1. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finished 8th at Kansas, better than all but Clint Bowyer among Chase contenders. Keselwoski leads Jimmie Johnson by seven, and has a 15-point edge over Denny Hamlin.
“It was a caution-filled race,” Keselowski said. “With Election Day approaching, it’s no surprise to see so many ‘spins.’ Even Danica Patrick got into the act. She’s just like a woman—can’t get upset without dragging a man down with her.”
2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson salvaged a ninth-place finish after spinning and nailing the wall in the Hollywood Casino 400. Johnson remained second in the point standings, seven behind points leader Brad Keselwoski.
“I’ve got to hand it to Chad Knaus,” Johnson said. “He had to do a lot to get us in position for a respectable finish. It was some of Chad’s best work, but not his best. I’ve seen him do more to a car that still passed inspection.”
3. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished 13th at Kansas and lost ground to both in the point standings to both Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, who finished 8th and 9th, respectively. Hamlin is 20 out of the lead in the point standings.
“My weekend didn’t get off to a good start,” Hamlin said. “I crashed on Thursday in a test session at Kansas Motor Speedway. After that, I wasn’t sure if I was in Kansas anymore.
“With four races left, I need to make a move. The clock is ticking. Luckily, it’s the grandfather clock given to the winner at Martinsville, where I’m always a threat to win. Hopefully, it won’t strike midnight before I put my hands on it.”
4. Clint Bowyer: Kansas native Bowyer followed his win at Charlotte with a solid 6th in the Hollywood Casino 400, posting his 19th top-10 finish of the year. He is fourth is the Sprint Cup point standings, 28 behind Brad Keselowski.
“Just call me ‘Clint ‘Home’ Bowyer,’” Bowyer said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give my fans what they wanted. But they weren’t the only natives who were restless—I’m desperate for a win. I’m even more desperate for a three-car pileup in Turn 1 of lap 1 at Martinsville that wipes out Keselowski, Johnson, and Hamlin. That ‘cream’ of the crop would put me in the cream of the crop.”
5. Kasey Kahne: Kahne scored his ninth top 5 of the year with a fourth at Kansas. He is now 35 points behind Brad Keselowski in the point standings.
“I still have a mathematical chance to win the Cup,” Kahne said. “Unfortunately, I’m not good at math, like some drivers. Denny Hamlin, for example, is good at ‘multiplication.’ Matt Kenseth is good at ‘subtraction.’ And Kurt Busch is good at ‘division.’”
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth took his second win of the Chase, and third of the year, with the victory at Kansas. Kenseth, in the No. 17 Zest car, led a race-high 78 laps and outgunned Martin Truex, Jr. at the end.
“That’s two wins in the Chase,” Kenseth said, “but despite that, I’m still out of the title picture. Does the Chase points format need to be tweaked to place more importance on wins in the Chase? I think so, and I’ll get on a soapbox to say so.”
7. Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex scored the runner-up finish in the Hollywood Casino 400, as his No. 55 NAPA car was the top Toyota in the field. He is sixth in the point standings, 43 out of first.
“With no wins at all this year,” Truex said, “you could say I’m ‘55 out of first.’NAPA ‘knows how,’ except to win.”
8. Tony Stewart: Stewart finished fifth at Kansas, his first top-5 result since a fourth at Richmond in September. He is seventh in the point standings, 47 out of first.
“I should give Danica Patrick a lesson in offensive driving,” Stewart said. “If you want to spin someone, you can’t spin yourself. This may or may not be in the Bible, but Ice Cube once said, ‘Check yo’self before you wreck ‘yo’self.’”
9. Jeff Gordon: Gordon led two laps and finished 10th at Kansas, joining Hendrick stablemates Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson in the top 10. Gordon is eighth in the point standings, 51 out of first.
“Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been cleared to race this weekend at Martinsville,” Gordon said. “I wouldn’t be surprised in the people of Junior Nation commemorate the event with a new drinking game in which you drink for six hours prior to the checkered flag, then try to pass a concussion test.”
10. Kevin Harvick: Harvick, in the No. 29 Budweiser Chevy, rolled to an 11th in the Hollywood Casino 400. He is tenth in the point standings, 59 behind Brad Keselowski.
“When I say ‘I’m out of it,’” Harvick said, “it has multiple meanings. I’m too far behind to care, matter, or believe. The only close race I’m involved in is what I give more of—a ‘damn’ or a ‘rat’s ass.’”