Owner points are very important for many teams, especially those around the top-35 mark because of Nextel Cup's guaranteed spot for those cars. So if the race for the win or the chase is a snoozer on Sunday, watch closer and see the desperate struggle some teams are in to survive. Their battles are often more entertaining than the leaders, because you know for these guys its do or die. It's only a matter of time before sponsorship money dries up for some of those outside the 35. To steal a phrase from strategy guru Robert Greene, these teams are on "death ground." They will go further, try harder, and take more risks because the survival of the team is at steak.
Despite all this drama, and the time dedicated to talking about it on TV, NASCAR owner points don't seem to be prominently displayed on the nascar.com website. But they are there, and they are updated after each race. So follow this link and bookmark it for the 2007 season:
Right now, Kyle Petty's 45, Ginn & Nemecheck's 13, and the improbably successful number 70 team with Sauter behind the wheel take up 33, 34, and 35th respectively. Right on the outside looking in is the Wood Brother's 21. Now piloted by Bill Elliott, they have the advantage of Elliott's champion provisional. Which is good, because: Bill rarely wrecks, does well at intermediate tracks like we're in right now, and he often qualifies on time anyways. The choice is incredibly smart when you consider that they're 200 points behind the 35th position. So long as Elliott drives the car, you should see them in the field each Sunday.
So that leaves the 37th place team (only a couple points behind the 21) as the most desperate. Their pilot is the perennially underestimated Dave Blaney, who would easily be a multi time winner if luck were on his side a few times. Unfortunately, bad luck continues to plague this team. Despite Blaney's ability to wrangle it into the field each Friday in qualifying, a series of tire blowouts, accidents, and part failures leave them on the outside looking in.
Michael Waltrip's 55 is fucked this year. The penalty from Daytona left them in the negative for a good chunk of the season, especially after a 7 week long string of missed races. Waltrip's season has been the strongest argument against the top 35 rule. Would there have been additive in the engine of his car at Daytona had he been able to simply qualify his way in? The man is almost as good as Earnhardt on restrictor plate tracks. They were made desperate by the top 35 rule from the get go, being a new team with no owner points. They gambled and lost. Many times, Waltrip has qualified in the top 25, yet failed to make the race because of the rules.
Now he's so far behind, he has no hope of making the top 35 this season. Unless they did something drastic. Now that Fox's coverage of the season is done, do you think Mikey will get desperate enough to call older brother Darrell (and past champion) out of retirement to race the rest of the season, at least guaranteeing them a spot in 7 or so races? I doubt it would happen. I don't think Mikey has the humility to ask.
What I can say is, the race in the back of the pack is often times more interesting than that at the front. Pay attention.