1. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth doggedly chased Brad Keselowski to the finish at Bristol, but could never catch the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. The runner-up result gave Kenseth his second top-5 finish of the year, and boosted him two places in the Sprint Cup point standings to third.
“As his number of followers would suggest,” Kenseth said, “Keselowski is fast becoming America’s ‘Tweet-heart.’ And, no, that’s not my Ward Button impression. Keselowski even Tweeted a photo from victory lane. That’s impressive. He may be the only NASCAR driver who can ‘phone it in’ and still be successful.
“Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t jump a restart midway through the race to get in front of Keselowski. Oh no. I was trying to get as far away from Brian Vickers as possible.”
2. Greg Biffle: Biffle started on the pole at Bristol and led 41 early laps before handling issues stymied his efforts to stay out front. He finished 12th and remained atop the Sprint Cup point standings, with a nine-point lead over Kevin Harvick.
“That breaks my string of third-place finishes,” Biffle said. “Still, my average finish is sixth. And let’s be honest, nothing says ‘average’ quite like ‘Greg Biffle.’”
3. Kevin Harvick: Harvick was caught up in a lap 24 spin between Regan Smith and Kasey Kahne that collected seven cars, including Harvick’s No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet. Despite extensive damage, Harvick salvaged an 11th at Bristol, and remained second in the point standings, nine behind Greg Biffle.
“Say what you will about Kahne,” Harvick said, “but he was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver who was a factor in the race. Just a few months ago, he was apologizing to breastfeeding mothers. Now, he’s apologizing to expectant fathers. No wonder he’s the ‘red-headed stepchild’ of HMS.”
4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished ninth at Bristol, scoring his third-straight top-10 finish. It was likely Johnson’s last race with crew chief Chad Knaus before Knaus serves his six race suspension
“NASCAR seems to be unusually vigilant where Knaus is concerned,” Johnson said. “Call it an episode of ‘Queer Eye For The Not-So-Straight Guy,’ if you will. This being March, I’m surprised NASCAR didn’t accuse Chad of having an illegal ‘bracket’ of some sort.
“But I’ll manage without Chad. He’ll return in six weeks rejuvenated. I hear he’s taking a vacation to a mysterious locale. If NASCAR officials ask us where he is,Chad’s instructed us to wink and simply say ‘parts unknown.’”
5. Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex finished third at Bristol, leading a parade of Michael Waltrip Racing cars in the top 5. Teammates Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers came home fourth and fifth, respectively, and Truex jumped four places in the point standings to fourth, 18 out of first.
“Michael Waltrip has assembled quite an organization here,” Truex said. “And, he’s quite entertaining on Showtime’s ‘Inside NASCAR.’ So, that’s at least two things that Michael’s better at being behind than a steering wheel: a desk and a microphone.”
6. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski dominated at Thunder Valley, leading 231 laps and holding off Matt Kenseth to win the Food City 500 at Bristol. The young Penske Racing driver proved that last fall’s Bristol win was no fluke, and gave Dodge its first win of the year.
“The Sprint Cup championship is obviously a goal,” Keselowski said. “But that goal is secondary to reaching 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. As a social media hound, I want to get social medieval on the web’s behinds.
“Of course, there are those that say my penchant for social media interaction can only spell my downfall where the Cup is concerned. Those people are on Facebook, and they believe the writing is on the ‘wall.’”
7. Tony Stewart: Stewart had a top-10 Bristol finish in sight until he was punted into the wall on lap 479 when Brendan Gaughan’s brakes failed. Stewart limped home in 14th, and remained seventh in the point standings, 27 out of first.
“If he continues to wreck superstars like me,” Stewart said, “Gaughan will be out of NASCAR before long. That’s why he’s earned the nickname ‘Going, Going’ Gaughan.”
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt survived a run-in with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon to post a 15th-place finish in the Food City 500. Earnhardt was nabbed for speeding on pit road late in the race, an infraction that likely cost him a top-10 finish. He is now tied for fifth in the point standings, 20 out of first.
“What’s Gordon’s biggest complaint about Diet Mountain Dew?” Earnhardt said. “It tastes ‘flat.’”
9. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin started 20th at Bristol and finished in the same position, victimized by handling issues and long green runs that left little opportunities for adjustments. He dropped two spots in the point standings to fifth, and trails Greg Biffle by 20 points.
“I’m tied in the point standings with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.,” Hamlin said. “I made a race out of going nowhere fast; Junior’s made a career of it.”
10. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer, in the 5-Hour Energy No. 15Toyota, finished fourth at Bristol, joining Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Martin Truex, Jr. and Brian Vickers in the top 5. Bowyer improved five places in the point standings to eighth and is 31 out of first.
“I’m confident this car will soon be in Victory Lane,” Bowyer said. “When that happens, I promise to douse everyone there with 5-Hour Energy drink, which may, in fact, take five hours.”