By Jared Turner
5. “Rowdy” Is Looking Really Good
Of the drivers not named Jeff Gordon, no one left Martinsville Speedway in a better spot than Kyle Busch, who recovered from an early spin to finish fifth – and leave Martinsville tied for second among the eight remaining title contenders. While this is certainly no guarantee of advancing to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the winner-take-all championship race, Busch has the luxury of not needing to go for broke in either of the next two races leading into Homestead. If Busch does make it to Homestead, he certainly can’t be overlooked. After all, no one expected him to get this far.
4. “Happy” Is Hanging Around
On the heels of a tumultuous week in which he faced tremendous backlash from competitors and fans alike for deliberately causing a crash to further his own interests at Talladega, Kevin Harvick overcame an issue on pit road to finish eighth at Martinsville and leave the paperclip-shaped oval in fourth place among the eight championship contenders. That means that if the Championship 4 were locked in based on their current positions, Harvick would be racing for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This much you can be rest assured of: If Harvick does get to Homestead, he will be extremely difficult to beat.
3. Matt Kenseth Will Retaliate
For the longest time, Matt Kenseth had a reputation as a driver who rarely lost his cool or exacted revenge on a competitor. But that perception is rapidly changing. A little more than a year after Kenseth shocked everyone by putting Brad Keselowski in a headlock after the Chase race at Charlotte, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion was at it again. Only this time, the target of his wrath was young Joey Logano, with whom Kenseth clashed two weeks earlier in a late-race incident at Kansas Speedway. Kenseth – in a damaged car and running several laps down – deliberately ran into Logano while Logano led at Martinsville.
2. Logano Is Going To Be Hard To Stop
Despite leaving Martinsville with a 37th-place finish and sitting last among the eight remaining title contenders, Joey Logano continues to be the series’ most impressive driver. On Sunday he was headed for an almost certain victory late in the race at a track where he’s never won when Matt Kenseth – a lapped car – deliberately took him out of the race. Although the incident proved costly to Logano’s championship hopes, the Team Penske driver is still alive as the next track on the schedule, Texas, is one of his best. Logano could very easily be in position to win his fifth straight race this weekend.
1. Jeff Gordon Still Has It
Say what you wish about Jeff Gordon, but after Sunday’s clutch victory at Martinsville Speedway, here’s the crux of the matter: The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is finishing out his career in style – even if he ultimately fails to win a fifth title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in three weeks. With his win at Martinsville, the Hendrick Motorsports driver became the first driver to punch an automatic ticket to the winner-take-all championship race at Homestead, where one of four finalists will be crowned champ. It’s obvious that the veteran driver is hungry.