Work in Sports
Some drivers wait years to experience a top run
By Ryan Smithson, CNNSI.com
Everyone knows how difficult it is to finish in the top 10 in a Winston Cup race. If the Roush, Yates and Gibbs cars all run well on a particular weekend, it can be downright impossible to crack the top 10.
Consider this: 43 cars, 10 spots. Of those 10 spots, there is a 70 percent chance that five of those spots are already taken.
That's because Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton have already contributed at least 18 top 10s apiece in 26 starts in 2000.
Of course, they all won't finish in the top 10 every week at the same time, but you get the idea. After the multi-car teams settle in, there are basically five top-10 spots left over. And that can be exceptionally hard to grab.
Take the case of Brett Bodine, one of only two owner-drivers in the Winston Cup Series (Bill Elliott is the other, and we are not counting Robby Gordon or Dave Marcis).
Bodine has failed to finish in the top 10 since 1997 -- a span of 108 races. His best finish this year has been 16th at Atlanta.
But Bodine is not alone. In fact, several full-time drivers have failed to score a top 10 this season, namely Kenny Wallace, Stacy Compton, Dave Blaney, Darrell Waltrip and Mike Bliss.
Wallace is the only Winston Cup driver to make every race in 2000 and not have a top 10. He finished 13th at Sears Point for his season best.
Compton, a rookie, finished 16th last weekend at New Hampshire for his top finish of 2000. It was also his first top-20 finish.
The fact that Blaney does not have a top-10 finish is perhaps the biggest surprise. The 1995 World of Outlaws champion showed a lot of promise in a five-race stint in 1999, but the Ohio native has failed to finish any better than 18th.
Waltrip has come the closest of the "no top 10s" group. DW, who will retire after this season, finished 11th at The Brickyard and was closing in Scott Pruett for 10th when the race ended. Other than Indianapolis, Waltrip does not have a top-20 finish.
Waltrip does not have a top-10 finish since 1998, when he drove part season for Dale Earnhardt. He finished fifth at California that year.
Like Compton, Bliss has his top finish of the season last weekend at New Hampshire. The former Truck Series star finished 19th.
On the other side of the coin, every driver in the top 10 in points has at least 14 top-10 finishes. Interestingly, no driver 11th or worse in the standings has more than nine top 10s.