicely. Hard to imagine he will be the “senior” member of Ganassi’s Cup team.

Joe Nemechek (18th)-At the last three 1.5 mile tracks, Nemechek has finished 9th, 9th, and 18th. It’s too bad for Nemechek that progress will be for Mark Martin’s benefit in ’07.

Tony Raines (19th)-A solid finish at Hall of Fame Racing’s home track. Raines’ steady performance (24.7 avg finish) has allowed HoF to get established in Cup.

JJ Yeley (20th)-Not a great finish, but better than he ran most of the race. How can he struggle so much while his teammate absolutely dominated? Yes he’s a rookie, but he was a 30th place car.

David Gilliland (21st)-Things are beginningn to click for the 38. For the second straight race Gilliland ran in the top 20 most of the day, and got the finish he deserved.

Mike Bliss (23rd)-Bliss has run well the last two weeks. BAM racing has had a disastrous year, so 23rd probably feels pretty good.

David Stremme (24th)-Stremme finished better than Kasey Kahne, while staying out of each other’s way.

Ward Burton (25th)-He should change his name to the phonetic spelling: Woid or Wurd.

Jamie McMurray (26th)-Aside from staying out under yellow to lead 4 laps, he was a non-factor. That could be the name of his cologne: Non-Factor.

Brian Vickers (27th)-The pole sitter didn’t even lead any laps under green. Everytime he makes progress he slips back.

Travis Kvapil (28th)-Kvapil deserves a shot at a better ride. It’s too bad there aren’t many available at this point.

Dale Jarrett (29th)-Jarrett has run well during the Chase, but couldn’t follow up his 11th at Atlanta. He was a lap down most of the day.

Kenny Wallace (30th)-Qualifying for races is all Furniture Row can hope for at this point. Once in, Wallace does a nice job of staying out of trouble and turning laps.

Scott Riggs (31st)- His crash with four laps left got him airborne. It looked similar to Kahne’s crash at Indy and Martin’s at Lowes. Another disappointing finish for the 10 car.

Dave Blaney (32nd)-Blaney will run the full Busch schedule in ’07. That will be interesting to see how he does.

Ryan Newman (34th)-Newman ran in the 30’s the entire race, and was never in the top 15. Along with McMurray, Newman is the most shocking fall this year.

Greg Biffle (35th)-Ran well at times, struggled at others. Texas hasn’t been kind the last three races (tire, crash, tire/engine).

Terry Labonte (36th)-At least he had a cool paint job so he looked good when Stewart would lap him.

Elliot Sadler (37th)-All three Evernham cars qualified in the top 12, and all finished 31st or worse. Sadler faded from the green flag and was off track for quite a while, although NBC never said why.

Robby Gordon (38th)-Crashed, then his engine blew. He again had a fast car, but the early crash put him in a hole. Yates engines should help his team a lot in ‘07.

Sterling Marlin (40th)-A crash with Ken Schrader cost him his spot inside the top 25 safety net. With Kyle Petty running well, it will be a challenge.

Paul Menard (41st)-The second Menards sponsored car to lose his engine. He is preparing for ’07 and doing R&D for DEI, so the engine failure was probably due to experimenting.

Ken Schrader (42nd)-Got a flat and hit the wall, collecting Sterling Marlin. He’s 31st in the points, exactly where he finished in ’04 and ’05.

Michael Waltrip (43rd)-Waltip has 19 sub-30 finishes, including five of the last six races. He should change his number to 30.2 to match his average finish.