With seven races to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Jimmie Johnson's points lead over second place Clint Bowyer is 49 points, or one more than what Johnson scored last night for leading the most laps and winning Saturday night's Coke Zero 400.
And while Johnson stretched his points lead with his fourth win of the season -- just four drivers are currently within 100 points -- the margin he has on Bowyer is larger than the gap between 9th place Kurt Busch and 20th place Paul Menard.
Yes, Kurt Busch is now in 9th place.
The cluster in that part of the points standings means that a bad finish can send a driver tumbling. Need proof? You don't have to look any further than Joey Logano and Menard.
After Kentucky, Logano broke into the top 10. But a busted tire and collision with the wall later, he's now 15th, a place that was occupied by Menard before Daytona. But his engine exploded on lap 23, and his one-point last place performance dropped him five positions in the standings too.
And just as those two drivers fell, Busch and Tony Stewart were on the flipside.
Busch's sixth place performance jumped him five spots in the standings and he's now in the top 10 for the first time all season. The season has been one of mishaps and missed opportunities for Busch and the No. 78, but with three straight top six finishes since Michigan, Busch has moved from 20th position in just three weeks.
Because of his second place finish Saturday night, Stewart's back in the top 10 after a brief appearance post-Michigan, a presence that lasted all of a week thanks to a 28th place run at Sonoma. When he was informed that he was back in 10th on Saturday night, Stewart simply replied "Great, I'll take it."
What does the rest of that jumble look like? Right now, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne would occupy the two wild card spots and defending champion Brad Keselowski would be on the outside looking in.
8. Greg Biffle, -142 (1 win)
9. Kurt Busch, -157 (0)
10. Tony Stewart, -159 (1)
11. Martin Truex Jr., -165 (1)
12. Kasey Kahne, -168 (1)
13. Brad Keselowski, -170 (0)
14. Jeff Gordon, -171 (0)
15. Joey Logano -175 (0)
16. Ryan Newman, -176 (0)
17. Jamie McMurray, -183 (0)
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., -192 (0)
19. Aric Almirola, -195 (0)
20. Paul Menard, -198 (0)
What's it going to look like in nine weeks? Will the standings look similar or will they be considerably different? Let us know in the comments below.
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