There’s a lot to be said about a so-called mediocre driver who goes into a race and actually gains on the points leader. If the guy does it twice, maybe he starts turning some heads. But if a guy gains on the points leader steadily over the course of three races(dare I add on three totally different types of tracks; all of which the leader has won on before), then it’s time to start keeping an eye on that certain driver.
Over the course of the past three races, there are 4 surprise drivers who have gained quite a few points on leader Jeff Gordon. Of course, with the races Gordon had going into Richmond, a lot of guys have gained points on him. But to me, these 4 stick out.
1. Joey Logano: Watch out NASCAR! The man dubbed Sliced Bread, as in “The best thing since”, is learning how to keep it off the wall, and it’s showing. He hasn’t finished worse than 21st since Texas, even at the tough short track in Richmond, and earned his first Sprint Cup Series top 10 at Talladega. Since Texas, Logano has gained 62 points on the leader, and has moved up 3 spots to 31st. The Chase is unlikely, as the rookie sits 328 points out of the coveted 12th spot. But stranger things have happened.
2. Sam Hornish Jr: What do you expect to do when you earn top 10s in 2 out of 3 races? The ex-Indycar driver posted his first career Sprint Cup Series top 10 at Phoenix, and backed it up with another career-best finish at Richmond(6th). He could’ve had another top 10 at Talladega, but got wrecked out with 10 laps to go. He’s only gained 1 spot in the past three races, but he’s gained 67 points on the leader. Like Logano, Hornish’s odds of making the Chase are slim, as he sits 30th in points, 262 points out of 12th. Good things will happen to Hornish though if he keeps collecting those top 10s.
3. Reed Sorenson: Here’s a guy everybody said needed to prove himself this season. Things didn’t start out well. After his season-opening top 10 at Daytona, Sorenson quickly faded into oblivion. He fell all the way to a season-low 30th in points after Texas, but has been rapidly gaining steam. He hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since Texas, ending his days 12th, 11th, and 20th respectively, and has gained 73 points on the leader, not to mention he’s been the best of the Richard Petty Motorsports drivers over the past 3 races. More importantly, the Peachtree City, Georgia native has gained 8 points positions since Texas, separating himself from the dreaded danger zone in points. The Chase is a possibility for the 22nd place driver in points, as he sits 203 points and 10 positions out of 12th. But those top 20s will have to start turning into top 10s.
4. Marcos Ambrose: After Texas, the Tasmanian Devil sat 28th in points, and it appeared that the magic he worked at the short tracks would not carry over to the larger tracks. That week, Ambrose finished 14th at the mile-long Phoenix International Raceway, and followed that up with a 4th place finish at the circuit’s largest track, Talladega. At Richmond, he notched his third consecutive top 15 finish, ending the night in 11th after hitting the wall earlier in the race. Ambrose has gained a whopping 9 spots in points, climbing to 19th, and has gained 124 points on the leader. He currently sits only 7 spots and 120 points out of 12th. Not bad for a guy a friend of mine called “A Fluke” after Bristol. The Chase is a very possible option for this “Fluke”, as long as he stays consistent.
It’s always good to see unusual drivers do well. Hopefully, these guys will soon be able to run like this on a weekly basis, if this isn’t the start of that already. These are 4 drivers to continue to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Maybe, just maybe, one of them will make the Chase.