As has been custom over the last few years, Watkins Glen again staged a memorable race where the winner was in doubt until the very end. Although there was a familiar face celebrating in Victory Lane, it wasn't who many expected when the day began.
1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)
A typical Team 48 performance on a road course with Johnson avoiding trouble, running in the top 10 for much of the day and leaving with an eighth-place finish. Up next is Michigan, one of just five tracks where this team has yet to win.
2. Kyle Busch (LW: 2)
If the roles were reversed and Busch was running second to Keselowski on the white flag lap would he have resisted the urge to use his bumper to take the lead?
3. Clint Bowyer (LW: 10)
His sixth Sunday was his first top-10 finish since Daytona. Not a coincidence that once the series got off the flat tracks, Bowyer returned to the form he has shown for much of the year and has him second in points.
4. Kasey Kahne (LW: 4)
From the elation of winning at Pocono followed by the disappointment of wrecking late at Watkins Glen, it's been that kind of roller coaster season for Kahne. He is another driver who heads to Michigan thinking he has a realistic shot to claim the win.
5. Matt Kenseth (LW: 3)
With a 23rd Sunday, Kenseth keeps his streak alive of having never having finished in the top five at a road course as he is now 0-for-28 in his career. Needless to say, he's one driver who's glad to be done turning left and right for the year.
6. Carl Edwards (LW: 12)
With a fourth at Watkins Glen and third at Sonoma, it is apparent road racing agrees with Edwards. So much so that in the last 12 races the only top-5 finishes he has collected have come on the road courses. His problem comes when he look at the schedule and realize it is all ovals from here on out.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5)
The result didn't match the effort as Earnhardt had a car capable of finishing somewhere in the top 15, but left with little room to maneuver he plowed into Kahne and there went that. On the plus side is a return to a Michigan this weekend, which represents Earnhardt's best track as of late and where he again should be in contention for the win.
8. Kurt Busch (LW: 11)
As if Busch's services weren't already in high demand comes the news that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing will have an open seat for next year. Here's an idea: Maybe he should conduct some sort of quasi-reality show where prospective owners try and court him. Richard Childress could regale Busch about legacy of Dale Earnhardt; whereas Chip Ganassi would use the enticement of offering him the chance to compete in the Indy 500. You know you'd watch.
9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 14)
Three top 10s in his last four races has moved the defending champ to eighth in the standings. Although he's still in a precarious position, just 11 points above the cutoff, the next two weeks offer Keselowski a good opportunity to snag his first win of the year.
10. Ryan Newman (LW: 9)
A penalty for pitting too soon proved to be detrimental as Newman was never able to recover and finished 14th. He does remain in possession of one of two wild card slots, but it's tenuous hold as a win by Gordon or Kurt Busch Sunday -- a distinct possibility -- would put him on the outside looking in with three races to go.
11. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 13)
After a four-race stretch where he finished no better than 11th, Truex's third at The Glen was much needed. He shot up four spots in the standings to 10th and should be stout at Michigan where he placed third in June.
12. Kevin Harvick (LW: 8)
Harvick's 13th at The Glen had more to do with a lack of track position than anything else. That being said there has been a dip in performance from the 29 team in the past month. With Harvick having placed second at Michigan in June, this weekend will be a good indicator of where this bunch stands heading into the Chase.
13. Jeff Gordon (LW: 7)
In Gordon's heyday he thrived at Watkins Glen once winning four of five races, but now? Not so much, as in the last six years his best result is 10th. This includes a 36th Sunday that saw him give his Chevrolet a facelift following an encounter with the wall. Consequently, the four-time champ has entered the "must-win-now zone" for the next four weeks.
14. Joey Logano (LW: Unranked)
Logano sure could use those 25 points he was docked for a rules infraction earlier this year. As without the penalty, Logano would be 11th in the standings just two markers out of 10th. Instead, he's 27 points back and his only entry into the Chase will be if he can win a race or two over the next four weeks.
15. Greg Biffle (LW: 15)
Sitting on the Chase bubble, Biffle heads to Michigan at an apt time as he has won the last two races on the D-shaped oval. And if he can find Victory Lane Sunday it would allow him to punch his Chase ticket.