Each week, I will rank the top 20 drivers based on overall performance during that week’s race combined with their position in the overall standings. Consideration will also be given to driver’s who demonstrate consistency over an extended period of time during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup series season.
1. Jimmie Johnson – First driver since 1982 to sweep both Daytona races in a season. Yes! It’s pretty sweet to be Jimmie Johnson at the moment.
Johnson’s last win at Loudon was in the July race in 2010.
2. Clint Bowyer – The only thing missing from Bowyer’s stellar 2013 season thus far is that elusive first victory of the season. Bowyer fans need not worry; it’s coming sooner than you think.
Bowyer has two career victories at Loudon (07, 10) both coming in the fall race. Bowyer finished inside the top 5 in both New Hampshire races in 2012.
3. Kevin Harvick – Harvick remains stalled in the 4th position in the driver standings following yet another admirable performance at Daytona. His current string of consistent finishes inside the top 10 has the #29 team poised to take a run at the NSCS championship as the season rolls on.
Talk about one heck of a swan song for the combination of Childress& Harvick.
A top 10 finish by Harvick this weekend at Loudon would extend his consecutive streak of top 10 finishes to 9 weeks and counting.
4. Matt Kenseth- Matt Kenseth’s 2013 record at Daytona can be summed up in one word: blah. Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 treated Matt to more of the same rotten luck that plagued him in February’s Daytona 500. Kenseth finished 33rd in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400.
Kenseth has never recorded a victory in 26 starts at Loudon.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr – Dale Jr remains solidly in the top 5 in points as the chase draws near. Seriously driver #88 is more than just a dark horse candidate to win his first NSCS championship. He’s the real deal, but the members of Jr nation knew that already.
Dale Jr finished 4th in this race last season.
6. Kyle Busch- Busch could do no better than a 12th place finish at Daytona. Silver lining he had a better night than his two JGR teammates, who both fell victim to miserable luck at Daytona.
Rowdy is a former Loudon winner, taking the checkered flag back in July of 2006.
7. Greg Biffle- The Biff’s cooled off considerably in the last two weeks, but have not fear Biff fans. Your driver’s coming up on two of his best tracks in the next few weeks (Loudon, Pocono)
8. Carl Edwards- I can hear it now! The what’s wrong with Carl Edwards questions will be popping up across all major NASCAR media outlets in the coming weeks, if his minor slide continues to cost him positions in the driver standings.
9. Kurt Busch – Calm, cool and collected is what best describes Kurt Busch’s attitude in 2013. Yes! We’re talking about the same driver known in the past for throwing temper tantrums just for kicks. Believe in the power to change!
10. Tony Stewart – Smoke fell short of capturing his 5th July Daytona victory by one position in the running order on Saturday night. Tony’s 2nd place finish in the Coke Zero 400 catapulted him from 16th to 10th in the standings.
Smoke has 3 career victories at Loudon, his last coming in the fall of 2011
11. Jeff Gordon – Driver 24 hasn’t won a race at New Hampshire since the Clinton administration. In between that time span he’s finished 2nd five times. He’s due right?
12. Kasey Kahne – Kasey’s the defending winner of the July New Hampshire race, and he desperately needs a strong finish not a moment too soon. We are eight races away from the chase cut off, and Kahne finds himself in some dangerous territory. As he currently holds one of the chase wild card spots. Ouch!
13. Martin Truex Jr – Just when you think he’s sailed the ship right, something always seems to creep up on him and totally kill his mojo. Curse you bad luck!
Martin’s career best finish at Loudon is 3rd coming back in July of 2007.
14. Jamie McMurray – How do you follow up your best finish in nearly two years? You simply add on another solid finish. Jamie crossed the line at Daytona with a solid 7th place run.
15. Joey Logano – Joey returns to the place he considers to be his home track, and not to mention the site of his first career NSCS victory Loudon New Hampshire. And who really cares if the event was shortened by rain ? There’s no way Jeff Gordon would have caught him had they gone back to green right?
16. Brad Keselowski – It’s not illusion or a horrible nightmare Brad Keselowski, you really are flopping as the defending NSCS champion. Oh the agony! Make it stop, make it stop!
Good news Keselowski fans, the reigning champion has a compiled a streak of 3 consecutive top 10 finishes at Loudon. Do I hear a fourth?
17. Ryan Newman – Since he’s the apparent front-runner to succeed Kevin Harvick at RCR in the #29 car perhaps he will assume his nickname as well. Because Newman was Mr. where did he come from on Saturday night finishing a solid 10th in the running order despite being nowhere near the front for most of the night.
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Inching every so close to his first career NSCS top 10, Stenhouse Jr. tied his career best NSCS finish of 11th at Daytona on Saturday night.
19. Jeff Burton – Is it me, or does Jeff Burton’s flag to flag domination of the 2000 fall Loudon race seems like eons ago? Well maybe because it was almost thirteen years ago, and alot has changed in the NSCS since then. On the upside Burton still holds the record for most NSCS win at Loudon with 4.
20. Casey Mears – Forget the fact that it took four years for Casey Mears and Germain racing to score their first top 10 finish together. Their small victory was well deserved, and this team has made some real progress, I tell you.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com