FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Matt Kenseth Leads, Tony Stewart Leaps, Others Steady

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIJuly 12, 2012

Tony Stewart and Steve Addington in the media center after Daytona win.  Credit: Dwight Drum at
Tony Stewart and Steve Addington in the media center after Daytona win. Credit: Dwight Drum at

It’s been a good week for Tony Stewart. The winner of the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona was also voted as “Best Driver” in the Espy Awards on ESPN.

Tony Stewart is rockin’ and rollin’ again after struggling during part of the 2012 NASCAR season and joins Brad Keselowski in the elite three-win club. Wins will weigh heavy after Richmond when selected contenders line up for the 10-race playoff.

Matt Kenseth maintained a firm grasp on the point lead again with a third place finish in Daytona.

Kasey Kahne has turned his season around and despite a 7th place finish slipped two spots. Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. kept his familiar second position as the points spread widened.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. remain in the top-10 owing to consistency, but still lack a win to bolster their spot. A win for either would improve their playoff hopes.

Carl Edwards continues to stay in contention after a ninth top-10 result, but will need a win to boost his chances.

Joey Logano and Kyle Busch take the wild-card seats with one win each going into New Hampshire.

With 18 races complete, it’s half way for the Sprint Cup season, but eight races remain for leaders to solidify their spot or slip from the final group of contenders in The Chase for the Sprint Cup, which includes 10 top drivers with points plus two wild-card drivers with a win or wins to back up their point positions.

Twelve different drivers have taken the checkers in 18 races. That level of competition from so many drivers and teams has made making the Chase an even more embattled task.

On the move still are Jeff Gordon and team as they rise to the 17th spot. Seven races back Gordon matched his No. 24 car number with the 24th position. He needs and seeks wins.

Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose dropped positions after Daytona. Both Bowyer and Kahne have wins but need to win or finish well consistently in the next eight races.

Most drivers consider Daytona a fickle event because anything can happen, but now they move on to tracks where they are more comfortable or confident about the outcome, owing to past performance.

The LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15 is a race favored by many drivers. Fans not in the stands can view the action at 12 p.m. ET on TNT.

The top dozen select NSCS “rock and drop” list this week: (Includes points behind and position moves)

1. Matt Kenseth Leader [--]
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-25) [--]
3. Greg Biffle 632 (-44) [+1]
4. Jimmie Johnson (-58) [-1]
5. Tony Stewart 592 (-84) [+4]
7. Denny Hamlin (-91) [-2]
10. Clint Bowyer (-104) [-3]
14. Joey Logano (-173) [+2]
16. Kasey Kahne (-180) [-2]
17. Jeff Gordon 485 (-191) [+1]
18. Jeff Burton (-206) [+2]
19. -2 Marcos Ambrose (-206) [-2]

Select Driver comments after Daytona reveal mood and assessment.


Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)

“Leaving here tonight, I'm leaving with a big weight lifted off our shoulders,” Stewart said. “I think qualifying yesterday was what I was most proud of for the weekend, and even though we lost our time, having those two cars come here and be second and third separated by only eight thousandths of a second it shows how good a job the guys did at our race shop. Really proud of everybody in our organization, and I feel like that we showed some strength today.”


Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford)

“Every situation is different, and the tough part is to manage your speed,” Kenseth said. “You know, we're all racing your whole life, you go as fast as you can every lap. That's what you do and you hope you can outrun the competition."


Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)

“Every week I have that wow factor, and maybe even a little sense of surprise at times,” Bowyer said. “I really enjoyed the way the crew chiefs, the way engineers and the way TRD steps in and works together. They really, really focus on getting a good package built for us. They've just done a great job of working together, and that is something that I think has probably been the best thing for me so far. Just having all those people that I know are pulling in the same direction and getting the most out of a weekend.”


Jeff Burton (No. 31 Chevrolet)

“It doesn't last for very long for me, a good win or a bad loss,” Burton said. “You know, I get over those things pretty quickly. Our success or failure tonight doesn't dictate our success or failure next week. It feels good tonight, it'll feel good tomorrow, and then Monday it'll be back to work. It's always good to have finishes, but we need to put a string of finishes together. This sport will—just when you think you've got it all figured out, you'll realize how stupid you are and vice versa.”


FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or track representatives.