Despite a different track surface, it was the same ol’ Darlington Saturday night, with the Lady in Black’s walls jumping out and biting drivers on several occasions… including race winner Kyle Busch. But while there were some adjustments made to the track, adjustments made to this week’s “HOT” list are minimal. Busch continues to dominate. while Junior Nation continues to enjoy the success of the No. 88 team with another top five. Still, two new drivers are featured in this week’s “WARM” and “COLD” lists heading into All-Star weekend.
There may not be a points-paying race next week, but it’s still an opportunity for struggling teams to find some extra speed before the Coca-Cola 600. To see who some of those teams are, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup.
Busch: This man is flat out unstoppable right now. Top 10s in five consecutive races – with top threes in four of them – to go along with a win this week keeps Busch at the top of the standings. If only he could keep his actions under control – whether it be to his competition or to his own team – Busch would be more widely accepted off the track, as well.
Carl Edwards: Carl’s been one the hotter drivers in the series this year, but has played second fiddle to Baby Busch for much of the season. That, compounded with a 100-point penalty and some early exits, leaves Edwards seventh in points despite five top 10s in his last six races.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Hendrick Motorsports’ top driver has shown no signs of slowing down after a strong start. After a disappointing 15th-place finish at Richmond last week in what should have been an easy top five, Junior bounced back with a fourth-place run this week. The accident in Richmond and a 12th place at Texas are the No. 88’s only non-top 10s in his last nine races.
Denny Hamlin: Speaking of bouncing back, Hamlin rebounded from a tire issue at Richmond that took a likely win away with another top 10 this week. The Virginia native is arguably the best driver in the past seven races, with his only non-top 10 coming in the Richmond debacle.
Jeff Burton: Burton made a brief appearance on the “WARM” list last week solely because of back-to-back finishes of lower than 10th for just the second time this season. A 10th-place run at Darlington moves Burton back to the “HOT” list this week, though, as the only driver to finish in the top 15 in all 11 races to date.
David Ragan: Flying under the radar as the third best Roush Fenway driver in the standings, Ragan has quietly moved into the top 12 in points. It’s not been an Edwards-esque year for the sophomore, but five top 20s in his last six races has been good enough to vault him into Chase contention.
Travis Kvapil: Not enough has been said of the season Kvapil has had lately. With a team that has not had the type of equipment as its Ford counterparts at Roush Fenway, Kvapil’s Yates Racing team has actually outperformed a number of the Roush cars. He’s got five top 20s in his past six races and two top 10s in his last three to move solidly within the top 20 in Cup points.
Sam Hornish Jr.: The worst thing that could possibly happen to Hornish happened this week when the former open-wheeler fell back out of the Top 35 in car owner points. Crashing early and finishing 38th, Hornish is now 36th in owner points, 18 marks behind Dave Blaney.
Robby Gordon: Things could be much better for Gordon right now. With a 33rd-place run this week, Gordon drops to 30th in the standings. He has just one top 20 in his last nine races and has finishes of 30th or worse in three of his last six.