Edwards cracks top 12

Harvick takes over top spot in Chase standings

May 05, 2010

With the help of his fifth-place finish and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 32nd-place finish, Carl Edwards is back in the top 12.

It's getting to be the time of year when those standings mean a lot. Sixteen races remain until the Chase for the Cup championship and as these next few races continue, it will be harder for drivers to make up ground.

Meanwhile, with a 10th-place finish at Richmond, Jimmie Johnson ceded the top spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to Kevin Harvick. Johnson still leads in victories, though, so he still holds the bonus-point lead.

"We can lead the points after 10 races," Harvick said after the race. "But I think to get better, we have to get a little better on pit road, be more consistent. When we make mistakes, we make big mistakes. We can't do that."

Nice run at Richmond: Harvick wasn't the only Richard Childress Racing driver to have a good weekend.

Jeff Burton finished fourth and Clint Bowyer 12th. All three teams are now in the top 12, compared with last year when no RCR team made the Chase.

Further proof (the team provides more every week) that RCR has turned its operation around.

"We have been really happy with the way our cars have run this year," Burton said at Richmond. "We've been in position to win a lot of races and led a lot of races and haven't found a way to do it. But tonight was kind of like that.

"Kyle (Busch) was able to make something happen on the outside that I couldn't make happen. We were good, but we weren't quite good enough to get it done. Real proud of everybody and we'll keep working."

It's becoming clearer each week that having a four-car team was difficult on the RCR organization last season and spread resources too thinly.

Having overcome that issue, RCR is back to being a force.

Ten things we learned this week:

1. People think Jeff Gordon is irrelevant? Jeff Gordon thinks Jeff Gordon is irrelevant? They're all wrong.

2. Alan Gustafson really loves Hendrick Motorsports and will sweep the floors in the shop if that's the only way he can stay onboard. Oh, wait, we knew that already.

3. Gustafson might not head the No. 5 crew next season. He was non-committal when asked if his four-year extension was for the No. 5 team. We'll really see what he can do if he's shifted to the No. 88.

4. Michael Waltrip Racing had a strong weekend in Richmond. All three of its cars finished in the top 15.

5. Earnhardt will drive a replica of his father's No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet in a Nationwide race at Daytona this summer. It's not the first time Earnhardt has driven the No. 3 but still will be a cool nod to his dad.

6. Rick Hendrick didn't provide milk or cookies this time, but he gathered his four-time champions to make sure they didn't let their frustrations with each other get out of hand.

7. NASCAR isn't the only sport hurting with regard to sponsors. FedEx, the sponsor for Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota, walked away from college football's Orange Bowl this week.

8. Isolated thunderstorms are forecast for Darlington on Saturday — race day this week. Just great. Another potential weather-affected race weekend.

9. It's funny to think about Busch's winless streak. Busch must have felt like 21 races was a long time without a victory, but a lot of drivers wouldn't mind that "drought."

10. Even Tony Stewart is confused by what's happening with this team. Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman are 15th and 16th in the standings. Stewart said during an appearance in Charlotte that he and crew chief Darian Grubb don't quite get it.

— Tania Ganguli

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