The notorious Monster Mile jumped out and attacked the competition Sunday when Elliott Sadler came down on the No. 38 of David Gilliland on lap 18, triggering a massive pileup that ended the days for a number of Chase contenders before they could even get into a rhythm. Aside from Sadler’s blunder, though, it was Kyle Busch who once again stole the headlines by claiming his fourth win of the season. Busch is undoubtedly the hottest driver in the series right now; but how does his start stack up against Jimmie Johnson’s impressive start to 2007?
Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup to find out, as well as which of our top 12 contenders were able to take the multi-car crash in stride… or be forced to face the consequences (and the carnage) head on.
In a league of his own
Busch (race winner): Lil’ Busch is putting on an impressive display of driving talent this season, eerily similar to former teammate and 2007 champion Johnson’s start last year. Comparing the stats of the two drivers over the first 13 races of their respective seasons, you realize Busch has run so strong that he has actually bettered Johnson’s tremendous ’07 start. Busch is showing no signs of slowing down, leaving many fans wondering if a similar performance to that of Johnson’s campaign last year will lead to the youngster’s first championship.
Johnson (2007): 13 races; Four wins; eight top fives; nine top 10s = 1,907 points
Busch (2008): 13 races; Four wins; nine top fives; 10 top 10s = 2,050 points
As you can see, Busch is well on his way to blazing his own path of dominance; his points lead now stands at 142 over second-place Jeff Burton halfway through the regular season.
Carl Edwards (finish: second): Easily one of the top-three cars this weekend, Edwards now has seven top 10s in the last eight races to boost him to fourth in points.
Greg Biffle (third): Despite leading the most laps Sunday (164), it’s Biffle’s two consecutive top-five finishes which have moved him from 11th to fifth in the standings.
Matt Kenseth (fourth): A third consecutive top 10 put him solidly back in Chase contention; now, he’s just 95 points out of 12th.
Jeff Gordon (fifth): Fourth consecutive top-10 finish and third consecutive top five have helped him rise from 14th to sixth in points in four weeks.
Burton (eighth): Despite just one win, he has 1,908 points – one more than Johnson at this time last year. After another top 10 at Dover, his worst finish this season is just 13th.
David Ragan (15th): Ragan came into this season with recognizably more comfort than he did in his rookie season last year. While it was obviously difficult for the young driver to fill the shoes of Mark Martin, he has done an impressive job in his second full season for Roush Fenway Racing. With five consecutive top-20 finishes, including two top fives in that stretch, the Georgia native is riding a wave of consistency that has him just eight points out of the Chase.
Dave Blaney (ninth): The unsung star of the Monster Mile Sunday, Blaney picked up his second top 10 in the last three races to distance himself further from the Top-35 mess.
Jamie McMurray (10th): The beneficiary of a strong Roush Fenway Dover package, McMurray took home a top-10 finish; the early season bubble driver is now 22nd in driver points.
Sadler (42nd): It was the worst case scenario for Sadler this weekend. With a number of high-ranking Best Buy employees at the track for the Best Buy 400, Sadler caused the Big One, with his Best Buy Dodge taking out a number of Chase contenders, including… gasp… Dale Earnhardt Jr. The wreck disappointed Junior Nation, angered Tony Stewart, and led Sadler to 42nd place, his second such finish of 42nd or worse in his last three races.
Stewart (41st): Stewart’s not happy with Sadler, and not happy with his performance as of late. With one top 10 in the last six races, Stewart’s just 35 points from falling out of the Chase.
Michael McDowell (30th): An average finish of 32nd in the last four races leaves his team sliding towards 35th in owner points.
Clint Bowyer (36th): After seven consecutive top-10 finishes, his best run in his last three races is 15th.
Kevin Harvick (38th): Just one top 10 in the last eight races, with finishes of 38th or worse in two of the last three.
Scott Riggs (39th): A 150-point penalty combined with a 39th-place finish left Riggs and his No. 66 team falling out of the Top 35.