The Sprint Cup Series’ first trip to a road course this season was supposed to provide drivers who typically don’t run near the front the opportunity to make a statement. But while drivers like Marcos Ambrose and Ron Fellows appeared to have cars capable of top-10 finishes, it was the usual frontrunners near the top of the leaderboard by the time the day was over – including race winner Kyle Busch.
Busch got back on track this weekend after two poor finishes, but who else stayed “HOT” this week? And what teams near the bottom of the Top 35 appeared to have a shot this weekend at a road course, but still struggled? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup to find out.
Kyle Busch: Why there was talk about Lil’ Busch struggling on the Cup side, I really don’t understand. Busch proved the critics wrong, winning the first road course race of his young career this weekend and extending his points lead to 103 over Jeff Burton. Busch finished 43rd at Pocono and 13th at Michigan this month, but ran up front in both events before crashing out two weeks ago and coming from the back last week. With all of his focus on the Cup effort now – Busch abandoned plans to run for the Nationwide and Truck Series titles – it’s scary to think of what the No. 18 is capable of for the rest of the season.
Interesting stat: Busch averaged a 19.7 finish at Infineon prior to his win.
Matt Kenseth: Infineon had not been good to Kenseth in his previous eight starts, with the former champion never finishing inside the top 10. But this week, Kenseth proved he’s not the same road-course racer, and he continues to prove he’s not the same driver that got off to a slow start at the beginning of the year. With six consecutive top-10 finishes — including an eighth at Infineon — Kenseth is now 12th in points.
Interesting stat: Six races ago, Kenseth sat 22nd in points, 204 out of 12th, and seemed to be out of Chase contention. Since then, he’s been so hot he’s even gained 121 points on Chase leader Kyle Busch.
Carl Edwards: Aside from Burton (see below), Edwards has shown the most consistency in the series, with nine top 10s in his last 10 starts. His lone hiccup over that stretch came at the wild card of Talladega.
Interesting stat: The ninth-place finish this weekend was Edwards’s second top 10 in four Infineon starts.
Tony Stewart: With all of the rumors circulating around his future with Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart’s struggled as of late. But after four weeks without a top-15 finish and a drop to 12th in points, Stewart’s last two races have produced two top 10s. After finishing fifth last week at Michigan and surviving a spin to finish 10th this week, Stewart is now 11th in points.
Interesting stat: Stewart is still just 18 points away from falling out of the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior followed up his win last week at Michigan with a 12th-place finish this week at Infineon, a solid run considering his past at the track. With a favorable stretch of the schedule approaching for him, it would not be surprising to see the No. 88 back in victory lane soon.
Interesting stat: In eight prior starts at Infineon, Earnhardt averaged just a 22nd-place finish.
Jeff Gordon: Gordon has struggled the past two weeks, with finishes of 14th and 18th that came on the heels of four straight top 10s in his previous four races. But Gordon got back on track this week at a track he has traditionally dominated, finishing third.
Interesting stat: Gordon averaged one win per every three races at Infineon prior to this weekend.
con•sist•en•cy; noun – Burton: 16 straight top 15s; need we say more?
Interesting stat: This is just the third time this season that Burton has gone two weeks without a top 10.
Robby Gordon: The driver/owner needed a good run this weekend at a track he’s won at, but a 36th place run has deflated the team’s hopes. Now, the No. 7 is just 31 points ahead of 36th in the owner standings, and the lack of momentum can’t be helping the problem of the team’s lack of sponsorship at select events.
Interesting stat: While Gordon has run well at Infineon, he has just three top 10s in 10 career starts.
Reed Sorenson/Scott Pruett (No. 41): Pruett was called upon to save the No. 41 from falling below the bubble this week at a road course, but crashed out and finished 38th. Chip Ganassi Racing has struggled as a whole, Sorenson appears to be on his way out, and the No. 41 is now just 20 points away from dropping out of the Top 35.
Interesting stat: The No. 41 has just one top 10 this season.
Dario Franchitti: A road course seemed to be the place Franchitti could get his horrid season off the ground, but he couldn’t even make the field. Last year’s Indy 500 champion has certainly struggled in his transition to stock cars.