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Hamlin Surges, Edwards Stays
By Matt Taliaferro
1. Carl Edwards No broken valves for Cuz at Michigan. As is usually the case, the Roush contingent was strong on the 2-mile oval, with Edwards padding his championship lead to 20 points — or about a JGR oil pan’s worth if converted to pounds.
2. Kyle Busch Consecutive third-place runs give Rowdy eight top-5 finishes on the season — a number matched only by Edwards.
3. Kevin Harvick Climbed to second in the point standings, in part due to Jimmie Johnson’s and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s sub-par finishes. Though you’d think, with three wins, he’d already be first.
4. Jimmie Johnson The Michigan jinx strikes Johnson again. MIS is one of four tracks — Chicagoland, Homestead and Watkins Glen being the other three — where Johnson has not won.
5. Matt Kenseth The Kenseth/Jimmy Fennig combo is looking more dangerous each week. Until this coming weekend, that is, when Kenseth will run 25th on a road course. Not even Boris Said atop the pit box will change that.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior doesn’t go after other drivers in the media often, which is why his assessment of teammate Mark Martin’s “careless” driving at Michigan was so surprising.
7. Denny Hamlin From 21st in the point standings to ninth in 10 races. And with the win, Hamlin becomes the sixth driver in the top 10 to earn a victory. Bonus points will be big.
8. Kurt Busch They’re doing something right at Penske Racing. Busch has three consecutive poles with finishes of fourth, second and 11th.
9. Jeff Gordon Gordon’s on-again/off-again routine is ongoing, as he follows up a win at Pocono with an uninspiring 17th at Michigan. Or as Gordon might say, “The car wasn’t awesome.”
10. Tony Stewart Random stat of the day: Smoke’s last four runs have netted finishes of 17th, eighth, 21st and seventh. Heck, he finished 20th at Eldora. I can’t explain any of that.
11. Greg Biffle Led the most laps at Michigan (68), but faded to 15th at the finish. This is a better team than its 13th-place points ranking would indicate. Or it should be.
12. Ryan Newman Ran a stealthy sixth at Michigan. Somehow hanging in at eighth in the point standings.
13. Clint Bowyer Rebounds from running in the mid-teens the three races prior to eighth at Michigan. Like Biffle, this bunch should be better than that.
14. Mark Martin “Junior, don’t be mad at me ... I might need a ride with JR Motorsports next season!”
15. Paul Menard Nabs a fourth at Michigan, his best finish since a runner-up at Talladega in 2008.
Just off the lead pack: Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr.
Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro