A testament to how wide open it is at the top is evidenced by how difficult it is becoming to determine a true number one. Good arguments can be made for a number of drivers, depending on the criteria.
- Jamie McMurray- Jamie Mac is showing he’s not mailing it in down the stretch. You’ve got to love this guy’s attitude. This whole Chase could become a test session for McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya for 2011.
- Jeff Gordon- His performance wasn’t too bad at New Hampshire wasn’t bad considering what a struggle his day was. The top ten there breaks him out of a run of top fifteens. He still doesn’t look real good right, but he isn’t awful either. Could start a run, but needs to do it quickly.
- Ryan Newman- If you look at it, Newman’s been pretty decent over the last four race, with his 11th place run at Richmond his worst finish in that span. Like JPM, Beak and Jamie Mac, it’s let it rip time for the non-chasers with speed.
- Tony Stewart- That great big sucking sound you here is coming from Tony’s engine. Every race has a heartbreak kid, and here he is from New Hampshire. Like Jimmie Johnson, Stewart has less wiggle room to work with, putting higher stakes on Dover.
- Jimmie Johnson- Not as vulnerable as some would like to think, but not as invincible as others may suppose. A race like this often becomes motivational fuel for a win- something he’s done more than once at Dover.
- Carl Edwards- For Crazy Cousin Carl, finishing 11th at New Hampshire has to be considered a disappointment, though only a mild. He still managed to gain for spots in the points, and he’s got better tracks ahead. He could be a factor down the stretch, but really needs to notch it up, and quick.
- Kevin Harvick- Thanks to Bowyer’s penalty, here’s your new number two in the standings. Harvick is, so far, doing all the things you need to do to contend. Make it two weeks in a row of top tens, and the finish at New Hampshire came partly through attrition, and partly through sheer grit. There are about seven or eight legitimate contenders for this championship, and Harvick is right there at the head of the pack.
- Kyle Busch- If I were J.D. and Joe Gibbs, I’d consider sending crew chief Dave Rogers to a crash course in psychology. Kyle’s temperament will put his people skills to the test every week. Listening to those two is more entertaining than Juniors Dale and Tony squabble like a couple of old ladies. Psyche aside, Busch rallied for a top ten at New Hampshire, and looks every bit the part of a title threat if he keeps his head screwed on right. Good luck, Dave.
- Clint Bowyer- As I write this, I am learning of the whole big blowup over his penalty. I’ll reserve judgment until I hear more. Regardless, it doesn’t erase what Bowyer has accomplished of late. Bowyer Raced his butt off. If I were him, I’d continue that path and race for wins now.
- Denny Hamlin- By virtue of finishing first one week and second the next, Hamlin is displaying anew the raciness had had before his summer slump. Equally as impressive, he kept a calm demeanor while languishing through much of the early race, and then there was that deal with Carl Edwards. You can number me among those who believe Denny can win it all. What he has to do is keep replicating this with consistency. Doing that earns you a mulligan, as Jimmie Johnson can attest (see Texas 2009 for reference).
FALLING OFF THE PACE
Juan Pablo Montoya bobbled just enough to give way to his teammate…Jeff Burton is a little more like City Dog Catcher than Mayor…Matt Kenseth sunk below 20th, further suggesting he’s not among the serious championship threats w88id.
This will rile the haters up- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. looked like the Junebug of old Sunday. It’s good to see him smile again…Kurt Busch has to work that much harder as the lone Penske and lone Dodge man in the Chase…David Reutimann is getting his sponsors some decent camera time…props to Sam Hornish for his top ten, and to A.J. Allmendinger for coming close.