|The Auto Club Speedway altercation between the No. 14|
and No. 22 highlighted Tony Stewart's frustration and Joey
Logano's adventure in the 2013 season. (Getty Images)
However, it's becoming clear which drivers look like they might be in a fight for the few final spots and Wild Card. At this point, the power of expectations have shaped which of those drivers is considered to being doing well and which ones are considered to be struggling, even if they're all running in the same pack.
Here's a look at three driver's who have most seen their stock rise, fall or zig-zag uncontrollably since the start of the season:
UP - Jamie McMurray
Open the standings and scroll to about where you think you'll find him in the standings. You went with something between 18 and 22, right? Yeah, I thought so. Now scroll up.
Eleventh. He currently sits 11th in the standings.
He's already scored three top-10s in the first eight races of 2013. That's how many he registered all of last season and only one less than he got in 2011. It's been a running joke the past two years that the Wild Card system was designed to award someone ranked 11-20 that wins regularly, and that while many had McMurray in mind when it was announced, he was never contending for his own exemption.
This year he not only looks like he could be a Wild Card contender, he's only 13 points out of what would be an automatic Chase berth inside the top-10.
No one is talking about the driver of the No. 1, but he won't be ignored much longer if he keeps finishing with this consistency.
DOWN - Tony Stewart
The No. 14 is a great example of the power of expectations. Heck, even now, most of us (myself included) keep expecting Stewart to turn it around. Why? He hasn't shown us anything.
He's finished 21st in each of the last two races, 17th the race before and 22nd the before that. His lone top-10, an eighth at Phoenix in the season's second race, seems farther and farther away each week. He's started 13th or better six times, yet he's finished better than he started just once in eight races. (The only race in which he improved was when he started a season-worst 26th and nudged up to 17th at Martinsville.)
So, yes, I still expect Stewart will figure it out because he's a three-time Sprint Cup champion, but if this were any other driver, we would have written off the season by now.
Perhaps we need to start thinking more realistically about doing that.
ALL AROUND - Joey Logano
Has anyone been more up and down this year than Logano? To answer my own question: no, absolutely not.
In fact, in the last five races, he's finished 17th, third, 23rd, fifth, 39th. The first of those races (17th) was when he got dumped by Denny Hamlin while running second. This past weekend (39th), he turned his car into a bowling ball when a spinning Kyle Busch slid down the track and he ran out of real estate to get around him.
Of course, in that time, he was involved in an on-track feud with Denny Hamlin that ended with an injury driver of the No. 11; he traded fists (and water bottles) with Tony Stewart; and, his team was penalized for an illegal rear end (no pun intended), which docked him 25 championship points.
It all results in him sitting way back in 20th in standings, even though he's finished in the top-five in 25 percent of the races. Over the course of a full season, he'd be on pace for nine top-fives
It's hard for me to believe that someone on pace for that many top-fives would finish so low in the standings, so I expect he'll climb back up soon.