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Edwards fending off Rowdy charge
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Carl Edwards One win, three top 5s, four top 10s, two poles, an average finish of 7.8 and leading the point standings. There’s really no doubt who the man to beat is through five races.
2. Kyle Busch A couple late cautions in Fontana prevented Kyle from scoring his second straight win. He, along with Jimmie Johnson, look like Edwards’ main threats thus far.
3. Ryan Newman Newman is not the fireworks-like driver Busch is, but his consistency is nearly unmatched, having not finished outside of the top 10 since the Daytona 500.
4. Jimmie Johnson Anyone realize that J.J. hasn’t won a race yet? Of course, he’ll find Victory Lane soon enough, and in the meantime he’s finished second or third in three of the last four races.
5. Kevin Harvick Notched his first win of the year showing up out of nowhere like Houdini on the last lap at Auto Club Speedway. More W’s to follow.
6. Kurt Busch Busch was out to lunch from the moment his team unloaded in California but managed a 17th. He was top 10 in the first four races, but it’s hard to be sold on the championship caliber of this group.
7. Kasey Kahne The performance with his one ’n done Red Bull Racing team keeps getting better, with four consecutive top 15s.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior and new crew chief Steve Letarte have been an eighth- to 12th-place combo thus far. You have to figure that’s only going to improve with time.
9. Tony Stewart Late-race pit miscues are killing this team. If they get that figured out, it’ll be back to top-5 showings for Smoke and Co.
10. Matt Kenseth Hasn’t finished worse than 12th since Daytona, with consecutive fourth-place finishes in the last two events. Look out Carl, there’s some competition in your own stable.
11. Juan Pablo Montoya It’s the “Every Other Weekend” theory for JPM. Good, bad, good, bad, good, bad ...
12. Paul Menard Menard has been 17th or better in every race this year. Nice start, now keep it going.
13. Jeff Gordon Throw out the Phoenix win and 2011 hasn’t been very pretty for the 24 gang.
14. Martin Truex Jr. He’s led 84 laps through five races this season after leading 88 laps total in 2010.
15. Brian Vickers He looks good on the big intermediate tracks. Not so much anywhere else.
Just off the lead pack: Marco Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin