Ho-hum. Another Phoenix, another Jimmie Johnson romp in the des — wait, what? Johnson lost?
Yes, even two days later it's still true. The king didn't claim his customary Phoenix crown. (Don't feel too bad for him; he did extend his points lead in the standings.) No, once again late pit strategy and zero-hour cautions played a role in a race this season, and once again, the winner had to fight his way to victory:
With the win, Newman jumps six spots to 16th. And just a few weeks ago, he was edging up to the top-35 cut line. Not a bad turnaround, but then it's exactly what happened last year as well.
Other major movers on the weekend included Carl Edwards, up six to No. 8, and Kurt Busch, down 8 to No. 14. And with yet another strong race and yet another green-white-checker going against him, Jeff Gordon is angrily creeping up, now to fifth place. Oh, and the Paul Menard experiment appears to be drawing to a close, as he drops four spots and out of the Chase zone.
There's an old saying that the standings at the end of Richmond are pretty close to how the standings will be at the start of the Chase. If that's true, guys like Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne are in a world of trouble. Ryan Newman might just have bolstered his chances for a second straight Chase run, but those guys are going to be sweating out every weekend from here on out.
- Phoenix crown