"The Closer" closes in on "The Carl"
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Carl Edwards The day faded to night at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Edwards’ car struggled to keep up. Regardless, he’s the man to beat on most weekends.
2. Kevin Harvick No one but Harvick is quite clear where he came from to win the Coke 600, but in typical “flare for the dramatic” fashion (see: 2007 Daytona 500), he managed another crown jewel win.
3. Jimmie Johnson The 48 car doesn’t blow up very often, but when it does, crew chief Chad Knaus tells the world how unhappy he is, via FOX’s live in-car radio feed.
4. Kyle Busch The Lexus brand doesn't usually get much play in NASCAR-land, but Kyle saw to that last week. What’s all this talk about the “New” Kyle Busch, again?
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Losing the Coca-Cola 600 coming out of Turn 4 with a dry fuel tank has to hurt ... and for the second time this season, in a cruel bit of irony, it was the Budweiser car that robbed him of what looked to be a sure-fire win.
6. Matt Kenseth May have had the best car in Charlotte, but when a rash of cautions and wacky fuel strategy came into play, Kenseth was relegated to a 14th-place finish.
7. Greg Biffle Lost in fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s disappointment was Biffle, who gave up the lead prior to the green-white-checker finish for a splash of gas and a safe points day. The stop dropped him from first to 13th.
8. Denny Hamlin Continuing a trend, Hamlin also was the victim of an empty gas tank. And for those that were throwing dirt on his grave a month ago, noticed he’s quietly worked his way up the standings to 12th.
9. Kasey Kahne Unlike Biffle, Kahne stayed out for the green-white-checker finish, led the field to green and then ran out of fuel. The difference? He needs wins to make the Chase. And eight positions in the final rundown.
10. Clint Bowyer Bowyer battled an evil car throughout most of the evening in Charlotte, but was able to muster a 15th-place run.
11. Tony Stewart Expected more out of Stewart in the 600 after it appeared his team found something previously lacking in the All-Star Race.
12. Jeff Gordon Lucky for Gordon, only five 1.5- to 2-mile ovals remain until the Chase.
13. Marcos Ambrose The schedule sets up well for him, with two road races coming up shortly … and those five intermediate stops that have been Gordon's bane have been Ambrose's bread 'n' butter this year.
14. David Ragan Earns his career-best Cup finish (second) at Charlotte. For a driver with an uncertain future, that doesn't suck.
15. AJ Allmendinger In case you haven’t noticed (and you probably have not), the 'Dinger sits only 18 points out of the final Chase spot.
Just off the lead pack: Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers