Stewart's victory at Fontana pushes Johnson to new low
Tony Stewart’s victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s rain-shortened visit to Fontana pushed Jimmie Johnson, one of his chief rivals, to a new low in the Castrol EDGE Rankings.
Stewart, the reigning Cup champion, claimed the lead on lap 85 and thereafter faced little challenge until the expected rain descended.
It looked likely that Stewart would dive into the pits for new tyres alongside a handful of lead drivers, but he opted to stay out and drove back onto the track at the last second.
That decision paid dividends when the rain, light at first, intensified and plans to restart the race were abandoned, handing Stewart the win.
Victory not only lifted him to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings, it also elevated him two spots to 13th in the Rankings.
As it transpired, that rise came at Johnson’s expense, with the 36-year-old dropping one place to an all-time low of 15th.
Though that is hardly a disgrace, it is nonetheless indicative of the wider Sprint Cup picture in which Johnson is no longer the absolute dominant force. During his unprecedented run of five straight titles the American had never been outside the top 10 in the Rankings.
Matt Kenseth was another driver to lose out to Stewart, as he dropped two spots to 14th following Fontana.
Kenseth was also jumped by Kyle Busch, who had led for most of the early running before eventually coming home in second. Busch moved up one place to 12th as a result.
The change in order means that Busch, Stewart, Kenseth and Johnson all lie next to each other in the Rankings, with Carl Edwards still clear up the road in ninth overall.
12th was enough to establish Mark Martin as one of the biggest risers in the Sprint Cup Rankings, the 53-year-old rising five spots into 49th.
Among those moving in the opposite direction was former Formula 1 grand prix winner Juan-Pablo Montoya.
The Colombian currently sits 18th in the Sprint Cup standings, while a 17th-place finish at Fontana caused him to slide to 72nd in the Rankings.