With a series-best five victories and 869 laps led, the younger Busch brother has been close to dominant in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing.
BEST CREW CHIEF
Running the show for Kyle Busch's Toyota, Addington has guided his team to five wins, all at tracks on which Busch had never won, and kept NASCAR's wild child on target for his first Cup title.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Second fiddle to Hendrick Motorsports in 2007, JGR has stormed through '08, winning six races and placing all three of its drivers in the top 10 in points.
O.K., we know he's not a Cup rookie—yet. But in a far-from-vintage year (top actual rookie Sam Hornish Jr. is 33rd in points), the 18-year-old's brilliant start in the Nationwide Series has overshadowed the record of any other young driver.
After a disastrous 2007, he's been solid so far and lately has shown flashes of the form that earned him a series-best six wins in '06. Beginning with a victory in the May 17 All-Star Race, Kahne has run off three top fives (including two wins) in the last six races.
Twenty-third as a rookie, the 22-year-old Kannapolis, N.C., resident has four top 10s—more than he had in all of '07. He's 17th in points, just 121 out of the Chase.
BEST OF THE REST
The man specializes in unspectacular consistency. A notoriously poor qualifier (average starting position: 23.4), Burton has repeatedly worked his way through to take 10 top 10s (including a win). He's a quiet second in the standings.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Late last season Montoya appeared ready to compete for a spot in the Chase in this, his sophomore campaign. But he appears to have regressed in '08, ranking just 20th in points, with only one top 10.
NASCAR president Mike Helton held a closed-door meeting with drivers and team owners at Michigan on June 13, during which he addressed complaints about the handling of the CoT, the new car being used this season. His edict: Shut up and race. After Stewart finished fifth that Sunday, he told reporters, "Ask Mike Helton [what I think].... We're not allowed to have opinions now. We've all got it made here. We've all got it great. At least that is what we've all been told."
BIGGEST BONEHEAD MOVES
With two laps to go at Bristol in March, Harvick slid up the track and took out Tony Stewart, who was running second. In June at Sonoma, Harvick caused a wreck that took out Stewart late in a race that Stewart had a shot to win. He's one of the best drivers in NASCAR, but Happy's performance in '08 has been just short of sloppy.
SIMON BRUTY (CARS)
SAM SHARPE (KAHNE)
KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES (HARVICK)