Archive for Thursday, November 24, 2005

All about teamwork

Rating the top teams of the racing season

November 24, 2005


In the immediate aftermath of clinching the 2005 Nextel Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Tony Stewart went right back to praising his Joe Gibbs Racing team for getting him there.

"I think that we're just a better team," Stewart said. "I'm just a piece of the puzzle.

"When we were behind early in the season, we didn't know which area was going to get us caught up. So, the motor department dug in, the fab shop dug in. Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and the guys on the pit stops dug in. I dug in. We all tried to get that extra half percent or percent that we all thought we needed.

"I'm not the guy that won us this championship - this race team won us this championship."

Teamwork is what the rankings of the top 40 drivers in Nextel Cup that appear weekly on are all about. The rankings are based each week on a team's performance and its potential for success.

Tony Stewart, center, and team celebrate winning the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship.

Tony Stewart, center, and team celebrate winning the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship.

At the beginning of each season, we rank the teams based on how we think they'll do in the year ahead. At the end of the year, a team's ranking is based on performance and on how well it measured up to its potential and dealt with the inevitable adversity during the course of a 36-race schedule.

Final rankings

1. Tony Stewart (car No. 20): Had 17 top-five finishes, two more than Greg Biffle did. When the margin of victory is 35 points, little differences like that mean a whole lot. Preseason ranking: 4.

2. Greg Biffle (car No. 16): Led the circuit with six victories and also scored more bonus points for leading races than anyone else this season, earning 155 of those. Preseason ranking: 12.

3. Carl Edwards (car No. 99): He had 18 top-10 finishes, seven fewer than Stewart. Also had 85 fewer bonus points. Those are two areas this year's breakout team can work on in 2006. Preseason ranking: 18.

4. Jimmie Johnson (car No. 48): Did not finish five times, most of any team in the Chase. This team will win its first title the first year it goes without a significant lull. Preseason ranking: 1.

5. Mark Martin (car No. 6): Remarkable stat No. 1: Six teams had 12 or more top-five finishes this year, and Roush Racing owned four of them. Preseason ranking: 10.

6. Kurt Busch/Kenny Wallace (car No. 97): Remarkable stat No. 2: In 180 total starts by Jack Roush-owned Fords, more than half of those cars - 93 - finished in the top 10. Preseason ranking: 2.

7. Matt Kenseth (car No. 17): Remarkable stat No. 3: Kenseth had 17 top-10 finishes this year and that was the LEAST among Roush teams. Preseason ranking: 6.

8. Jeff Gordon (car No. 24): He did have four victories, including the Daytona 500, and eight top-five finishes. But he also had nine DNFs. Preseason ranking: 3.

9. Ryan Newman (car No 12): Racked up eight poles this season, double the total of the nearest rival (Elliott Sadler) in that category. If only the team could keep the car racing up front enough. Preseason ranking: 5.

10. Rusty Wallace (car No. 2): Only driver among the 44 making at least 10 starts this season who was not charged with an official DNF. Preseason ranking: 16.

11. Jeremy Mayfield (car No. 19): Two-for-two in making the Chase but hasn't been able to do much after getting there. Preseason ranking: 13.

12. Kyle Busch (car No. 5): Two wins, nine top fives and 13 top 10s as a rookie. Eight DNFs was the obvious flaw. Preseason ranking: 26.

13. Jamie McMurray (car No. 42): Just 10 bonus points all season. Will his new ride in the No. 97 take him to the front more often? Preseason ranking: 9.

14. Kevin Harvick (car No. 29): This team, and all of Richard Childress Racing, needs to take a step forward in 2006. Preseason ranking: 18.

15. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (car No. 8): Did have 13 top-10 finishes, but he finished outside top 30 in five of his final nine races. Preseason ranking: 7.

16. Dale Jarrett (car No. 88): Victory at Talladega helped immensely in a season in which he had only seven top-10 finishes. Preseason ranking: 15.

17. Elliott Sadler (car No. 38): Slid from third to 13th in the points over season's final 20 races. Earned only one top five all year. Preseason ranking: 11.

18. Brian Vickers (car No. 25): Had the fewest DNFs among full-time Hendrick drivers, but four is still too many. Preseason ranking: 25.

19. Kasey Kahne (car No. 9): Despite getting his first win, he had more DNFs (nine) than top-10 finishes (eight). Preseason ranking: 8.

20. Casey Mears (car No. 41): Felt late caution jobbed him out of a Homestead win. Will racing in the No. 42 car next season be the difference-maker? Preseason ranking: 23.


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