Winners & Losers: Who is most improved from this time in 2013?
With the first off weekend of the Sprint Cup season upon us, it's time to sit down and figure who has made the biggest points gains -- and who has experienced the steepest dropoff -- from exactly one year ago.
Kevin Harvick (left), Kasey Kahne (center) and Jeff Gordon (right) are each among this season's big movers -- but not necessarily in the right direction.
Jerry Markland / Getty Images North America
By Tom Jensen
With eight races in the books already, the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season is nearly one-third of the way complete.
So who has gained or lost the most spots this year compared to the same time last year? The answers may surprise you.
1. JEFF GORDON, +14 -- The four-time champion is this season's Sprint Cup points leader on the basis of three top-five and six top-10 finishes, with a best of second at Texas. Last year after eight races, Gordon was languishing in 15th in the points, with only one top five, two top 10s and two DNFs.
2. JOEY LOGANO, +12 -- In his second year with Team Penske, Logano's stock continues to rise. He won in Texas and has three other top fives, which puts him eighth in points. Last year, he was 20th, with no victories and only a pair of top fives.
3. TONY STEWART, +9 -- Hard to believe, maybe, but in the first eight races of 2013, Stewart had just a single top-10 finish. This year, he's rebounded nicely from his horrific sprint car crash and is now 12th in points, with consecutive top-five finishes at Auto Club Speedway and Bristol.
4. RYAN NEWMAN, +8 -- Last year, Newman had three finishes of 30th or worse in the first eight races. This year, his worst finish was 22nd in the season-opening Daytona 500 as he's settling in well in his first season at Richard Childress Racing.
5. MATT KENSETH, +7 -- One of two anomalies on this list is Kenseth, who hasn't finished worse than 13th in a single race and is second in points, despite being winless. Last year at this time, Kenseth already had two wins, but he also had two DNFs.
1. KASEY KAHNE, -21 -- Last year at this time, Kahne already had a victory, four top fives and five top 10s and was second in points. Now he's 23rd, having not finished higher than eighth so far this season.
2. MARTIN TRUEX JR., -14 -- The move from Michael Waltrip Racing to Furniture Row Racing has been challenging for Truex. Last year after eight races he had two top fives and three top 10s and was 14th in points. This year, 28th in points with a best single race finish of 14th.
3. ARIC ALMIROLA, -11 -- The Richard Petty Motorsports driver had a great run at Bristol, finishing third, but he's dropped to 24th in points on the basis of a 39th-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 43rd at Auto Club Speedway. Last year at this time Almirola was 13th in points.
4. KEVIN HARVICK, -10 -- Here's the other oddity in this list: Harvick's two race victories have him locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup already this season, but a string of bad finishes have hurt his points raking. Last year, his cars were slower, but he had more consistency. Under the new points system, though, he's golden.
5. JAMIE McMURRAY, -9 -- The short tracks have kicked McMurray's butt this year, with finishes of 38th at Bristol and 42nd at Martinsville. No wonder he's fallen from 11th to 20th in points.