NASCAR's Mendoza Line: Ranking Teams 31-40 in Sprint Cup Owners Points

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IMarch 30, 2012

NASCAR's Mendoza Line: Ranking Teams 31-40 in Sprint Cup Owners Points

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    In baseball, the mark of mediocrity for a hitter is called the "Mendoza line." Named for former shortstop Mario Mendoza, a career .215 hitter, players unfortunate enough to fall below a .200 average are known to be "below the Mendoza line."

    In NASCAR, that mark of mediocrity exists for teams as well: the cutoff in owners' points that guarantees the top 35 teams in the sport a starting spot from week to week. Teams hovering at or around this line are usually the definition of mediocre, whether because they're a fully-funded team that disappoints or a start-and-park team that doesn't run enough to show their true caliber on the track.

    Those 35 guaranteed starting spots are a huge selling point for teams, even though they can change from week to week. A team with a guaranteed starting spot can usually find a driver or sponsor willing to come on board if necessary (see Richard Childress Racing this week), while a team lacking that guaranteed spot may have a frustrating weekend on more than one front.

    Luckily for the backmarkers outside of the top 35, one good run can put them right back in the mix. The situation gets better for those who have already found a way in, as a strong finish can put them in the top 30 and ease worry for weeks. While it's early in the season, many of these teams will likely be fighting tooth and nail to guarantee their race invitations from week to week all season.

    Without further ado, let's explore the teams who are ranked from 31st to 40th place in owners' points, or around NASCAR's Mendoza line, entering the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

31. FAS Lane Racing, No. 32 Ford

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    Cushion/Deficit: 80 points, plus-18 on 36th place

    This Weekend: Ken Schrader will drive with Federated Auto Parts sponsorship.

    Outlook: Last year's combination of Schrader and FAS Lane at Martinsville produced two respectable results: a 22nd place finish in the spring and a 21st place run in the fall. Another run like that, and this team may not show up on this list next week.

32. Front Row Motorsports, No. 38 Ford

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    Cushion/Deficit: 80 points, plus-18 on 36th place

    This Weekend: David Gilliland will have Long John Silver's sponsorship on the car this weekend.

    Outlook: Last spring, Gilliland finished a disappointing 33rd place, while last fall he placed 34th after a crash. Gilliland will need to have a breakthrough run at Martinsville if he wants to get off of this list, though; his career average finish at the track is 31.5, while his best finish was 19th place in this race two years ago, the only time he has ever finished on the lead lap at the track.

33. Front Row Motorsports, No. 34 Ford

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    Cushion/Deficit: 79 points, plus-17 on 36th place

    This Weekend: David Ragan has not yet landed a sponsor for this weekend's race.

    Outlook: Last fall, Travis Kvapil took a Front Row-prepped Ford to a 16th place finish at Martinsville, while Ragan finished eighth in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford last spring. This team may have the pieces to at least put together a good enough run on Sunday to make the top 35 worries go away for a while.

34. Tommy Baldwin Racing, No. 10 Chevrolet

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    Cushion/Deficit: 67 points, plus-five on 36th place

    This Weekend: David Reutimann and longtime TBR sponsor Accell Construction will take Baldwin's second car to Martinsville.

    Outlook: Baldwin didn't enter a second car in either of last year's Martinsville races, but finished 30th and 23rd, respectively, with Dave Blaney in his lead car. Reutimann, meanwhile, finished 15th and 20th in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, suggesting that this team could be okay on Sunday.

35. Richard Childress Racing, No. 33 Chevrolet

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    Cushion/Deficit: 67 points, plus-five on 36th place

    This Weekend: Hermie Sadler will run at his home track with sponsorship from Anderson's Maple Syrup and AM/FM Energy.

    Outlook: This team runs on a week-to-week basis, meaning that Sadler's performance on Sunday may determine whether or not it shows up to the track next weekend. Sadler ran the last three Martinsville races for Kevin Buckler, scoring finishes of 26th, 28th, and 26th, suggesting that a strong run from a lesser team may knock this team from the top 35 and off of the Sprint Cup circuit next week.

36. BK Racing, No. 83 Toyota

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    Cushion/Deficit: 62 points, minus-five behind 35th place

    This Weekend: Landon Cassill will attempt to crack the top 35 once again in the Burger King car.

    Outlook: Last year's Team Red Bull placed no better than 17th in four Martinsville starts, while the two TRG Motorsports starts (BK Racing is comprised of former TRG investors) resulted in finishes of 28th and 26th. Cassill finished 26th in his lone attempt at the full race last year for James Finch, so nothing suggests that this team won't be mid-pack at best on Sunday.

37. Inception Motorsports, No. 30 Toyota

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    Cushion/Deficit: 49 points, minus-18 behind 35th place

    This Weekend: David Stremme will attempt to qualify for this race without sponsorship.

    Outlook: Last fall, Inception Motorsports pulled into the garage after 52 of 500 laps, complaining of a brake issue (officially). This team isn't likely to pull out a miracle run and finish 18 spots better than the 35th place team, campaigned by Richard Childress Racing, to grab an assured spot for Texas two weeks from Sunday.

38. Wood Brothers Racing, No. 21 Ford

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    Cushion/Deficit: 44 points, minus-23 behind 35th place

    This Weekend: Trevor Bayne will have the weekend off, as the Wood Brothers will not attempt this race and the Nationwide Series begins a two-weekend break.

    Outlook: After placing 35th in this race last year, the Wood Brothers elected to remove it from their limited schedule in 2012. The decision may be disappointing to longtime fans, as the Wood family is from Virginia, but skipping Martinsville plays into their strategy of only running races where they feel like they can be competitive.

39. Front Row Motorsports, No. 26 Ford

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    Cushion/Deficit: 43 points, minus-24 behind 35th place

    This Weekend: Josh Wise and Morristown Driver's Service return to the third FRM entry this weekend.

    Outlook: Wise has never raced at Martinsville in one of NASCAR's top three series, but the Rookie of the Year contender may not be doing much of that anyway. The good news for this particular FRM car is that it did make last fall's Martinsville race on speed with JJ Yeley behind the wheel, so if Wise can keep from making any unforced errors in qualifying, this team should at least start on Sunday.

40. Robinson-Blakeney Racing, No. 49 Toyota

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    Cushion/Deficit: 42 points, minus-25 behind 35th place

    This Weekend: J.J. Yeley welcomes back sponsor JPO Absorbents to the hood of his Toyota.

    Outlook: Yeley has qualified for the past three Martinsville races on speed, which is the most important criterion for this team on any given weekend; they'll likely be starting and parking anyway. On the off chance that Yeley races on Sunday, his best finish at the track came in his debut, a 20th place run for Joe Gibbs Racing in spring 2006.