NASCAR Sprint Cup: 5 Good, 5 Bad at the Brickyard

Ben MontedonicoContributor IIIJuly 30, 2012

NASCAR Sprint Cup: 5 Good, 5 Bad at the Brickyard

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    The boys of NASCAR took to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend for the annual Brickyard 400.

    One driver further cemented his name as one of the greatest ever to race at the 2.5-mile rectangle, while others further solidified their spot in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

    Several drivers were not so lucky, including the points leader heading into the Brickyard 400 as well as the race's defending champ, who failed to make any noise this time around, as his quest for the Chase seemed to reach its conclusion.

    Who was good and who was bad Sunday at the Brickyard? We've got you covered!

Good: Jimmie Johnson

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    Some days, a driver can be dominant. Other days, he's simply unbeatable.

    Johnson was simply unbeatable on Sunday, leading a race-high 99 of the 160 laps en route to his fourth victory at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    Johnson was especially dominant in one category: restarts. On Sunday, it seemed that whenever Johnson restarted anywhere near the lead, he had it by the time the cars exited Turn 2.

    His win on Sunday marked Johnson's third of the year and his seventh top 10 in the last eight races.

    Johnson seems to be peaking at the right time as his quest for a sixth Sprint Cup title begins in just six races.

Bad: Carl Edwards

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    The hits just keep coming for Carl Edwards.

    After losing his crew chief prior to Sunday's Brickyard 400, the 2011 Sprint Cup runner-up had problems under the hood shortly after the race began. Edwards would finish four laps down in 29th.

    The poor finish knocked Edwards back a spot to 12th in the standings, 61 points behind the 10th-place driver.

    The good news for Edwards was that in his first race with Chad Norris atop the pit box, he did manage to qualify second and ran well before the issue occurred.

    The bad news is obvious, and Edwards needs a win now more than ever if he plans to challenge for the title in 2012.

Good: Kyle Busch

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    While there's no doubt Kyle Busch wanted to win at Indy, second is just what the doctor ordered.

    After posting one top 10 in his previous seven races, Busch put together a clutch performance at the Brickyard, leading three laps and securing a career-best second-place finish at the 2.5-mile track.

    Busch gained ground in the Wild Card standings, leapfrogging Carl Edwards to take 11th in the standings and distancing himself from Ryan Newman and Joey Logano, his closest threats.

    Busch now holds a 15-point lead in the Wild Card standings over Newman as the series heads back to Pocono, where Busch finished 30th after losing an engine back in June.

Bad: Joey Logano

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    While Busch was clutch in a big points race at Indy, his teammate was far from it.

    Logano was running deep in the field late in the race after a bad pit stop put him in the middle of the pack. Logano got loose while battling Trevor Bayne for 20th in Turn 1 and spun the No. 20 car around.

    The result was not pretty. Bobby Labonte clipped the left-front fender of Logano's car, tipping him directly in front of points leader Matt Kenseth, who T-boned Logano, sending him to the garage.

    The results in the standings didn't look so hot either, as Logano fell from 16th to 17th and now trails teammate Kyle Busch by 44 points in the Wild Card standings.

    Logano will look to get back on track next week at Pocono, where he won back in June.

Good: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Well, what do you know?

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader following yet another strong run, this one coming in the form of a fourth-place finish at the Brickyard.

    Junior took over the top spot after Matt Kenseth finished 35th following an accident with Joey Logano.

    With his effort on Sunday, Earnhardt Jr. notched his third fourth-place finish in the last four races and now holds the top spot in the standings for the first time since September 2004.

    We'll see if he can hold it after Pocono, where Earnhardt Jr. has five top-fives.

Bad: Matt Kenseth

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    As Dale Earnhardt Jr. took over the points lead at Indy, Matt Kenseth surrendered it.

    Kenseth had a solid, though unspectacular day at the Brickyard before trouble struck with just under 30 laps remaining.

    The points leader was on a free fall after contact with Tony Stewart seemed to mess up his car's handling. That put him in position to get caught up in a wreck when Joey Logano spun out in front of him with 28 laps remaining.

    Kenseth finished 35th and dropped to second in the standings, 14 points behind Earnhardt Jr.

    The bad day causes little concern for Kenseth, who's still solidly in Chase contention.

Good: Martin Truex Jr.

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    A little insurance never hurts.

    That's especially true in the case of Martin Truex Jr., who finished eighth at the Brickyard and put some distance on the Chase cutoff line.

    Truex now has top-10s in two of his last four races, and his latest brings him to an even 10 on the season.

    Better yet, Truex leapfrogged defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart in the standings and moved into a tie with Kevin Harvick for sixth.

    Truex holds a 65-point cushion over 11th-place Kyle Busch in the standings.

Bad: Clint Bowyer

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    The Chase for the Sprint Cup has a new bubble boy.

    Clint Bowyer swapped spots with Brad Keselowski for the third consecutive week as B.K. jumped over Clint following the latter's subpar run at the Brickyard.

    Bowyer finished 15th on Sunday, allowing 11th-place Kyle Busch to gain just a bit of ground on that 10th and final guaranteed Chase spot.

    Bowyer still holds a solid 55-point cushion over Busch for the time being.

    However, with Bowyer now riding the bubble spot, keep an eye on the performance of the No. 15 over the next few races.

Good: Brad Keselowski

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    The man who held the bubble spot going into the Brickyard built further upon his cushion at Indy.

    Brad Keselowski finished a very respectable ninth, moving to ninth in the standings, and now holds a 61-point lead over 11th-place Kyle Busch in the standings, with three wins to boot.

    On the performance side, a combination of strategy and a fast car helped Keselowski to lead 22 laps and at times challenge the otherwise untouchable Jimmie Johnson.

    Keselowski now heads to Pocono as the defending winner of the August race.

Bad: Paul Menard

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    Anybody who thought Paul Menard still had a Chase shot probably doesn't now.

    With the three regular season plate races behind him, Menard had to try and pick up a win at the track where strategy gave him his first and only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory a year ago.

    But Menard got nowhere close, as he never even cracked the top 10 and ended the day an uninspired 14th.

    Menard dropped to 15th in the standings, and while he's not officially out of Chase contention, the last remaining Chase dark horse seems to have gone from long-shot to no shot.

    Menard will look to keep his decent season intact at Pocono, where he finished ninth in June.