The three city west coast swing was off to a wacky start, but it didn’t prevent a great finish at the very end of the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas. It looks that Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota’s brief dominance has been put on hold for the time being, and other teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske decided to have a say about it. The last two weeks Chevrolet and Ford wanted a piece of the action.
After the Kobalt 400 was over, a lot of drivers moved up in the standings. Three drivers are now in the Chase, and another name could be added after Phoenix. The power struggle appears to be mixed, and we are only three races into the 2016 season. The Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway is up next, and here right now are the five hottest drivers looking to rise from the ashes:
- Kyle Busch: It’s true he didn’t have a great start to begin with in Las Vegas, but Kyle still picked his spots to lead late in the race until he experienced a vibration which put him in fourth. Kyle tried to sweep both Las Vegas races since he won the Xfinity race on Saturday. He was the only JGR driver to finish in the top 10 when Matt Kenseth wrecked late in the race. Three top five finishes to kick off his Sprint Cup title defense is the main reason he leads in points no matter where he starts.
- Jimmie Johnson: Winning in Atlanta the last two years gave him enough momentum to try to pass Dale Earnhardt on the all-time list. Johnson ran in the top five as he battled Team Penske for most of the duration and led the most laps with 76. The six-time champion is so far the flagship for Hendrick finishing in the top five the last two races. An Atlanta win and a third place finish in Las Vegas puts him second in points, but he isn’t far behind by six.
- Joey Logano: Starting second and finishing second was enough to put the number 22 fourth in points. Logano led some laps for the first time this season in Las Vegas with 70. So far like Johnson, he appears to be Penske’s flagship driver to get back into the Chase. If this is once again another career season, Logano isn’t wasting any time to show his fellow drivers his veteran status. Finishing second now has put Logano fourth in points.
- Kurt Busch: Winning two straight poles puts the elder Busch on my top five list. The only thing that might have prevented him from winning on his home track was a speeding penalty after leading 32 laps to start off the race. In any case, Kurt has three top 10’s, which puts him fifth in points. The number 41 looks to be Stewart-Haas Racing’s hottest driver as of now since Kevin Harvick fell one spot to third in the standings finishing seventh.
- Brad Keselowski: The blue deuce overcame a speeding penalty and took advantage of Kyle’s late misfortune to snap a near yearlong winless streak. Leading a total of 24 laps at Las Vegas and the final five put Keselowski in the Chase along with Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Keselowski’s win moved him up four spots to sixth in the standings after three races. He’s looking to show his boss Roger Penske that he too can contend for the championship.
Las Vegas was full of rain, sand and wind. There’s no telling what the heat in Phoenix will bring as Kevin Harvick won four of the last five races there. Could another driver from another team get into the Chase after Phoenix? NASCAR is in a world of balance at the moment.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Bryan Law