Smoke rising through the carnage of Daytona
1.âMatt Kenseth Kenseth was the man to beat at Daytona for a second straight trip, although the fortunes of plate racing found him third by nightâs end. Still, RFR is the team to beat on the plate tracks.
2.âJimmie Johnson Johnsonâs 2012 plate racing results: 42nd, 35th and 36th. In fact, his plate stats over the last few years â outside of a Talladega win â arenât that impressive. Speaks more to the style of racing than the driver.
3.âDale Earnhardt Jr. You can throw a blanket over the top 3. Each has 13 top 10s in 18 races and at least one win. Junior slots third here because he trails Kenseth in the standings and Johnson in the wins column.
4.âTony Stewart Stewart closes the gap on the âBig Threeâ every three weeks or so. His problem lies in consistency â he seems to either finish in the top 3 on race day or outside of the top 20.
5.âDenny Hamlin Itâs hard to fault a guy for getting wrecked while racing for the win at Daytona. That was the story of Hamlinâs night, so weâll give him a pass and see what New Hampshire holds.
6.âGreg Biffle Biffle took the blame for the final âBig Oneâ ofÂ the night in Daytona, though itâs hard to pin that on any one driver. His sliding from top 5 to 21st in the wreck is punishment enough.
7.âBrad Keselowski Keselowski seems to always be near the center of the storm. From getting hit on pit road to spinning out without any help, he had a rough night but rebounded for a respectable eighth-place showing.
8.âKasey Kahne Stewartâs dancing partner at Daytona, Kahne managed a seventh-place run thanks to the craziness in the final two football fieldâs worth of the 400.
9.âClint Bowyer Since a scintillating four-week stretch that culminated in a win, Bowyer has limped to 16th- and 29th-place runs. That said, heâll be a pre-race favorite in Loudon this Sunday.
10.âMartin Truex Jr. Truex is still hanging tough at seventh in the point standings, but a win would go a long way in securing a spot in the Chase.
11.âJeff Gordon Somehow brought a wrecked racecar home to a 12th-place finish. Still 87 points out of a Chase birth.
12.âKevin Harvick Congrats to the Harvicks on the birth of their first child, Keelan Paul, born on Sunday.
13.âJoey Logano Currently occupies wild card spot No. 2 â but itâs oh-so-close in the mid-teens.
14.âKyle Busch If itâs not mechanical woes that fell Busch, itâs a Daytona âBig One.â
15.âCarl Edwards Thirty-two points out of 10th in the standings and desperately scrambling to get things on track.
Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman