The Frontstretch: Who's Hot / Who's Not In Sprint Cup: Camping World 400 Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Tuesday September 30, 2008

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Who's Hot / Who's Not In Sprint Cup: Camping World 400 Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Tuesday September 30, 2008

 

It was another week, another mechanical problem for Kyle Busch this weekend at Kansas. Busch is going through one of the most surprising slumps in recent history, dropping from the points lead to 12th in a manner of three weeks. But while Busch continues to struggle, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle continue to fight for the title.

The Big 3 all finished in the Top 3 this weekend, but it was a Johnson win that gave the No. 48 team the point lead heading to Talladega next weekend. To see who has the best chance of catching the two-time defending champ, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup.

HOT

Jimmie Johnson: While it’s still WAY too early to etch his name on the Sprint Cup, Johnson is off to a stellar start to the Chase, establishing himself as the man to beat in his quest to match Cale Yarborough’s record of three consecutive Cup Series championships. In his last five races, Johnson has a series-high three wins, with a low finish of fifth.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 1 Win, 3 Top 5s, 3 Top 10s.

Carl Edwards: The final ten laps of this weekend’s race were déjà vu for fans who remember Edwards’ first career win back in 2005. But while Johnson allowed him to slip by in the closing laps of that race at Atlanta three years ago, the two-time champ learned from his mistakes the second time around. Throwing up a block with two laps to go at Kansas, Johnson then survived a gutsy white flag pass attempt by Edwards to pick up the victory. Cousin Carl gambled and lost, digging so deep into the entrance of Turn 3 he lost control and smacked the outside wall. But his chance for the season title remains firmly within his grasp, starting the Chase off with three consecutive Top 5 finishes to retain his label as one of the favorites.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 3 Top 5s, 3 Top 10s.

Greg Biffle: Seconds behind Edwards’ and Johnson’s exciting battle for the win, Biffle was wrapped up in an impressive battle of his own with Jeff Gordon. The Biff got a run off of Turn 4 on the final lap to settle the score, nipping Gordon at the stripe to pick up his third consecutive Top 3 finish. It was the type of pass that a driver looking to win the championship has to make in the closing laps, and it moved Biffle back to 30 behind Johnson for the points lead.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 2 Wins, 3 Top 5s, 3 Top 10s.

WARM

Kevin Harvick: The Top 10 streak is up to nine races, but Harvick continues to lose ground to the Big 3 who are absolutely dominating this Chase right now. Again, there’s still a long way to go, and next weekend’s race at Talladega is going to have a huge impact on the championship picture; but at some point, the No. 29 team is going to have to find Victory Lane to have a shot at the title.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 3 Top 10s.

Jeff Burton: Like his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Burton continues to run consistently in the Top 10, finishing a solid seventh this weekend. Despite sitting 4th in points — 121 out of the lead — Burton has to find a way to beat the Roush duo of Biffle and Edwards, as well as Johnson, to have a shot at hoisting the Sprint Cup in November.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 3 Top 10s.

Jeff Gordon: Gordon was the biggest mover this weekend, jumping up two spots in the standings with a fourth place run at Kansas. It hurt to lose third place in the final 100 yards of the race, but six consecutive Top 15 finishes is solid improvement for the No. 24 team. Still, Gordon’s teammate Johnson is on fire, while he still hasn’t found Victory Lane in 2008 to end a winless streak that’s almost reached a year.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 2 Top 10s.

Both Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have their work cut out for them to get back in Chase contention.

Matt Kenseth: If it weren’t for a crash in the Chase opener at New Hampshire, Kenseth could very well be in the title hunt. Since that hiccup to start the Chase, Kenseth has posted back-to-back Top 5s (fifth this weekend) and now sits ninth in points. The Roush Fenway camp continues to run strong, and the No. 17 team is no different — they’ve just been the victim one too many times this year, with the latest obstacle a spin off of Casey Mears’ front bumper at Kansas.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 2 Top 5s, 2 Top 10s.

Clint Bowyer: The No. 07 team has been a model of consistency for the past month and a half, but they are not running consistently high enough to compete for the championship. With six consecutive Top 12s, including two 12th place finishes in the Chase, Bowyer has run strong, but needs Top 5s to boost his resume. Penalties like jumping the start at Kansas fail to help his cause, too.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 1 Top 10.

COOL

Denny Hamlin: If it weren’t for rear end problems at Dover, Hamlin would be flirting with the Top 5 in points. Unfortunately, that 38th place finish dropped him to 11th in the Chase and in a substantial hole to start the playoffs. In his two other races, though, Hamlin finished ninth in the opener and 11th this weekend to move up one spot to tenth.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 1 Top 10.

Tony Stewart: Like his teammate Hamlin, Stewart has had a good Chase with the exception of one race. Starting the playoffs off with finishes of eighth and 11th, Stewart spun through the tri-oval grass at Kansas, damaging his splitter and finishing 40th to all but fall out of title consideration. Smoke’s poor finish dropped him to 11th in the standings, 255 points out with seven races left.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 1 Top 10.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Junior started the Chase off with a Top 5 at New Hampshire, but has not finished in the Top 10 since. With a 13th place finish this week, the No. 88 team is a disappointing eighth in points — but all is not lost. This weekend, the series heads to Talladega, where Junior should compete for the win.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 1 Top 10.

COLD

Kyle Busch: If you’ve watched just one race in this Chase, you’ve seen the luck the No. 18 team has had in each of the first three weeks. His latest mechanical issue – a fuel pressure problem – resulted in a 28th place for Busch, his best finish of the Chase. Suddenly, the points leader three weeks in is now 12th in points, 311 out of a championship he likely won’t win this season.

Chase stats: 3 Races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 0 Top 10s.

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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