By winning at Phoenix, Newman is all but guaranteed to make NASCAR’s playoffs, which he didn’t do last season. Newman is 11th in points, up from 25th a year ago.
Kyle Busch, -11
It’s been a tough season so far for Busch, who was second in points after the first four races of 2016, but is 13th now. He got wrecked by Joey Logano at Las Vegas and was robbed of a win at Phoenix when Logano blew a tire late in the race.
, LAT Images www.latphoto.co.ukMatthew T. Thacker
Kyle Larson, + 16
What an amazing start to the NASCAR campaign for Larson, who leads the points on the strength of three runner-up finishes in the first four races. He was 17th at this time last year.
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Dale Earnhardt Jr., – 13
That it’s taking Earnhardt and the No. 88 team a little time to find their mojo isn’t too surprising given that he missed half of last season. Tenth in points after four races last year, he’s now 23rd.
Jimmie Johnson, – 13
This one, frankly, is a bit of a shocker. Johnson’s ninth-place finish at Phoenix is his only top 10 in the first four races of 2017. Third in points a year ago at this time, he’s way back in 16th now.
Chase Elliott, +18
Although he’s still looking for his first Cup race victory, Elliott is off to a strong start in his second season driving the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He’s third in points now vs. 21st a year ago. That’s a big improvement.
, LAT Images www.latphoto.co.ukRussell LaBounty
Austin Dillon, – 17 (25, 8)
No way to sugar coat it — the 2017 season hasn’t gotten off to a great start for Dillon. His 18th-place finish at Phoenix was his best so far this year. Dillon was eighth in points a year ago, but is 25th right now.
Last year, Bowyer struggled miserably with Harry Scott’s team, which closed up shop at the end of the season. As expected, Bowyer is doing much better at Stewart-Haas Racing, where he is 15th in points, up from 34th a year ago.