Monday, July 18, 2011

What's Happened to Mark Martin and Jeff Burton? (

With the upcoming off-weekend, now is the time for Sprint Cup teams to toast their success thus far or lick their wounds.

Obviously, the 1-2 finish of teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart on Sunday at New Hampshire gave Stewart Haas Racing a huge boost. Not only in momentum, but also in the standings.

Sure, Newman only moved up one spot in the standings with his win, but he closed to within one point of seventh-ranked Jeff Gordon. Meanwhile, although Stewart remains in 11th place, he is now tied with 10th-ranked Denny Hamlin as each are just 82 points back. Hamlin gets the edge here, though, because he has a win and two more top-fives than Stewart on the season.

And much to the chagrin of his fans, the freefall for Dale Earnhardt Jr., continued at New Hampshire. Junior is now ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. He is a mere seven points ahead of Hamlin and has a slight edge over Stewart with one additional top-five and one more top-10 finish in the first 19 races.

Yes, it seems more and more possible that the No. 88 could miss this season's Chase after looking like a near-lock to make it earlier this year.

But what I wanted to address the most in today's column is a question that gets asked more often with each passing week: "What's wrong with Mark Martin and Jeff Burton?"

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