Drivers Battle Over Top 35

Sam Hornish, Jr. is relieved.

Jamie McMurray, Dave Blaney, Dario Franchitti and Kyle Petty not so much.

The first five races of the 2008 Sprint Cup Series season are in the books and the controversial Top 35 rule now reverts to this year's standings, leaving some drivers on the outside looking in.

Hornish's 29th place finish in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday wasn't that impressive, but it did move the rookie up a notch in the standings and safely into the Top 35.

"We did pretty much what we came here to do, and that was stay out of trouble as much as you can here and finish," Hornish said.

"I'm just really happy that we got out of here in the top 35 in points and we rebounded at the last two races just the way we needed."

On the other side of the fence sits Franchitti, who finished 36th on Sunday and now must try and qualify his way in at the series' next race in Martinsville on March 30th.

"It's tough," said Franchitti. "It's tough to be learning everything that we're learning racing against these type of people. These guys know what they're doing, so it's very difficult for us to even stay in the top 35 right now, but hopefully by the middle to the end of the season we'll have figured it out."

McMurray has been on a free-fall all season and was caught up in a Bristol incident that effectively knocked him out of the Top 35.

As for Petty, who dropped down to 40th in the standings, the team is looking at a variety of options including the swapping of points between the No. 43 of Bobby Labonte and the No. 45.

There is also a rumor floating around the team may tab former champion Terry Labonte to drive a few races, using his past champion's provisional as a means of getting into the field.

"We could do the Bobby thing, but we don't want to do that because of the sponsor thing," team vice president Robbie Loomis said. "We could call on brother Terry. He might be willing to help us out a little bit. We could use him to start the race. He's got the championship status like they have with Bill [Elliott] and with Dale Jarrett. So that's an option for us, too. But ultimately, we'd like to leave Kyle in there as the driver of the car, and have him make the race."

It promises to be a nervous Easter dinner for several drivers and teams.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008

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