Similar to short tracks and restrictor-plate speedways, road courses have a tendency to shake up the rankings.
This is week is no different with Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard all making positive upward gains. Conversely, names like Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, who are typically strong on road courses, find themselves heading in the opposite direction after disappointing performances at Sonoma Raceway.
1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)
Much better than his seventh finishing position indicates, Johnson simply didn't have the cautions fall favorably Sunday. Nevertheless, Sonoma was his sixth consecutive top-10 and further proof that no team is clicking better than the 48, which could have won each of the past five races if circumstances had been slightly different.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2)
The way the No. 88 was making deft passes in the closing laps, you almost expected a driver other than Earnhardt to be behind the wheel. It was indeed Earnhardt, however, who in his 15th Sonoma start not only recorded his first ever top-10, but did so in resounding fashion. His third-place effort tied a personal best on a road course.
3. Jeff Gordon (LW: 5)
Well positioned to get his first road course win since 2006, Gordon couldn't capitalize. On more than one occasion he simply overdrove and allowed Edwards to build some distance between the two. Although Gordon could have leveraged Edwards out of the lead on the final lap, he elected not to and gladly took his runner-up finish.
4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4)
Stop if you've heard this before: Harvick had a car good enough to win but self-induced mistakes proved too much to overcome. This time around it was a miscommunication that kept the No. 4 in the pits longer than planned. The blunder proved costly with Harvick losing four positions, which then led to him having nowhere to go when Clint Bowyer spun and the two made heavy contact.
5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 3)
When Keselowski went for a spin thanks to Kyle Busch's bumper, it seemed an old feud had been reignited. Those thoughts quickly vanished when Keselowski took full blame, citing a car that was so off he wanted to bring it to the garage for massive chassis changes.
6. Carl Edwards (LW: 15)
On a semi-equal playing field with a car not at a disadvantage, Edwards is more than capable of holding his own, as he demonstrated Sunday. But that's been the story of his season -- Roush Fenway Racing doesn't have its aerodynamics and engines packages to a level where Edwards can compete for wins weekly. And thus the reason he's likely leaving for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.
7. Matt Kenseth (LW: 7)
A promising day came to a crashing halt (literally) when Kenseth went slamming into a tire barrier thanks to a tap from Earnhardt, who was apologetic both immediately after the incident and in his post-race press conference. To his credit, Kenseth didn't point fingers, knowing that unseemly things happen when there is side-by-side racing on a tight track.
8. Jamie McMurray (LW: 10)
Started on the pole and finished fourth, which continues the strong run McMurray has been on since winning the All-Star Race. The only thing that's missing from the turnaround is a points-paying victory, and that could come at Kentucky, where McMurray was a runner-up a year ago.
9. Paul Menard (LW: 12)
With a fourth at Michigan and a fifth at Sonoma, Menard has consecutive top-five finishes for the first time in his career. That consistency would have him in the Chase by now, an occurrence few would have expected before this season or any for that matter.
10. Joey Logano (LW: 6)
The finishing order shows Logano in 16th but that masks what was a solid day for the No. 22 team, as a decision to forgo tires prompted a slide backwards. A return to a mile-and-a-half track this weekend provides a great opportunity for Logano to get back to his early season form, which included a win on the similarly sized Texas Motor Speedway.
11. Clint Bowyer (LW: 11)
Not too many times has Bowyer had a car capable of winning this season, but that was the case at Sonoma. Unfortunately, a flat tire and a subsequent shove around from McMurray ended that hope. Bowyer did rally to finish 11th, but that's little consolation for someone who hasn't won in 20 months.
12. Kyle Larson (LW: 8)
A solid run in his Sonoma debut evaporated due to a pit road penalty and the loss of his power steering. The outcome was Larson's worst finish (28th) in 10 races, which further underlines the remarkable season the rookie is producing.
13. Kurt Busch (LW: 14)
Three straight finishes of 13th or better has Busch slowly escaping the points abyss he found himself in for much of the year. Come the Chase, this will be a fascinating team to watch as the speed is there to be a factor in the championship, and it just as well could implode due to infighting.
14. Tony Stewart (LW: 9)
For the second time in three weeks a speeding penalty derailed a potential victory. Perhaps instead of worrying about doling out punishment for those who dare block him, Stewart would be best-served by focusing more on correcting avoidable mistakes.
15. Kyle Busch (LW: 13)
The summer swoon continues, this time in the form of a 25th-place result at Sonoma. This follows finishes of 12th, 15th, ninth, 42nd, 12th and 41st, and a once promising year would otherwise be precariously close to implosion if it weren't for a March win at Fontana.