|ESPN.com: Blount||[Print without images]|
While we all contemplate who will win a close championship battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, let me give a little love to a few non-Chasers.
Topping the list is Kyle Busch. Rowdy has posted five top-10s, including four top-5s, in the seven Chase races.
Give him credit for acting like a pro and showing some class when he probably could have punted Johnson to win in the final laps at Martinsville last weekend.
"He's a five-time champion for a reason," Busch said of Johnson after the race. "I was getting into [Turn] 1 and got to his rear bumper. I didn't want to move him out of the way."
Busch knows Johnson is running for the title. It was not the time or place for the bump and run, and it will pay dividends if the situation is reversed in the future.
Joey Logano is another Chase outsider having a strong run down the stretch. Logano started the Chase with three consecutive top-10s and has four in the seven playoff races. The crazy last lap at Talladega, where he ended up 32nd, caused his only finish worse than 19th.
It bodes well in two ways. First, it's a positive sign for Roger Penske that Logano can get the job done next season when he moves into the No. 22 Ford. Second, it's great news for Matt Kenseth that he is taking over a No. 20 Toyota team at Joe Gibbs Racing that is capable of contending for the title.
Both Logano and Busch have more top-10s in the Chase than JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, who fell out of title contention with a 33rd-place finish at Martinsville. Busch's average finish in the Chase is 11.4, compared to 12.4 for Hamlin.
The car that some people may have overlooked is the one with three drivers -- the No. 55 Toyota at Michael Waltrip Racing. Mark Martin and Brian Vickers have combined for four top-10s in the Chase, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
It appeared Waltrip was headed to victory at Talladega before Tony Stewart tried to block him on the last lap and started the big one at the end.
Martin was third at Dover and sixth at Charlotte. Vickers was ninth at New Hampshire and eighth at Martinsville.
A lot of the credit goes to crew chief Rodney Childers. He has done a remarkable job keeping the car running up front with three drivers, all of whom do things differently and want different setups.
The No. 55 is 14th in owner points this season with 15 top-10s. The same trio will share the driving duties on the 55 next season, but you have to wonder how good that car could be with the same driver at the wheel every week.