NASCAR circuit "rips" into Chase for the Championship
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jeff Gordon The four-time champ has averaged a 3.25-place finish over the last month. Gordon is looking like the “Wonderboy” of old at just the right time.
2. Jimmie Johnson It looks as if his biggest threat in the Chase may come from within — as in within Hendrick Motorsports in the form of the aforementioned Gordon. Haven’t we seen this movie before?
3. Kyle Busch The best part of the Kurt vs. Jenna press conference? Watching Kyle, sitting next to brother Kurt, smirk. You can almost hear him thinking, “Thank God ‘Old Kurt’ is back!”
4. Brad Keselowski The top-10 streak is over, but Keselowski still looks solid after a 12th at Richmond. They say water finds its level, and that could be the case here but he gets the benefit of the doubt for now.
5. Carl Edwards Consecutive runs of ninth, fifth and second prove the testing has been over for about three weeks for the No. 99 team. We’ll see how the notes transfer into the Chase.
6. Kevin Harvick Another team that is rounding into form, Harvick’s group brings the momentum of a Richmond win into the Chase. And — OMG! — he got to meet Snooki in Victory Lane!
7. Matt Kenseth Kenseth was sponsored by “Ollie’s Bargain Outlet” at Richmond. And the way he ran, you’d think they bought the car there.
8. Ryan Newman Newman continues to throw top 10s on the board — he was eighth at Richmond — but he must avoid the hiccup his team seems to have once every month if a title is to be won.
9. Kurt Busch When you finish in the top 5 but receive more pub for your post-race antics, you know you’ve got some explaining and/or apologizing to do. When the cameras are on, of course.
10. Tony Stewart Tony’s antics came on Friday and, like Busch, were because of a confrontation with reporters. When are these guys going to learn that life can be a lot easier when they’re on friendly terms with the media?
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Somehow rebounded from a number of issues at RIR and snuck in the Chase. Sorry Junior Nation, but don’t expect much more.
12. Denny Hamlin Led zero laps and finished ninth at one of his favorite tracks. That’s not a great sign.
13. AJ Allmendinger AJ’s top-12 streak has hit five races in a row and he’s 13th in points. Not bad, young man.
14. Mark Martin There’s still a little gas left in the tank, as Martin’s 10th-place finish in Richmond proved. Not bad, old man.
15. Jamie McMurray This week will mark the start of “R&D Season” for McMurray and the Ganassi gang.
Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan
Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro