Brad Keselowski: he gets the top spot this week. He had a solid qualifying run (he started 8th) and worked his way to the front. It was a gamble bringing his Nationwide crew chief to the Cup side to start the season. Kansas was where it all came together. Tonight's win established him as a LEGITIMATE threat to dethrone Jimmie Johnson. This was his second win in the last four races, and fourth consecutive top 3 finish. He'll sit in the Chase NO WORSE than third place. The Blue Deuce is clicking on all cylinders (no pun intended). Keselowski climbed to 11th in points, 20 points behind Tony Stewart. With another solid finish next week at Atlanta, he should clinch a Chase berth.
Martin Truex, Jr.: he FINALLY has a stout run--easily his best run of the season. His two-tire stop on the final pit stop was a huge gamble for track position, and he made it pay off. That took some serious stones on crew chief Chad
Jeff Gordon: he led the most laps, and had a stout car throughout the race, but the #24 faded at the end. It was too much Blue Deuce more than the 24 itself. For awhile, it looked like he would win his third race of the season, and 85th of his career, but it was not to be. Gordon needs to finish 40th or better at Atlanta to clinch a Chase spot.
Jimmie Johnson: Vader and the 48 team are showing signs of life at the right time. Although he led only a handful of laps, he was in a position to pounce. He didn't outdrive the car and was rewarded with a fourth place finish and a berth in the Chase.
Jamie McMurray: it's been awhile since I've seen you in this neck of the woods. He led a handful of laps, and was in the top 10 for pretty much the whole race. Good job Jamie!
Honorable Mention: Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Marcos Ambrose.
Robby Gordon: he drew the short stick at the start and parkers' meeting, held in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room. He ran a total of 10 laps before declaring himself done for the day and hotfooting it out of town with his earnings. Hey Robby, how come you ran faster when you DID hotfoot it out of town with your earnings than on the track?
Tony Stewart: Smoke was UNUSUALLY bad. Even though he has struggled at this track, that term took on a WHOLE NEW MEANING. He fought an ill-handling race car all evening. It was way too loose, then it got way too tight. The 14 team struggled with the balance of the car. The end result was a 28th place finish, three laps down. Fortunately for him, he is still in 10th place and miraculously still has a chance to clinch a Chase berth after Atlanta. That's because:
Clint Bowyer: he was just as bad as Stewart. Like Stewart, he fought an ill-handling race car. But through pit strategy, he actually finished two spots better than Stewart, finishing 26th. He STILL has a chance to make the Chase, albeit as a wild card, with a win at either Atlanta or Richmond. But with no contract extension with RCR, he may be looking elsewhere, like RPM. (I'm guessing that if he DOESN'T make the Chase, he's bolting after the season to RPM.)
Greg Biffle: he was ca-ca. He got popped more than once for speeding penalties on pit road, once during a round of green flag pit stops. He actually had a pretty solid qualifying run and was solid in all the practices leading up to the race. For the race itself, he finishes 31st, four laps down.
Kevin Harvick: another driver that wasted a pretty good qualifying run (he started 15th) with a bad race car. It was loose from the drop of the green flag to the drop of the checkers. No matter what the 29 crew did to try to tighten the car up, it was stuck on loose. Time to stop sniping at Kyle Busch and focus on what is wrong with this car and the setups, Happy. He last pitted with 130 laps to go and was just about to go a lap down when the final caution came out. He stayed out and took the wave around, putting him on the lead lap for the first time since early in the race. Alas, he got lapped AGAIN. IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK TO HAVE A CAR THAT'S AT LEAST COMPETITIVE AND CAN STAY ON THE LEAD LAP??? HMMMM? When you're outrun by Mike Bliss and David Starr at one point in the race, you have a (excuse my French) SHITTY car. JUNK THAT PARTICULAR CAR YOU RAN TONIGHT!
Greg Biffle: see above.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours.