NASCAR WINSTON CUP'S TOP 10 DRIVERS GOING INTO THE TROPICANA 400

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The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday?s Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, Race 18 of 36 on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule.

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TOP 10 FAST FACTS

NASCAR Top 10 this week:
1. Matt Kenseth 2551 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2371 (-180)
3. Jeff Gordon 2348 (-203)
4. Bobby Labonte 2296 (-255)
5. Michael Waltrip 2159 (-392)
6. Jimmie Johnson 2079 (-472)
7. Kurt Busch 2067 (-484)
8. Kevin Harvick 2049 (-502)
9. Rusty Wallace 2019 (-532)
10. Sterling Marlin 1998 (-553)

Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 14; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.
New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.
Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: Waltrip, Johnson, 17; Kenseth, Busch, 16.
Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: Three drivers (Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Harvick) tied for improving one position.
Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.


No. 1 ? Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 2551. Previous ranking: 1. Kenseth finished sixth in Saturday night?s Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway for his series-leading 14th top-10 performance of the season. The effort allowed him to increase his lead by six points as he has expanded it to a 180-point cushion over No. 2-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. It marks the 14th consecutive race week that Kenseth has been ranked No. 1, dating to Atlanta, and 16th overall in the NASCAR Top 10. Last year, he ranked No. 8 at this stage of the season. Kenseth has finished among the top 15, including a personal best of seventh, in both career starts at Chicagoland Speedway. He finished seventh in 2001 after starting 37th and was 14th last season after starting 16th.

? No. 2 ? Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 2371. Previous ranking: 3. Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh at Daytona to regain the No. 2 ranking from Jeff Gordon, who slipped to third. He lost the No. 2 ranking to Gordon following Sonoma, which ended an eight-week run at the position. The finish at Daytona was his 11th top-10 finish of the season ? which ranks in a tie for second in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series with No. 4 Bobby Labonte ? and pushed him 23 points ahead of Gordon and to 180 of No. 1 Kenseth. He ranked 15th a year ago at this point of the season. Earnhardt Jr. narrowly missed being part of the group of four drivers who have top-10 finishes in both races at Chicagoland. He finished just outside the top 10 in 2001 ? 11th ? and was 10th last season. In addition to his finish in 2002, he was solid throughout as he qualified ninth and led 81 laps, his first laps led at Chicagoland.

No. 3 ? Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 2348. Previous ranking: 2. Gordon finished 14th at Daytona to slide from No. 2 to No. 3 in the NASCAR Top 10 rankings. He had gained the No. 2 ranking from Earnhardt Jr. following his runner-up finish at Sonoma, but relinquishes it back to him one race later and trails by 23. He also fell 203 points behind No. 1 Kenseth. Overall, it is his 13th race week in the NASCAR Top 10. Gordon made major gains in 2002 at Chicagoland from his debut in 2001 when he started 28th and finished 17th. He qualified 15th and went on to finish runner-up to Kevin Harvick in last season?s event.

? No. 4 ? Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 2296. Previous ranking: 4. Labonte?s torrid run continued through Daytona as he finished fifth for his eighth top-10 finish in his last nine races. The performance also added to his series-leading total of 10 top-f

ive finishes, which is three more than any other driver in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Last season, he had just five top-five finishes in the entire 36-race season and was ranked 22nd at this stage of the season. His recent run has allowed him to close to 52 points of No. 3 Gordon, 75 of No. 2 Earnhardt Jr. and 255 of No. 1 Kenseth. Labonte improved from his 2001 debut at Chicagoland, but still seeks a top-15 finish at the 1.5-mile oval. He finished 39th (DNF) in his first appearance, but improved to 18th last season after qualifying 12th.

No. 5 ? Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 2159. Previous ranking: 5. Waltrip finished 11th at Daytona, ending a run of five consecutive top-five finishes at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. He maintained his No. 5 ranking for the second race in a row and trails No. 4 Labonte by 137 and No. 1 Kenseth by 392. Waltrip and No. 6 Jimmie Johnson are the only drivers to be ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for the entire season. Waltrip arrives at Chicagoland in search of a finish inside the top 20. He finished 22nd in 2001 and 42nd (DNF) last season. On the plus side last season, he did qualify fifth and led his first lap at the speedway.

No. 6 ? Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe?s Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 2079. Previous ranking: 7. Johnson finished 18th at Daytona, but it was enough to move him up one position in the NASCAR Top 10 to No. 6, supplanting Kurt Busch. He and No. 5 Waltrip are the only drivers to be ranked all season long in the NASCAR Top 10. Overall, he has been ranked among the NASCAR Top 10 for 50 consecutive races, dating to the spring race at Atlanta last season. It is the longest current streak in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He is 80 points behind No. 5 Waltrip and 472 behind No. 1 Kenseth. Johnson made his only appearance at Chicagoland during his 2002 rookie campaign and showed some strength. He qualified 37th, but worked his way to a fourth-place finish.

? No. 7 ? Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 2067. Previous ranking: 6. Busch dropped from No. 6 to No. 7 following a 36th-place finish at Daytona, but still only finds himself 12 points behind No. 6 Johnson and 92 behind No. 5 Waltrip. Busch, who has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 16 race weeks, leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Series with three victories (Bristol, California, Michigan). He is one of four drivers who have posted top-10 finishes in both appearances at Chicagoland Speedway. Busch finished eighth in 2001 and followed with a sixth-place performance in 2002 to join Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin in that group. He also qualified on the outside pole last season.

? No. 8 ? Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Points: 2049. Previous ranking: 9. Harvick continues his dramatic turnaround from last season, when he was ranked 30th at this stage of the season. On Saturday, he finished ninth at Daytona for his sixth top-10 effort of the season and the performance improved him one position to No. 8 in the NASCAR Top 10. Harvick moved past Rusty Wallace, who dropped to No. 9, and made some gains on the NASCAR Top 10 drivers in front of him. He closed to 18 points of No. 7 Busch and 30 of No. 6 of Johnson and heads to a track ? Chicagoland Speedway ? that has become a second home for the California native. Harvick has won both NASCAR Winston Cup races contested at Chicagoland Speedway, and they make up two of his three career NASCAR Winston Cup Series victories. Harvick started sixth in the inaugural race in 2001 and led 113 laps en route to the win. Last season, he stormed from the 32nd starting position and led 29 laps to defend his Tropicana 400 title. He is one of four drivers to register top-10 finishes in both races and the only one with top-five efforts in both.

? No. 9 ? Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Penske Racing South. Points: 2019.

Previous ranking: 8. Wallace finished 28th at Daytona and the finish cost him a position in the NASCAR Top 10, slipping from No. 8 to No. 9. However, he remains within immediate striking distance of the trio in front of him. He trails No. 8 Harvick by 30, No. 7 Busch by 48 and No. 6 Johnson by 60 heading to Chicagoland, where he is chasing his first top-10 finish at the 1.5-mile oval. He finished 13th in 2001 and faltered to 25th last season. On the plus side in last year?s event, he qualified eighth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook:

No. 10 ? Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Points: 1998. Previous ranking: 10. Marlin finished 19th at Daytona, but was able to make up some ground on No. 9 Wallace as he spends his sixth race week in the NASCAR Top 10. He is just 21 points behind him and 51 behind No. 8 Harvick. In two appearances at Chicagoland Speedway, Marlin has qualified among the top 10 both times and has one top-10 finish. He qualified and finished ninth in 2001, and last season he qualified fourth and finish 16th.

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