A Traffic Jam at the Top
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Kyle Busch Busch’s third win of the season — an impressive routing of the field at Kentucky — catapults him to the points lead. By the way, we used the picture to the right for obvious reasons.
2. Carl Edwards Edwards has four top-5 finishes in the last six races. The other two? A pair of 37th-place runs that are looking more and more like mere hiccups in the long 2011 season. We would’ve used a pic of Carl and his wife, but the only ones we could find were of him with his mother.
3. Kevin Harvick A 16th at Kentucky was Harvick’s worst showing since a 20th at Texas in early April. He leads the series — along with Busch — with three wins and is a threat on any given weekend.
4. Kurt Busch Kurt continues to run at a high level, leading 41 laps at Kentucky and posting his 10th top 10 of the season. Exploiting the picture theme here, we could’ve used one of Kurt and his main squeeze, but the two girls look so much alike, we didn’t know which one was the old and which was the new.
5. Matt Kenseth Running under the radar, Kenseth could be the most dangerous snake in the grass of the bunch. Two wins, 10 top 10s, a pole thrown in for good measure ... he's going to make Crown Royal very, very sorry.
6. Jimmie Johnson And then there’s Mr. Five Time, fresh off a bounce-back third-place run in Kentucky and unable to lay low like Kenseth. But still every bit as dangerous.
7. Jeff Gordon Rebounded from early-race handling issues to post a solid 10th-place run to advance to seventh in the point standings.
8. Denny Hamlin It’s still not clear whether the No. 11 team has straightened out all the issues that plagued it early in the season, so he’s ranked eighth by default.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior is going in the wrong direction, with four straight forgettable finishes. And by the way, his throwback Mountain Dew paint scheme is the most bad-ass on the circuit. This is not up for debate.
10. Tony Stewart Everyone claims Stewart likes to race on the hot and slick tracks of the summer. So why has he failed to finish better than seventh since it really got hot?
11. Brad Keselowski Knocking on the door of the top 20 in the standings and a possible wild card slot, BK has some work to do, but my thought is he stands the best shot of Chasing once he gets there.
12. Ryan Newman Sometimes Newman shows up out of nowhere and finishes fourth. Kind of like at Kentucky.
13. Joey Logano Is certainly trending upward, but needs a win if he hopes to make the Chase. Rain in Loudon, anyone?
14. Clint Bowyer Missed the setup so bad at Kentucky it’s not clear whether they even brought it with them.
15. David Ragan Ragan enjoys an eighth-place run after the big win at Daytona. Can this bunch keep delivering?
Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, David Reutimann
Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro