“It’s a marathon, not sprint.” What we see happening right now is a reminder that this adage is certainly true of a NASCAR Cup season.
It’s interesting to see the trends in place, and there we see another adage that applies: “The more something changes, the more it stays the same,” with some some drivers catching fire that we haven’t seen up front for a while.
THE BIG TEN
10. Jeff Gordon- (Down from #7)- Just edges out Matt Kenseth based on a slightly better average over the last fives races, and that’s all. The funny part is this guy is second in points, but his bar is set so high, we’re talking about his season like it’s disaster. Funny what winning- or the lack of it- does.
9. Juan Pablo Montoya- (Holding at #9)- Take a look at his last four races. The man has been downright phenomenal. We would be talking about the Colombian Comet is a whole different light if it weren’t so deep in the season. Seven DNFs is a hard defecit to overcome.
8. Clint Bowyer- (RE-ENTRY)- I give the man props. He needed a good day and he got it at Atlanta. We see flashes of what he can do, he just needs a little more of it.
7. Jeff Burton- (Up from #8)- A poor man’s Mark Martin. You don’t get where Burton does without talent, there just isn’t enough of the “wow” factor to get over the hump. The man needs a win. Of course, I could easily see Burton winning at one of the short tracks, or at Charlotte. Could be a stealth candidate, you never know.
6. Kurt Busch- (Holing at #6)- You know what I love about this guy, he’s a fighter. What makes what Busch does even more impressive is the lack of anything to draw from in terms of teammates or any real allies. Stewart has a list of buddies a mile long. Edwards and Kyle have their teammates. What Johnson has almost borders on a mafia. Kurt has Kurt (well, o.k., he has Penske, which isn’t chopped liver)….and he competes well with it.
5. Jimmie Johnson- (RE-ENTRY)- I told you he wouldn’t stay down long, but then again, you probably didn’t need much convincing. The air of invincibility is gone, but all the ingredients that made him a champion are still there. From where I sit, I think the competition finally caught up.
4. Carl Edwards- (Down a spot from #3)- He didn’t do anything wrong, I’m not busting on him, for anything other than the fact that unlike the drivers ranked ahead of him, Edwards hasn’t won yet. Methinks that will be rectified before the year is out. I don’t even think a championship run is out of the question.
3. Tony Stewart- (Up two spots from #5)- ‘Round these parts, wins matter more. In Stewart’s case, more will follow. Like Gordon, and most other champions, Stewart is a threat to win anywhere. In a wide open chase, Smoke has to be thought of as one of the favorites. If there ever was anything wrong at Stewart- Haas, it’s been corrected.
2. Kyle Busch- (Holding at #2)- Forget for a moment what you think of him personality-wise. Personally, I think Kyle Busch is the biggest chap-ass in NASCAR, and that’s saying something, given the competition. It’s not how he drives, it’s how he treats people when he’s not going well that gets me. I couldn’t work for him. That said, The talent to rebound from adversity and wind his way through the field is undeniable. You people who hate him better get used to him. We’re going to see a lot of his mug for years to come.
1. Kevin Harvick- (Hanging on at #1)- While tempting to award this spot in the rankings to Stewart, Busch or even Cousin Carl, Harvick has earned the right to hold on to it for his overall body of 2010 work, and the fact his bum finish had more to do with bum tires than bum strategy. Let’s also acknowledge there is little incentive to really push harder at this point for the bonus points a win gets you. There’s no catching Hamlin or Johnson at this juncture.
FALLING OFF THE PACE
Greg Biffle took a hard hit with a 36th in the “A-T-L,” but his prior results give him wiggle room in the standings that matter….for teammate Matt Kenseth it’s another case of not being real bad, or being real good, either.
Denny Hamlin gets props for putting on a good face, but it can’t be helping his confidence to go limping into the Chase like this….I wonder if Ryan Newman is carrying around a Bowyer voodoo doll? He’s right on the cusp of some really good things, but can’t seem to get a sustained run going…if Jamie McMurray’s season were an amusement ride, you’d need Dramamine for it…Martin Truex, Jr. is offering boss Michael Waltrip better results than Waltrip could get. He’s quietly running more often and more closely with solid top 15 guy David Reutimann. Anyone seen Mark Martin?