A Three Horse Race
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jimmie Johnson Upcoming Talladega race is the true wild card of the Chase ... and with apologies to Denny Hamlin, the only thing inside Johnson’s head right now.
2. Denny Hamlin Quite a statement win by Hamlin at Martinsville with Talladega next, followed by three Hamlin-friendly tracks to end the season. This oughta be good!
3. Kevin Harvick Harvick may be the best of the top three at Talladega, a track where he won in April.
4. Kyle Busch His roller coaster of a Chase continues — on his way up at the moment — following a runner-up at Charlotte and a fourth at Martinsville.
5. Carl Edwards Throw out that pesky distributor problem in Fontana and Edwards has 14 straight finishes of 12th or better.
6. Jeff Gordon Kurt Busch should be happy that short track season is over, because Gordon would have him dead to rights if Bristol were up next.
7. Jamie McMurray Had McMurray made the Chase he would only be 112 points out of the lead and heading to one of his best tracks at Talladega.
8. Tony Stewart The results aren’t there the last couple weeks, but it’s likely that Stewart & Co. are testing some new setups for next season now that the title is out of reach.
9. Jeff Burton Led the most laps in Martinsville (134) but, as is often the case, faded late.
10. Matt Kenseth Three top 15s in the last four weeks, but that’s not nearly enough to keep pace with the big boys.
11. Clint Bowyer Finished 38th in his first run with a new pit crew. Of course, it wasn’t the crew’s fault he spun and hit the wall.
12. Joey Logano He’s not challenging for wins, but this sophomore continues to perform in the sixth-through-15th range as the season winds down.
13. Kurt Busch Don’t expect any dancing help from the Hendrick boys this weekend, Kurt.
14. Mark Martin When was the last time we saw a smashed up car like Martin’s run as well as it did in Martinsville?
15. Greg Biffle Once he gets past Talladega the schedule opens up well for Biffle. Albeit too late.
Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr.