Last year, Joey Logano had a breakout season at Team Penske, advancing to the championship round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 definitely surprised a lot of people.
14. BRIAN VICKERS GETS SICK AGAIN
For the fourth time in his career, Brian Vickers has been sidelined by medical issues related to blood clots. He will miss at least the next three months and possibly much more.
13. CARS HAVEN'T SLOWED DOWN
With horsepower and downforce both sharply reduced this year, speeds were expected to go down, too. They haven't, as drivers are diving much deeper into corners, carrying extra speed with them.
Getty ImagesRobert Laberge
12. JGR STRUGGLES
The addition of Carl Edwards figured to make the powerful Joe Gibbs Racing squad better. So far it hasn't, though, with all four JGR drivers stuck between 13th and 17th in points.
11. BRETT'S BIG BREAK
Brett Moffitt scored an eighth-place finish at Atlanta, his first race this season in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Looks like he might be in that ride for quite some time with Brian Vickers sidelined.
10. UNITED WE STAND
The technical alliance among Richard Childress Racing, Furniture Row Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing and Germain Racing has ben a huge benefit to all four organizations, each of which is running better this year.
9. SMOKE SLIDING
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is 32nd in points after five races, trailing guys like Trevor Bayne, Cole Whitt and Brett Moffitt.
8. LAST-LAP LEADER
Brad Keselowski led only one lap at Auto Club Speedway, historically his worst track, but it was the one that counted as he scored a shocking victory in a race dominated by Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.
7. FURNITURE ROW FLYING
Martin Truex Jr. and new crew chief Cole Pearn have gotten off to a sensational start, with Truex third in points on the basis of five straight top 10s to open the season.
6. GORDON'S HARD KNOCKS
Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was caught in crashes not of his own doing in each of the first three races of the year before rebounding to score consecutive top 10s.
5. KURT BUSCH'S UPS AND DOWNS
It's been the worst of times and the best of times for Kurt Busch: Suspended by NASCAR for three races at the start of the season, he has posted consecutive top fives in his first two races back.
4. ROUSH'S REGRESSION
There's no polite way to put this: Roush Fenway Racing has been abysmal this year. They don't have a single driver in the top 20 in points and the entire team has just one top-10 finish all year.
3. KYLE BUSCH INJURED
Kyle Busch hasn't run in a single NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this year after suffering a compound fracture of his lower right leg and midfoot fracture of his left foot in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona.
2. HARVICK'S HOT STREAK
When he won a championship last year, Kevin Harvick checked off the only empty box on his resume. But this year, he's even better, with two victories and three runner-up finishes in five races. Harvick has led 39 percent of the laps run this year.
1. J.D. GIBBS' HEALTH ISSUES
The toughest news of the year so far has been the disclosure that Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs is 'starting treatment for symptoms impacting areas of brain function . . . after experiencing a gradual onset of symptoms that includes speech and processing issues.' Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery, J.D.