Clint Bowyer took the checkered flag at Sonoma, but there were five other drivers that also generated headlines during the race over the weekend. Kurt Busch fronts the group:
1. Kurt Busch
He took an unsponsored car onto a road course, and nearly won. Busch and the No. 51 team have had their share of problems this year, most notably the recent suspension from the Pocono race. How much has he struggled? Sunday was his first Top 5 finish of the season. Until then, he hadn’t finished better than 20th in his previous six races. Now, if he would just stop getting into run-ins with reporters, among other things…
2. Brian Vickers
Vickers was another pleasant surprise in the Top 5. He’s only racing part-time, so he’s only driven in three Cup races in 2012. But he’s cracked the Top 5 in two of them, the other coming at Bristol back in March. It’d nice to see him racing full-time again very soon, as he did last year with Red Bull Racing, which is not sponsoring Cup cars anymore.
3. Joey Logano
The Connecticut native is quietly putting together a solid stretch of good finishes. He came in 10th at Sonoma – his fourth Top Ten finish in the last six races, including a win at Pocono a couple of weeks ago. He has six Top Ten’s in 2012. He’s 15th in the points, but more importantly, that win could help him get a wild card spot in the Chase. He could just about wrap up a spot in the Chase if he wins again between now and Richmond.
4. Carl Edwards
Remember when he was contending for the championship last fall? He hasn’t done much lately. By finishing 21st at Sonoma, he’s now gone four straight races without a Top Ten finish, and he still hasn’t won in 2012. Still, he’s generally been good at the 1.5 mile tracks. That includes Kentucky, the site of next weekend’s race. Edwards finished 5th last year there.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
His huge fan base was wondering – could he carry the momentum from Michigan into Sonoma? Nope. He came in 23rd – his worst finish of the year. He’s never cracked the Top Ten at Sonoma. He’s still third in the points, but when your name is Earnhardt, the bar gets raised a bit.