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Standings Shuffle: Is Busch losing sight of title?

October 28, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com

Kyle Busch drops to fifth place after Martinsville struggles

FULL SERIES COVERAGE
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Pos.

Driver

Pts back

+/-

1.

Matt Kenseth

--

+1

2.

Jimmie Johnson

--


-1

3.

Jeff Gordon

-27

+2

4.

Kevin Harvick

-28

0

5.

Kyle Busch

-36

-2

6.

Clint Bowyer

-55

+2

7.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

-56

-1

8.

Greg Biffle

-58

-1

9.

Kurt Busch

-75

0

10.

Carl Edwards

-76

0

11.

Joey Logano

-85

+1

12.

Ryan Newman

-106

-1

13.

Kasey Kahne

-124

0

IN THE GREEN

Jeff Gordon (Change: 5th to 3rd)
Despite leading in the waning moments of the race, as laps ticked away at Martinsville the notion seemed to be that a late caution would set up a restart that would allow Matt Kenseth or Jimmie Johnson to land in Victory Lane. Instead, that caution never came, Gordon picked up his eighth win at "The Paperclip" and now stands in position with three races left to compete for his fifth championship.

Matt Kenseth (Change: 2nd to 1st)
As he's continued to prove all season, you can pretty much throw out any of Kenseth's Roush Fenway Racing days when it comes to his previously flawed tracks (See: Motor Speedway, New Hampshire). Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing setup has him competing at every track, even ones where the wide expectation was that he'd be losing some ground to Jimmie Johnson. Instead, he walks out with a runner-up finish tied with "Five-Time" on top, but holding the tie-breaker.

Clint Bowyer (Change: 8th to 6th)
Bowyer's first top-five finish of the Chase came in style, going toe-to-toe and banging bodies with Matt Kenseth on the final lap to push for second place -- somewhat of an all-or-nothing move. He wound up third, but it's that kind of devil-may-care style of racing that may be his only way back into serious Chase contention. For now, it's working.

IN THE RED

Jimmie Johnson (Change: 1st to 2nd)
It's hard to point out the flaws in a fifth-place finish, but when Johnson enters Martinsville -- one of his best tracks -- with the points lead and leaves without it, something went wrong. He still holds a share of the top spot, but perhaps the mental aspect of Matt Kenseth getting Johnson's number at a track he owns eight wins at is enough to gain more than just a points edge.

Kyle Busch (Change: 3rd to 5th)
Busch led the field for 12 laps, but finished outside of the top 10 to remain winless at Martinsville. Coming off two top-five finishes at the track, including a runner-up result at this race last year, Sunday was a disappointment for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who wasn't shy about voicing his displeasure over his radio. He drops to fifth and is close to falling a full race behind his teammate Matt Kenseth in the standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Change: 6th to 7th)
Sunday's race was actually an improvement on his two previous starts at Martinsville (21st last fall, 24th this spring), but it wasn't enough to maintain his position in the standings following last week's runner-up finish at Talladega. He never got out in front of the pack to earn any bonus points and finishing a spot behind non-Chaser Denny Hamlin dropped him one point behind Clint Bowyer.

MISSED CHANCES

Greg Biffle (Change: 7th to 8th)
For the second consecutive week, Biffle dropped a spot in the standings and found himself under the "Missed Chances" category. While his history at Martinsville is downright miserable (just five top-10s in 22 starts) Biffle had one of his best cars ever at the track and felt short-changed -- despite his ninth-place finish -- after taking contact from Jimmie Johnson, leading to a heated exchange between the two on pit road.

MORE:

READ: Gordon earns
first win of 2013

WATCH: Final Laps:
Gordon triumphs

WATCH: Kurt Busch
spins, collects Martin

WATCH: Harvick turns
Newman at Martinsville