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- You can’t break this man’s spirit. Even in the face of enormous adversity Jimmie rises to the occasion time and again. Can you think of another driver in NASCAR history who exemplified resilience quite like the five time champ? Thinking… Thinking, still thinking… No! I got nothing!
A victory for Double J on Sunday would add honorable distinction to his extraordinary legacy. Yes, a victory Sunday would be JJ’s 5th at the Brickyard. Don’t forget Jimmie’s also looking to go back to back at the Brickyard, Johnson last accomplished this incredible feat in 08, 09.
2. Kevin Harvick- Is it really fair to consider Harvick a dark horse contender for the 2013 NSCS championship? The way the #29 RCR team is running as of late, I would call them perennial favorites. Wouldn’t you?
Harvick kissed the bricks in 2003, and carries the momentum of an impressive streak of ten consecutive top ten finishes heading into Indy.
3. Kyle Busch – There was no shortage of media drama for Rowdy this week. Following the race at Loudon Busch expressed his blasphemous displeasure with Ryan Newman for causing the lap 226 wreck that collected his brother Kurt, who clearly had the car to beat last Sunday. Way to go Rowdy! It’s just another case of Rowdy being Rowdy.
Busch finished 2nd in last season’s Brickyard 400. Kyle has yet to kiss the bricks in 8 career Indy starts.
4. Matt Kenseth- Loudon once again turned out to be Kenseth’s Achilles heel, as Matt got caught up in that infamous lap 226 wreck that sparked teammate Kyle Busch’s heated disparagement of driver #39. Following the aftermath of the race, you wonder if Kenseth informed Busch he was the catalyst responsible for causing that salacious accident.
Kenseth is still in search of his first Brickyard win. However he has finished second twice ( 03,06)
5. Clint Bowyer-Call Clint the lone wolf. Brian Vickers breakthrough victory on Sunday leaves Bowyer’s Five Hour energy team as the only MWR team yet to score a victory in 2013. Oh well, he’s still 2nd in the points standings and appears headed towards his 5th appearance in the chase.
Bowyer’s career best at Indy is a pair of 4th place finishes (06,10)
6. Carl Edwards – Cuz remains in the thick of the championship battle heading down the stretch despite remaining somewhat off the radar for most of the season. Beware other chase drivers, Edwards may creep up in the standings when you least expect him too. Cue the Jaws music!
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr- As Dale Jr’s current winless streak draws ever so close to it’s 14th month, the mood around Junior nation is indeed pensive.
Dale Jr finished a career best 4th at Indy in 2012.
8. Kurt Busch- Arguably Kurt Busch had the car to beat at Loudon, before falling victim to that infamous lap 226 wreck either caused by Matt Kenseth or Ryan Newman. You, be the judge.
9. Jeff Gordon- What a lucky guy that Jeff Gordon, the four time champ avoided near disaster with Paul Menard at Loudon, and still scrapped by with a top 10. Give the devil his due.
Gordon is a 4 time Brickyard winner, with his last victory coming in 2004.
10. Brad Keselowski- Look who’s back in the top 10 in points, none other than your reigning NSCS champion Brad Keselowski. Is this now when his true title defense begins?
Brad has finished 9th in the Brickyard 400 two consecutive years running.
11. Greg Biffle – it’s obvious Greg Biffle is taking a page from his RFR teammates Edwards & Stenhouse Jr this season because all three drivers have mastered the art of remaining consistent in the driver standings without any real pizazz. Mighty Impressive folks.
Biffle heads into the Brickyard sporting a streak of five consecutive top 10 finishes in the 400.
12. Tony Stewart – Okay, so another stupid fuel mileage gamble cost Smoke his 2nd win of the season. However the week wasn’t a total loss as Stewart officially announced the acquisition of bosom buddy Kevin Harvick & primary sponsor Budweiser into the Stewart – Haas fold for 2014.
Smoke heads home to Indy next weekend aiming for his 3rd career Brickyard victory, and first as a team owner.
13. Kasey Kahne – Hang in there Kasey! Seven more weeks and NASCAR wipes the slate clean. Oh wait, in order for this to be applicable, you have to be eligible for the chase. Don’t worry you will be there right?
14. Jamie McMurray- Jamie mac pulled off one the biggest upsets in brickyard history back in 2010 by winning that year’s edition of the 400. McMurray’s car owner Chip Ganassi would love nothing better than for history to repeat itself next Sunday, and kneel down alongside his driver savouring a mouthful of brick.
15. Martin Truex Jr. – Things are really looking up for MWR, and it’s lineup of drivers in 2013. Martin Truex Jr Overwhelmingly would profess to anyone listening; he is a legitimate contender for the 2013 NSCS six ways to Sunday. For now let’s call him a genuine dark horse okay.
16. Brian Vickers- Everything ventured, everything gained. A taste of bittersweet victory at Loudon for Brian Vickers is a sign that the best is yet to come from MWR’s other part time driver of the Aaron’s dream machine.
17. Jeff Burton- Finishing 3rd last Sunday at Loudon obviously ignited a fire deep down in the mayor’s soul. Because it’s been a few years since we’ve seen Mr. Burton this fired up. Welcome back to the party we missed ya!
18. Joey Logano – Sliding down in the points standings for a second consecutive week has killed his most recent string of momentum. All is not lost just yet, but the casket door is slowing coming down on his 2013 chase aspirations.
19. Aric Almirola – Beyond a shadow of a doubt Aric Almirola had by far the best race of his young NSCS career at Loudon.
20. Ryan Newman – Remember that short lived 2008 sitcom Worst Week? Well, don’t worry if you don’t your probably not in the minority However the title of that failed situation comedy would best describes Ryan Newman’s week of July 8th-14th. Early in the week Newman’s current employer Stewart- Haas Racing made it official they were parting ways with the rocket man at season’s end. Now just when you think it can’t get any worse… it does. Poor Newman was publicly berated by Kyle Busch for causing a wreck at Loudon that collected Kyle’s older brother Kurt who was well on his way to certain victory.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com