Harvick, Biffle, Truex make the big jumps this week, while Hendrick drivers Earnhardt, Kahne and Gordon all drop down
Outlook: Hendrick Motorsports had a day to forget at Michigan, with all four drivers in good position to win before succumbing all sorts of maladies. Johnson’s had to be the most painful, as he looked to be closing in on Greg Biffle in the waning laps when he blew a tire and hit the wall.
Standings: 1st, 538 points
RELATED: Biffle, Johnson All Access
2. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Greg Biffle may have won the race, but it was his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards who made the biggest headline. Edwards said of Biffle, “He ain’t our teammate” after the No. 16 car wouldn’t help the No. 99 remove trash from its grille. Stay tuned on this one.
Standings: 2nd, 507 points
RELATED: Edwards Press Pass
Outlook: Harvick’s second-place finish at Michigan will go a long way toward his Chase for the Sprint Cup chances, as he is one of just four drivers with multiple wins and has recovered nicely from his two DNFs at Daytona and Talladega.
Standings: 4th, 476 points
RELATED: Harvick Press Pass
4. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: After his win at Darlington, Kenseth took a bit of a step back at Charlotte, Dover and Pocono. He had an average finish of 26.7 at those races before changing direction and finishing sixth at Michigan.
Standings: 5th, 456 points
RELATED: Kenseth post-race reaction
5. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: Bowyer still has yet to stand out after a string of races with no wins, but with pair of runner-ups at Martinsville and Richmond and only two finishes outside the top 20, he’s been consistently above average. His efforts have him in a remarkable third place, but a few wins would go a long way toward ensuring he stays there.
Standings: 3rd, 489 points
RELATED: Bowyer Press Pass
6. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Busch’s outcome at Michigan may have been the quietest fourth-place finish he’s ever had. He had no real run-ins with anyone, and kind of just happened to be fourth when the checkered dropped. Not what we’re used to from him, but he’ll take it.
Standings: 6th, 452 points
RELATED: Busch post-race reaction
Outlook: As it turns out, Superman isn’t invincible. Earnhardt was leading the race and looked poised to repeat his Michigan success from last year when his engine blew. He’s still in seventh, both in the points standings and our rankings, but he may have missed his best shot at a win.
Standings: 7th, 447 points
RELATED: Junior Press Pass
8. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Biffle’s win on Sunday was huge for the Roush Fenway driver, who looks primed for a Chase spot with just 13 points separating him and fifth-place Matt Kenseth, who has three wins.
Standings: 8th, 443 points
RELATED: Biffle, Johnson All Access
9. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: Kahne was one of the handful of drivers who ran into a bit of trouble while leading the race. His came in the form of a blown right front tire that sent him reeling into the wall and a 38th-place finish.
Standings: 12th, 407 points
RELATED: Kahne Press Pass
10. Brad Keselowski
Outlook: It was a tumultuous week for Keselowski, as his comments on Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing subjected the defending champ to a load of criticism. A 12th-place finish at his home track had to be disappointing for him as well, considering he’s a poor race or two away from falling out of a Chase spot with no 2013 wins under his belt.
Standings: 9th, 430 points
RELATED: Keselowski post-race reaction
11. Tony Stewart
Outlook: Stewart, a former roommate of Jason Leffler’s, was very much affected by the passing of the driver. Smoke also crashed his car in the opening practice on Friday. Needless to say, there was plenty to distract him heading into Sunday. A fifth-place finish, however, has Stewart in the top 10 in points and looking pretty good heading into the summer months.
Standings: 10th, 417 points
RELATED: Stewart post-race reaction
12. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Truex’s third-place finish in the Quicken Loans 400 was his second-best of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He jumped four spots in the standings and is now just one spot outside the Wild Card window.
Standings: 13th, 405 points
RELATED: Truex post-race reaction
13. Paul Menard
Outlook: Menard had a fast car all weekend, practicing well and qualifying fourth. His 14th-place finish is almost a disappointment because of how well he had been doing heading into the race, but it was still enough to give him a provisional Wild Card spot.
Standings: 11th, 415 points
14. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: It’s hard not to feel bad for Gordon, who was collected in Bobby Labonte’s spin and ended up 39th on Sunday. His crew was able to fix up his car enough to get it back out on the race track, but by then it was too late to make up much ground.
Standings: 16th, 398 points
RELATED: Gordon Press Pass
15. Joey Logano
Outlook: After having a four-race stretech from Kansas to Charlotte that saw three finishes outside the top-20, Logano has quietly reeled off four consecutive top-10s to put him back into Chase contention.
Standings: 14th, 405 points
16. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Like Earnhardt and Kahne, Busch was leading the race when he had his issues. After spinning out and taking serious wall damage, the car was fixed up on pit road but had missed too many laps to make any noise in the race. It’s too bad, because he may have had the fastest car all weekend.
Standings: 20th, 384 points
RELATED:Busch Press Pass
17. Ryan Newman
Outlook: Newman’s fifth-place showing at Pocono had some believing that he’d gained a bit of momentum to carry into Michigan with him. An 18th-place finish in the Irish Hills proved otherwise.
Standings: 18th, 389 points
18. Aric Almirola
Outlook: Almirola, who started the race fifth, had a great shot to do some damage at Michigan and pick up his first career win. He finished 17th, which isn’t terrible by any means, but it dropped him a spot in the standing and his Chase hopes are circling the drain.
Standings: 15th, 404 points
19. Denny Hamlin
Outlook: Hamlin’s return from injury has been up and down in the five full races he’s run, lending some concern over any lingering back issues he might be experiencing. Crew chief Darian Grubb said they just couldn’t get the car right on Sunday (finished 30th). Whatever the problem is, it needs to be fixed if Hamlin plans on not missing the Chase for the first time in his full-time Cup career.
Standings: 26th, 299 points
20. Jeff Burton
Outlook: Surprisingly, despite just three top-10 finishes this season, Burton continues to hang around and is just eight points behind Jeff Gordon in 16th-place. He’s run well the past four races and could help his cause by maintaining pace.
Standings: 17th, 390 points
In the rearview