After every race, we'll opine about who we think is at the top of the Sprint Cup heap and how and why they got there. Remember, this isn't scientific, as our formula is the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. But it's an off-week! So instead of your favorite driver, this week, it's your favorite team. Let's roll.
1. Penske Racing: In this case, Penske's two-car team is an advantage; though you're not going to find many, if any, people who say it's a hinderance. Brad Keselowski's first finish outside the top 10 was at California and in that race, he had charged through the field before being derailed by Timmy Hill's oil. His new teammate, Joey Logano, is ninth in the points despite having an, uh, adventurous start to the 2013 season.
2. Hendrick Motorsports: They've got the points leader, and thy name is Junior. And they've got the guy in third (Jimmie Johnson) and the guy in seventh (Kasey Kahne.) But that dang lead weight Jeff Gordon (18th) is dragging them down. Just imagine if every team had a four-time champion -- and still championship contender -- pulling up the rear.
3. Roush Fenway Racing; The top four spots are all pretty close. Roush boasts drivers No. 4 (Greg Biffle) and No. 5 in the standings (Carl Edwards) and Ricky Stenhouse is more than holding his own in 12th. He'll probably have to get a win or two if Roush wants to have all three cars in Chase contention as the season moves through the summer, but it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility.
4. Joe Gibbs Racing: Three guys in the top 11 in points. For a few more days, anyway. And just think where they'd be if Busch and Kenseth's engines would have made it to the end of the Daytona 500? Though at this point, the engine woes seem like the price to pay for the otherwise sustained excellence of the JGR cars, no?
5. Michael Waltrip Racing: If you took the combined points of Mark Martin's four races in the No. 55 and Brian Vickers' one race, the No. 55 would be a single point ahead of Clint Bowyer for 13th in the driver's points standings. And Bowyer would be higher if it wasn't for that catastrophic engine failure. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, well, they'd be smoked and roasted on the manifold of a TRD engine.
6. Richard Childress Racing: Paul Menard being the team's highest driver in points isn't as surprising as it would be two years ago, and neither is the fact that he's eighth in the points standings. Since crashing at Daytona, Kevin Harvick's notched four top 15 finishes, but he, along with Menard and Jeff Burton, haven't been contending for wins.
7. Richard Petty Motorsports: Outside of Bristol, Aric Almirola has been Mr. Consistent (four finishes between 13th and 16th). Marcos Ambrose has been consistent too, but a few notches below Almirola with four finishes between 18th and 22nd. They're not on the verge of breaking through the top of the package, but there's something to be said for not drilling a hole in the bottom either.
8. Stewart-Haas Racing: Through five races, it seems unfathomable that they'd be this low, but there's not a convincing argument to put them any higher on the list, though things would be a bit different if Tony Stewart had stayed near the front over the final 11 laps at Auto Club. Instead he didn't and he took it out on Joey Logano. The forgotten man, Ryan Newman, has three top 10 finishes, but is 20th because of tire issues at Phoenix and an engine failure at Las Vegas. And yes, Danica Patrick needs to start performing better and running longer on the lead lap.
9. Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing: Jamie McMurray is six spots ahead of where he was last year at this time, but Juan Pablo Montoya is 12 spots lower. Three finishes of 30th or worse will do that to you.
10. Tommy Baldwin Racing: Running two cars full-time for the full distances has paid off so far for Tommy Baldwin, as JJ Yeley is 26th and Dave Blaney is 28th.
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