Kevin C. Cox
A rough and tumble race at Bristol left no shortage of candidates for this week’s edition of winners and losers.
With Jeff Gordon's troubles and Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano getting into it on the track and later off of it, there is plenty to sort through in the Bristol version of winners and losers.
Even though he finished a career-best fourth in points in 2012, Kasey Kahne is often the one driver who gets overlooked at Hendrick Motorsports -- though no fault of his own. However, that's almost to be expected when you consider that his teammates include two multi-time champions and the sport's most popular driver.
But at the age of 32 Kahne is in his prime, and as the youngest member of the team also represents the future of Hendrick. And it's a future that will certainly include plenty more victories like the one we saw at Bristol.
In his first Cup start of the season Vickers picked right up where Mark Martin left off and gave the No. 55 team another top 10 finish (eighth). More so, Bristol further illustrates that Michael Waltrip Racing would be wise to offer Vickers the full-time ride in the 55 car next year, as he has finished in the top 10 in six of nine races dating back to last season and looks deserving of another shot with a top-fight team.
Casey Mears' 15th-place effort at Bristol marked the second time this season that he has finished a race in the top 15. And while that may not be significant to some drivers, for Mears it equals the number of top 15 finishes he has had in the last two years combined.
With right around 100 laps to go Jeff Gordon was in the lead and putting together the race he needed after a slow start to the year. But it was for naught as his right-front tire exploded and sent the No. 24 car slamming into the Turn 1 wall and a potentially good point day instead became a just a deeper hole for Gordon to climb out of.
Because the issues he's faced this season on the track have more to do with other migrating factors than anything he can specifically control, it's difficult to question Denny Hamlin's focus. That said, with everything that has transpired over the last three weeks it is easy to wonder if Hamlin wouldn't be better served by keeping a lower profile.
Tony Stewart's uneven season continued at Bristol where a blown tire ended his afternoon before it ever really began and led to him finishing 31st. And that unevenness has carried over to Stewart-Haas Racing as whole as Ryan Newman is 22nd in points, Stewart is 23rd and Danica Patrick has plummeted to 28th after leaving Daytona seventh overall.
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