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Pocono Rain Doesn't Dampen Spirited Finish
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Kyle Busch For the second race in a row, Busch overcame issues that hindered his early-race gains to post a top-10 finish. The runner-up at Pocono finds him just 11 points out of the points lead.
2. Jimmie Johnson Entertained us all by engaging in a “I-don’t-really-wanna-fight” shouting match with Kurt Busch following his fourth-place finish at Pocono. Oh, and he did so with a faulty clutch (which was clutch).
3. Jeff Gordon The June Pocono winner wasn’t nearly as stout on Sunday, but he’ll gladly take the sixth-place run and move on to a road course. Have we mentioned Gordon is NASCAR’s “road course king?”
4. Carl Edwards OK, so the contract thing is behind Edwards and he still sits atop the point standings. The only question is whether any damage was done within the team that may bite him down the road.
5. Kurt Busch Kurt tried to play off the incident with Johnson as simple “hard racing.” Problem is, it sometimes seems Busch is putting on his media-friendly face and feeding us a line.
6. Ryan Newman His 5.5-place average finish over the last month is as impressive a stat as you’ll find in the series, but maintaining that level of performance over the next 17 weeks will be close to impossible.
7. Kevin Harvick Harvick’s slide is the polar opposite of Newman’s, as he’s averaged a 15.5-place showing in the last four events. History shows he’ll finish stronger, though.
8. Matt Kenseth Eighth may be a bit low for Kenseth, but that’s probably the way he prefers it with his low-key nature. Could make for a nice Chase darkhorse.
9. Brad Keselowski I said last week Keselowski probably wouldn’t make the Chase this year but was a shoe-in for 2012. I stand correct: He’s not only a shoe-in for 2012, but for this year as well.
10. Tony Stewart Something is amiss with Smoke. Still, would it surprise you if he and the No. 14 team rattled off a win at the Glen this weekend and defended their Atlanta title three weeks later?
11. Denny Hamlin That’s two Pocono races that have gotten away this year. Sunday’s shouldn’t have happened.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Just when we were throwing dirt on his grave, Junior rolls to a top-10 finish.
13. Paul Menard Follows his big Brickyard win with a 10th at Pocono. We’ll see what the Glen holds ...
14. Greg Biffle Consecutive top 10s for Biffle and the new crew chief. However, they needs wins. A couple.
15. Joey Logano A win evaporates like the water on the track. As do his Chase hopes.
Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Ragan