1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished second at Bristol and clinched a spot in the Chase For The Cup. He moved up two places to second in the Sprint Cup point standings, 11 behind Greg Biffle.
“What a dramatic race,” Johnson said. “There was helmet-tossing, finger-wagging, and lots of trash talking. Obviously, Danica Patrick wasn’t the only one to get her panties in a wad.
“And speaking of ‘unmentionables,’ I think it’s clear that when speaking of potential 2012 Cup champions, no other names should enter the conversation except mine. I’ve got the car, the cool demeanor, and a crew chief who knows his way around, especially the rules.”
2. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin passed Carl Edwards with 39 laps remaining and went on to win for the first time at Bristol. Hamlin’s third win tied him with Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski, and all but clinched a spot in the Chase.
“I may be the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver to make the Chase For The Cup,” Hamlin said. “And that’s fine with me, because I’m perfectly happy to remain single.
“My third win all but guarantees me a spot in the Chase. Above all, I want to control my own destiny where the Chase is concerned. Contrary to what you may have heard, I do believe in ‘berth control.’”
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt finished 12th in the Irwin Tools Night Race, joining a trio of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates in the top 12. With his finish, Earnhardt clinched a spot in the Chase For The Cup.
“That’s right,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve mathematically earned a spot in the Chase. That’s a huge milestone, because, for once, the members of Junior Nation are happy to ‘do the math.’”
4. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished 19th on a disappointing night for Roush Fenway Racing at Bristol, as Matt Kenseth tangled with Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ran out of gas late. Despite the finish, Biffle punched his ticket to the Chase and continues to lead the points standings.
“What a throw by Tony Stewart,” Biffle said. “Now I’m the only Roush Fenway driver not to fall victim to Stewart’s ‘mind’ games. Matt obviously has been involved in his share of retaliatory incidents at Bristol. Sure, Tony Stewart needs anger management; Matt needs danger management.”
5. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth and Tony Stewart wrecked while battling for the lead midway through Saturday night’s race, sending both into the inside wall. As Kenseth passed Stewart on pit road, a disgruntled Stewart flung his helmet at the No. 17 Ford, nailing it squarely on the front bumper. Kenseth eventually finished 25th and fell two places in the point standings to fourth.
“I felt like Juan Montoya,” Kenseth said, “because I was target-ed. Tony aims like a champ, but throws like a girl. Everyone’s always said Tony likes to throw ‘blame’ around. This is an obvious example.”
6. Tony Stewart: After a costly spin with Matt Kenseth damaged his No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart retaliated by tossing his helmet at Kenseth’s car on pit road. After eventually posting a 27th-place finish, Stewart vowed to wreck Kenseth for the rest of the year.
“If Kenseth gets in my way again,” Stewart said, “heads will roll, again. I let my temper get the best of me. As you know, my temper is undefeated in matchups with ‘me.’
“Kenseth’s going to get what’s coming to him. At least that’s what Joe Gibbs tells me.”
7. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski took a bump from behind on lap 263 that sent him into the outside wall, resulting in damage to the front-end alignment. He eventually finished 30th, 66 laps down. He fell two spots to seventh in the point standings and is 59 out of first.
“It’s too bad Matt Kenseth wasn’t driving a ‘Dodge,’” Keselowski said. “Then maybe he could have avoided Tony Stewart’s helmet. As it was, Kenseth is an ass(ault victim).”
8. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer remained solidly in the hunt for a Chase spot with a seventh at Bristol, his 14th top-10 finish of the year. Now sixth in the points standings, he trails Greg baffle by 55.
“Who knew Tony Stewart was such a good golfer?” Bowyer said. “His approach to ‘17’ was perfect. I bet Tony wishes he would have tossed his HANS device at Kenseth as well. Then, he could honestly say he showed ‘restraint.’”
9. Kasey Kahne: Kahne finished ninth in the Irwin Tools Night Race, joining Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who finished second and third, in the top 10. He currently holds the first wild card spot for the Chase For The Cup.
“We’d really like to get four Hendrick drivers in the Chase,” Kahne said. “Mainly, to keep Jimmie Johnson ‘company.’”
10. Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex lead 44 laps and finished 11th in the Irwin Tools Night Race. He moved up one spot to fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings and trails Greg Biffle by 52.
“Without a win this year,” Truex said, “I’ll be starting at the back of the Chase field. In other words, I’ll be giving everyone a ‘head start,’ which is exactly what Tony Stewart gave a surprised Matt Kenseth.”