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Through four races, Edwards the man to beat
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Carl Edwards The train kept a rollin’ ... Edwards and crew churning out great runs, with five finishes of second or better in the last six races dating back to last season.
2. Kurt Busch Going about things in a totally different way — but equally as effective — is Busch, who leads the point standings with unspectacular, yet solid, top-10 showings.
3. Kyle Busch And then there’s younger brother Kyle, who once again stepped up at Bristol and did what he does best: Sweep the weekend’s Nationwide and Cup events.
4. Tony Stewart Smoke’s final results have been up and down, but Bristol was honestly the first race of the season that he wasn’t in contention at the end.
5. Jimmie Johnson Two third-place runs in the last three races prove Mr. Five Time and the boys are this close to hitting paydirt. And Auto Club Speedway is one of the 48 team’s best tracks.
6. Ryan Newman Sits third in the point standings, but has gone about his work quietly, notching runs of fifth, fifth and 10th in the last three races.
7. Paul Menard If you haven’t heard of the The Paul Menard Empire, you need to check it out on Facebook. The month of “Menarch” has been kind to him thus far.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s been an eighth- through 11th-placer so far this season, which is certainly an improvement from the last two seasons. Will Junior Nation finally accept a crew chief not named Tony Eury?
9. Kevin Harvick The fact that he drove back from a late spin at Bristol to finish sixth tells us he probably had something for Busch, Edwards and Johnson if only he'd had more laps.
10. Juan Pablo Montoya Third- and sixth-place finishes offset by 19th- and 24th-place runs this year. If he’s ever able to put it all together, look out.
11. Matt Kenseth Three consecutive runs of 12th or better and heading to Fontana, where he’s always tough.
12. Jeff Gordon Yeah, he has the Phoenix win, but the 24 team has been on a roller coaster otherwise.
13. Kasey Kahne Making the most of his brief association with Red Bull Racing.
14. Martin Truex Jr. Truex and crew chief Pat Tryson are quietly turning the 56 team around.
15. Mark Martin Steady as she goes for “the crazy old man” and his No. 5 group.
Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marco Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte