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The following is a glance at the NASCAR Top 10 in the championship heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, Race 10 of 36 on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule. Each driver also has an outlook for projected movement in the NASCAR Top 10 based on past performance at this weekend’s track.

No. 1 – Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 1,330. Last week’s ranking: 1. Kenseth heads to this weekend’s Auto Club 500 ranked No. 1 for the sixth consecutive week. He holds a 51-point advantage over No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kenseth is looking to rekindle the success he enjoyed in his first appearance at California Speedway. In 2000, he led 120 laps en route to a third-place finish after starting 23rd. In his two appearances since, he has finished 17th (2001) and 20th (2002). NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ¯

No. 2 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Inc. Points: 1,279. Last week’s ranking: 2. Earnhardt Jr., a two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion, has never been ranked No. 1 in his NASCAR Winston Cup career, but has been closing in on Kenseth in recent weeks. Earnhardt Jr. is only 51 points behind No. 1 Kenseth, the closest anyone has been to Kenseth since Tony Stewart trailed him by 49 after Week 4 in Atlanta. That race also marked the first time Earnhardt Jr. ventured into the NASCAR Top 10 and now he has been in this group for six consecutive races. He qualified ninth at California Speedway last year, but finished 36th due to an accident. In his other two starts, he finished 12th in 2000 and third in 2001. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ­

No. 3 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,191. Last week’s ranking: 5. Gordon is coming off his first win of the season at Martinsville, which was the 62nd of the four-time series champion’s career. The victory moved him to his highest ranking of the season at No. 3, 88 behind No. 2 Earnhardt Jr. and 139 behind No. 1 Kenseth. Gordon easily can lay claim as the most successful driver at California Speedway among the NASCAR Top 10. He is one of only two drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 to win at the 2-mile oval and the only driver ever to repeat. In six career starts, he has two wins (1997, ’99) and four finishes among the top four overall. His only misses came last year (16th) and 2000 (11th). He leads all drivers in career laps led at California Speedway, having led 329 of the 1,500 laps raced (22 percent). NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ­

No. 4 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 1,151. Last week’s ranking: 4. Johnson, along with Stewart and Michael Waltrip, are the only drivers to be ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for the entire season. Overall, he also has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for 42 consecutive races dating to last season. He trails No. 3 Gordon by 40 points and No. 1 Kenseth by 179. He has only one previous appearance at California Speedway, but the native Californian made the best of it. In just his 13th NASCAR Winston Cup career start, he recorded his first career victory. He qualified fourth and led 62 laps en route to the win. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ­

No. 5 – Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), Roush Racing. Points: 1,125. Last week’s ranking 3. Busch has been situated among the top five for four straight weeks and has been among the NASCAR Top 10 for all but one week of the season (Week 4, Atlanta). He is just 26 points behind No. 4 Johnson and 205 behind No. 1 Kenseth. Busch has made just two appearances at California Speedway and was particularly strong last season. He qualified on the outside pole, led a race-high 102 laps and finished runner-up to Johnson. In 2001, he started 32nd but managed a 13th place finish. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ­

No. 6 – Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Richard Childress Racing. Points: 1,097. Last week’s ranking: 8. Harvick, well ahead of his championship pace of 2002 when he was 29th at this point of the season, is enjoying his third consecutive week among the NASCAR Top 10 and seventh overall. He trails No. 5 Busch by 28 and No. 1 Kenseth by 233. Harvick is looking to move into the top five for the first time since being ranked fourth following the season-opening Daytona 500, but will need to turn his fortunes around at California Speedway. He finished 35th last season as a result of an accident and was 25th in 2001. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ¯

No. 7 – Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 1,092. Last week’s ranking: 9. Stewart, one of three drivers to be ranked all season long in the NASCAR Top 10, may be primed to make a big jump this week. He finds himself only five points behind No. 6 Harvick and 33 behind No. 5 Busch as he arrives at a track he has qualified among the top eight and finished among the top 10 in three of his four career appearances. Stewart sandwiched fourth-place performances in 1999 and 2001 around a 10th-place effort in 2000. His string of three consecutive top-10 finishes at the speedway was snapped last season when he finished 29th after qualifying eighth. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ­

No. 8 – Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 1,088. Last week’s ranking: 7. Waltrip remains one of three drivers to be ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 for the entire season and also just one of three to hold the No. 1 ranking at any point during this season. He is just nine points behind No. 6 Harvick and four behind No. 7 Stewart. He posted personal bests for qualifying and race finish last season at California Speedway, starting sixth and finishing 10th. He also led two laps, the first for him at the 2-mile oval. In five previous starts, he had registered just one finish better than 20th – 11th in 1997. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ¯

No. 9 – Ricky Craven (No. 32 Tide Pontiac), PPI Motorsports. Points: 1,082. Last week’s ranking: 6. Craven has been situated among the NASCAR Top 10 since his win at Darlington in Week 5 and has the opportunity to make a big move this week. The three positions in front of him are within 15 points of his reach, with No. 6 Harvick 15 ahead of Craven, No. 7 Stewart 10 ahead, and No. 8 Waltrip just six. However, he will have to reverse his fortunes at California Speedway if he plans to make the charge upward. Since finishing ninth in his first appearance there in 1997, he has not posted a finish better than 34th. He was 34th in 1999, 41st in 2001 and 37th last season. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ¯

No. 10 – Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M’s Ford), Robert Yates Racing. Points: 1,055. Last week’s ranking: 10. Sadler arrives at California Speedway having posted consecutive top-five finishes and a hold on the No. 10 ranking for the past two weeks. He trails No. 9 Craven by 27 points, but he, like Craven, has struggled at the 2-mile oval. In four career starts, he has not finished better than 21st, which occurred in his debut at the track in 1999. Last season, he qualified a personal best of seventh, but engine problems relegated him to a 39th-place finish. NASCAR Top 10 Outlook: ¯

Fast Facts

NASCAR Top 10 this week:

1. M. Kenseth 1330 points
2. D. Earnhardt Jr. 1279 (-51)
3. J. Gordon 1191 (-139)
4. J. Johnson 1151 (-179)
5. K. Busch 1125 (-205)
6. K. Harvick 1097 (-233)
7. T. Stewart 1092 (-238)
8. M. Waltrip 1088 (-242)
9. R. Craven 1082 (-248)
10. E. Sadler 1055 (-275)

Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth, 6; Waltrip, 2; Busch, 1.

New arrivals in the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.

Most weeks in the NASCAR Top 10: 9, Waltrip, Johnson, Stewart.

Largest gain among the NASCAR Top 10: No. 3 Gordon, No. 6 Harvick, No. 7 Stewart, two positions each.

Dropped out of the NASCAR Top 10 this week: None.

Charting the Preseason No. 1: Jeff Gordon moved up two positions to No. 3, a season high.

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