BRISTOL, Tenn. — A quick scan of the top drivers in NASCAR shows the usual suspects — the likes of Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin — holding the top eight spots.
Then it gets interesting.
Paul Menard and Scott Speed made their first appearances this week in the top 12 in Sprint Cup points, and both drivers clearly liked the view from the top tier of the standings. Menard goes into today's race at Bristol ranked ninth; Speed is 11th.
"It feels good for everyone, mostly because we've come a long way and we can see how much progress we've made since we started," said Speed, a former Formula One driver.
Neither driver is accustomed to being so high in the standings.
Menard, in his fourth full season, had a best finish of 26th in 2008 for Dale Earnhardt Inc. He finished 31st last year with Yates Racing, without a top-10 finish. But he was fifth two weeks ago at Atlanta — his second career top-five and first since 2008 — and has a strong outlook since Yates merged with Richard Petty Motorsports.
"I could definitely get used to this," he said. "It's only four races in, so a lot can happen obviously. But we've had fast cars."
Speed, in his second full season, was 35th last year with Red Bull Racing. But he has benefited this year and his 22nd-place finish at Las Vegas is his worst of the season. A year ago, Speed had just six finishes better than 22nd.
"Listen, we're going to make mistakes, there's no question," he cautioned. "I think it's not exactly super realistic that we're going to stay here (in the top 12) for very long. But it certainly shows how much progress we've made, and we've still got more to make."
Peace talks look good
It took roughly 40 minutes with NASCAR for Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski to put their long-simmering feud to rest.
At least that was how it appeared as the two smiling drivers exited their highly anticipated Saturday meeting at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"We laughed. We cried. In the end, I think it's going to be good," said Edwards, who playfully slapped at Keselowski's shoulder as the drivers hustled to their cars after the meeting.
NASCAR president Mike Helton summoned Edwards, Keselowski and their car owners into his at-track office to discuss a feud that exploded when Edwards intentionally wrecked Keselowski two weeks ago in Atlanta. The accident caused Keselowski's car to sail into the air before bouncing on its hood.
Edwards, 30, wrecked earlier in the race after contact with Keselowski, 26, and said his retaliation stemmed from several past incidents with the young driver.
"Hopefully it will be productive to where we can move forward and continue to race each other hard and not have any more incidents like we did at Atlanta," Keselowski said. "You have to understand that Carl and I have a mutual respect. … We come from similar backgrounds and drive the same way."