If you ask me, we’re off to a very funky start to this season. Yeah, I know that Jimmie Johnson’s domination is old news, but you know what? I honestly don’t think he can keep it up. I really believe he’s got some good competition closing in on him, it’s just a matter of finding the consistency to get with the “48” and stay with him. The talent to get it done is there.
But there’s the rub. Outside of maybe two or three other drivers, consistency is hard to find this year. There’s no one, except for maybe Greg Biffle or Matty K. getting off to the same kind of start that Smoke did last year. The good news is there’s a boatload of season left.
Here’s how this observer sees it now….
THE BIG 10
10. Joey Logano- (unranked last week)- I don’t know that I expect the youngster to hold the spot, but there’s no denying he’s figuring out how to finish races, and to finish first, you must first finish. If he can find that consistency, we just might be surprised to find that Logano is to 2010 what Martin Truex was to 2007, and what Juan Pablo Montoya was to 2009.
9. Denny Hamlin- (unranked last week)- Denny+ Drama= Win. I’m not suggesting the guy thrives on adversity, but it is uncanny how if something is happening in his life, he wins. It may be a bit premature to give him this rank on the basis of a single win, in an otherwise moribund season, but I think this is more reflective of what the guy can do than all those bum performances from earlier in the year.
8. Carl Edwards- (unranked last week)- Showing signs that he’s through screwing around in the marbles and ready to do some real racing. That’s two top tens in a row. You know how Carl takes care of the sponsors. With Subway sponsoring the Phoenix race, I’d say watch out!
7. Kevin Harvick- (ranked 4th last week)- Couldn’t catch a brake (sorry) at Martinsville. Happy finally ran into a problem he couldn’t drive his way out of. It’s a shame, but the RCR rides are good, and you can expect good things out of the “29” in Phoenix.
6. Jeff Gordon- (ranked 10th last week)- Just when everyone though Ingrid had Jeff neutered, he demonstrated otherwise, by rubbing off his old rival Kenseth to finish third. He wasn’t going to win it, but the incident does provide Kenseth and other rivals something to think about the next time the “24′” is in sight.
5. Kurt Busch- (ranked 5th last week)- How is it Busch has better stats than Jeff Burton, but trails him in the points? That’s just messed up. Even more messed up his how K.B. had a contending car, and completely fell off. Better days are ahead, and this team is contending darn near every week.
4. Clint Bowyer- (unranked last week)- Cue up the old .38 Special song “Back Where You Belong.” NASCAR’s biggest Elvis fan has returned to the building. It’s my belief this is RCR’s best shot for a title in ‘10. I like how he’s rebounded from a couple of rough races.
3. Matt Kenseth- (ranked 2nd last week)- He cold be points leader now, but that little dust-up with Gordon cost Kenseth a top five. Never mind, though. I give Matty props for going for the win, instead of the points. That’s racing. As Herman Edwards would say…”You play. To win. The game.”
2. Greg Biffle- (ranked 3rd last week)- He owes his upward move to the bump of Jeff Gordon. In my mind, Kenseth is still a little better, and the numbers show it, but Biffle made top ten Monday, and Kenseth didn’t. I’m not sure when, maybe Texas, but a win is coming soon for this team.
1. Jimmie Johnson- (ranked 1st last week)- Even when he’s not great, he’s good. You never really had the feeling he had a winning car at Martinsville, but Johnson still grabs a top ten. I can’t say i root for the guy (I never root for Goliath), but I truly admire what he and Chad Knaus pull off every week, I don’t care what the haters say.
FALLING OFF THE PACE
Something’s just a little off about Tony Stewart…but I expect the better results are coming…Jeff Burton hasn’t done anything real spectacular, other than give Denny a heck of a battle for the win Monday. I would not be surprised by a rebound…Dale Earnhardt, Jr. needs something really good to happen, and soon, to build that confidence.
READY TO STRIKE
Misfortune ruined what looked like a good day for Kyle Busch. I don’t think he’s disappeared yet….Paul Menard looks just a bit like this year’s David Reutimann- maybe not quite “Chase ready,” but good enough to make things interesting, and maybe even contend some…Ryan “Spaceman” (couldn’t resist. He was the “Rocket” once, after all) Newman for five races in a row has put up improving numbers.
Be sure to check out the Top 20 at Race Talk Radio. Your truly has the honor of voting along with a distinguished panel of other NASCAR media types. Dennis Michelson and Company do a great job over there.