As we get set to make our lone trip to California this season, we’ve got quite a battle going on at the top of the standings. Currently Kurt Busch owns the driver points lead, but by only a single point over Carl Edwards. But there is another battle raging in the points, and the stakes are just as high, only it’s a little farther down the standings. Near the bottom of the owners points standings are the drivers and teams working to stay in that top 35, and thus hang on to a guaranteed starting spot. California is the final race where the guaranteed spots are based on 2010′s points, and it’s the final chance to make a move to either get or keep a guaranteed spot.
Following Bristol, the 35th spot is held down by Casey Mears and the #13 Geico/Germain team. Their 52 points are just one better than Tommy Baldwin’s #36 team. Those who are currently inside that magic number who could conceivably fall out are Brian Vickers, Frank Stoddard’s #32 team, Robby Gordon, and Casey Mears. On the other side, those who are on the outside looking in that have a realistic chance of jumping up are Dave Blaney with the #36, Tony Raines, Andy Lally, and Travis Kvapil. Kvapil and Mears are currently separated by only six points.
Many of the teams at this end of the garage are severely underfunded, but a guaranteed spot in upcoming races could go a long ways toward securing their futures. The teams from Front Row, TRG, Tommy Baldwin, and Germain all have intentions to run full races, and would benefit greatly from a 35th or above position. With as competitive as the sport has become, it only takes one or two DNQ’s by a team to dig an insurmountable points hole.
There are only 43 cars entered for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, so that will be a bit of a boost for those involved in the fight. But we’ve seen as many as 48 cars entered for races this season and there are no guarantees that other teams won’t pop up. A guaranteed starting position would go a long way towards helping these teams not only monetarily, but also psychologically. Whatever happens though, you can be sure that the results at California will affect these teams for the rest of the season.