Rankings are updated every Monday of the NASCAR season.
Logano actually ran a smart, safe race. With the knowledge he will move on to the next round thanks to his win at Kansas, Logano simply stayed out of everyone’s way Saturday night. At the end though, he charged to the front and came home fourth, proving he’s ready to win his first title.
Busch started from the pole and led three times for 41 laps. He may not have had enough sped to hold it together at the end and win, but did manage a very nice fifth place finish. After several weeks of issues that’s exactly what Busch needed.
Any doubts about Harvick’s chances at the title were erased Saturday night. After several races where he led the most laps only to miss out on the win, Harvick was able to finally seal the deal. He led a race high 163 of the 334 laps and scored his first victory since Darlington in April.
Newman started fifth and avoided trouble. That is until lap 246, when he and Danica Patrick got together and Newman was sent spinning. He was able to avoid any contact though and rallied back for a respectable seventh place finish.
Edwards won’t win a title in his final season with Roush-Fenway Racing if he continues to run like he did Saturday night. Edwards ran outside the top 10 for most of the race. He was credited with leading a lap during a round of pit stops, and did rally for an eighth place finish, but it wasn’t pretty.
Saturday night was another strong run for Gordon. He led the second most laps in the race, 74, and was a contender for the win all night long. He finished a strong second and is quickly becoming the favorite to win the title this season.
Hamlin was having a decent race - he led 22 laps, but on the final restart he made contact with Brad Keselowski and had to hold on for a ninth place finish. He let his frustration be known to Keselowski on the cool down lap and in the garage after the race. Hamlin did look strong much of the race and could be a driver to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Kahne seemed to struggle most of the race. He did make a brief appearance inside the top 10 but was soon drifting back. He made one last run toward the front in the closing laps but got no further than 10th.
Kenseth was holding his own and inside the top five when his night went sour. On a restart with 90 laps to go, Kenseth - fourth at the time - made contact with Brad Keselowski . That sent him back and all he could do was hold on for a 19th place finish. He let his emotions get the best of him post-race and the normally mild mannered Kenseth charged Keselowski in the garage area and had to be pulled away. He is now the first driver facing elimination next week at Talladega.
Keselowski was kicked off several drivers’ Christmas card list Saturday night. He tangled with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin both on the track, on the cool down lap and in the garage. No doubt his frustration was due to leading eight laps, running inside the top five much of the race only to see it all evaporate in the final laps. He finished 16th and faces elimination next week.
No one imagined that six-time champion Johnson would be facing elimination from title contention. But after several bad finishes that’s exactly where he’s at. He finished 17th Saturday night although he did run as high as second at one point.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt came to Charlotte with his head held high and with a lot of confidence. Despite his crash at Kansas, he knew he had fast cars and that’s what he needed. He started ninth and led three times for eight laps. It all came apart on lap 137 when his transmission shifter broke. He had to make numerous pit stops to repair it. He finished 20th one lap down. Earnhardt now needs the miracle of a win next Sunday at Talladega to avoid being eliminated.
About The Ranker:
Greg Engle is an Examiner.com writer and an award-winning columnist who has worked full time for the Sporting News and the NASCAR Wire Service—if you wanted to get any more inside the sport of NASCAR you’d have to wear a crash helmet. He has received bylines in hundreds of newspapers across the country on auto sports and has also been featured on NASCAR.com, ThatsRacin.com, ESPN and Fox Sports. His work can be found at Examiner.com.