In a battle that is still too close to determine a favorite and one in which the lead continues to change hands, there is also a lot of swapping of positions among the drivers near the top of the standings. Sam Hornish Jr. saw his narrow advantage over the rest of the field heading into last Friday’s Bristol race shrink further.
Austin Dillon finished third at Bristol, behind race-winner Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, to jump from fourth in the standings to second. Hornish’s lead 13-point advantage over Elliott Sadler was reduced to six over Dillon with only 10 races remaining. Sadler, who now sits 11 markers behind Hornish, fell to third.
Indicative of how close the points battle is heading into Atlanta for Friday night’s Great Clips/Grit Chips 300, seven of the drivers in the top 10 saw their positions in the standings change after Bristol. Only Hornish, Brian Scott (seventh; 60 points back) and Parker Kligerman (10th; -105) remain in the same spots.
Regan Smith dropped from third to fourth (-24), while Justin Allgaier and Brian Vickers switched positions. Allgaier is fifth, 39 points behind Hornish, and Vickers is sixth (-40). Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson (eighth; -66) and Trevor Bayne (ninth; -67) also swapped positions.
This phenomenon of constant moving around among the top 10 is nothing new as these drivers have bounced around the top of the standings all year long. Among the top-10 drivers, Hornish has experienced the littlest movement staying safely ensconced between first and fourth place in the standings all year. On the flipside, Dillon has bounced between first and seventh for most of the year. Sadler has been as high as second, but as low as 12th, while Smith has ranged from first to 11th in the standings. Allgaier has fluctuated between second and seventh for the majority of the season.