Matt Kenseth has been the class of the Sprint Cup Series, but he isn't the only driver off to a fast start.

In fact, six drivers in the top twelve were not in the top twelve at the end of last year. Here's a breakdown of the top twelve through Sunday's Auto Club 500.

NASCAR Sprint Cup - top twelve:

1. Matt Kenseth - 385 points:
Let's see ... Kenseth won the first two races ... eight of his 18 Cup victories have come in the first three races of a season ... and he has two wins at this week's stop, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I'd say he is a favourite to win Sunday.

2. Jeff Gordon - 304 points:
Gordon was strong Sunday but not strong enough to catch Kenseth in the final laps. Still, Gordon was ecstatic after the race. "I'm fired up, man," he said after finishing second. "I'll tell you what, I can't wait to get to Vegas. This car is awesome fast. We showed it at Daytona, and we showed it here today."

3. Kurt Busch - 294 points:
Last year, Busch finished second in the 500 and then didn't finish in the top ten again until June at Pocono, 13 races later. This season he is one of three drivers with top-ten finishes in each of the first two races. The third is ...

4. Tony Stewart - 294 points:
Here's a interesting stat: Stewart didn't have three consecutive top-ten finishes all last season. He also opened 2008 with two top tens but crashed and finished last at Vegas. So far, half of Stewart-Haas Racing is doing just fine.

5. Greg Biffle - 268 points:
What was that saying on that '70s sitcom 'Welcome Back, Kotter'? Up your nose with a rubber hose? Biffle gladly would have taken that over what he did Sunday: Park on the air hose in his pit stall late in the race. He was second when he pitted, twelfth on the restart. And he had the fastest car. As happy as Gordon was to finish second, Biffle was crestfallen to finish fourth.

6. Clint Bowyer - 266 points:
Bowyer was the highest-finishing Richard Childress Racing driver Sunday - and he finished 19th. That doesn't bode well for Las Vegas.

7. Michael Waltrip - 264 points:
Waltrip is in the top ten after two races for the first time since 2003, when he won his second Daytona 500. By finishing 15th Sunday, Waltrip finished in the top 15 in the first two races of a season for the first time in his 25-year Cup career.

8. David Ragan - 262 points:
A lot is expected of Ragan this year, and here he is in the top twelve after two races. Early? Of course. But better eighth than 18th. Speaking of ordinals in the teens ... when Ragan finished 17th Sunday, it gave him finishes at Fontana of 16th, 12th, 14th, 13th and 17th in five Cup starts at the track.

9. Carl Edwards - 260 points:
Edwards hasn't started 2009 with quite the same panache he displayed in the Chase. Still, he's sitting ten spots better than three-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson. Edwards won at Las Vegas last year, and Roush Fenway cars have been dominant so far. That's a good combo for Carl.

10. Juan Pablo Montoya - 256 points:
Montoya and David Reutimann are the only drivers in the top twelve without a top-ten finish. Montoya had three top tens all of last year after getting six, including his only win, as a rookie in 2007. The record for fewest top tens by a driver making the Chase is nine by Jeremy Mayfield in 2005.

11. Elliott Sadler - 248 points:
Sadler's success at Daytona (fifth) didn't transfer to Fontana (25th). Sadler, citing front-end problems with his Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge, said, "We tried some things that we learned at Rockingham during the offseason, but it didn't transfer as well as we would have liked to California." Not what I would call a ringing endorsement for testing.

12. David Reutimann - 248:
Despite brake problems, Reutimann finished 14th for his second straight top-15 finish. Michael Waltrip Racing goes into Las Vegas with two cars in the top twelve. Besides the folks at MWR, who would have thunk that?
by Bill Marx/Sporting News



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