Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway was one of the wildest and craziest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in recent memory, with Matt Kenseth outdueling Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott in a tense fight to win his first race of the year.
With Dover being the 12th of 36 races on the Sprint Cup calendar, the season has now hit the one-third mark, which makes it a perfect time to look at who’s hot and who’s not right now.
HOT:CHASE ELLIOTT — There’s a reason Rick Hendrick trusted the iconic No. 24 to a rookie — he’s damned good. Elliott now is seventh in points and has four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in just 12 races. Those are impressive stats for any driver, let alone a rookie.
NOT: JOEY LOGANO — Last year, Logano won a series-high six races. This year, he’s winless and has finished outside the top 20 in each of the last three races. He’s only ended up in the top 10 in half the races this year. Not horrible, certainly, but not what he wants, either.
HOT:MATT KENSETH — At the start of the season, Kenseth had rotten luck week after week after week. The monkey on his back was more like an 800-pound gorilla. But with his Dover win, Kenseth has come home in the top seven three times in the last four races. And now that he’s won once, he’s likely to repeat soon.
NOT: ARIC ALMIROLA — In 2014, Almirola made the Chase and last year finished highest in points of any non-Chase driver. This year has been an epic strugglefest, though, with a best finish of 12th and no top 15s since Phoenix. Oof.
HOT:RYAN BLANEY — Yes, Blaney has understandably had a few ups and downs in his rookie season, which is also the first full-time season for the Wood Brothers since 2008. But he’s posted three consecutive top 10s and is doing a good job finishing races.
NOT: DALE EARNHARDT JR. — One of 18 drivers snared in Dover’s version of The Big One, Junior finished a disappointing 32nd, which wasn’t his fault. He’s still had a pretty good year thanks to three early season runner-up finishes, but in the last four races, Earnhardt has failed to finish in the top 10 and has fallen from sixth to 11th in points.
HOT:KURT BUSCH — The success of the Joe Gibbs Racing squad has made this one of the most under-reported stories of the year, but Kurt Busch is quietly putting together an excellent season. His 10 top-10 finishes are tops in the series, with Busch a solid third in points.
NOT: GREG BIFFLE — This one still baffles me. Biffle has no top 10s so far this year and trails his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in points.