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 – History eluded the five time champion at this year’s trip to the brickyard, but you can guarantee win number five is on the horizon.
Johnson won June’s Pocono race, and this weekend will attempt the season sweep of the tricky triangle. Johnson’s last Pocono sweep came back in 2004.
2. Matt Kenseth – At this point in the season, Matt Kenseth is deemed as Jimmie Johnson’s only legitimate competition for the 2013 NSCS championship. Agree or disagree?
Career wise, Pocono’s been somewhat of a mystery for Kenseth, who’s failed to score a top 5 finish there since June 2006.
3. Kyle Busch- Well it wasn’t on Sunday, but in any case Rowdy got an opportunity to kiss the famous bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a dominant Nationwide series performance on Saturday afternoon.
In 17 career Pocono starts Rowdy has yet to claim the checkered flag at the finish.
4. Kevin Harvick – All good things have to end, and so goes Harvick’s consecutive streak of top 10 finishes. For those of you who were counting the streak reached 9 consecutive weeks.
Like the previous two drivers listed above, Harvick has never won at Pocono.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Dale Jr resilient as always completed the ultimate comeback at Indy. After unexpected issues on pit road put the leader of Jr nation a lap down, he would rally back from despair to finish a respectable 6th in the final running order.
Like the previous three drivers listed above, Dale Jr has never won at Pocono.
6. Carl Edwards- Apparently Carl is utilizing former teammate Matt Kenseth’s 2003 championship playbook, as he attempts to claim the season championship with only 1 victory to his credit. Let’s be real for a second it’s not 2003 and Nascar implemented a loophole in the points system known as the chase. Good Luck Cuz!
Sunday could be a golden opportunity for Carl to score win number two on the season, as he is a two time Pocono winner. His last W on the tricky triangle came in August 2008.
7. Jeff Gordon- Happy Birthday Jeff Gordon! The four time NSCS champion will celebrate his 42nd birthday at Pocono on Sunday afternoon. It seems like only yesterday the wide eyed wonder boy, and his rainbow warriors were having a blast annihilating the competition week after week, oh how time flies.
Jeff Gordon is a 6 time Pocono winner, and defending champion of the August Pocono race.
8. Clint Bowyer- Don’t worry about Clint Bowyer just yet. You get the feeling he’s saving his best stuff for the chase, or is he???
Bowyer’s best Pocono finish was 3rd in august 2009.
9. Kasey Kahne- Kasey’s 3rd place finish at Indy shined a little light on what otherwise has been a dreadful summer for ol blue eyes. With the chase cut-off race only weeks away more finishes upfront for Kahne are paramount.
Kasey won the June 2008 Pocono race.
10. Tony Stewart- Ho- hum. Smoke celebrated his first brickyard 400 victory as an owner last Sunday afternoon.
Tony’s finished the last three Pocono races solidly in the top 5.
11. Brad Keselowski- Was rolling the dice at Indy really worth it? Well maybe. But ask him the same question on September 7th and the answer might be slightly altered.
12. Kurt Busch- Alright Kurt Busch and FRR have some work to do if they want to make the chase. If you’ve been watching them all season, you know they are up for the challenge despite coming down to earth as of late.
Kurt is a 2 time Pocono winner.
13. Greg Biffle- Bad news- Biff’s month of July was rather stale. Good news- Visits to Pocono and Michigan maybe what the doctor ordered to keep Biff’s chase hopes alive.
14. Jamie McMurray- Overall Improvement to the team’s equipment in 2013 has gone along way for EGR, on the road back to respectability; unfortunately the chase may have to wait another year.
15. Martin Truex Jr- Marty’s victory at Sonoma feels like it happened eons ago. Truex Jr’s lack of consistency has once again put his chase hopes in the balance.
16. Ryan Newman- Ryan Newman fulfilled a dream at Indy by scoring the biggest win of his NSCS career, a week removed from receiving his walking papers from Stewart Haas Racing. Indeed life is chockfull of tragic irony.
Ryan Newman has finished in the top 10 in 4 of the last 5 Pocono races. Newman’s lone Pocono victory came in July 2003.
17. Joey Logano- Notwithstanding his current position in points Joey Logano wanted us to know this past week he can still make the chase. Well at least his level of optimism is undeniable.
18. Juan Montoya- See Jamie McMurray entry above. Ditto for Montoya.
19. Paul Menard- A 12th place finish for Mr.Menard at the brickyard is a far cry from his breakthrough victory there in 2011, but with the way his 2013 season’s gone he’ll take it.
20. Jeff Burton- Burton’s good race, bad race trend will ultimately cost him any chance of making the chase this season.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com