1. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished third in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas and now has three third-place finishes on the year. He assumed the lead in the Sprint Cup point standings, and holds a 10-point lead over Kevin Harvick.
“There are those that think I’m the weak link at Roush Fenway Racing,” Biffle said. “Well, I didn’t win, nor did I place, but you could say I ‘showed’ them.
“They say good things come in three’s, and bad things come out of Boris Said’s mouth. That being said, if I continue to finish in the top 5, I should avoid Said altogether.”
2. Tony Stewart: Stewart took the lead on a restart with 36 laps to go, and held off Jimmie Johnson on two late restarts to claim his first-ever victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was a redemptive victory for the defending Sprint Cup champion, who gave away a win at Vegas last year.
“As you may have seen,” Stewart said, “I won a giant wrench. Obviously, that will be presented to my pet monkey, Mojo. Hopefully, he won’t throw it into anything.
“I was quite motivated by losing at Vegas last year. I’ve learned that you can’t keep a good man down, although NASCAR’s surely tried with Jimmie Johnson. More importantly, I’ve wiped a ‘win at Las Vegas’ off my bucket list, and finally, I’m no longer the only person calling Vegas ‘virgin territory.’”
3. Kevin Harvick: Harvick faded late after racing in the top-5 for much of Sunday’s race, but still finished a solid 11th to move up one spot in the point standings. He is now second, 10 points behind leader Greg Biffle.
“Despite what you may hear on Twitter,” Harvick said, “DeLana and I are not naming our son ‘Otis.’ We don’t have a name yet, but one won’t be hard to come by, especially considering all the ‘baby’ names in NASCAR right now, like ‘Kyle,’ ‘Kurt,’ and ‘Carl.’ I think it’s only fitting that my child’s name be a four-letter word.”
4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson bid to pass Tony Stewart in the closing laps at Las Vegas failed, but Johnson’s runner-up finish was his second-consecutive top-5 finish. After his early exit at Daytona, Johnson now seems to be in proper form to reclaim the Sprint Cup.
“I tried everything,” Johnson said, “but I couldn’t pass Stewart. So just call me ‘tape measure,’ because I couldn’t get around Tony.
“Sadly, though, Chad Knaus’s appeal of his six-race suspension was denied by NASCAR. Eventually, Chad will have to serve the suspension. He didn’t get away with it, so now he has to get away from it.”
5. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt led 70 laps at Las Vegas, second only to Tony Stewart’s 127, and posted his second top-10 finish of the year with a 10th in the Kobalt Tools 400. He improved one spot to fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings, and is 18 points out of first.
“I led 70 of the first 73 laps,” Earnhardt said. “The fans of Junior Nation were thrilled, because the race was ‘mine to lose’ for only 70 laps, and not all of them. I don’t know what I whipped more—-the field, or Junior Nation into a frenzy.”
6. Carl Edwards: Edwards scored his first top-5 result of the season, joining Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle, who finished third, with a fifth in the Kobalt Tools 500. Edwards leapt four places in the point standings to sixth and trails Biffle by 23.
“I spent the offseason lamenting losing the title to Stewart because he had more wins,” Edwards said, “so it pains me to see Tony winning again. But not as much as it pained me to be called ‘Second Cousin Carl.’”
7. Denny Hamlin: A week after winning at Phoenix, Hamlin struggled in the Kobalt Tools 400, finishing 20th on a day when Joe Gibbs Racing placed no cars in the top 15. Hamlin fell from the Sprint Cup points lead, and now sits third, 12 out of first.
“You win some,” said Hamlin, “and you lose some. That’s me quoting Tony Stewart’s statement on Sprint Cup championships and crew chiefs. And speaking of Darian Grubb, I won’t dismiss him, or his contributions to this team.”
8. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth led 22 laps at Las Vegas, and was eyeing a potential top-5 finish before getting shoved into the wall after a lap 263 restart. He finished 22nd and fell one spot in the point standings to fifth, 23 behind Greg Biffle.
“Sunday was my first race with my new sponsor,” Kenseth said. “Ironically, it was the first time ‘Zest’ has been used to describe anything Matt Kenseth. Maybe a more appropriate soap to sponsor me would be Ivory, because I’m white and 99 44/100% pure.”
9. Mark Martin: Martin suffered a brush with the wall after Dale Earnhardt, Jr. bumped Martin’s No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Chevy. Martin recovered to finish 18th and is now 10th in the point standings, 28 out of first.
“I’ve finished second in the championship race five times,” Martin said, “while Junior’s never come close to contending. So I don’t know where he gets off running in to me. It did him no good. It did me no good. Of course, we’re both well-versed in finding ourselves in no-win situations.”
10. Joey Logano: Logano led the way on a disappointing day for Joe Gibbs Racing, placing 16th at Las Vegas, his first finish outside the top 10 this year. He is ninth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 27 out of first.
“The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota was solid,” Logano said, “but handling issues got the best of us, despite the work by my dedicated crew, the ‘Buck Privates.’ After a long day of making adjustments, they were spent.”