Kyle Busch entered Sunday's Auto Club 400 in a disappointing 14th place in the Sprint Cup standings following a miserable 29th-place finish at Bristol.
None of that matters anymore.
The 28-year-old, who finished fourth in last year's Chase, erased his early-season struggles with a second consecutive win in Fontana. In fact, as NASCAR Stats on Twitter noted, Auto Club Speedway has long served as a favorite track for Busch:
NASCAR Stats also gives us a gander at the top 10:
Behind Kyle Busch was Larson, Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Stewart, McMurray, Vickers, Allmendinger, Menard, Edwards. #NASCAR— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) March 23, 2014
Following the wild victory, which saw Busch survive a green-white-checkered finish while tire failures plagued a huge chunk of the field, he is still only in seventh place in the standings. But again, it doesn't matter, as the win all but assures him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the new format.
Let's take a look at the updated Sprint Cup standings, followed by the upcoming schedule:
|1||Carl Edwards||Roush Fenway Racing||186||Yes|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Hendrick Motorsports||185||Yes|
|3||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||184||No|
|4||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||182||Yes|
|5||Matt Kenseth||Joe Gibbs Racing||179||No|
|6||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||165||No|
|7||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||158||Yes|
|8||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing||150||No|
|9||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||150||No|
|10||Joey Logano||Team Penske||146||No|
|Race||Track||Date||Time (ET)||Distance (Miles)||2013 Winner|
|STP 500||Martinsville Speedway||Sun, March 30||1 p.m.||263||Jimmie Johnson|
|Duck Commander 500||Texas Motor Speedway||Sun, April 6||3 p.m.||501||Kyle Busch|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||Sat, April 12||6:30 p.m.||501.322||Matt Kenseth|
|Toyota Owners 400||Richmond International Raceway||Sat, April 26||7 p.m.||300||Kevin Harvick|
|Aaron's 499||Talladega Superspeedway||Sun, May 4||1 p.m.||500.08||David Ragan|
|Kansas 400||Kansas Speedway||Sat, May 10||7:30 p.m.||400.5||Matt Kenseth|
|NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race||Charlotte Motor Speedway||Sat, May 17||9 p.m.||135||Jimmie Johnson|
|Coca-Cola 600||Charlotte Motor Speedway||Sun, May 25||6 p.m.||600||Kevin Harvick|
A 10th-place finish for Carl Edwards, who won at Bristol last week, has vaulted him into first place in the standings, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains in second after crossing the finish line 12th.
Both individuals have a win, however, while Jeff Gordon sits in third as the highest-ranked driver so far without a victory.
Considering his start, Gordon has flown a little bit too far under the radar so far this season. He was the only driver in the field to tally top-10 finishes through the first four races, and in Fontana, he held a late lead before a caution on Lap 198 pushed him back to 13th place.
With Brad Keselowski, the winner of the Kobalt Tools 400, in fourth place, the closest winless drivers to Gordon remain Matt Kenseth (fifth), Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (sixth) and Austin Dillon (eighth).
Which winless driver will next earn a victory?
Rookie Kyle Larson, who now has two straight top-10 finishes after coming in second, is up to 15th place and an intriguing name to watch for Chip Ganassi Racing as we move forward.
Drivers head to Martinsville next Sunday for the STP 500. Johnson and Gordon, who have each won that race three times in their career, both boast eight victories at Martinsville, meaning Hendrick Motorsports' early success may very well continue.
But as Busch showed on Sunday, drivers who haven't fared as well this season can turn things around with just one race.