The following rankings take into account factors not seen in the Cup Standings . Such things include laps led, laps run in the top 15, momentum, track diversity, and yes—a little bit of "expert" opinion. Here we go...
Carl Edwards - Cousin Carl hasn't finished better than tenth since August. No longer does the fact that he ranked high on this list last season and most certainly will be back again next season justify having him here this season.
1. Jimmie Johnson - In just an "okay day," the three-time defending champ led 206 laps en route to finishing second at the Tums Fast Relief 500 and extending his points lead to 118 points.
2. Jeff Gordon - The Rainbow Warrior has finished in the top five four straight weeks and continues to be the only real threat to the 48 regardless of the surface.
3. Mark Martin - With just one top five in his last four races, the ageless wonder has lost some of his prowess as of late. The overall body of work, including five wins and seven poles, is just too good to ignore though.
4. Denny Hamlin (+1) - Problems with the car early in the week affected him none once the green flag waved in Martinsville—he led 206 laps to win in dominating fashion . If not for a "rookie" mistake in Fontana and engine failure in Charlotte, we might instead be calling this the "Who can beat Denny?" show.
5. Juan Pablo Montoya (+1) - The former open-wheel master rebounded in impressive fashion from his abysmal run last weekend in Charlotte by collecting his fifth top five of the Chase in Martinsville. Aggressive yet smart, he ran amongst the leaders all day and, once again, was even the fastest at one point late.
6. Tony Stewart (-2) - In typical Smoke fashion, he is sliding now that we have hit the colder months. The win in Kansas is the only real impressive thing that he has done since the beginning of August, and even that involved a bit of luck. That said, he still finds ways to finish in the top 10, no matter how poorly things are going.
7. Kyle Busch (+2) - Love him or hate him, he started 41st and finished fourth Sunday in Martinsville, something unheard of on a track where starting position is so important. Last week he overcame his struggles on the intermediate program with a solid eighth place run in Charlotte. And, don't forget, he won just eight weeks ago in Richmond—his fourth of the season.
8. Kasey Kahne (-1) - The Budweiser poster boy loses a spot after his second horrid finish in a row (32nd) on a flat surface. Although he did finish fifth at Bristol in the spring as well as won on the road course of Infineon, he's still clearly not the same driver when not on the high-banks that are his bread and butter.
9. Kurt Busch (-1) - With a 17th place finish at Martinsville, big brother Busch has missed the top ten in three of his last four races and hasn't truly threatened to win a race since April. That said, the fact that he is fifth overall in average finishing position and has multiple top tens on each track type this season makes him well deserving of the spot.
10. Ryan Newman (new) - It's time to recognize the best driver of a 67 race winless streak in the history of NASCAR! With zero DNFs and just one finish worse than 22nd since March, the "other Stewart-Haas driver" is the most consistent driver in the game. A mere five top-fives still leaves a little something to be desired though.
Gloat or disparage to your heart's content. Comment below.
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