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Stewart-Haas Racing making a charge
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Carl Edwards Edwards has been first or second in the point standings after 17 of the 19 races this year. It may be tight at the top, but as others come and go, Carl remains.
2. Kyle Busch Kyle claims the flat tire that ended his day in Loudon was due to excessive brake heat, but it looked more like it was due to excessive contact with Hendrick Motorsports cars.
3. Jimmie Johnson Speaking of, Johnson survived numerous dogfights — and another error by his pit crew — to make his weekly late-race charge to a top-5 finish. Dude’s a machine.
4. Kurt Busch Has led at least three laps in every race since the Coca-Cola 600 for a total of 390 by averaging a 7.5-place finish in that time. He’s whittled his points deficit to 10.
5. Matt Kenseth Kenseth had his first forgettable weekend in over two months, but he’s holding steady at sixth in the point standings, 26 markers out of first.
6. Kevin Harvick “The Closer” needs to get back to his closing ways or he’ll be known as “The Fader.” Not that it’s become that bad, but Harvick needs to put the last two weeks behind him.
7. Jeff Gordon A cut tire on the last lap dropped him from a top-5 finish to 11th in New Hampshire. Bad deal. He deserved better. Forget about it and move on to the Congo, Jeff.
8. Denny Hamlin Claims he had the stuff to run down both Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman in the final laps in Loudon but had to weigh the risk vs. reward of running out of fuel. Such is life on the Cup circuit.
9. Ryan Newman A win under the new points format is huge — especially for a guy like Newman, who is on the Chase bubble and was winless until last weekend. Wonder what the intake manifold on his Cup car looked like …
10. Tony Stewart On the topic of wins, Stewart (also on the Chase bubble) needs one in the worst way. The good news is that the Brickyard is up next and a runner-up showing in Loudon is fresh on his mind.
11. Joey Logano A string of top-15 runs may be too little too late if Logano can’t pick up a victory.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior is going the wrong way fast. Never has there been a better time for an off weekend.
13. Kasey Kahne From 19th to 15th in the standings in the last three weeks. Is there a spoiler in our midst?
14. David Ragan Ragan joins Stewart as the wild card qualifier for the Chase as they run now. Needs to change his lack-luster Indy ways, though.
15. Brad Keselowski Is 25 points out of 20th in the standings and, with his Kansas win, a Chase spot. My thinking is he gets there.
Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, David Reutimann
You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro