Top 35 Locked In

When the final checkered flag of the season flew in Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway the Top 35 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owners' points were set for the start of the 2009 season.

That means some drivers and teams will enjoy the next two months of the off-season knowing they are locked into the first five races of next year including the Daytona 500.

For others, it will be a long and cold winter.

The biggest winners Sunday may have been Red Bull Racing, which decided to swap drivers Brian Vickers and Scott Speed for the season-ending race.

That move paid off as both cars ended the year in the Top 35.

"The guys have worked so hard," said Vickers, who drove the team's No. 84 Toyota at Homestead. "I am happy that we accomplished what we set out to do, and that was to get this 84 car into the top 35 in owner points. That will be a huge weight off the team's shoulders going into Daytona next year. Scott [Speed] did a great job in the 83 today, too. I'm happy to see him running so well."

Speed, who is expected to pilot the No. 84 full-time next season, turned in a decent effort at Homestead driving Vickers' regular No. 83.

"This was a good race for us," said Speed, who finished 16th. "We finished every lap, stayed out of trouble, and came home with a good finish. I felt like I had a really good feel for the car and learned a lot, so it was a nice to end the season on a high note."

Red Bull's No. 84 finished 13 points ahead of the No. 47 Michael Waltrip Racing entry, which began the year as the No. 00. When Michael McDowell was replaced by Marcos Ambrose through a late season partnership with JTG Racing, the team changed numbers but came up short in its bid to slide into the Top 35.

Also on the outside looking in is the Gillette Evernham Motorsports No. 10 entry, which finished 37th. Reed Sorenson is slated to drive that car next season and will now have to race his way into the Daytona 500.

Also missing the cut was Penske Racing's No. 77 ride with Sam Hornish Jr., which began the year using the points from the team's No. 2 entry, Hall of Fame Racing's No. 96, Petty Enterprises No. 45 and the Wood Brothers' No. 21.

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