Like a Lazy Susan, the leader carousel spins r’round and ‘round in our standings. While the cream has a way of rising to the top, the top of the top has a way of changing from week to week.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it yet either. For this perspective, Jimmie Johnson’s win at Dover was not unexpected, but there will be plenty of competition to keep him honest, and maybe even overtake him this year.
THE BIG TEN
10. Tony Stewart- (Sliding from 7th to 10th)- After his Atlanta win, Stewart has finished 16th, 24th and 21st. It’s not an exactly inspiring run. With two career wins there, Kansas comes at a great time.
9. Jeff Gordon- (Holding serve at 9th)- You can’t help but wonder if he spent all his shells too early in the season. After having a race after race stretch where he came so close, Gordon hasn’t had a really great run since. The good news for guys like Gordon and Stewart is they can win darn near anywhere. For teh Rainbow Warrior, he needs to light ‘em up pretty quick to get back in the championship discussion.
8. Clint Bowyer- (Plunges from 2nd to 8th)- From diamonds to dust, it was a rough week for the 33 team. Now, he can focus on winning, as he heads to his home track. Nothing like winning as a deodorant.
7. Kurt Busch- (RE-ENTRY)- With all the stuff he has to overcome, its seems like Busch has to pass twice the number of drivers to get to the same place. His determination serves him well on days like Sunday.
6. Jeff Burton- (RE-ENTRY)- I’ll say this about J.B., he rarely excites, but he rarely disappoints. That second place finish at Dover was a nice bounce back effort. With Texas and Charlotte on the horizon, there are tracks coming where he’ll be strong.
5. Kevin Harvick- (Down a spot from 4th to 5th)- The “regular season” points leader is keeping up a pretty consistent pace. There problems from this point of view: 1. He looks good, but never quite good enough to take the checkered flag, and 2. Most of the tracks coming up aren’t ones where Harvick is particularly strong.
4. Carl Edwards (Up a tick from 5th to 4th)- As more intermediates come up on the schedule, the more confident I become that Edwards could be the dark horse threat of the field. It seems like he could use a LITTLE more speed. Otherwise, all the ingredients to compete are there.
3. Denny Hamlin- (Down from 1st to 3rd)- It’s not that Denny had a bad week, a top ten at one of your worst track is a good thing. The thing is, Johnson and Busch were better at Dover. If he can be a little more selective about the battles he chooses to fight, Hamlin will be just fine. Personally, I really like the hunger I see in Hamlin. He looks like a man possessed (of course, some of you really think he IS possessed).
2. Kyle Busch- (Up from 3rd to 2nd)- Shrub is off to a much better start in this Chase than he was in 2008. He says he learned a lot about how to compete for a championship from his run last year in the Nationwide Series. To key for Busch: 1. Keep your cool, even when things are bad, and 2. Having equipment that holds up. If I’m a Kyle fan, I am slightly concerned at the mechanical issues that dog JGR from time to time.
1. Jimmie Johnson- (Rising like the Phoenix from 6th to 1st)- History repeats itself. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Jimmie has a bad week. Jimmie bounces back by winning. We’ve seen this movie before. That could be an ominous sign. Kansas is key.
FALLING OFF THE PACE
Ryan Newman has been pretty darn decent of late, with four top tens in his last five races. You could make the argument he belongs in the top ten over his teammate and employer…and the roller coaster ride continues for Jamie McMurray. It must mean a good week at Kansas is coming.
Props to A.J. Allmendinger for his improbable run at Dover. Good things may be around the corner…Joey Logano continues showing flashes of potential.