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Stewart runs, Johnson reigns
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jimmie Johnson Finishes of first, second and third in the last three weeks find Johnson exactly where we all expected him: leading the points during the Chase. Let’s hope this doesn’t get ugly.
2. Kevin Harvick There is a big drop off between Johnson and the rest of the field, but Harvick leads the rest of the best, averaging a 7.5-place run during the Chase.
3. Denny Hamlin Hamlin is Driver No. 3 of the trio that should contend down the stretch. He and Johnson are both averaging a 7.75-place run during the Chase, but Denny hasn’t been quite as flashy.
4. Tony Stewart Hindsight is 20/20: Had Stewart won in Loudon instead of running out of fuel on the last lap, he most likely would be 10 points behind Johnson in the standings.
5. Jeff Gordon Gordon may have had the clutch performance of the Fontana weekend when he drove from 24th to ninth in the final 15 laps after a pit road speeding penalty.
6. Ryan Newman Continues to run better than most of the Chase field after a fifth in Fontana.
7. Greg Biffle Things looked promising after he won at Kansas. Then Fontana’s blown engine kind of negated all the good will.
8. Carl Edwards Like his teammate Biffle, Edwards was feeling the good vibes until he took a 14-lap trip behind the wall at Auto Club Speedway.
9. Kyle Busch Kyle may be one of the most talented drivers of his generation, but you have to wonder if NASCAR’s Chase format will hinder his title performances for years to come.
10. Clint Bowyer If you’re keeping score at home, Bowyer’s now gotten the driveshaft in three of the four Chase races.
11. Jeff Burton It’s not clear how he could’ve been so far off at Fontana when his teammates were so good.
12. Kurt Busch A late-race wreck ruined what could have been a top 10 in Southern California.
13. Matt Kenseth The recurring Roush engine issue looked as if it was going to bite Kenseth late at Fontana.
14. AJ Allmendinger The nickname ìWall-mendingerî hasn’t been whispered about nearly as much over the last month.
15. Jamie McMurray Two wins, three runner-up showings and four poles this year for Jamie Mac. It’s still confusing how numbers like those don’t translate into a Chase bid.
Just off the lead pack: Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr.