Mast up to Bodine in Winston Cup statistics

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Today is part two of the STAR's exclusive statistical ranking of 40 veteran Winston Cup drivers. We begin with position No. 36 and work our way down to No. 30. You can pick up yesterday's paper or go to our online edition to see how we arrived at these rankings.
   36. Rick Mast (7 points)
   With his career recently ending as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, two things stand out as the highlights for Mast. He's in the history books as the first pole winner for the Brickyard 400 and the other is a close second place finish to Dale Earnhardt at the 1994 Rockingham race, when Earnhardt clinched his seventh driving title.
   While those two events overshadow everything else, it should be noted that Mast actually has won four poles and has finished in the top three four times over his Cup career. He made his first big splash in the series at the 1989Daytona 500, when he stayed with the frontrunners all day in an unsponsored car, finally winding up sixth.
   Mast's record in the Busch Series is outstanding as well, winning nine races and five poles and finishing in the top ten in the point standings for six consecutive years from 1985-90.
   35. Kenny Wallace (8 points)
   Kenny's stint as a substitute in the No. 1 car at the beginning of the 2002 season was cut short by the quick return of Steve Park. But by years end, Wallace had landed back on his feet, earning another good ride. If you go by our statistical formula, the move to put Kenny behind the wheel in the No. 23 looks to be the right one.
   While Wallace's best talent may be his post-race analysis on RPM2Night and Totally NASCAR, he is adept at driving a race car. Kenny has three poles in his career, two on the short tracks of Bristol and Martinsville while driving for Filmar Racing car, the last at Rockingham in his substitute role at DEI.
   Before entering the Cup ranks, Wallace secured Rookie of the Year Awards in both the ASA and Busch Series. He also is a former Most Popular Driver in NASCAR's number two series and was the runner-up for the 1990 Busch title to Bobby Labonte.
   34. Dave Blaney (11 points)
   It's been well publicized how good sprint car aces have done in the Winston Cup Series, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise that drivers from sprint cars' most well-known series, the World of Outlaws haven't really made a dent in NASCAR. Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell neither were impressive in brief Winston Cup stints.
   1995 WoO champ Blaney is trying to be the exception to that oddity and has run particularly well at the ultra-fast tracks of Atlanta and Chicago. He has stayed involved in dirt track racing hosting an Outlaw driving school and becoming a track owner. Dave has also been involved in the efforts of younger brother Dale, a former NBA player with the Los Angeles Lakers turned winning racer on the Outlaws tour.
   To his credit, Dave has improved every year he's raced full-time in the Cup Series. His first season in 2000, he finished 31st in the point standings, the next year he was up to 22nd and this past season he set a new career-best with a 19th place finish. That is a terrific accomplishment in the No. 77 car, as their driver in 2001 Robert Pressley, someone with far more NASCAR experience, only finished 25th in the points.
   33. Todd Bodine (12 points)
   Starting with the good, Bodine's a driver who can get more out of a bad race car, than almost anyone in the garage area. He has five career pole positions including one in 2002 at Las Vegas in a Travis Carter-owned Ford that had lost its high-profile sponsor. Performance wise, the No. 66 was better once Bodine replaced the retired Darrell Waltrip.
   He further showcased his talent, edging out Greg Biffle at Kentucky in the most entertaining Busch Series finish of 2002. Overall, Todd has a record of 14 wins and seven poles on the Busch tour.
   You have to ask no farther than Richard Childress Racing about Bodine's flaws. The team owner plus drivers Jeff Green and Robby Gordon all were steamed after Todd's involvement in a late season crash at Charlotte. Childress went as far as stating Bodine needed to learn to drive. That aggressiveness, while a burden on occasion, is one of Todd's best assets other times.
   32. Jerry Nadeau (12 points)
   Is Jerry Nadeay the superb talent that Rick Hendrick chose to resurrect the fortunes of the No. 25 car or a journeyman who will never have more than limited success in Winston Cup?
   If you judge how well Nadeau drove at the 2002 Sears Point race, when he really should have won, then Nadeau looks to be capable of being one of the best. Factor in how well he has run at Atlanta, when fuel mileage was all that kept him from recording back-to-back fall wins, and you're almost totally convinced Nadeau has the stuff to become a major star.
   Then you think about how Jerry and the team seemed to be headed on a downward spiral and after a driver change, how things looked to straighten out toward the end of the season.
   Something that is more clear-cut is that he has one of the most versatile backgrounds in all of motorsports. Nadeau is a 10-time karting champion and a former Rookie of the Year in the open wheel Skip Barber Series. Jerry raced in the Formula Opel Series, which also served as a training ground for ex-Formula One champ Mika Hakinnen. One of his strangest racing odysseys is finishing second in a go-kart race on ice in Russia.
   31. Elliott Sadler (13 points)
   Going to Robert Yates' car in 2003, this is Elliott's big break. If it is the car that makes a driver great, Sadler should be an instant title contender. A former South Boston Speedway track champion, Sadler has five Busch Series wins and over 200 go-kart wins as credentials. However, the whole perception of Elliott as a driver at this level changed one afternoon in March 2001.
   That day at Bristol, he drove the Wood Brothers car from obscurity back to victory lane for the first time in over eight years. More than one person in the press box noticed how Elliott hung tough the late stages of the event, holding off John Andretti's car with fresher tires.
   Overall, Elliott has shown steady improvement on the Cup side, going from one top ten finish in each of his first two seasons to two in 2001 and up to seven this past year.
   30. Brett Bodine (15 points)
   Known as one of the most mechanically gifted drivers in the garage area, Bodine is the last remaining owner-driver in the top series competing full-time. Although he isn't an independent driver in the traditional sense, Bodine is honorably carrying on that legacy.
   Sometimes that role is a burden. For the first part of the 2002 season, Brett had to be more concerned with getting a sponsor than going all out behind the wheel. When you look back over his career, you see his greatest success came working with Kenny Bernstein's Quaker State team from 1990-94.
   Not only did Bodine score his only career win at North Wilkesboro then, he averaged almost ten top ten finishes per season during that time period.
   Since becoming the team owner himself, Brett has scored no more than two top ten finishes per season. He has failed to score a single top five as an owner-driver. Looking over his entire career, Bodine has five pole positions, the last coming in 1993.
   Outside of Cup racing, Brett was the 1986 Busch Series runner-up and the series' Most Popular driver in 1987. He has five wins and sixteen pole positions in that series. He also was an accomplished Modified driver, earning the distinction of one its 50 greatest drivers on that tour that pre-dates the Winston Cup Series by one season.