By CHRIS SORBEY
1. Jimmie Johnson- JJ’s stock is rising faster than the temperature in Nova Scotia. Four consecutive top-five finishes has jolted the six-time champion right back atop the rankings. Hopefully Jr. Nation doesn’t take it too hard.
JJ has recorded 1 top-10 finishes in the last twelve races at Kansas Speedway
2. Kevin Harvick- In light of Jimmie Johnson’s recent uprising, we seem to have cooled off on “The Closer,” but we should know better than to completely give up on the reigning champion. Don’t forget; this guy is habitual when it comes to rolling off top-two finishes.
Harvick has won three-consecutive poles at Kansas Speedway.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Emotions ran high last Sunday as the leader of Jr. Nation claimed victory for the first time in eleven years at Talladega. Crew chief Greg Ives earned his first-career Sprint Cup Series victory in only his 10th race atop the Jr.’s pit box. Seeing Dale Jr. celebrate in victory lane never gets old, especially at the plate tracks. Daddy Dale would be proud.
Dale Jr. has recorded two top-five finishes in 17-career starts at Kansas Speedway.
4. Martin Truex Jr.- Marty’s been a lean, mean, top-10 finishing machine in 2015, and that’s mighty encouraging for a group looking to make it’s second Chase appearance in three years. Trouble is, winning races almost guarantees you a spot in the coveted Chase for the Sprint Cup and that’s something our underdog hero hasn’t accomplished yet. If only the wizard could grant him a victory. Sigh here.
Truex has recorded four top-five finishes in the last six races at Kansas Speedway.
5. Joey Logano- For those of you who feast on crazy statistics, get a load of this. Despite finishing 33rd or worse in two of the last three races, Joey Logano sits comfortably in third place in the driver standings. Absolutely nuts, right?
Logano won last fall’s race at Kansas Speedway.
6. Matt Kenseth- Matt looked a little out of synch at Talladega. Fair enough, Talladega isn’t exactly one of his favorite tracks. Fortunately for Kenseth & his fans, Kansas Speedway has been one of his favorites in recent years. Matt has recorded seven top-10 finishes in the last nine races at Kansas Speedway, including back to back wins in 2012 & 2013.
7. Ryan Newman- Rocket Ryan is one top-five away from matching his 2014 total and it’s only May. Give RCR a ton of credit for continuing to make things work, despite enduring an extended famine in the win column.
Newman has recorded one victory (2003) in 18 career starts at Kansas Speedway.
8. Brad Keselowski- Kansas Speedway was the site of BK’s coming out party in the spring of 2011. Since then, he’s won fifteen races and a Sprint Cup Series championship. Coming off a couple of lackluster finishes, BK’s hoping for a little magic somewhere over the rainbow.
9. Jamie McMurray- Jamie Mac’s another member of the winless bunch who’s due to free himself from exile, but until he can do such a thing, he’s really got to abandon the good race/bad race trend. It’s so not trendy.
10. Kurt Busch- Stewart-Haas Racing has prepared some wickedly fast race cars for Kurt Busch this season, but holding it all together for an entire race has been a tough task for the Outlaw. Winning at Richmond was huge for the team’s morale; struggling at Talladega proved this team has a ton of work to do if they expect to hang with the title contenders down the stretch.
11. Jeff Gordon- Two plate races, two epic disasters for the four-time champion. Kansas couldn’t have come at a better time. Jeff Gordon is the defending spring winner at Kansas Speedway.
12. Paul Menard- This silent warrior’s roller-coaster of a season has certainly taken it’s share of twists, but it’s beginning to look as if things are starting to turn in the favor of RCR’s other winless warrior. Don’t forget. Menard’s recorded four top-10 finishes in the last five races at Kansas Speedway. Dark horse indeed.
13. Denny Hamlin- Upending two of the sport’s finest (Jimmie Johnson & Dale Jr.) at Talladega is no marginal task. Okay, we get that, but why on earth did Denny Hamlin wait forever and a day to pull away from Ryan Blaney? These two had every opportunity to take one away from Hendrick Motorsports. Oh well, no sense in thinking about what might have been.
14. Kasey Kahne- Kasey’s career numbers at Kansas Speedway are respectable, but you know he’s thinking about winning a race before we start analyzing his potential to make the Chase. It would be nice to not have to worry about this in September. Let’s go, Kasey! Let’s Go!
15. Ryan Blaney- The Wood Brothers received a significant amount of air time from Fox this past weekend, thanks to Ryan Blaney’s outstanding top-five run. Unfortunately on this occasion, there would be no fairy tale ending for NASCAR’s most beloved family.
16. Aric Almirola- Did you know Aric Almirola has recorded three top-10 finishes in the last four races at Kansas Speedway? Well if you unware of this statistic before reading this post, now you know.
17. Sam Hornish Jr.- Sam Hornish Jr.’s return to the Sprint Cup Series hasn’t gone according to plan up until now, but coming off his first top-10 finish of the season is certainly encouraging. Finally, the former IndyCar champion has something to smile about heading into Kansas.
18. Danica Patrick- Last spring, Danica Patrick put together one of her finest career performance( seventh-place finish) at Kansas Speedway; one year later she finds herself burdened with the task of driving the wheels off the #10 SHR car in an effort to ink a viable sponsorship package for next season.
19. Carl Edwards- Ugh! That about sums up Cousin Carl’s season of horrors.
20. Josh Wise- Good things come to those who have the patience to wait. Josh Wise finally earned his first-career top-10 finish in the Sprint Cup Series last Sunday at Talladega.