Drivers already positioning themselves for Chase
Mark Martin finished 31st or worse in three of the opening four races, and his season was written off. Matt Kenseth won the opening pair of races and was suddenly viewed as a leading candidate for the championship. Clint Bowyer was demoted from his annual role as a Chase for the Sprint Cup contender in the preseason after a switch to a new team, but after seven races is in top form.
It's just been that kind of year.