It doesn’t matter what type of track the Sprint Cup Series is on these days; if Kyle Busch is racing, he’s got a good chance at picking up the win. With his eighth victory of the season coming this week at Watkins Glen, Busch again showed why is the favorite for this year’s Sprint Cup title – but with two finishes outside of the top 10 in his previous two races, he’s not among this week’s HOT contenders.
But one driver who is happens to be Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart, second at the Glen but one of the leading title contenders who has suddenly been jumpstarting his season. To see who else is among the hottest drivers on the circuit or who needs to step up their game to make the Chase or Top 35, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup.
Stewart: The first win of 2008 has eluded Stewart throughout what has traditionally been his strongest part of the schedule. At one of his most successful tracks this weekend, Stewart fought hard but fell short to teammate Busch. But while Smoke hasn’t recorded a win this summer, three top fives in his last four races has moved him from 10th to seventh in points. A number of fans still believe Stewart will run into the same problems Dale Earnhardt Jr. did in his final year at DEI last year, but with consistent finishes like he has put together lately, a Chase berth seems likely.
Kevin Harvick: A driver that has really flown under the radar this past month, Harvick’s lone slip came at the Brickyard three races ago – and in that one, it was Harvick who was the innocent victim in what tuned out to be a savage wreck. That 37th-place finish aside, the No. 29 team has put together three top 10s in his last four races and five top 15s in his last six. The No. 29 team must continue to run strong, however, as Harvick’s in a tight battle to make the Chase.
Jimmie Johnson: Along with Carl Edwards, Johnson’s one of the top threats to Lil’ Busch’s title hopes. Had arguably the car to beat Sunday, but finished seventh this week at Watkins Glen to give him four top 10s in a row and five in his last six races.
Edwards: Edwards is not a road-course ace by any means, but had a solid run this week, finishing ninth. With four top 10s in his last five races – including three top twos and a win over that span – Edwards has moved to second in points.
AJ Allmendinger: What Allmendinger has done this past month has not only won him some fans, but may have also won him the seat to the No. 84 again next year. After a difficult start to the season and despite fellow Red Bull driver Scott Speed leading the ARCA points and making a case for Allmendinger’s ride, the former open-wheeler has now put together four consecutive top 20s and earned his team its first spot in the Top 35 in owner points.
Matt Kenseth: Another driver among the handful trying to earn one of the final spots in the Chase, Kenseth earned a 12th-place finish this week at one of his weaker tracks. While he was once considered a Chase afterthought, Kenseth has four finishes inside the top 12 in his last five races and currently holds the 12th and final Chase spot.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been Mr. Consistent as of late. A 14th-place finish this week and five consecutive finishes in the top 15 has the Budweiser car eighth in points.
Bobby Labonte: While it appeared David Gilliland got the worst of a devastating late-race caution this week, it was Labonte who had to take a short trip to the local hospital. Labonte was cleared, but a 42nd-place finish hurts the No. 43 team. It’s now been four races since Labonte has finished in the top 15, with three of those events resulting in finishes of 29th or worse.
Dave Blaney: Another victim of the late-race crash, Blaney finished 41st this week. The DNF drops the No. 22 closer to the Top-35 bubble with three consecutive finishes of 30th or worse.
Reed Sorenson: One of the last cars to finish on the lead lap this week, Sorenson’s 31st-place run was his third finish outside the top 30 in his last four races.