Here's a look back at the recently completed NASCAR weekend at Richmond International Raceway:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
On a night when many contenders self-destructed – Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson – Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't and he was thusly rewarded with a second-place finish, which represented his fifth consecutive finish inside the top 10 and moved him to second in points.
Now, with the Sprint Cup Series heading to Talladega and a track where he typically excels, Earnhardt Jr. not only has an excellent shot to move to the top of the standings but to also end that pesky 138-winless streak.
A month ago after a blown engine at Martinsville left him 31st in points, Kasey Kahne's first season with Hendrick Motorsports seemed doomed to be one filled with frustration and unfulfilled expectations. But now, after three straight top-10s, Kahne has moved to 23rd in the driver standings and appears to be salvaging a season which had been spiraling out of control.
Whether that leads to race wins and a spot in the Chase is to be determined, but for the time being, hope has been restored to the No. 5 team.
I'm a silver lining kind of guy, which is why despite his notable gaffe on a restart which cost him any shot at a win, Carl Edwards gets a spot on the winner's side of the ledger. That's because he led a race-high 206 laps and, most important, for the first time in 2012 looked like the driver who before the season was expected to contend for his first Sprint Cup Series trophy.
Martin Truex Jr.
A week after declaring that his runner-up finish in Kansas was a statement that he and his team were here to stay, Martin Truex Jr. suffered through a humbling night, finishing 25th – one lap behind the leaders. The lesson here is: When you haven't won since 2007, it's best not to make any proclamations until you're actually celebrating in Victory Lane.
For the first half of Saturday night's 400-lap race, Kevin Harvick looked like the driver who had won at Richmond last fall –running in the top five, top 10 and with a couple of tweaks to the handling of his Chevrolet, maybe in line to snag his first win of the year.
But as the laps clicked by, Harvick and crew chief Shane Wilson never figured out its handling issues and consequently Harvick fell down the running order, ultimately finishing 19th. Also not helping matters was for the second straight week, this team had issues on pit road, a problem which has continually plagued the 29 bunch for the last couple of seasons.
While his two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates finished first and fourth, Joey Logano ended the night one lap down in 24th. Iff you think about it, that more or less encapsulates Logano's disappointing tenure at JGR – now in its fourth full year – which has produced just one win (in a rain-shortened race nonetheless) and zero Chase appearances.