Edwards vaults to top of Sprint Cup Rankings
Carl Edwards vaulted back to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rankings almost exactly two months after last topping the standings.
The Roush Fenway man only narrowly missed out on a top three finish at Michigan – trailing eventual winner and team-mate Greg Biffle by just over two seconds – but that was easily enough to earn him a four-spot rise to eighth in the Rankings.
That jump, a sizeable improvement for someone so high up the order, carried him above Matt Kenseth (13), Tony Stewart (9) and Jimmie Johnson (10) and back to the top of the pile.
A disparity now exists between his Rankings and championship positions however.
Despite topping the Rankings Edwards currently remains outside those eligible for a Chase spot. He is also yet to win in 2012, leaving him vulnerable to the possibility of missing out on a wildcard spot too.
His gains in the Rankings came largely as a result of dropping a torrid performance at Michigan in 2011 when he retired 29 laps from the end and was classified 36th.
By dropping that round he was always likely to jump up the order, but a top six finish magnified the gains and allowed him to rise above his Sprint Cup rivals to once again head the order.
Stewart remains his closest challenger in ninth, the Stewart-Haas driver having held position despite retiring after 109 laps – one of three similar issues for Hendrick Motorsport during the race.
Also affected was Jimmie Johnson, who seemed for a long time to be heading for victory despite being forced to start from the back of the field following an unscheduled engine change on Saturday.
Six laps from the end however the five-time champion slowed with an engine problem, and in the space of one lap had dropped from the lead to become the race’s final retirement.
The cost of that was measured in a two-place slide to 10th in the Rankings, his fall limited by the fact he led for a deal of the race.
Directly behind him in the Sprint Cup Rankings order is Matt Kenseth, who also slid two spots following his 17th-place finish.
Unusually, his Roush Fenway team-mate Greg Biffle didn’t enjoy the fruits of victory – in Rankings terms at least – as a hard-earned win failed to lift him from 16th spot.
Instead it was Martin Truex Jr, Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard who gained the most from the weekend.
Truex, the highest ranked of the trio, bested his 2011 result by finishing in the top 10 this year, leading to a three-place rise into 27th.
That was shaded by Ambrose, who reached an all-time high of 44th in the Rankings after finishing fifth, and moving up by the same number of places.
Menard meanwhile came home ninth at Michigan, earning a four-sport rise to 51st.