It’s still early in the season and the swings in the standings tend to be large and dramatic. Still, there are any number of drivers and teams who wake up Monday feeling pretty good about where they stand and any number of teams and drivers who are a bit pissed. A quick look at who’s happy and who’s hot after Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500.
Kurt Busch: The 2004 champion had shown signs of life in the first three races of 2009. He was fully reincarnated Sunday, crushing the field and leading more laps in one race than he did in all of 2008. Moves four spots to third in the standings.
Carl Edwards: A two-tire stop on the last caution put him in front with two to go, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Busch. Still, he finished third and jumped five spots, to fourth.
Jimmie Johnson: Without a win and just two top 10s in four races; a good season for some outfits, a veritable embarrassment for the Stepford Driver. Still, his uneventful ninth — at least partially the result of another pit-road infraction — helped moved him six spots, to 13th, 34 points from eighth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A hard-fought and gutsy 11th-place finish may not do anything to dispel the haters’ contentions that the Chosen One is overrated, but, Jr.’s hard-fought and gutsy 11th proved that he can make the best of a very bad situation. More important, it moved him five spots, to 24th.
Greg Biffle: Like virtually anybody not named Kurt Busch, Biffle wrestled his car all afternoon before being undone by an accident on Lap 263. Biffle finished 34th and dropped six spots, to 10th.
David Reutimann: Reutimann’s 32nd-place finish dropped him to 12th overall. Really, though, it’s a reasonable bet that the coming weeks will see similar drops in stature for the driver of the No. 00, so, rather than see the cup as half empty, Reutimann should cling to the half that’s full: the dude has been in the top 12 for the first month of the season.
Bobby Labonte: Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Wasn’t that move from Petty Enterprises to Hall of Fame Racing s’posed to lead to all sorts of good stuff for the former champion? Take away the fifth at Vegas and what are you left with? A 22nd, a 20th, and Sunday’s 40th. Those positively Petty-an results have Labonte in 23rd, or 13 spots lower than he was Sunday morning.